Sunday, January 29, 2012

Willa's 2011 Book List - Nonfiction

A couple of weeks ago I posted my fiction book list for last year but I never got around to posting the non-fiction book list.    So here we go now.   I started off by commenting on each one but it was getting too looong and I was often just repeating the subtitle.      Whew, a lot of books!     Please comment if you've read one of them, or HAVEN'T read one and want to know more about it. 


 By Boethius.... apparently my kids didn't much like reading it at TAC but I enjoyed it.    Public Domain. 
This was one of those books written by a priest to laymen from around the turn of the century.  Very kind and encouraging, good advice.   Public Domain.
Father Ronald Knox's story of his conversion from Anglican to Roman Catholic.  I love Ronald Knox.  Public Domain.
An encyclical by Pope John Paul II about the role and vocation of the family.  This was a reread.    You can find lots of encyclicals online.
A collection of Cardinal Newman's sermons from his Anglican days.    He is an amazing sermon writer.  He takes a scripture and develops it beautifully and with so much learning and insight.  Public Domain.  
A trasnlation from Sophia Institute Press of a book by a well known Polish cardinal (whose name I can't remember at the moment).  I've read this before too, at least in parts.

Philosophy, Science, Commentary

A Kindle limited time promotional.  The author takes different superheroes and discusses them in terms of philosophical concepts.  For example, the story of Batman brings up the question of whether it's justifiable to kill the Joker to prevent him doing any more evil.    Can you do violence to forestall violence without becoming a violent criminal yourself?   Fun to discuss with teenage sons.
A collection of essays.  I enjoyed reading them but don't remember too many of the details.
I decided I really should read something of Nietzsche and this one was at our house.   Very interesting.  
By Stephen Hawking and someone else.   Physics interesting, philosophy simplistic.
This is by Thomas Cahill, author of How the Irish Saved Civilization.  It was not as good as that one, but still interesting as a sort of survey of Old Testament history and its legacy.  
This was really interesting but took a long time to read.  It was about how Zen Buddhism has influenced Japanese art, particularly, but also other things.


This book bothered me a bit but I don't remember quite why.   I think it was because it was one of those parenting books written by choleric men that seem to cast the children more or less in the role of the enemy barbarians.
Interesting book on how raising boys is different from raising girls.
This book is extremely insightful.  I read a lot of parenting and simplicity books and they start sounding somewhat alike, but this one was different.  It made the fascinating point that more parenting issues than you would think come from the frenzied level of overstimulation that our children are bathed in without us even noticing.  It covers issues like Too Many Toys, Extreme Food, Media Barrage of Information, and more.
Divided into different topics, about the nitty gritty of teaching life skills to kids.   Ideas for projects and discussions.  It's the kind of book I have trouble reading because it doesn't really have the "big picture", but if you are one of those practical hands on people, you might find it very valuable.
An inspiring and short book about introducing your children to charitable giving and service.
A reread.  This is one of my top five parenting books.
Funny and interesting, making the point that statistically, we don't live in such dangerous times for children as we thought, and that we are not doing any favors to our kids by keeping them at home and protected from any possible harm.
This was an OK book. The author has a real interest in teenagers, but I didn't really get into it much, maybe because I picked it up on impulse at the library and didn't have any specific motivation for reading it.
Pretty good book.   I have heard that some people really love the book, but to me the secrets seemed fairly obvious.
Again, a good book, but didn't really grab me.  All the habits  seemed quite obvious.  I guess my life is so much different from those of the moms in the book that the advice didn't seem targeted to me.


I liked this!  It was divided into 55 short chapters of "Ways" or "Rules" but the author managed to connect them so they didn't seem random or scattered.
The self-told stories of several grown homeschoolers.  Most of this kind of book is written by unschooling graduates, but this one was centered on homeschoolers who received a Protestant, more or less "school at home" type of education.   Cathy Duffy's son Matthew pulled together the collection and wrote one of the chapters.
I have a chapter in this book -- the stories of Catholic unschooling families, and some who partly unschool (like me). I go back and reread the book regularly for refreshment. I think it can be a good read even for non-Catholics and non-unschoolers.
Public domain, written by a Catholic teacher of girls. Very wise and practical, reminds me of Charlotte Mason and Laura Berquist both.

These books were all available for free on Kindle for a limited time. They were all collections by and for school teachers.  Fascinating even for a homeschooler.... some things are the same, some things so different
Famous book by psychologist Robert Coles.
The first one is about the virtues of Asian education compared with American.  I enjoyed reading it but I don't quite think it made a convincing case.

