Category Archives: 2012 Reading

Seven Pillars to Improve Your Health

seven pillars

At the end of last year, I read Don Colbert’s The Seven Pillars of Health: The Natural Way to Better Health for Life. Due to time constraints and holiday busyness, I didn’t review the book here. However, I found it beneficial to remind myself of these 7 important areas, and thought it helpful to list the seven pillars here.

The book is written from a Christian perspective by a medical doctor, and this work has been a New York Times bestseller. However, such accolades weren’t due to the great hermeneutics. On that account, the book gets about a 1-star out of 10. Even though I agree with some of the author’s conclusions about God’s original design, I’m afraid most of his “proof-texts” are cherry-picked and pulled out of context. But if you can look beyond that, it’s a helpful book that takes a holistic view of health, and examines some of our most important health determinants.

The Seven Pillars of Good Health:

  1. Water
  2. Sleep and Rest
  3. Living Food
  4. Exercise
  5. Detoxification 
  6. Nutritional Supplements 
  7. Coping with and Avoiding Stress

The book does a good job of going in depth exploring the various ways these pillars can impact our health, and good explanation is given as to why we should and how we can work to maintain and/or restore good health.

Going into the book, I felt I had with the author a similar idea of what natural health should look like, and also smiled when I read a few recommendations for some practices that might make others raise an eyebrow at me (e.g., not vaccinating). While I’ve tended to disagree with the section on nutritional supplements, I found Dr. Colbert’s argumentation and explanation for their use compelling (albeit, unsuccessfully persuasive for my full implementation to the degree he recommends). Reading the first chapter on water was helpful in that I did some further research and realized I need to be drinking a little bit more as a breastfeeding mother. I was helped in rounding out my knowledge in many of the other areas, as well.

Like many productivity books that often simply restate what is common sense, this is a health book that shares areas most of us have probably, at the very least, heard we should be practicing a healthier lifestyle in. Yet, most of us aren’t as healthy in these areas as we could and should be. In every single chapter, I certainly learned new tips, suggestions, and practical advice for pursuing better health in each realm.

Top 10 Books of 2012

I wasn’t sure if I would make it to my final goal, but I finished book #100 for the year on December 21, and closed out the year with 101 books read (not including the books I read to/with my children).

It is difficult to say how much these 101 books shaped my life, but without a doubt several of my most life-challenging and life-changing lessons from 2012 have come, in large part, from these 101 books. Certainly, a few duds were included in my reading; yet overall, I think most of the entire list of books I read were quite good and challenged my thinking and living to new levels.

Looking back to this past year’s reading, here are the books I’ve selected as my top 10 books for 2012:

1. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (Susan Cain)

I’m not the only who liked this book this year: Quiet made it to several “top books” list year, in addition to being a New York Times Bestseller. (Ironically, I never posted a review for this book, mostly because I wanted it to be the perfect review and herein, I let the perfect ideal to be the enemy of the good.)

Quiet examines the personality spectrum of extroversion and introversion, and everything in between (including one with a name: ambiversion). Cain explores how extroversion rose to become our contemporary cultural ideal, whether or not these are permanent personalities, how the extrovert preference has permeated the American Evangelical church (not a huge section, but one that carries significance for me and readers here, being one who makes up a part of the American Evangelical church at large), and even how parenting introverts and extroverts will look different in its application.  This book is a helpful read for anyone: for introverts, in understanding their value and that they are not as “alone” as society percieves them to be, and for extroverts to also understand the value of introverts and to see that many people are possibly more introverted than they let on.

I also benefited from the distinction made between introversion and shyness, and how the two are not always joined at the hip. (Personally, I was once both, but am still quite introverted while much less shy.) I also appreciated highlighting that for many introverts, interacting with people and crowds can be quite emotionally exhausting, even if an introverted person might enjoy such interaction; and for the extrovert, these occasions are oppositely energizing.

