Tag: non-fiction (page 1 of 2)

Cranford and Democracy in America, Volume 2

Cranford, by Elizabeth Gaskell (English classic)

“The formidable Miss Deborah Jenkyns and the kindly Miss Matty live in a village where women rule and men usually tend to get in the way. Their days revolve around card games, tea, thriftiness, friendship and an endless appetite for scandal (from the alarming sight of a cow in flannel pyjamas to the shocking news of the titled lady who marries a surgeon). But, like it or not, change is coming into their world—whether it is the new ideas of Captain Brown, a bank collapse, rumours of burglars or the unexpected return of someone from the past.”

My Lady Ludlow, by Elizabeth Gaskell (English classic)

“Lady Ludlow is absolute mistress of Hanbury Court and a resolute opponent of anything that might disturb the class system into which she was born. . . . The vicar, Mr. Gray, wishes to start a Sunday school for religious reasons; Mr. Horner wants to educate the citizens for economic reasons. But Lady Ludlow is not as rigid as one may think.

Mr. Harrison’s Confessions, by Elizabeth Gaskell (English classic)

“The story revolves around the arrival in the town of a young doctor and the attempts of the ladies of the town to place his status within their society and of course to find him a suitable wife.”

Democracy in America, Volume 2by Alexis de Tocqueville, translated by Henry Reeve (French classic, American classic)

“From America’s call for a free press to its embrace of the capitalist system Democracy in America enlightens, entertains, and endures as a brilliant study of our national government and character.”


Cranford

Cranford

I’ll admit that the little novel Cranford, by Elizabeth Gaskell, didn’t impress me much at first or even engage me.  The story is told by a young woman who writes about her experiences in Cranford as if she’s writing in her journal, which makes for a whole lot of telling and not a lot of showing. That, combined with the episodic nature of the plot, results in a lack of strong narrative drive. I kept reading because the style of writing, sense of place, and quaint characters relaxed me. I felt as if I had stepped into a world that didn’t exist anymore, and that, while not always happy or comfortable, was more self-sacrificing and less frenetic than our own.

Cranford gave me such a pleasant feeling that I went on to read two other stories by Elizabeth Gaskell that are similar to it: My Lady Ludlow and Mr. Harrison’s Confessions. It wasn’t until I had finished reading all three stories that I realized they dramatize some of what Alexis de Tocqueville describes—in philosophical and political terms—in Democracy in America, Volume 2. Tocqueville details the differences between aristocratic and democratic ages in great depth, and Gaskell breathes life into those differences as she looks back at the diminishing agricultural, aristocratic age of the generation that came before hers and gently carries her characters—and readers—into a more industrialized democratic world. Tocqueville observes: Continue reading

Books that Helped Me Lose 100 Pounds, Part 6: The Book I Wish I’d Read Sooner

I’m deviating from my normal blogging style for several months to share brief information about books that have significantly helped me obtain better health.

To read the first post in this series, “Books that Helped Me Lose 100 Pounds, Part 1: Introduction,” please click here.

To read the second post in this series, “Books that Helped Me Lose 100 Pounds, Part 2: The First 20,” please click here.

To read the third post in this series, “Books that Helped Me Lose 100 Pounds, Part 3: The Second 40,” please click here.

To read the fourth post in this series, “Books that Helped Me Lose 100 Pounds, Part 4: The Final 40,” please click here.

To read the fifth post in this series, “Books that Helped Me Lose 100 Pounds, Part 5: Cookbooks,” please click here.

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or a dietitian. I do not recommend or endorse a particular health regimen. My intention is to provide a few insights into what has worked for me at various times of my life. The information in these posts is no substitute for individual medical advice, and you use it at your own risk. These books, in the end, were not even enough for me. I lost the final 40 pounds by working with a registered dietitian. I talked about that in the fourth post of this series.


The Word of Wisdom: A Modern Interpretation

The Word of Wisdom: A Modern Interpretation

The Word of Wisdom: A Modern Interpretation, by John A. Widtsoe and Leah D. Widtsoe (LDS non-fiction)  

“The Word of Wisdom, a code of health dealing primarily with human nutrition, was promulgated as a divine revelation in 1833 by Joseph Smith, the ‘Mormon’ Prophet. It is a part of the religious system of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints which declares that the care of the body is a sacred duty; and it has been practiced measurably by members of the Church with very favorable results.

“Three objectives have been kept in mind in the preparation of this book. First, to make clear the meaning of the Word of Wisdom in terms of modern knowledge. Second, to show that the learning of the last century confirms the teachings of the Word of Wisdom. Third, to furnish some information for the guidance, through proper nutrition, of those who seek to retain, improve or recover their health.”

