Recommended Nonfiction Reads

A quick look at four nonfiction books I’ve finished recently. Or, somewhat recently at least, and haven’t written full posts about them, so a quick comment about them is better than ignoring them completely.

GruntGrunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach

Typical of her style, with a funny narrative and look into military technology. If you’re a fan of her previous books, you’ll like this one. if you don’t enjoy her approach, this one won’t convert you.

Don’t think she’s just writing for laughs though, as I always learn something from her books, and she gives great shareable tidbits of info that I repeat to my husband. Just … not necessarily at the dinner table or in front of the kids. 🙂

What IfWhat If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe

Get the audio version, as it’s read by Wil Wheaton and he’s a great narrator. I didn’t follow all of the science behind a few of the sections (and didn’t even try to; I’m not that interested in the specifics of the topic) but I still enjoyed the oddness of the questions and the seriousness of his answers.

Sleep SmarterSleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to A Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success by Shawn Stevenson

Packed with great suggestions for how to get better sleep (and why you should care). I’ve made some of the changes, and can tell when I start breaking too many of the “best sleep practices.” Highly recommended.

animal-vegetable-miracle Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver, Steven L. Hopp, and Camille Kingsolver

A fascinating look at their year of eating locally, and it promoted a great discussion in my book club. While I don’t think it’s completely realistic to expect to follow her example exactly, it was motivating to consider what changes I can make in our current food habits.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Introducing January’s Book Club Selection

animal-vegetable-miracleAnimal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingolver, Steven L. Hopp, and Camille Kingsolver

What’s It About?

(Description from Goodreads)

Author Barbara Kingsolver and her family abandoned the industrial-food pipeline to live a rural life—vowing that, for one year, they’d only buy food raised in their own neighborhood, grow it themselves, or learn to live without it. Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is an enthralling narrative that will open your eyes in a hundred new ways to an old truth: You are what you eat.

Why Was This Title Selected

I wanted a non-history, non-biography/memoir nonfiction selection, and I’d heard good things about this, especially as a choice to start the year. Plus it’d been on my TBR list for ages.

Anything Else to Know About It?

The discussion is just getting underway in the Facebook group, and you’re welcome to come and join us.

It’s available in Print, forKindle or Nook, or via Audible.

What’s Coming Up in February?

molokaiMoloka’i by Alan Brennert

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook | Audible | Goodreads

See all the books we’ll be reading in 2017 here.


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Four years ago: Book Review: Faith Girlz! Whatever

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

David and Goliath (and a linkup)

David and GoliathDavid and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling GiantsDavid and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell by Malcolm Gladwell

While I expected to really enjoy Gladwell’s book, I found it to be a bit of a let-down. Outliers, Blink, and The Tipping Point were more compelling books, and all felt fresher. It may simply be that I’ve gotten so used to Gladwell’s style that this book was doomed to disappoint, but I felt like he was reaching more with some of his examples.

That said, I did really enjoy some of the sections. The chapter on choosing college was very interesting, and I’ve already had a side chat with someone about it. The dyslexia chapter was fascinating, and I found myself completely amazed at some of the individuals highlighted.

Fortunately, Gladwell’s books are easy to read, so I don’t feel like I ended up spending a lot of reading time on something I ultimately didn’t like enough to justify it. I’d recommend that if it sounds interesting, you give it a try but don’t hesitate to skip chapters that don’t appeal to you.


Looking ahead at next month, we’ll start our discussion of The Hobbit on December 5th.


If you’ve written a post about David and Goliath, you’re welcome to add it to the linkup below.

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Introducing November’s Book Club Selection: David and Goliath

David and GoliathDavid and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling GiantsDavid and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell by Malcolm Gladwell

What It’s About

Description from Goodreads:

In his #1 bestselling books The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell has explored the ways we understand and change our world. Now he looks at the complex and surprising ways the weak can defeat the strong, the small can match up against the giant, and how our goals (often culturally determined) can make a huge difference in our ultimate sense of success. Drawing upon examples from the world of business, sports, culture, cutting-edge psychology, and an array of unforgettable characters around the world, David and Goliath is in many ways the most practical and provocative book Malcolm Gladwell has ever written.

Why Was This Title Selected

I typically enjoy Gladwell’s books, and they’re usually easy to read. Since November can kick off a busy season, I was looking for that in our final nonfiction selection for the year.

Anything Else to Know About It?

We’ll be starting the discussion about the book today, and you’re welcome to come and join us.

It’s available in print, for Kindle or Nook, or on Audible.

What’s Coming Up in December?

