Monday, November 26, 2012

Book Review: The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

We do many things based on habit: brush our teeth, eat certain cereals, follow certain routines. Some habits are good. Some we may want to change. The latter are what this book is about. Author Charles Duhigg breaks our habits into three parts: cue, response and reward. In order to change a habit, we must intervene at one or more of these points. But there’s more to it than that. To change, you must believe it’s possible.

Duhigg includes fascinating stories of corporations and how small changes in habits led to huge success stories. These keystone habits, as he calls them, help companies develop cultures in which employees support one another, which is extremely beneficial to all.

One chapter explains how stores can develop advertising campaigns that will appeal to you based on your past purchasing habits. There’s also a chapter asking whether we are responsible for problems and even crimes triggered by habits, such as a man who murdered his wife during his habit of sleepwalking.

The appendix titled “A Reader’s Guide to Using These Ideas” will help you move down the road to evaluating and possibly improving personal and/or occupational habits. More than 50 pages of end notes and a detailed index complete the book. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business is a fun read and just may offer a few keys to the success of our self-improvement projects.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Book Review: Practicing Our Faith: A Way of Life for a Searching People

Why do we do the things we do? This book answers that question related to practices of our faith. Written by various authors and edited by Dorothy C. Bass, chapters include titles you might expect such as: Hospitality and Keeping Sabbath. But there are also chapters on: Household Economics, Testimony, Dying Well and Singing Our Lives. Since our lives are largely shaped by the things to which we say “yes” and “no,” there’s a chapter on that very topic. I liked the quotations and scripture that were included by related topics.

The book offers insight behind rituals we often come to take for granted. For instance, a chapter on Honoring the Body explains how touch is involved in activities such as passing the peace and foot washing, and as part of worship, such rituals teach us to lovingly embrace one another. While the book doesn’t cover all the practices of the faith (you might expect whole chapters on Bible study and prayer, but they are assumed as related to the other practices), it offers groundwork for discussions you might want to add. This would be a great book for a group study since the final chapter helps readers apply the book’s guidelines to their own situations, and it includes an appendix of “Suggestions for Conversation and Reflection.” Altogether, the book helps us think about the how and why of practices of the faith and so fosters our love and service to God and others.

Book Review: Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child

I doubt I ever read a biography that covered every aspect of an individual’s life more thoroughly than this book. It was as though author Bob Spitz had a ringside seat beginning with Julia Child’s childhood escapades and her relationship with her difficult father right on through years of trying to find her niche in the world. Then he recorded her unstoppable enthusiasm once she discovered a passion for French cooking. With her devoted husband Paul cheering her on, Julia mesmerized public television audiences with her culinary skills, recipes and a wicked sense of humor.

This is the story of a women who said what she thought and let the chips—along with utensils and anything else that got in her way—fall where they may. The book also offers an education in culinary trends and the chefs who espoused them. The author had access to a treasure trove of letters from Paul to his twin brother Charles almost daily for more than 30 years along with Julia’s frequent letters to her dear friend Simca. Plus Spitz interviewed Julia herself for various articles.

At times I could have done with a little less detail, and I would have preferred not to read some of the saltier expressions, but overall the book delivers exactly what it promises: a front row seat to the life of someone who changed the landscape of American cooking. Dearie includes a 21-page index and neat photos of Julia in action. Bon appetit!