Biographical note: John A. Widtsoe graduated from Harvard University with a degree in chemistry and went on to earn a Ph.D. in physiological chemistry (biochemistry) from the University of Göttingen. In 1921 he was called to be a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Leah D. Widtsoe was a renowned home economist.


This book was originally published in 1937 and is full of health information that was “modern” for its time. Eighty years have passed since then, and nutritional science has progressed by leaps and bounds. That being the case, how can this be the one book about health that I wish I had read sooner? Continue reading

Books that Helped Me Lose 100 Pounds, Part 3: The Second 40

I’m deviating from my normal blogging style for several months to share brief information about books that have significantly helped me obtain better health.

To read the first post in this series, “Books that Helped Me Lose 100 Pounds, Part 1: Introduction,” please click here.

To read the second post in this series, “Books that Helped Me Lose 100 Pounds, Part 2: The First 20,” please click here.

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or a dietitian. I do not recommend or endorse a particular health regimen. My intention is to provide a few insights into what has worked for me at various times of my life. The information in these posts is no substitute for individual medical advice, and you use it at your own risk. These books, in the end, were not even enough for me. I lost the final 40 pounds by working with a registered dietitian. I’ll tell you more about that in the fourth post of this series.


In the spring of 2006, less than a year after moving to an inner suburb of Washington, D.C., I bought a bicycle and, with my husband and children, began riding it on the wonderful park trails that were now easily available to us. We generally got out at least once a week when the weather was good, and I was able to build from 2–3 miles in the beginning to 15 miles within a few months. That, combined with my inconsistent adherence to the health program designed by Dana Thornock that I described in my last post, enabled me to drop another 15 pounds easily.

Katherine Padilla at the 2007 National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C.

Katherine Padilla at the 2007 National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C.

The next book on my list was the first one that clued me in on the fact that what I had long been taught were “healthy” fats weren’t, perhaps, as healthy as I had believed. Continue reading

Books that Helped Me Lose 100 Pounds, Part 2: The First 20

I’m deviating from my normal blogging style for several months to share brief information about books that have significantly helped me obtain better health.

To read the first post in this series, “Books that Helped Me Lose 100 Pounds, Part 1: Introduction,” please click here.

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or a dietitian. I do not recommend or endorse a particular health regimen. My intention is to provide a few insights into what has worked for me at various times of my life. The information in these posts is no substitute for individual medical advice, and you use it at your own risk. These books, in the end, were not even enough for me. I lost the final 40 pounds by working with a registered dietitian. I’ll tell you more about that in the fourth post of this series.


I didn’t discover the next book on my list until the year 2000.

Lean & Free 2000 Plus

Lean & Free 2000 Plus

Dana Thornock’s Lean & Free 2000 Plus, by Dana Thornock © 1994

“Eating well above 2000 delicious, normal calories a day, Dana dropped from 204 pounds and a size 18 to a size 4. . . . She has read virtually every reputable book, article, and program about nutrition, wellness, and weight control. . . . Unlike diets, the Lean and Free 2000 Plus program doesn’t deprive, it provides! You’ll be free to enjoy favorite foods. But most of all, you will experience a life unhampered by the worry of excess body fat or ever getting fat again.”

While you’re in a life-and-death struggle with your own body, it’s impossible to find complete contentment or joy. (p. 103)

***

In this program you will reverse everything you’ve been told about losing weight. You won’t diet your way to an unhealthy, starved body. You will eat your way to health. . . . You’ll look great, you’ll feel great, and you’ll have the abundant vigor that frees you to be of service to all around you. (p. 4)

Dana Thornock’s dietary advice—with its emphasis on complex carbohydrates such as vegetables, whole grains, and fruit—is similar to that recommended by the authors of How to Lower Your Fat Thermostat, which I told you about in my last post. Her program, however, addresses lifestyle issues in a more comprehensive way, such as motivation, goal-setting, daily meal-planning, eating out, and managing healthy eating when the family is resistant to the changes. The macronutrient ratio of her plan is 65–80% carbohydrate, 10–15% protein, and 10–20% fat. She recommends limiting added sugar to no more than 5% of total calories, although she recognizes that many people don’t have bodies that are “resistant to fat loss” and can lose weight quite well without eliminating sugar. I fell into that category at the time, so I never felt a need to restrict sugar too much, as long as I balanced my other food choices in the way she suggests. Continue reading

Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc

Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc

Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc

Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, Volume 1 and Volume 2, by Mark Twain (American classic)

“Regarded by many as the most luminous example of Twain’s work, this historical novel chronicles the French heroine’s life, as purportedly told by her longtime friend—Sieur Louis de Conté. A panorama of stirring scenes recount Joan’s childhood in Domremy, the story of her voices, the fight for Orleans, the splendid march to Rheims, and much more. An amazing record that disclosed Twain’s unrestrained admiration for Joan’s nobility of character, the book is matchless in its workmanship—one of Twain’s lesser-known novels that will charm and delightfully surprise his admirers and devotees.”