2. The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun (Gretchen Rubin)

Sometimes you don’t realize how profoundly a book impacts you until it’s been given time to settle. In my case, this was one such book, and I’m glad I read it early in the year and reaped benefits through the year. I wrote a review of the book here, and reference it many times throughout the year.

I was delighted when Gretchen Rubin released Happier at Home, which carries the same theme in application at home, and again saw the continuing impact of The Happiness Project as I read her second work on the subject.

3. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God (Timothy Keller, Kathy Keller)

If I could recommend only one Christian marriage book, this would be it. Tim and Kathy Keller delve into the complexities of marriage and marital commitment, and do so in a way that portrays a strong marriage as something more abiding than merely a series of “rekindling the passion.” (Though, Keller is not promoting a dull, romanceless marriage, either.)

I originally posted a review of the book here.

4. Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids (Kim John Payne)

Parenting and simplicity were two themes that I frequently found myself reading about. Those themes converge in this excellent resource for any parent, but especially so in our busy, cluttered, excessive American culture. I wrote more abou this book in my review here.

5. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business (Charles Duhigg)

Charles Duhigg explores the connection between habit and how we live life (and do business). From chain smokers and highly disciplined gurus, from Febreeze to Apple, this book explores how habit shapes our lives in more ways than we realize. This is both a fascinating and motivational book. I posted a review of it here.

6. Compassion, Justice, and the Christian Life: Rethinking Ministry to the Poor (Robert D. Lupton)

This is another powerful book for which I failed to write a review. This book was paradigm-shifting, convicting, and continues to shape my understanding of loving “the least of these” through community.

Compassion, Justice, and the Christian Life explores the problems at just leaving mercy ministry at betterment, and shows why true, long-term compassion and justice pursues development. It also explains what betterment and development are and how they differ.

The book primarily deals with the fleshing out of this concept within urban and inner-city ministry, but has much broader application. For me, it was eye-opening and slightly paradigm-shifting. The book emphasizes Jesus’ teaching that the whole law hangs on the two commandments to love God and neighbor. Often, the simplicity of these commands is hidden beneath a lot of spiritual clutter.

Although I did not write a substantial review, I shared an excerpt from the book here.

7. Jesus Made in America: A Cultural History from the Puritans to “The Passion of the Christ” (Stephen J. Nichols)

Stephen Nichols provides a helpful commentary and examination of how culture has pushed our perception of Jesus and Christianity into a cultural mold. I posted a lengthy review of this book here.

8. Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times (Jennifer Worth)

In this fascinating memoir of her years as a midwife in London’s postwar East End, Jennifer Worth recounts the many fascinating stories and lives she touched during her years serving as a midwife with an Anglican order of nuns. More than just a collection of birth stories for birth junkies, this book portrays the difficult, yet endearing, life for those living in this time and place.

There were several stories that were difficult, and heart-wrenching to read. Yet, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, as someone who has observed and experienced the joys, pains, and triumphs of natural childbirth, and as someone who enjoys anthropology, sociology, and even a bit of theology thrown in.

Jennifer Worth also wrote two other memoirs of her life as an East End midwife (Shadows of the Workhouse and Farewell to the East End), and I equally enjoyed reading the other two, as well.

9. 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think (Laura Vanderkam)

168 Hours was another book that took a little bit of settling time before I more fully appreciated the book. And although there are still parts of the book that rub me the wrong way, I realize how much of what was said here has lodged in my mind and frames the way I evaluate my use of time. I posted a review of this book here.

10. How Children Raise Parents: The Art of Listening to Your Family (Dan B. Allender)

Contrary to the initial impression that the cover art and title may give, How Children Raise Parents is a book delving into many profound truths surrounding parenting. Written from a Christian perspective, the book explores how God uses our parenting experiences to mold, shape, and mature us. Too often, parenting is viewed from the perspective of what parents must do to produce wonder-toddlers and preschoolers, rather than seeing what God is doing in us. (At the same time, it does not neglect the important concepts of both sowing and reaping and God’s providence.) The books hones in on understanding the two core questions that both we as parents and our children are asking: 1) “Am I loved?” and 2) “Can I get my own way?” I posted a lengthier review of this book here.

