Back to Nature

The Heartbeat of Trees: Embracing our Ancient Bond with Forests and Nature. Author: Peter Wohlleben.

This is the second book I have read of his; the first was The Hidden Life of Trees. He is a forester in Germany, hence the focus on trees.

I was looking forward to reading this because in the first book I discovered a million almost unbelievable facts about what goes on in the forest.

This book did not disappoint with even more incredible information backed up by intensive research and studies. A few hints I can give without spoilers Is why humans and some many other animals evolved to see in color while other animals only need to see in black and white to survive. Okay, one spoiler. Only because I have been wondering about this for a few years now. We have tiny muscles in our ears that move our eardrums to point in the direction of sounds we hear. My mind started on this when I started meditating and trying to figure out how I could not only tell exactly where sounds were coming from but also how far away the sound is produced. Even telling the difference between a loud or soft sound from afar or close. It doesn’t matter if the sounds have the exact same volume; I can discern if it originated from the highway a mile in the distance or directly outside my window in the parking lot. I still don’t know that one.

There is also a lot about human relationship with trees, starting with fire. Archaeologists are continually discovering much older evidence of ancient man’s relationship with controlled fires. He is well versed in research and admits when he is only speculating but his guesses are well educated. One proven idea is being in the forest calms relaxes us. Trees release chemicals which change our brains when we breathe them in. He has no idea why. But it explains a recent interest and some small industry around “forest bathing.”

Part of this book is a bummer when he explains exactly how much “old growth forest” is left in the world. (Not much) Old growth forest is a much better protection against climate change. Most forests left are managed like plantations with low diversity and are mostly used for profit. Trees are considered a renewable resource and these tree farms are promoted as good for the environment which is not always the case. Old growth forests are renewable but only over thousands of years.

Wow… Bad vibes. He does give hope, telling of many young people who have a great interest in the environment recently. They are motivated to do take action and not just talk about it. Overall, I am glad I read this book. It is a good read for me because my concentration is getting better but not like I used to be. So the short chapters gave me frequent breaks but I actually read it faster than I would another book of the same length. (This was short at 165 pages.) That is a personal plus.

I did enjoy, The Hidden Life of Trees more than this but only because I would rate that as one of the best books I have ever read. I have read a lot of books.

Got a Minute?

The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli

This book will hurt your brain and you will like it! In the first part he destroys all concepts of past, present and future. In subsequent chapters he puts them back together for you in a comfortable manner, only to tear apart the theories again. The main theme of the book posits there is no variable “t” for time. There are only events, relationships between events and probabilities which define time. All of which depend on our perspective. This doesn’t help because there are as many different perspectives of time as there are points of space in the universe.

The author has spent most of his life trying to pin down the science of time in facts we can prove as well as theoretical. One aspect that stick with me is the theory that time, like matter is granular. Just as there is a minimum Planck length of matter, there is also a minimum Planck length of time. Below which time doesn’t exist. This is Rovelli’s main area of study.

The book intertwines science and philosophy but he makes clear distinctions of which he is talking about. Although each can seem as valid as the other.

I found it captivating and also interesting for another reason. It was narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch. That was a surprise to me but I know very little about him other than his name showed up quite frequently in social media, I suppose for it’s uniqueness.

I am waiting to listen to another of Rovelli’s books, “Seven Brief Lesson on Physics”

The More You Want, The Less You Need

I listened to a book on Minimalism by Cait Flanders called, The Year of Less. I did it because it was short and lightweight. Before I started I thought, here is another rich person getting rid of more stuff than I’ve ever owned. I was correct. Okay, she wasn’t exactly rich but there was something about her expenses that didn’t add up. During her 2 year “No shopping challenge” she was able to live on less than 50% of her income some months. If I lived on 50% of my income I would be homeless. Before she did the no shopping challenge, she challenged herself to pay off her credit card debt. She managed to pay of 30K in 2 years. That is 15K of cash she just had lying around each year. I don’t know how she managed to get into debt in the first place. She also did a weight loss challenge but she is vague about how that worked out.