The HobbitThe HobbitThe Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien by J. R. R. Tolkien

Why did I select it? I had to have a fantasy choice fo the year, and this is one that I’ve been meaning to read for years. I’m also hoping it should be fairly easy to read during a busy season.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook| Audible | Goodreads

And a heads-up: you can get the Audible version for a reduced price if you buy the Kindle version first. There are also several versions available, including one that is a dramatization.

See all the books we’ll be reading in 2016 here.


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Three years ago: Wrapping Up 31 More Days of Great Nonfiction
Four years ago: Wrapping Up 31 Days of Great Nonfiction Reads

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

year-of-yesYear of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes

I’m kind of embarrassed to admit this, but I bought Year of Yes without having any idea who the author was. I think I had it mixed up with some other book, because I was quite surprised to discover when listening to it that Rhimes is really really famous and the creator behind many hit TV shows.

Oh. Well, clearly I am not the person to turn to when you play trivia games about Pop Culture.

I’m actually glad I had no idea who she was. Sound crazy? If I had known her name, I’m sure I’d have passed on the book thinking it was just another celebrity memoir. Celebrity memoirs = not my thing.

And it turns out I really liked this celebrity memoir that isn’t exactly a celebrity memoir like was imagining. Rhimes is funny and warm and a bit inspiring (what should I say yes to that I’ve been avoiding out of fear?)

If you are a fan of her shows, I can’t imagine that you wouldn’t love this – there’s little bits about them and the characters, and most of it was lost on me. I’m sure there was more I didn’t even catch because of not knowing them. I still liked the book.

The audio was great as well – she did a nice job of narrating it and I think listening to it increased my overall enjoyment of the book.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
The megatalented creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal and executive producer of How to Get Away with Murder chronicles how saying yes for one year changed her life – and how it can change yours, too.

With three hit shows on television and three children at home, the ubertalented Shonda Rhimes had lots of good reasons to say no when an unexpected invitation arrived. Hollywood party? No. Speaking engagement? No. Media appearances? No.

And there was the side benefit of saying no for an introvert like Shonda: nothing new to fear.

Then Shonda’s sister laid down a challenge: Just for one year, try to say yes to the unexpected invitations that come your way. Shonda reluctantly agreed – and the result was nothing short of transformative. In Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes chronicles the powerful impact saying yes had on every aspect of her life – and how we can all change our lives with one little word. Yes.


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Three years ago: 31 Days of Great Nonfiction: Little by Little
Four years ago: 31 Days of Great Nonfiction Reads {Day 25} A Homemade Life

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

Under the Tuscan SunUnder the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

Mayes’ well-known memoir had been on my to-be-read list for years, and I was finally motivated to read it when my in-person book club was considering selecting it for our dinner party book next year. It’s been so much fun the last few years selecting books that lead themselves to nice menu ideas. 🙂

Ultimately, I don’t think we’ll end up reading this one. I expected to enjoy it, but found it somewhat disappointing. Mayes is a beautiful writer, but the story is rambling and felt bloated. I don’t know that I want to encourage my friends to spend their reading time on this, when I feel like it would have been better trimmed down substantially.

While I don’t regret reading it, I think any but the most devoted memoir fans would be frustrated with it. There are moments where she really brings Italy to life, but they become somewhat buried in the minutia of the renovation.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
Frances Mayes—widely published poet, gourmet cook, and travel writer—opens the door to a wondrous new world when she buys and restores an abandoned villa in the spectacular Tuscan countryside. In evocative language, she brings the reader along as she discovers the beauty and simplicity of life in Italy. Mayes also creates dozens of delicious seasonal recipes from her traditional kitchen and simple garden, all of which she includes in the book. Doing for Tuscany what M.F.K. Fisher and Peter Mayle did for Provence, Mayes writes about the tastes and pleasures of a foreign country with gusto and passion.


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Three years ago: 31 Days of Great Nonfiction: Traffic
Four years ago: 31 Days of Great Nonfiction Reads {Day 18} Fortune Cookie Chronicles

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Review: VeggieTales Devotional (and a giveaway!)

Every Day with God covers VeggieTales Every Day with God: 365 Daily Devos

All three of my kids (7, 5, and 2) have loved VeggieTales, so when I found out they offered a devotional I jumped at the chance to look at it. I thought perhaps it’d be something we could do as a family during our morning Bible time – the suggested age range is 4 to 7.

While it could work for that, it’s actually written in such an accessible way that it also works for my oldest to read for himself, and that’s how I’m going to use it. He doesn’t know it but the devotional is going to go into his Christmas stocking.

