My reading has changed over the past 3 to 4 years. I've mostly always been a big reader, but being mommy to 3 little ones has cut down my pace considerably ... when I have a real chance to read, I generally want a nap :) Anyway, my reading has moved from pretty much strictly fiction into pretty much strictly non-fiction ... information about children, nutrition, homeschooling, marriage, Christianity.
For Christmas, I got a large quantity of books. I love new books. Several of them were cookbooks ... the new Nigella Lawson cookbook for example ... yay! I love Nigella :) I also received Cheap. Fast. Good! which looks like a great resource for cooking with small children on a budget. I probably received 7 or so books, and only one was fiction (the new Jan Karon [grin)
The books I'd like to specifically discuss today, however, are Created to Be His Help Meet by Debi Pearl and Refined to Real Food.
The Pearl's books are definitely controversial. I didn't like their parenting book very much, it was too much discipline (and scary discipline in places) and too little grace. Its over the top "my way is God's only way" is off-putting. Many of their theological views, including an age of accountability, are simply wrong, in my opinion. And their over-emphasis on minors is disturbing. That being said, their emphasis on consistent training, teaching, and discipline of children is refreshing (whether I believe the *way* that is accomplished is right or not). As I hope you can tell, I do *not* endorse To Train Up A Child, although I think a reader can take some good away from it and leave the chaff. I was mostly curious about reading Created to Be His Help Meet, not necessarily wishing to purchase it myself. My Mother-In-Law, not knowing my interest, purchased copies for herself, her daughter, and me for Christmas.
The caveats to the above hold true: their theology is not the same as mine, their view that "our way is God's way" is over-emphasized, and the sinfulness of women is overemphasized while the sinfulness of man is underemphasized (women are almost always in the wrong here). There are bright spots and the Lord certainly used this book to convict me on some things (Being more cheerful, feminine, and less grumbling in my general demeanor, etc.) There are some helpful sections on practicalities (planning, food preparation, etc.) that I want to go back and restudy. I do like the emphasis that sometimes it is better to be wronged and let it go than make a mountain out of a molehill. And, last but far from least, this book helped me to appreciate my husband even more than I did before. I am thankful that he wants my input when he's making a difficult decision, I'm thankful that he is ready and willing to help me when I ask if I'm specific, I'm thankful for how he loves and plays with our children, I'm thankful that my priorities line up with his, and I'm thankful that he is happy to delegate things to me and doesn't even desire to micromanage our home and everything that is done in it. It took me reading about men who are so very overbearing in their homes for me to be more thankful for the husband the Lord has chosen for me.
Do I recommend this book? It probably depends on several factors: who is asking, how grounded are they in their faith and the scriptures, how is their marriage, how susceptible are they to taking an all or nothing approach to a book like this, how easily offended are they. There is enough good here if you can discard the dross.
The other book I read since Christmas is very practical to me as the main provider of food for my family. This past fall, I tried, for the first time, bulk cooking. So far it has really been a huge success and time saver. There are a few recipes we haven't liked/won't make again, and I need to do better about planning ahead to get things out of the freezer, and my final complaint is holes in the freezer baggies which have made a mess, but in general it has saved us trips out to dinner and my sanity. Anyway, I hope to incorporate some of the new recipes into this plan ... and try to do this better at the same time.
I also want to make sure I'm providing the most nutritious foods I can for my family. One of the quotes in this book that I really appreciated is, "... you are not what you eat. You are what you eat, digest, and absorb." Nan Kathryn Fuchs. I found this book to be balanced, easy to understand, and helpful in transitioning to a whole foods diet. There are great charts in this book detailing what foods fit categories, how to buy and prepare them, and outlining transitional stages. There are tons of reference points including a large listing of web sites in the Appendices that I will want to bookmark. IMO, this book is a better introduction to Whole Foods than Nourishing Traditions; I found it less intimidating, accusatory, and conspiratorial than Nourishing Traditions, although the cookbook portion of Refined to Real Food is small and not very fleshed out. I also thought this book has a more balanced view on the "raw milk" issue which, even if I wanted to go there, isn't legally available in my state. Other than the dinky recipe section, my only real complaint is that though there is brief talk of portion sizes (specifically in regard to meat), there isn't any real emphasis on how much of what should be eaten by whom. Is the USRDA a helpful guide here? This is a book I will get a great deal of use out of in the coming years.