Some More Books I have Read in October

French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure by Mireille Guiliano

This book lets the women of the world in on the French secret, how French women manage to stay slim in a culture which loves to eat butter and bread and meat and all those things which are forbidden to erstwhile skinnies here in North America.

Clearly it was the subtitle which appealed to me; I love to eat. I could stand to be slimmer, so I thought this book might give me some good ideas, and indeed it did. Mostly, though, it gave me a heartening impression of sanity. Guiliano loves to eat too; great swaths of the book are dedicated to discussion of her favourite foods and recipes, none of which contain sugar substitutes or applesauce instead of fat. In fact, you would be hard pressed to identify any of them as recipes from a diet book (with the exception of the dubious leek soup recipe which she recommends to kickstart your diet.)

One of the nice things about this book is that the author doesn't talk down from atop a lofty pinnacle of genetic and cultural superiority. She lives in the US and when she first moved here she gained a bunch of weight, which is why she had to consciously rediscover all the French secrets herself.

So what are the secrets? Nothing earth shattering; eat good food with lots of flavours instead of crap -- if you eat crap, she says, you have to eat more of it to satisfy yourself. Prepare your own food -- most packaged food uses salt and fat to conceal the fact that it doesn't really taste good. Have meals with multiple courses -- a salad or soup, the main, and then a sensible dessert -- again to satiate yourself with variety and ceremony rather than quantity. Don't eat standing up, and don't eat while you are doing something else; set the table nicely and sit down with your family and enjoy the ritual of eating. And of course, control your portion sizes, probably the least fun and hardest of all her recommendations.

She also says don't go to the gym. The gym, she says (and I heartily agree) is a waste of time and money. Why pay to sweat on a machine when you can burn calories by walking to the store, biking to work, climbing stairs instead of taking the escalator, kneading your own bread instead of getting a machine to do it for you, and so on. There are countless opportunities to burn calories every day, if you watch out for them.

The bottom line is to put a lot more consideration into what you eat, respect the food and you will derive more value out of less of it.

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

I got this out of the library because I needed to get the Cordelia quote out of it, and because I hadn't read it for a while. I don't remember Anne being so annoying, although when I was younger I had less qualms about skipping over the annoying bits. The big difference this reading was how I related to Marilla now that I am a mother of girls. (There's an essay by Margaret Atwood at the end of the book which says that the book is really about Marilla's journey from being chilly and distant to being loving.)

It's funny, being a parent. You suddenly find yourself on the other side of a glass wall, seeing the world from a slightly new angle.

Slack: Getting Past Burnout, Busywork and the Myth of Total Efficiency by Tom DeMarco

This is a book about how being super-efficient -- that is, cutting out all the spare time and spare people -- screws over companies. He argues that if every minute of a worker's day is spent doing "work", tangible, billable, write-it-in-your-weekly-log-for-your-pointy-headed-boss work, you don't have any time left to think about how you could be doing things better, nor do you have enough flexibility to respond when your co-workers need you. It's a pretty compelling book.

Unfortunately it doesn't argue well for my version of "slack", which is really just "screwing around".

Toilet Training without Tears or Trauma by Penny Warner and Paula Kelly, MD and Pee, Poop and Potty Training by Alison Mackonochie

Of these two books, Pee, Poop is the more useful, because it discusses all the issues relating to your child's rear end -- general information on how the digestive system works, diapering, potential problems -- not only potty training. It also details a few different approaches for potty training.

Toilet Training actually mocks books which provide several different approaches, and purports to be less confusing by describing only one method, presumably the definitive method. Anyone who has been parenting long enough to be potty training knows that there is no one method, for anything, which works for all children. So my bullshit detector went off on page 4; never a good sign.

I also like that the other book is colour with lots of pretty photographs.

Cutting Your Family's Hair by Gloria Handel

I got this out because I ballsed up Delphine's last haircut and wondered what I should do differently next time. I learned a few handy techniques from this book, but unfortunately it seems that executing a succesful haircut involves a subject who will sit still for more than, oh, twenty-four seconds. So Delphine is going to have to wait for her first decent haircut.

The haircuts in this book, as shown in the photographs, actually look kind of cheap and amateurish. They look like the kind of haircut you get at a ten dollar place out in the boonies. You would think they would try harder to get the pictures in the book to look good. The book is also badly edited. For example, she starts off by describing how you cut guides -- basically a fringe of hair around the head which you cut to the desired length and then use as a template for the rest of the hair. But the steps given for the first haircut in the book don't include cutting the guides -- are you just supposed to do them automatically? Is this a cut which doesn't require guides, and if so, how many other cuts don't require guides? I don't know -- she doesn't say. It's confusing.

100 Best Books For Children by Anita Silvey

One of the best things about having kids is getting to revisit children's literature. This book is a list of one hundred really good kids' books, sorted by age and type. The fun thing is that Silvey gives you lots of insider information about the authors and illustrators, and what the books go through before and after publishing. For example, did you know that Ezra Jack Keats's The Snowy Day was greeted with controversy? Did you know Ezra Jack Keats wasn't black? I didn't know that.

I think I might buy a copy of this book for reference. The only issue I have with it is that it's American and so the books she recommends tend to be American, but it balances nicely with my favourite meta-book, Dorothy Butler's Babies Need Books which is Australian and is satisfyingly Anglo-centric.


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