What I’ve Been Listening To: dwindling attention spans, the horrors of processed foods, cults, OCD, and a gorilla

Disability Visibility, edited by Alice Wong

This book is made up of a variety of essays written by members of the disabled community. Not only is there a wide range of disabilities represented in these essays, there are also contributors of different races, genders, sexualities, religions, and vocations. There are personal stories as well as stories of advocacy and activism. Many of the essays focus on lack of accommodations as the cause for difficulties in living with a disability. So many perspectives to consider. Definitely recommended.

How To Keep House While Drowning by K.C. Davis

This book made me feel so much better about my housekeeping skills (or lack of). Have you ever considered the idea that chores are morally neutral? That they don’t determine how good of a person/partner/parent you are? I’ve never thought that my less-than-pristine house makes me a bad person, but I have felt–at times–that it might have made me an inferior stay-at-home mom. I felt like it was part of my job to make sure all the housework was done as well as taking care of the kids and getting the groceries and baking the muffins and cooking the suppers… For me, the housework always comes last. I just don’t want to spend my time cleaning my house when I could be reading instead. Or spending time with my kids. And this book made me feel better about it. Give it a try! (Oh, it also gives useful tips on how to manage your housework so it doesn’t overwhelm you.)

Stolen Focus by Johann Hari

I was fascinated by this book from beginning to end, and have recommended it to many people since listening to it. This is not just about smart phones and screens affecting out attention, but about all the attention diminishers throughout history. When the author took a three month vacation from the internet, he discovered that screens are not the only problem. But the thing that really got me was–near the end–when the author connects our short attention spans with the global crisis we all face. If we don’t have sufficient attention spans to come up with creative solutions and work together, we’re doomed. He also stresses that it’s a systemic problem that needs a systemic solution. In the meantime, he gives some suggestions for individuals to work on their own habits. I think there’s some valuable information in here.

The Body by Bill Bryson

I find anything to do with biology interesting. And, even though I already knew about many things in this book, there were also a lot of things I didn’t know, or had forgotten. And there are so many bits of trivia that I would probably never have known if not for this book. As Rebecca says of this book on her blog, “Bryson delights in our physical oddities, and his sense of wonder is infectious. He loves a good statistic, and while this book is full of numbers and percentages, they are accessible rather than obfuscating, and will make you shake your head in amazement.”

Formerly Known as Food by Kristin Lawless

I try hard to eat well, to eat sustainably, and to avoid chemicals in my food. But it’s hard, even for people who are aware – it’s easy to slip back into convenient solutions to eating, especially when you have perpetually hungry children in the house and you just want to fill them up so they’ll stop talking about how hungry they are. It’s also hard to stay on track when the track is so much more expensive then the alternative. So I like to read things every once in a while that will remind me why it’s worth the extra effort and expense. This book did the trick! It horrified and terrified me. It talks about the dangers of any and all processed foods, as well as any and all packaging that involves plastic (which is almost everything at the grocery store, right?). So, read this if you mean business. (It helped me find my new favourite brand of peanut butter!)

Cultish by Amanda Montell

I find a lot of people like to reference cults and cult leaders in their conversations, and when they do, I don’t usually know what they’re talking about. Keeping up with cults has never really been my thing, even though I imagine the psychology of it must be fascinating. This book mainly focuses on the language of cults – the carefully chosen words the leaders use to convince people of their sincerity, to get them on board. Also, the lingo cults use once you’re part of the group – words that mean something to the group and no one else. Language like this makes people feel they’re part of something, like they belong. Montell uses many examples of well-known cults to demonstrate how language is used in each case. I never knew what the Kool-Aid thing was abut, and now I do.

OCDaniel by Wesley King

Here begins my attempt to add more middle grade fiction to my life, starting with a couple of books I look at regularly on the shelf at the library when I’m working the children’s desk and wonder why I haven’t read them yet. OCDaniel is about a boy who suffers from OCD but doesn’t know yet what’s going on. He successfully hides his symptoms from his parent s and teachers, even as it means he is riddled with anxiety and sleeps only a couple of hours a night. In addition to this, Daniel is just trying to live his life as a 13-year-old boy who has his first crush and dreads being put on the football field as the back-up kicker. Based on the author’s own experiences, this story is very relatable and accessible for kids.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

This book is just the thing for anyone who likes animal narrators. The audio version is fun because each of the animals have their own voice. Ivan is a gorilla who doesn’t know anything beyond his kennel at the mall. There is also an elephant who is his friend (but is much more worldly than Ivan) as well as a dog who sneaks in and out of his cage at will. They are adorable together. But when a new baby elephant joins them, the older elephant’s dying wish is for Ruby to be moved to a better place, and Ivan feels responsible for making that happen. But how will he do it? I can’t wait to listen to Ivan’s next adventure.

A Newfoundlander in Canada by Alan Doyle

I have now listened to all three of Alan Doyle’s memoirs (first one/third one) – all of which are entirely enjoyable. This memoir focuses on his first experiences in Canada outside of Newfoundland, starting in Nova Scotia and working his way west to British Columbia. He tells fun and entertaining stories about discovering each province and its people for the first time, comparing them to his own experiences as a Newfoundlander. Although the stories are always entertaining, they’re also meaningful – with insights into Canada and its people, warts and all. One thing is for sure, everywhere you go you’ll run into a Newfoundlander. This might have been my favourite of the three.

What have you been listening to lately?


14 thoughts on “What I’ve Been Listening To: dwindling attention spans, the horrors of processed foods, cults, OCD, and a gorilla

  1. wadholloway says:

    Non fiction is not my thing, maybe memoirs, but facts and self-help, never! Not that my (bachelor) housekeeping couldn’t do with some smartening up.
    The most processed food I eat is I guess (dark rye) bread. I do my best to eat only natural foods and use glass and cardboard packaging. My daughter would not feed her kids food with ‘numbers’ (chemicals) and it had a demonstrably good effect on their behaviour.

    • Naomi says:

      I was the same way when my kids were little and I had control over what they ate. But society is a bad influence on them! Although, my oldest daughter is doing well – her roommates make fun of how well she eats. It sounds like you’re doing pretty well, too!
      I have a sweet tooth, so if someone offers me a cookie, I’ll eat it. Or several.

  2. A Life in Books says:

    I know what you mean about packaged food. I’m also very careful but after a surprisingly high blood pressure reading recently, started looking at the salt content in some of the things we eat which was quite shocking – olives in brine, for instance. Fortunately, the reading turned out to be a blip but I’m still wary.

    • Naomi says:

      There are so many things to watch out for and be aware of that it can be a bit overwhelming. It *almost* makes me want to go back in time and live on a farm. lol

  3. annelogan17 says:

    Stolen Focus sounds really good (did Laila read this one too? ) and the processed food book sounds really scary, but helpful to read! I suspect it will scare me away from much of what I eat haha

  4. Laila@BigReadingLife says:

    I did read Stolen Focus and is was very sobering!! Well worth reading.

    I also read and liked How to Keep House… it made me feel so much better! I have a tendency to beat myself up for lack of housework. You’re so right, though, I’d much rather be reading!

    I want to read Disability Visibility.

  5. Karissa says:

    Such a great variety! I’m particularly intrigued by the housecleaning one because I struggle with that too. I still haven’t tried much non-fiction audio but maybe I’ll look for that one.

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