One of these days, I will become the kind of person who finishes my monthly Show Us Your Books link-up post sooner than the night before it’s supposed to be published. (Today is not that day.) Also in line with what usually happens, I’ve somehow only finished a couple of books this month, despite being in the middle of approximately 897 of them. I really have to start focusing in on one or three at a time so I can actually review them!
Dispatches from Pluto by Richard Grant
I’m a sucker for a good “person moves to a new place and tells you all about their experience” memoir. In Dispatches from Pluto, the author and his girlfriend move from NYC to the Mississippi Delta – a place about as diametrically opposite from their previous home as possible while still being in the US. It’s an in-depth look at the culture, race relations, poverty, and social norms of one of the most unique areas of the South from an outsider’s perspective. As great of a job as Grant does getting to know a wide variety of people and showing all different facets of life in the Delta, I think that the important thing to keep in mind when you’re reading this kind of book is that no matter how much the author tries to capture a place, you’re reading one person’s experience there. Another person could move next door, hang out in different local places, befriend different people, and have a completely different experience, and they’d both be valid.
I got an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my review, so I’m not sure if the final book was the same, but the one I read ended fairly abruptly, as if it really needed an epilogue to tie everything up. Otherwise, I really enjoyed the author’s writing style, humor, detailed research, and overall sense of storytelling.
And now, a brief note from my kitten, Captain Kitten:
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I have no idea what that means, TBH, but it was his first time blogging so I think we should applaud his efforts and maybe give him a book deal?
Cure: A Journey Into the Science of Mind Over Body
Amazon * Goodreads
I’m always fascinated by the potential our minds and bodies may have that hasn’t yet entirely figured out. Everyone has heard of the Placebo Effect, but this book dives into other ways that the mind can have huge effects on your overall health, immunity, response to pain, and more. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this book was way more scientific and less “woo woo” than I originally expected. It examines various practices that draw upon the mind/body connection to treat medical problems. It reminds me a little of Mary Roach’s books in that it makes complicated scientific subjects easy to understand without dumbing them down. An easy read with substance.
A couple of snippets that I found especially cool:
*If you have an active social life, your body is likely to boost your immune system to keep you from catching anything from the people you’re around. Alternately, if you tend to be alone more often, your body focuses instead on protecting you from physical attacks.
*Fatigue is the brain’s way of keeping you from causing your body damage. In many instances when you feel fatigued, you actually have plenty of energy and resources left, but your brain is sending you the signal that you don’t because it’s worried you’ll overdo it, so it convinces you you’re totally worn out well before you actually are so that you have a nice safe margin of error.
* A study found that a 7 week program teaching parenting skills in a disadvantaged community led to measurable physical differences in kids who were a part of the program, even when they were tested almost a decade later.
There are a lot of fascinating cases detailed in Cure, which reminded me a bit of Oliver Sacks’s books. The mind-body connection is definitely an area of medicine I’d love to see a lot more research and development in, but of course treatments that are likely to result in less medication aren’t exactly getting bazillions of dollars in research funding from the big drug companies. Most of the theories of treatment covered in this book are still being tested and fine-tuned, but it was definitely enough to get me back into a daily meditation practice. Can’t hurt, right?
(I received my copy of Cure from Blogging for Books in exchange for sharing my thoughts on it.)