I did like the book because instead of setting goals for herself she defined them as challenges. It may be semantics but I think it is a good way to keep yourself more motivated if you are competitive. She set specific lengths of time to accomplish each feat. Her first challenge was to quit drinking which she managed with no problem. I think her second challenge was to pay off her debt in 2 years but the main theme of the book was her no shopping for 1 year challenge. During which time she could only purchase items to replace other items that had broken or worn out, such as an old pair of shoes, etc…

She began the challenge Marie Kondo style by getting rid of everything she owned but didn’t need. This is where my assumption was partially correct. She said she got rid of 70% of things she owned. When she went through the list it turned out to be a lot more things than I even own and I need almost everything in my apartment to live a somewhat normal life.

I did like that she learned to spend her money on experiences rather than things. That is what I have done with any extra money I’ve had throughout my life. I’ve never owned anything extravagant. It brings me back to my first question. How could she afford all that travel and still manage to save 30 -50% of her income each month.

Some of you being bloggers may have heard of her before because she dedicated a blog to paying off her debt and the no shopping challenge. I visited her blog but all there was only a page saying she is not blogging anymore. Maybe if I had read her blog before she wrote the book I would understand what her expenses were.

Part of what bothered me about the book was I can’t do the same thing. Any money I have goes to replace clothes I can’t wear anymore. Another thing that irked me was her saying the worst thing to happen in her life was her parents divorce. She was 28 years old when they got divorced for fuck’s sake! I mean, they did more than only stay together for the sake of the kids. The kids were grown ass people. By her age didn’t she realize that most couples do get divorced. I don’t see how it could be as traumatic as she said it was.

I don’t know if I would recommend this book. It’s not like anyone who wants to can’t figure out how to spend less money. You just buy less shit. I guess it could inspire you if you wanted to pose a similar challenge to yourself.

I googled her and found her blog and also she is really pushing her second book so I guess she doesn’t need to worry about spending money now.

Book Review?

When I started this blog thing I was excited because I was able to concentrate long enough to read and write again. That is why I started doing a book review every week or two. I haven’t done one in a long time because I am back to only being able to concentrate on reading or listening to a couple paragraphs at a time. It frustrates me because my whole life I was able to read books from cover to cover in no time. Now I get angry at the narrator for using too many examples to prove a point or if reading I keep going back to read again because I am so spaced out and my mind is flying.

I don’t know why I wanted to do it. I don’t think I have convinced anyone to read a book with my layman’s interpretation. I like boiling down the plot and sharing the points I find most interesting. I was also getting lucky with the books I picked. My method is almost random. I scan through titles until something catches my eye and then I will read the blurb on the inside cover if it is a real book or the description of a digital one. Admittedly it is not the best way to commit to reading for 8 hours. Who would have thought a book called, “Think Like A Freak” would actually be a self help book designed to make you more productive at work? I had no idea. I don’t pay much attention to “Bestseller Lists” because I know it is usually the publishing company buying all the first copies which make it a bestseller.

I have gotten pretty lucky picking books at random but recently I hit a lot of self help make you more productive at work books. Why would you want to learn how to make your boss more money? That may be why I have been losing interest so quickly. I also found newer books by some of my favorite (obviously still living) authors. I have a hard time because I am now interested in non-fiction books but that is where the self-help books are gathered. I also don’t like straight up biographies of long dead people. I do like auto biographies of people I know. My favorite still is David Sedaris books which are just edited versions of his daily journals and I find him very interesting.

I put my digital library books on hold for 7 days to give me a break and maybe I will be able to concentrate enough to remember what to write about. I miss reading all the time like I used to do. I spent most of my life reading fiction. Sci-fi, fantasy, horror, then suddenly I lost interest and started reading non-fiction, mostly sciences. Subjects I have always been interested in but never sought out.

That’s the end of this fantastic book review. My recommendation is to read whatever you like. You obviously like to read if you are following blogs on here.

Maybe You Should Talk To Someone

This is the second book I’ve read by Lori Gottlieb. I liked it for all the wrong reasons. Based on the first one I read, “Marry Him, The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough” I thought I would be reading something completely different. “Marry Him” is about her long lasting journey on dating sites where she passes judgment on perfectly acceptable men for the most picayune of reasons. As a result she ends up a single mom in her 40’s trying to find “Mr. Good Enough”.