Why I Like it

Each page has one days’s devotional on it, and it’s short enough to not be overwhelming to newer readers (my son is a good reader, but he still doesn’t like reading things when then text is too small or there’s not enough white space on a page). Each day has a scripture reference (from a variety of translations), devotional text, thought of the day, and prayer starter.

I like that the days are not dated, but numbered, and that the content is age-appropriate, without being babyish. I really liked how the thought of the day connected the scripture to things my kids may be experiencing. It felt like a great way to begin learning to apply scripture to their life.

My only real complaint with the book is that the designating the books either for boys or girls seems unnecessary. Flipping through the boy’s version, I didn’t notice anything that wouldn’t work for girls as well, although I admit that I didn’t read all 365 entries yet. I’m assuming it was more of a marketing decision than anything else, and realize that my older two would probably both love it being “for them” so specifically.

Want Your Own Copy?

Would you like a copy of the devotional? I have one copy to give away (boy’s or girl’s version – your pick). Enter below – the giveaway ends at 12 AM October 10th. I will contact the winner who will have 24 hours to respond, or I’ll select another winner. Good luck!

Find the book: Boy’s version | Girl’s version | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
Every Day with God is the latest 365-day devotional (one for boys and another for girls) from VeggieTales. The updated content and art offer the perfect opportunity for parent and child to share time together each day. Each entry includes a Bible verse, short devotion, Thought of the Day, and prayer. The content will help children learn more about God and develop a daily practice to keep Him close in their lives. The book is perfect for bedtime reading, family devotion time, or as a fresh way to start each day!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Book Review: Women Heroes of World War II – Pacific Theatre

Women Heroes of World War IIWomen Heroes of World War II—the Pacific Theater: 15 Stories of Resistance, Rescue, Sabotage, and Survival by Kathryn J. Atwood

I’ve been highly impressed with Atwood’s earlier books in this series: Women Heroes of World War II, and Women Heroes of World War I, and was thrilled to learn that she had a third being published – this one focused on the Pacific Theater. As with the previous books, she continues her excellent work at writing an engaging and informative text.

I appreciated the introductory information providing background on the war in the Pacific. My history books in high school didn’t do as well at giving that sort of overview – they all seemed to start when Pearl Harbor, ignoring everything that happened to lead up to that.

Especially impressive is the delicate job she does of writing about some horrific events. While I still would be sure you know the sensitivity of your reader, I wouldn’t hesitate to have younger teens and even tweens read it.

Since the book is a compilation of biographical sketches, there isn’t space for a great amount of detail on any one individual. However, the included bibliography gives ideas for other books to read if you want to know more about any specific person or event.

Highly recommended. It’s aimed at teens, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
After glamorous American singer Claire Phillips opened her own night club in Manila, using the proceeds to secretly feed starving American POWs, she also began working as a spy, chatting up Japanese military men and passing their secrets along to local guerilla resistance fighters. Australian Army nurse Vivian Bullwinkel, stationed in Singapore then shipwrecked in the Dutch East Indies, became the sole survivor of a horrible massacre by Japanese soldiers. She hid for days, tending to a seriously wounded British soldier while wounded herself. Humanitarian Elizabeth Choy lived the rest of her life hating only war, not her tormentors, after enduring six months of starvation and torture by the Japanese military police. In these pages, readers will meet these and other courageous women and girls who risked their lives through their involvement in the Pacific Theater of Operations during World War II. Fifteen suspense-filled stories unfold across China, Japan, Mayala, Singapore, the Dutch East Indies, and the Philippines, providing an inspiring reminder of women and girls’ refusal to sit on the sidelines around the world and throughout history. These women—whose stories span from 1932 through 1945, the last year of the war, when U.S. Marines landed on Iwo Jima—served in dangerous roles as spies, medics, journalists, resisters, and saboteurs. Nine of the women were American; seven were captured and imprisoned by the Japanese, enduring brutal conditions. Author Kathryn J. Atwood provides appropriate context and framing for teens 14 and up to grapple with these harsh realities of war. Discussion questions and a guide for further study assist readers and educators in learning about this important and often neglected period of history.


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Three years ago: Introducing 31 More Days of Great Nonfiction

Disclosure: I received a copy of the book from the publisher for review. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Climbing the Mango Trees (and a linkup)

Climbing the Mango TreesThe hardest reviews for me to write are always the ones where I don’t have strong feelings about a book, and Climbing the Mango Trees by Madhur Jaffrey is a prime example of that sort of book.

It’s fine. The writing is nice, and there are some good stories, but it’s not as engaging as I wanted it to be. It always felt very surface-level, and even after finishing it I didn’t feel like I had a great sense of who she is. I wanted more from the book – more emotion, more depth, more details.