The second one is famous, and controversial: ). It was a real page-turner, and thought-provoking, slightly sad to me
Very interesting! And again, a bit sad. These young students are impressive, but also sacrifice much in their effort to reach the top tier of college applicants -- and for what?  That is never quite clear.
Makes the case that geekiness is a survival trait in the long run, even if it isn't always a plus in the typical American high school.
Another book that "shadows" several kids during a year of school. It makes the case that school doesn't really serve the purposes intended for and that students achieve more by "gaming the system" than by actually trying to get an education.
Makes the case that girls lose their inner selves as they reach adolescence, not typically because of their families, but because of peer environment and media saturation. It was interesting to read a book with a feminist take that also is strongly pro-family.
About the history of girls starving themselves.  Apparently in the 19th century "fasting girls" were often thought to have special sanctity and were much celebrated by the media.
Very interesting book about social dynamics in girl groups.   No matter where you were in the high school girl crowd, you might find it enlightening to read this book.
This is on the topic of girl bullying and tries to lay out strategies and survival skills -- as with all bullying issues, probably not a cure-all but a coping guide.
Actually this was a fiction book -- it was about a homeschooled kid raised by an aging hippie, who starts attending a typical middle school and ends up revolutionizing it.  Fun, intended for middle school readers.  My 15 year old enjoyed it too.

Special Needs

About adopting older children who have been abused and neglected.   
A sort of memoir by an ADD journalist mom with an ADD son who tries various therapies out there.
Both by a psychologist with adult ADD, who thinks of ADD as a condition with some positive aspects -- telling how to make the most out of life with ADD.  
Encouraging book telling how to cope with adult ADD.
Another encouraging book that covers the basics.  My problem is that even the simplest organization solutions sound too complex to my somewhat ADD brain.  
About work life with Asperger, telling about the work experience of adult Aspergians.  
By two adults with Asperger's, telling about what they learned about social life as teens and adults.
By Temple Grandin -- interesting account of life with autism and how she and her support system made it work.  
 By Gabor Mate, who co-wrote Hold On To Your Kids.  I really like his writing style so while this book probably didn't contain much new information, I enjoyed reading it.
Wonderful book even if you don't have ADD.  Doesn't take anything for granted and is full of useful strategies for organizing time, space and other things that are difficult for disorganized/ADD types.  
Had some helpful tips, but again, almost assumes some organization before you can get organized.  
This is from the perspective of a neurologist who looks at brain scans of people with ADD.  He has identified several different types of ADD  and proposes solutions that vary according to type. 
Pretty much a personal memoir.  Interesting to read, perhaps a little dated.  

 Miscellaneous Psychology

Ahh, it is taking too long to write something out for each title.  These were all psychology books, many of them dealing with dysfunction n of various types.  ...addiction, social anxiety, dysfunctional friendships and family life, stress and its relation to disease, and so on.   

Self-Help/Lay Psychology

Mostly self-help or productivity books.     Some were commentaries on various aspects of modern life -- like The Shallows (about internet use) and Drive (about the newest research on motivation), and American Nerd (a reflection on nerdiness in modern American life).    Helping Me Help Myself was a kind of journalist memoir on various self-help movements.   Empty Nest was a collection of essays by various journalists and writers on their experience of their kids moving out of the house. 

Health and Fitness

I try to read about one diet/fitness book a month.     Why We Run was a little different from the rest -- it was written by Bernd Heinrich, a biologist, and was more of a memoir/natural history about running. 


This year I read quite a few books about writing!  I enjoyed the Stephen King one and the Anne Lamott one particularly. 


If you aren't going to read fiction, then a personal account or memoir is the next best thing.   Sometimes they can be almost better than fiction in that they give you experience of a life very different from your own, like "Display of Power", the story of an inner city African American guy who made it big in the fashion industry.     There were some memoirs/personal accounts scattered in the other categories, but these are the ones that didn't fit anywhere else.    


  1. I have only read one of those!!!

    It is OUTSMARTING THE MIDLIFE FAT CELL....a great book! Too bad I have not taken it to heart!

    Thanks for sharing! HUGE list!

    1. I am thinking you have taken it to heart more than you think : ).

      I thought you had read the Raising Boys one? Or maybe you just hoped to read it when your bedside shelf is emptier?

    2. I could never afford to get the book...and our library does not have it.

      Oh, I DID get one on raising boys....was it this one?

      It just was not the one I was looking for....

  2. Oh this is great ! I love finding new lists for my psycology and counceling shelf ! I'm ready lol ☺

    1. Oh good, Rox, I'm glad it's not just me! : ) Let me know if you have any recommendations from your shelves!


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