5 Runners Up: (1) The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (Michael Pollan); (2) Washington: A Life (Chernow); (3) Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work (Timothy Keller and Katherine Leary Alsdorf ); (4) The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to a Love That Lasts (Gary Chapman); (5) I Will Carry You: The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy (Angie Smith)

Related: My top 10 book list from 2011. 

What were your favorites from last year? Tomorrow I’ll share 20 books I plan to read in 2013.


Goodreads Choice Awards 2012 Results

Goodreads recently announced their 2012 Goodreads Choice Awards, books nominated and voted for by Goodreads readers. 1,156,852 votes were cast, and a top book was listed in each of 20 categories.

Of the twenty winners, I only read two this past year: Elizabeth the Queen, for History & Biography, and Quiet, for Nonfiction. (But I did read many runners-up in genres that I hadn’t read the winning book. Similarly, in the categories in which I did read the top choice (History & Biography and Nonfiction), I also read a good number of the other nominees.  In some ways, I guess I am not as well-read across genres as I perhaps thought; though, maybe that’s because Fantasy, Science Fiction, Romance, Mystery & Thriller, Graphic Novels & Comics, and Horror were each given their own category. I was also slightly surprised that Religion & Spirituality was not a listed category (realizing even such an appellation would need to include a very broad range within that category).

If you’re a reader, it’s an interesting way to look at what people are reading. There will be more lists of “top books” coming out (or already released) in the next few days, from various sources. I’ve enjoyed using such lists as inspiration for the next year’s reading plan.

Reading 2012: Jesus Made in America

If ever there was a case in which you should not judge a book by its cover, Jesus Made in America: A Cultural History from the Puritans to “The Passion of the Christ,” would be a classic example. Though the cover art leaves you thinking it’s going to be a pop-theology book or Jon Acuff-style book (although there is definitely a place for Jon Acuff’s books), this book is quite academic in its examination of American church history and theology. (more…)

Reading 2012: Born to Run

When his knee continually bothered him while running, journalist Christopher McDougall wasn’t satisfied with the answers doctors and specialists were giving him. Orthotics and spring-loaded shoes weren’t solving his conundrum, and it didn’t make sense that he should need to give up running altogether. So he did what any good journalist would do, and set out to find out (and report) why others of his build and age could run for what seemed like forever and never grow tired of it or feel pain. His journey took him to high altitude ultra-marathons in the United States, and then to the Mexican Copper River Canyon where he encountered the Tarahumara Indian super-athletes  Along the way, McDougall found his answer, along with a lifelong love for ultra running, just for the sheer enjoyment of it. He chronicles this fascinating story in Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

This book drew me in with my love for anthropology, science, and medicine. (Though, before reading this book, I told people, “I like the effects of running, not necessarily running itself”.) Like, McDougall, I also have a “bad knee,” and orthotics haven’t been helping. As a result, reading this book saved me about $150. (I took back my recently-purchased, tested-mostly-indoors, heavily-cushioned, arch-supported shoes that still weren’t helping my knee pain. These, I had purchased after custom-made orthotics weren’t working, either.)

McDougall is a strong advocate for “barefoot running,” and this theme is prevalent throughout the book. Thorough, and somewhat convincing explanations are given as to why the body works best this way. To clarify, barefoot running doesn’t necessarily mean no shoes at all.

McDougall’s conclusion is that humans were made for running, and we do it best when we allow our bodies to do so using their natural biomechanics. As a Christian, the heavy and frequent references to evolutionary biology are simply an indicator of our intelligent, creative Designer.

Those who do not consider themselves to be passionate athletes (myself included, in spite of my brief high school athletic career and current cardiovascular endeavors) will still likely find this book, and McDougall’s writing style, compelling. But likely, readers will also be ready to hit the trail afterwards, at least for one good run.

And if you do love to run, you’ll like find the book full of inspiring, compelling quotes.

(No table of contents for this book.)