Joan of Arc’s fascinating holy life, combined with Mark Twain’s superb storytelling, make Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc the most compelling, uplifting novel I’ve read in a while. With this novel, Twain accomplishes what I believe is a difficult, if almost impossible, feat for an author—he makes a holy person both believable and accessible. At the other end of the spectrum, his evil characters are also just as real and believable—horrifyingly so.  Moreover, all of his characters, both fictional and historic, are unique and interesting. With his phenomenal insight into human character, Twain helped me understand how so many real people—both commoners and aristocrats—could have believed that a seventeen-year-old peasant girl had been visited by angels and called of God to deliver France from English bondage.  Continue reading

Democracy in America, Volume 1 (Part 3)

For Democracy in America, Volume 1 (Part 1: Introduction), please click here.

For Democracy in America, Volume 1 (Part 2: The Power of Democracy), please click here.

Part 3: Babylon or Zion?

In the Introduction of Democracy in America, Volume 1, Alexis De Tocqueville  declares that the democratic revolution of the world “possesses all the characteristics” of being “the will of God”:

Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

In perusing the pages of our history, we shall scarcely meet with a single great event, in the lapse of seven hundred years, which has not turned to the advantage of equality. . . .

Whithersoever we turn our eyes we shall witness the same continual revolution throughout the whole of Christendom. . . .

The gradual development of the equality of conditions is therefore a providential fact, and it possesses all the characteristics of a divine decree: it is universal, it is durable, it constantly eludes all human interference, and all events as well as all men contribute to its progress. . . .

If the men of our time were led by attentive observation and by sincere reflection to acknowledge that the gradual and progressive development of social equality is at once the past and future of their history, this solitary truth would confer the sacred character of a Divine decree upon the change. To attempt to check democracy would be in that case to resist the will of God; and the nations would then be constrained to make the best of the social lot awarded to them by Providence.

Tocqueville doesn’t speculate on why this democratic revolution of the world is the “will of God.” I, on the other hand, will attempt to give an explanation. In the Bible, we learn that there will come a time when: Continue reading

Democracy in America, Volume 1 (Part 2)

Democracy in America Vol. 1

Democracy in America Vol. 1

Democracy in America Vol. I

Alexis de TOCQUEVILLE (1805 – 1859), translated by Henry REEVE (1813 – 1895)

When Tocqueville visited America in the 1830s he found a thriving democracy of a kind he had not seen anywhere else. Many of his insightful observations American society and political system, found in the two volume book he published after his visit, still remain surprisingly relevant today. (Summary by the Bookworm)

Genre(s): *Non-fiction, History , Philosophy

Language: English


For Democracy in America, Volume 1 (Part 1: Introduction), please click here.

Part 2: The Power of Democracy

One of the key points that Alexis de Tocqueville makes in Democracy in America, Volume 1 is that democracy is a form of government that is extremely powerful: Continue reading

Democracy in America, Volume 1 (Part 1)

Democracy in America, trans. H. Reeve

Democracy in America, trans. H. Reeve

Democracy in America, Volume 1, by Alexis de Tocqueville, (French classic, American classic)

“From America’s call for a free press to its embrace of the capitalist system, Democracy in America—first published in 1835—enlightens, entertains, and endures as a brilliant study of our national government and character. Philosopher John Stuart Mill called it ‘among the most remarkable productions of our time.’ Woodrow Wilson wrote that de Tocqueville’s ability to illuminate the actual workings of American democracy was ‘possibly without rival.’

“For today’s readers, de Tocqueville’s concern about the effect of majority rule on the rights of individuals remains deeply meaningful. His shrewd observations about the ‘almost royal prerogatives’ of the president and the need for virtue in elected officials are particularly prophetic. His profound insights into the great rewards and responsibilities of democratic government are words every American needs to read, contemplate, and remember.

“From America’s call for a free press to its embrace of the capitalist system Democracy in America enlightens, entertains, and endures as a brilliant study of our national government and character. De Toqueville’s concern about the effect of majority rule on the rights of individuals remains deeply meaningful. His insights into the great rewards and responsibilities of democratic government are words every American needs to read, contemplate, and remember.”