I’m still glad I read it, both because it is such a different life and background than other memoirs I’ve read, and because I kept running across it on “great food memoir” lists. I side-eye it’s inclusion there a bit, as I don’t think it’s truly a great food memoir like some are. However, not every book can be amazing, and this one was still enjoyable enough.

Recommended for devoted memoir fans – this is unlike to convert anyone to the genre.


Looking ahead at next month, we’ll start our discussion of Burial Rites on September 1st.


If you’ve written a post about Climbing the Mango Trees, you’re welcome to add it to the linkup below.

Link-up Guidelines:

1. Share a post about the book. Entries completely unrelated to this theme or linked to your homepage may be deleted.

2. Link back to The Deliberate Reader – you can use the button below if you’d like, or just use a text link.

The Deliberate Reader

3. The linkup will be open for two weeks.

4. Please visit the person’s blog who linked up directly before you and leave them a comment.

5. By linking up, you’re granting me permission to use and/or repost photographs or comments from your linked post.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Quick Lit: Kids’ Cookbooks

In my monthly recap posts, I’ve mentioned trying to teach my kids to cook or at least basic kitchen skills – they are only 7 and 5, so I’m not expecting them to start cooking dinner or anything, but they’re still ready to learn some things.

Because it’s what I do, I started with some books and checked a stack out from the library. These were my favorites:

New Junior CookbookBetter Homes and Gardens New Junior Cookbook

What I liked about it: My son really likes this as a collection of recipes – they’re appealing, and it’s colorful. He’s requested that I buy it for him as he wants his own copy, instead of just reading the library copy.

Why this didn’t work for me: it’s not really a cooking lesson book; it’s mostly recipes (with a little bit of extra info, but not enough for what I needed.

The Disney Princess CookbookThe Disney Princess Cookbook

What I liked about it: My daughter LOVES this book – it’s got princesses! I was actually fairly impressed with this one – I liked that the recipes were mostly really recipes, not just assemble a couple of items together. The recipes are cleverly tied to the princess theme, and they have an index at the back combining some of the recipes to have a themed meal. It’s very cute. She also wants her own copy of this, and it’s quite likely that both kids will get their preferred book for Christmas.

It’s a great cookbook, and really appealing for young cooks (ok, young girls; my son was unimpressed).

Why this didn’t work for me: it’s not really a cooking lesson book; it’s mostly recipes (with a little bit of extra info, but not enough for what I needed.

National Geographic Kids Cook BookNational Geographic Kids Cookbook: A Year-Round Fun Food Adventure

What I liked about it: Loved the format for this one – it follows the calendar year, and is filled with food traditions and facts from around the world.

Why this didn’t work for me: it would be better for older kids, as it’s not a beginning book. I did really like the year theme, and it would be fun to work through it in the future, but it’s not right for us at this stage.

How to Cook in 10 Easy LessonsHow to Cook in 10 Easy Lessons

What I liked about it: This was the best I found at giving cooking instruction – it’s structured to actually teach, not just be a book of recipes. The ten lessons work very well to address specific skills – using knives, peeling & grating, etc.

Why this didn’t (perfectly) work for me: What was less successful was the fact that we couldn’t just start at the beginning and work through the book – some recipes ended up referring to skills that hadn’t been taught yet. I wanted it to be open-and-go for me, and I ended up having to rearrange things more than desired.

It’s also written originally for a UK audience, and not everything was translated/adapted for a US audience. Most of it was, but there were some things that were not the same for us. A minor quibble, but when it was something my son was reading carefully, it added an extra layer of complication.

The Results

Since it was the closest to what I wanted, I bought a copy of How to Cook in 10 Easy Lessons, and used it for about 6 weeks, with varying degrees of success. The Key Lime Pie was delicious, the Chocolate Cake was dreadful, and everything else was somewhere in between.

Mostly it ended up not working that well as an actual cooking lesson, and it really wasn’t easily designed to take beginners in a sequential way through things, let alone beginners of different ages and abilities.

So it’s not so much that it was a bad book, just that it wasn’t everything I wanted it to be. I think it will work better once my kids have those basic skills, and they can practice them more with this book.

What We’re Using Now

Tomorrow I’ll share about what I ended up finding, and what we’re using instead. It’s not what I thought I wanted or intended to use, but it’s working really really well so far.

For more peeks at what people are reading, head over to Modern Mrs. Darcy’s link-up!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Two years ago: Recent Cookbook Reads, Twitterature-Style
Three years ago: Recent Reads, Twitterature-Style