Tuesday, February 1, 2011

First, What are You Reading? (Snow Day Edition) Volume 6, February 2011

Wow, February in the Midwest is here with a wallop--with a blizzard predicted for later today in Illinois.

It's perfect weather for staying inside and curling up with a good book.

Here are my answers to the four questions I ask on the first of each month:
first, what are you reading?
what do you like best about it?
what do you like least?
what's next on your list/pile to read?

I hope you'll consider sharing yours on your blog and/or sharing yours here in the comments or on Facebook.  Happy reading!

First, what are you reading?

I just finished the young adult novel Scrawl, by Mark Shulman, a first-person narrative told from the bully's point of view. 

I also finished the book 168 Hours:  You Have More Time than You Think by Laura Vanderkam, a time management book.

What do you like best about them?

I really expected NOT to like Scrawl, subtitled, "What Does This Bully Have to Say for Himself?" because I find over-realistic young adult fiction too graphic for me, but this book was fantastic.  First of all, the narrator is instantly recognizable as an individual, and eventually, likeable.  Second, the book does not tell every.gory.detail of the events, but the impact and emotional intensity is just as dramatic.  See, YA authors, you can tell a hard-to-put-down, well-crafted story without sharing TMI.

168 Hours was really eye-opening for me.  Instead of just offering tips and tricks for saving time or maximizing efficiency, Vanderkam suggests people keep a long of how they spend each of the 168 hours in the week, and then work from their to become more efficient.  Then, she suggests people find a way to spend more time on their "core competencies," things they can do well, and less time on things that take them longer than someone else to do.  An example, Vanderkam suggests most people have a core competency of spending quality time with our children (something we obviously do better than anyone else), but failure to plan for it, or getting caught up in the busyness of life, prevents us from maximizing this time.  She writes of a busy working mom who reads Hardy Boys mysteries to her kids in the few minutes before school, and suggests parents look for little and big chunks of time for connecting in a mindful way as families.

Here's one anecdote from the book that had me thinking "outside the box" in trying to maximize limited time and resources best:  A young man, without a large income, realized after doing his time survey that he spent way too much of his time shopping for and preparing food.  So he hired a private chef to come to his house once a week and prepare meals.  It turns out that in addition to saving him hours of time, he actually ended up saving money by hiring the private chef.  He actually had been buying a lot more groceries and eating out a lot more than the chef (food included) cost.  Who knew?

This started me thinking, not about a private chef.  Surprise!  Both my husband and I enjoy cooking, so that would be a core competency for us.  Still, the book points out there are a lot of ways to save money that are not always doing things "the cheapest" way.  I've always read in the "frugal" books, that making one's own food from scratch is better from every angle, but this has me rethinking.  Penny-wise and pound foolish is not best.

I started a time survey last week but gave up pretty quickly, so I'm sure it will take me a few tries to be consistent in writing down my activities for an entire week.  After that, I'll have a good sense of how much what I do aligns with my values and goals.

What do you like least about them?

 is very good; there's not much there not to like.  Now that we have a snow day (probably a few), I will encourage my older children to read the book.  

One of the criticisms of 168 Hours is that Vanderkam is writing for a chiefly affluent audience, and she suggests things like personal shoppers and private chefs, that many single-income families would not afford.  I don't really agree with this, because the book helped me to think in a different way about so many ways I spend my time.

What are you reading next?

Other than my general resolve to read more classics on my Kindle App, I need to consider some good books for bedtime reading time with my 7-year-old.  We are approaching the end of C.S. Lewis' The Last Battle, and I want to find something equally as good to pick up.  I'm open to suggestions!

I'm also previewing a lot of books for March and April columns, chiefly books with a Lenten theme.  Any suggestions from you?  What are you reading?


  1. I'm reading nothing! Ugh, there is somthing wrong with this. It is time for me to get to the library. There are some interesting looking memoirs by some women who were former FLDS members. I did just finish a few YA books by Laurie Halse Anderson, and I like her historical novels, but her modern ones are so-so. Chains and Forge were good. Mark Shulman sounds familiar. I'll have to see what else he wrote.

  2. You will like Scrawl. I keep seeing Chains but haven't read it yet. Added it to my list.