This book started out in that vein but quickly turned. She is a therapist, (I did not know that) who needs to find a therapist because her fiance breaks up with her because she has a young child.

You quickly get an idea of why she could be so picky about men. She worked as a consultant on the television shows Friends and ER. That is where she found her passion for helping people and decided to go to med school and eventually she becomes a famous therapist and author. Plus she has a thriving career in journalism on the side.

The chapters follow her sessions with her talking with her new therapist about “Boyfriend” and also follows clients of her own. Do not read this book if you fear your therapist is judging you. Because they are. She talks about being open and non-judgemental but she drops in some pretty harsh criticisms of her clients, I think without realizing she does it. Also she gets together with her colleagues once a week for wine and cheese where they gossip and pass judgement on their clients. It seems if therapy turns out well it is because of good work by the therapist but if it goes badly it is the client’s fault for not putting the work in. (Not always true, trust me)

She figures out it is not Boyfriend she is really fretting over and also learns some lessons that help in her own practice. The book actually made me cry unexpectedly, which is not normal for me to do while reading. It took a bad turn with no prelude.

About the author. I wonder how she got into being a therapist based on her own behavior. Mostly based on her internet stalking of people. In “Marry Him” she does it to weed out the potential dating partners and also to gather information for her book. I still think she went a little further than needed to write a book. The surprise is how in depth she got stalking her own therapist. I understand wanting to know a little about them to see if you think you would be a good mix. She goes deep down a rabbit hole. She studies his family, his extended family, cousins he knew as a child. She looks them up on LinkedIn and finds out what they do for work and how much money they make. She goes on Zillow with the addresses she finds and knows how much their homes are worth. I think she is a bit obsessive to say the least. I don’t think she would be good as my therapist. I would be afraid she was google stalking me. Although there is not much to find out.

I’m not sure how much she embellishes because of so many coincidences. For example, her practice is in Los Angeles, a very large city but she keeps running into clients in random places around the city. She wraps up the book by claiming success of her abilities of helping her clients lives be tied into neat little packages but blames the one client for being the reason therapy didn’t work.

I recommend this book even if you have never been in therapy. There is a lot to learn and it kept me reading. She is an excellent writer. I plan to read another book by her, “Stick Figure”, even though I have no idea what it is about at the moment. She is a very interesting person.

Take Your Breath Away

From the little I know about this man I guessed that he bought copies of his own book to get on the bestseller list. I can’t understand the hysteria. My library app is weird because it has a limited number of copies of certain books. So you have to put them on hold if they are popular. The estimated wait time on this one was 4 months! I got it in 2 months. I guess a lot of people returned it early like I did. I couldn’t finish it even though it was an audio and I could have just left it on in the background. I couldn’t do it. It was that offensive.

He tells you he was born with a V shaped palate which pushed into his nasal cavity and has caused him breathing problems most of his life. He then projects his deformity onto all of humanity, going back to when man first started farming and eating soft food which caused this “de-evolution” of the face muscles. This gave me pause but I gave the book a chance because I was still interested in the subject of breathing and the effects it can have on the mind and body.

He says he spent ten years on this book. It shows. It is very well researched. The problem for me was he mixed the science with pseudoscience and anecdotal evidence in a flashback form of writing. All of which left me confused and angry.

He started by talking about free divers breathing which made sense because they practice to expand their lungs to take in more air and air is our fuel so we are healthier. That sounds like a good way to breathe. Then he got weird with his math and the perfect breathing being 5.5 seconds per breath, 5.5 times per minute. The numbers worked but I think he went backwards. I think he did the math first and then said it was the perfect way to breathe. He wasn’t very clear on that. Then he had the 3rd perfect way to breathe. This was most unseemly. He says we have to starve our bodies of oxygen to get our carbon dioxide levels up because everyone is actually suffering from a CO2 deficiency! He ended up giving himself a runner’s high in a matter of minutes and almost passing out. He took that as proof of his theory.

I”m saving the best part of the book for last. He used it in the beginning. It seems he and his buddy each paid a college $6K of their own money to be in a “study” on breathing. They plugged up their noses and only breathed through their mouths for ten days to see if it was a bad idea. What do you think? Do you think we even need our noses for anything?

