Let the Learning Begin

Here’s what I took to WBRC Fox 6 Good Day Alabama this month: some smart books to get us all back into the groove of learning new things … plus one more vacation read for that last little bit of away time.

Wonder Drug:  7 Scientifically Proven Ways That Serving Others is the Best Medicine for Yourself

by Stephen Trzeciak, MD and Anthony Mazzarelll, MD

We talk so much about self-care and me time. Meditation. Eating well. Getting enough exercise. Drinking enough water, for goodness sakes. But what happens when we turn that energy and personal attention outward? Lots of good things, according to these two doctors who wrote this book. They use neuroscience and entertaining and illuminating stories from their clinical practices to show how being a giving, other-focused, and kind person is the key to living longer and living better. They call it a superpower, and they back it up with lots of facts. Getting outside your head (and away from your own mental clutter), they say is one of the best things you can do for yourself. This doesn’t mean you have to upend your life. Just start small:  Look around you and see who might need some help. Fill that need as often as you can. Volunteer to do the dishes after dinner. Take in a neighbor’s trash can. Give someone a compliment or give someone you love your undivided attention (those cost nothing). The doctors prescribe spending an average of 16 minutes a day doing something for others. In helping others, you’ll end up helping yourself, making your own life better. Their “science shows that serving others is not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.”  

An Immense World:  How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us

by Ed Yong

This Pulitzer-prizing winning author of I Contain Multitudes takes us beyond the confines of our own senses as humans to discover the world around us in terms of scent, electromagnetism, and pulses of pressure and more. These are things that other creatures often detect far more easily. Consider turtles that can track the Earth’s magnetic fields or fish that use electrical messaging. We live in a kind of sensory bubble, Jong says, perceiving only a sliver of our world. This is the kind of book that will leave you with passing knowledge of a great many things:  a crocodile’s scaly face is actually extremely sensitive (we’re talking fingertip-sensitive), the eyes of a giant squid evolved to see whales sparkling with water. We learn what bees see in flowers, what birds hear in songs and what dogs smell on the streets. Organs of smell include an elephant’s trunk, a snake’s forked tongue, an albatrosses’ beak and a butterfly’s feet. Catfish are basically swimming tongues with tastes buds all over their skins. It’s great fun with some specific ideas about how to help preserve our wild and dark places on this shared planet.

The Hacienda

by Isabel Canas

I listened to this brand-new, haunting thriller, and I highly recommend that because the narrators are fantastic and their pronunciations of occasional Spanish words were so lyrical and added so much to the story. This book is a Mexican Gothic version of Rebecca. Set in the aftermath of the Mexican War of Independence, a young woman named Beatriz loses her father (when he is executed) and her home (when it is burned) and, in turn, her lifestyle when the Mexican government is overthrown. She and her mother go to live with relatives where her prospects are few and the chores are many. Then she meets Don Rodolfo Solozano who proposes marriage, which Beatriz, eager to create a better life for her mother and herself, accepts. She ignores rumors of his first wife’s death and goes with him to his estate, San Isidro, in the countryside. She’s determined to have a home of her own again. No matter the cost. There is a pretty high cost, as it turns out. The first wife is dead but not quite gone and she’s plenty angry. When Rodolpho returns to the capitol, Beatriz discovers pretty quickly that something is wrong with her hacienda, and she has few people there to help her—until she reaches out to Padre Andres. Andres, who grew up at San Isidro, was trained by his grandmother as a healer before becoming a priest, and his skills in dark arts might (might) be what Beatriz needs.

I link to Amazon to show you exactly what book I’m talking about, but I love to shop locally at Church Street Coffee and BooksThe Alabama Booksmith, Little Professor Book Center, and I often visit my local library.

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