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If you’re new around these parts, Recent Reads is a monthly blog series where I recap the books that I read the previous month. I’ve been an avid reader since I was 6 years old and I’ve read thousands of books since then…. but reading so many books can be a problem because I tend to forget what I’ve previously read! I believe that life is too short and there are too many good books to spend time re-reading books, so I created this blog series as a way of recording which books I’ve read and to inspire others in finding new books to read as well.
I used to read anywhere from 5-20 books per month, depending on my life situation at the time. Right now, my goal is to read 3 books per month. As a reminder, I provided a summary of the books (either from Amazon or GoodReads) in italics with my review beneath that.
AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America’s Upper Classes from Military Service– and How it Hurts out Country by Kathy Roth-Douquet and Frank Schaeffer
In America, it is increasingly the case that the people who make, support, or protest military policy have no military experience. As a result, the privileged miss the benefits of military service — leadership, experience helpful to their future roles in public life, and exposure to a broader cross section of citizens — while the military feels under-supported and morally distanced from the rest of the country. And when only a handful of members of Congress have military experience or a personal link to someone in uniform, perhaps it becomes too easy (or too hard) to send the military into combat. Based on research and including the voices of many young military members who understand firsthand the value of service, AWOL is also a very personal book. Frank Schaeffer, father of a former enlisted Marine, knows the anguish and pride that millions of American parents feel every day as their children are off fighting a war in a foreign land. Kathy Roth-Douquet, wife of a career officer, has experienced the struggle of trying to keep the family together with a husband at war as well as the often untold satisfaction of raising children in an ethic of service. To the authors and numerous other families who are intimately acquainted with the glory and the sacrifice of military service, America needs a wake-up call before it’s too late.
I found this book to be incredibly interesting. I can affirm a lot of the points made in this book since my husband is currently a Recruiter and we have a first-hand look at how difficult it is to convince people to join the military. Mind you, we’re stationed in rural, middle-class Iowa, yet we’ve heard misperceptions like “My kid is too smart for the military” or “The military is for people who can’t get into college.” -insert eye rolling emoji here- That’s all I’ll say since I don’t want to negatively affect my husband’s job (: I found this book to be so informative that gave it to my husband’s boss (since I knew SSG would find it as interesting as I did.) All in all, I do think that something needs to positively change within American culture because our military cannot continue to sustain itself primarily from volunteers that are following in the family tradition.
Katherine and Jay married right after college and sought adventure far from home in Los Angeles, CA. As they pursued their dreams, they planted their lives in the city and in their church community. Their son, James, came along unexpectedly in the fall of 2007, and just 6 months later, everything changed in a moment for this young family. On April 21, 2008, as James slept in the other room, Katherine collapsed, suffering a massive brain stem stroke without warning. Miraculously, Jay came home in time and called for help. Katherine was immediately rushed into micro-brain surgery, though her chance of survival was slim. As the sun rose the next morning, the surgeon proclaimed that Katherine had survived the removal of part of her brain, though her future recovery was completely uncertain. Yet in that moment, there was a spark of hope. Through 40 days on life support in the ICU and nearly 2 years in full-time brain rehab, that spark of hope was fanned into flame. Defying every prognosis, with grit and grace, Katherine and Jay, side by side, struggled to regain a life for Katherine as she re-learned to talk and eat and walk. Returning home with a severely disabled body but a completely renewed purpose, they committed to celebrate this gift of a second chance by embracing life fully, even though that life looked very different than they could have ever imagined. In the midst of continuing hardships and struggles, both in body and mind, Katherine and Jay found what we all long to find…hope, hope that heals the most broken place, our souls.
This memoir was heartbreakingly beautiful. I cannot imagine how difficult it is to be in their shoes, but appreciate how they shared their story of how God used their pain to help others. While I was reading outside on my hammock, I found myself so overwhelmed that I would come in to “get a glass of Kool-Aid” — in reality, go inside to hug and kiss my husband because I’m just so thankful to have him and that we are both healthy. Sony recently bought the rights to turn this book into a movie and I’m looking forward to seeing Katherine & Jay’s story on the big screen. This book was a reminder that health is a gift that we shouldn’t take for granted and that even in the midst of difficulty, God is always good.
When it comes to health, there is one criminally overlooked element: sleep. Good sleep helps you shed fat for good, stave off disease, stay productive, and improve virtually every function of your mind and body. That’s what Shawn Stevenson learned when a degenerative bone disease crushed his dream of becoming a professional athlete. Like many of us, he gave up on his health and his body, until he decided there must be a better way. Through better sleep and optimized nutrition, Stevenson not only healed his body but also achieved fitness and business goals he never thought possible. In Sleep Smarter, Stevenson shares easy tips and tricks to discover the best sleep and best health of your life. With his 14-Day Sleep Makeover, you’ll learn how to create the ideal sleep sanctuary, how to hack sunlight to regulate your circadian rhythms, which clinically proven sleep nutrients and supplements you need, and stress-reduction exercises and fitness tips to keep you mentally and physically sharp.
I mentioned to a friend that I have been struggling with sleep lately, so when she suggested I read this book, I immediately grabbed my Kindle to request an e-copy. This book changed my entire mindset on sleep– and health in general. Not only have I been working to improve my sleep, but I’ve also been working to become healthier. (I recently cut out sodas!) I’ve started turning off all devices (including the television!) an hour before I go to sleep. I’ve also set bedtime for myself that includes a 15-20 minute devotion/prayer time with Andy and 20-25 minutes of “me time” in the form of a good paperback book. Andy has noticed that I don’t seem quite so tired and I’ve also noticed that I don’t really have the urge to take a nap in the early evening as I did before.
What books have you been enjoying lately?