Monday, August 22, 2016

The Sleep Revolution, by Arianna Huffington

I'm always interested in reading about the benefits of embracing a healthier lifestyle, so I was intrigued by Arianna Huffington's new book about sleep, and its ability, according to the subtitle, to transform "your life, one night at a time." Ms. Huffington begins by recounting her own epiphany regarding sleep, when she was running herself so ragged that she collapsed in exhaustion one day, fracturing her cheekbone in the process. After her realization that she couldn't continue to live the way she had been, she began to explore and research sleep, through reading and interviewing doctors and other sleep professionals.

The Sleep Revolution consists of two parts, "Wake-Up Call" and "The Way Forward." In the first part, Ms. Huffington discusses the current sleep crisis in the U.S., with far too many people getting far too little sleep every night. She discusses the sleep industry, with its heavy reliance on sleeping pills, resulting in the subsequent heavy reliance on caffeinated drinks the next day. Further chapters cover sleep throughout history, the science of sleep, and sleep disorders.

In the second part, Ms. Huffington provides a lot of advice, tools, and techniques that can be used to help you get better at sleeping. She discusses the reluctance of couples to sleep apart, even when it would improve both partners' sleep experience. She provides many tips and techniques you can try to help you fall and stay asleep. She discusses the many changes that are taking place at work, school, and in professional sports as employers, teachers, and coaches begin to realize how much performance improves when someone has gotten enough sleep. Finally, she addresses the ubiquity of television and our many devices, and recommends keeping them out of the bedroom altogether, if possible.

There are a number of appendices that provide helpful information, such as a questionnaire to help you learn whether you need to change your sleep habits, guided meditations to help you fall asleep, hotels with the best sleep environments, and which mattresses are the best. There is also a robust notes section with citations to supporting research, as well as an index. Overall I found the book very informative, well-written, and entertaining. It's a worthwhile read for anyone who is interested in how they can improve their own well-being or that of their child.

Arianna Huffington. The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time. New York: Harmony Books (an imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House), 2016. 392 pages. ISBN 9781101904008.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Sea Miner, by Chuck Veit

Sea Miner: Major E.B. Hunt's Civil War Rocket Torpedo, 1862-1863 is the story of the little-known development of a torpedo during the Civil War. Author Chuck Veit's research on this topic was inspired by the mention of a mysterious wooden box that was on Brooklyn's Naval Yard in the early days of the Civil War. His research reveals that the box contained a prototype of a rocket that had incredible range. However, its top-secret nature has prevented it from becoming more widely known, and likely prevented it from being completed after its inventor, E.B. Hunt, was killed in an accident.

Although I enjoy reading history, this was a narrower subject than I usually select. However, I found the writing to be very good, and the many images and drawings to be helpful in describing and showing how the rockets and torpedoes of the time were constructed. The book is heavily researched with lots of footnotes, an index, a bibliography of E.B. Hunt's scientific publications, and bibliographies of primary, secondary, and picture resources. Anyone interested in Civil War or military history will find this book interesting.

Chuck Veit's research specialty is naval, nautical, and Civil War history. His day job is as a graphic designer, which explains the high quality of this self-published book. Sea Miner was published through, which allows authors to "create, publish, and sell your books for free." Sea Miner doesn't have the appearance of a self-published book; rather, it looks very much like a scholarly monograph published by a University Press. More about Chuck Veit's other books can be found here.

Chuck Veit. Sea Miner: Major E.B. Hunt's Civil War Torpedo, 1862-1863. Chuck Veit, 2016. 214 pages. ISBN 9781329736382.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Crawling Out, by Casey Morley

The subtitle of Crawling Out, "One Woman's Journey to an Empowered Life after Breaking a Cycle of Abuse No One Should Have to Endure" pretty much sums up this book. Casey Morley was one of six children whose alcoholic father abandoned them, and whose mother took up with an abusive, alcoholic boyfriend. At 16 years old, Casey leaves home and moves in with a family for whom she babysat. At 18 she had to move out and try to survive on her own. She succeeded in completing a course in cosmetology, and began working in a salon.

The focus of Crawling Out traverses her abusive childhood through two significant abusive relationships as an adult. In the first she was physically and emotionally abused by her boyfriend, Tony. In the second, she was emotionally abused and manipulated by a man whom she refers to as The Foreman, in an attempt to protect his identity. Throughout she tries to gain control over her life and actions, but she continues to allow them back into her life. Many times she is the one who reaches out to them in times of need or when she's feeling lonely. Her portrayal of herself as a victim, not really acknowledging how she herself perpetuated her unhealthy relationships by calling them, answering their calls, continuing contact with their family members, etc., wears a little thin. Of course it's easy to see this as an outsider, and perhaps harder for a victim of abuse to see clearly when they're in the middle of a situation.

This book is self-published; although the author did use a professional editor. I found the writing passable; however, the story could have been pulled together into a more coherent narrative. The author hints at a number of circumstances without making clear what she means. For example, when she is asked at 18 to move out of her house by Mrs. B (the woman who had taken her in at 16) she states " truly was time to leave. History had started to repeat itself." It's not clear what she means by that, although the implication is that Mr. B had perhaps begun to be abusive. There were some other grammatical or vocabulary issues throughout the book as well, although they weren't excessive. One that I noted a number of times was the author's use of the word "smirked" when she must have meant "smiled," as "smirked" has a negative connotation that wasn't appropriate in context. One thing I don't understand is that she refers to her son Nicholas throughout, but the book is dedicated to her son "Michael James." There is no explanation for this.

Overall, I found the steady recitation of one bad decision, experience, or health crisis after another to be fairly dreary reading. Nevertheless, this book may be helpful to women who are in a similar situation.

Casey Morley. Crawling Out: One Woman's Journey to an Empowered Life after Breaking a Cycle of Abuse No One Should Have to Endure. Bloomington, Ind.: Balboa Press, 2014. 308 pages. ISBN 9781452514307.

Monday, August 1, 2016

A Pocket History of Scotland, by Blair Millar

During a recent trip to Scotland, a place that I've wanted to visit for many years, I realized how little I knew about Scotland's history, so I picked up this small, heavily illustrated history of Scotland to give me a quick overview. From prehistoric times to the present day, it gave me a good idea of how Scotland developed as a culture and nation. Since my recent vacation was only a week long, there was a lot that I missed while there. I really enjoyed reading about both the sights we were able to visit and the ones that I missed. The book is illustrated with  photographs as well as original drawings and paintings. This is a fun introduction to Scotland's history!

Blair Millar. A Pocket History of Scotland. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 2013. 255 pages. ISBN 9780717153725.