Part 1: Introduction

Democracy in America is a classic that many Americans know about but few have actually read. I’m a member of a book group that exists to read this kind of material, and it took us ten years to finally be willing to take it on. The book’s length is formidable, and it’s written with such depth of observation that it requires time and thought to get through. Four members of the group made the effort to read Democracy in America. One finished the first volume and got part of the way through the second. The rest of us read the majority of the first volume with the intention of finishing it. All four of us were amazed and excited about the truth regarding America that we discerned in this book. All four of us gained a greater understanding of the origins of the United States, the things that make it great, and the underlying reasons for some of its current problems. All four of us want to put the second volume of Democracy in America on our list for next year. Continue reading

The Jewish Odyssey of George Eliot

The Jewish Odyssey of George Eliot

The Jewish Odyssey of George Eliot

The Jewish Odyssey of George Eliot, by Gertrude Himmelfarb (biography)

“It is one of the curiosities of history that the most remarkable novel about Jews and Judaism, predicting the establishment of the Jewish state, should have been written in 1876 by a non-Jew—a Victorian woman and a formidable intellectual, who is generally regarded as one of the greatest of English novelists. And it is still more curious that Daniel Deronda, George Eliot’s last novel, should have been dismissed, by many of her admirers at the time and by some critics since, as something of an anomaly, an inexplicable and unfortunate turn in her life and work. . . .

“Why did this Victorian novelist, born a Christian and an early convert to agnosticism, write a book so respectful of Judaism and so prescient about Zionism? And why at a time when there were no pogroms or persecutions to provoke her? What was the general conception of the “Jewish question,” and how did Eliot reinterpret that “question,” for her time as well as ours?”


I learned about this book last year after I re-read Daniel Deronda and was preparing to write a blog post about it, available here. George Eliot’s prescience about Zionism fascinates me, and I was eager to learn more about her path to writing a novel that is as unusual as it is powerful. Himmelfarb does a superb job giving historical context to George Eliot’s work and showing how “her vision of Judaism and a Jewish state was all the more remarkable precisely because it was disinterested, because, unlike Deronda . . . , she was not Jewish and had no personal stake in it. It was still more remarkable because she came to it from a large philosophical perspective and from an intimate knowledge of the most sophisticated critics of Judaism. She knew everything her opponents (and some of her friends) might say in refutation of her views, having once shared some of them. Her conversion, not to Judaism but to a respect for religion in general and Judaism in particular, was all the more notable because it involved a repudiation of some of the most powerful ideologies of her time: the belligerent irreligion and anti-Judaism of the Young Hegelians, the attenuated, syncretistic religion of the Positivists, and the secular humanism of enlightened, ‘advanced’ liberals.” (The Jewish Odyssey of George Eliot, Epilogue)

The Jewish Odyssey of George Eliot helped me appreciate Daniel Deronda even more than I already did, and I thought it was a work of genius before I read Himmelfarb’s book. I believe that Eliot’s vision transcends the Jewish drive to unite and establish a national homeland in Palestine because it explores the spiritual bonds of family and heritage in a way that has universal application. Deronda’s story certainly resonates with me, a Mormon woman who, by Himmelfarb’s definition, is as “disinterested” in Judaism as George Eliot was. Himmelfarb explores the reasons George Eliot wrote Daniel Deronda from a historical and biographical perspective. I would like to make an observation on how George Eliot was able to write a book with with such an expansive vision of Zion from a spiritual perspective. Continue reading

101 Famous Poems

101 Famous Poems

101 Famous Poems

101 Famous Poems, edited by Roy J. Cook. First edition published in 1916.

“Poetry has the power to give us strength, inspiration, and hope, helping us to make meaning from our hectic lives and giving us the opportunity to appreciate new ways of thinking about universal themes and observations.

“Whether you are a newcomer to poetry or a lifelong lover of verse, you will find within the pages of this indispensable compilation the greatest poems of all time, powerful words that have delighted and inspired generations of readers—words that are sure to inspire you today.”


I will be the first to admit that I’m a “newcomer to poetry.” I’ve never disliked poetry, but I’ve also never had much patience with it. I like a terrific story, and that narrative drive is what keeps me reading. As I grow older, however, I’m gaining a greater appreciation for the way poetry can make beautiful language heavenly. The leader of the book club I belong to, on the other hand, loves poetry and has been working to help the rest of us gain a greater appreciation for it. She recommended this book for the group, and I’m glad she did! I started from the beginning, reading a few poems at a time. I’m glad I took this particular approach, because it enabled me to get a much more comprehensive view of a bygone world described by a variety of poets from different time periods. All of these poets are dead, and the world they wrote about is gone—history to us now—but to them the joys and sorrows they wrote about were real. Continue reading

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