I put “study” in quotes because I don’t believe there was a “study.” I think they spent their money testing supplies for blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen levels, etc… And renting a studio apartment in San Francisco for the duration. They never mentioned any practitioners visiting them in their home where all this took place and they even had to make many different attempts finding the right way to block their noses. I think a lot of this book was fiction disguised as non fiction.

I got so angry about halfway through I stopped the book and returned it to the library so I wouldn’t have to listen to another word. Then the next day I rode my bike 20 miles, only breathing through my nose and I didn’t gasp for air or even break a sweat. I was pushing hard the whole time. This was something he claimed no ordinary human could do. It should have left me delirious on the side of the road. Because I hadn’t been trained in his specialized breathing techniques.

If you can figure out which bestselling book this is I would advise you to skip on to another.

That Which won’t Speak it’s Name

I listened to 2 chapters of a book that was so extreme and unbelievable I’m not going to name it. The book was about the 5 major things our bodies need to survive and thrive. The first two chapters were about food and water, which made sense. In the food chapter I heard a lot I already knew or which made practical sense. It was when he spelled out exactly what we are supposed to eat where it got ridiculous.

He claims to get the variety of foods we need we have to eat at least 100 different organic AND locally grown items. Only fruits and vegetables. I don’t even think I could find 100 different food items in my area, never mind organic and locally grown. How much time would I have to spend driving all around my state to collect them? How much would it cost? Is he going to loan me some money from the proceeds of his book? What am I supposed to do in the winter when our growing season comes to a halt. I learned that I am going to live a short and horrible life if I don’t find a solution to all these problems.

I lied, I did not finish the second chapter on water. It started out innocently enough like the first chapter on food but quickly got out of hand. He really did his research for this book and makes a lot of salient points but when he got to extremes I started to wonder who these sources were he was quoting. According to him I am drinking more than enough water per day. But I am drinking the wrong kind of water. I drink tap water which is going to kill me, probably tomorrow.

But apparently even natural spring water isn’t safe to drink. It has to be distilled water. He didn’t offer to come transport 14 gallons of distilled water per week to my house so I guess I am on my own constantly walking the 2 miles to the grocery store to buy it. Even then, the distilled water at the store is not safe because it has touched plastic. No, he suggests I buy my own stove top still to turn my natural spring water into the best of distilled water. What if I have a family of 5? Am I going to make it a full time job distilling water? Won’t that cut into my time collecting my 100 food items for the week?

The book was interesting and held my attention but for the wrong reasons. He finally lost me when he said the best way to get your water was with a machine costing thousands of dollars that extracts moisture from the air and filters out the most minute particles. I listened for a few more minutes but had to finally stop when he got to sprinkling salt into the water to get you electrolytes. Silly me, I thought sodium chloride was sodium chloride, but no, I have to buy the most expensive salt on earth from the Himalayas.

I was done at that point. The next chapter was on oxygen and I was afraid to find out I would have to move to a different part of the world to breathe the right kind of oxygen that wouldn’t kill me in a few years.

I can give you the name of the book if you want to email me. I just didn’t want to name it and shame it here. It was interesting and filled with pertinent information, I just couldn’t believe his ideas on how to live the longest and healthiest life. And none of it was proven because he was the only person in the world who seemed to be living this way. But he claimed it was the only way.

Educated

If you only thought of Idaho as a place potatoes come from, then you should read this book, “Educated” by Tara Westover. It follows her life as she pulls herself out of virtual isolation to finding her way into college and writing this book. She started out being home schooled by a Mormon family prepping for the end of days. She was only allowed to read books approved by the church and her strict father. That didn’t leave much to choose from as her father didn’t really like the church because the people there weren’t devout enough about the religion.

I remember at the beginning of the book thinking how alien life in Idaho is until I got to the part where she escapes and thinks how alien life outside of Idaho is to her family. I’m not giving anything away here because you know she survives to write about it in the book.

The book has a lot of scenes where women are mistreated and she also goes into detail describing the gory details of accidents she has witnessed. If you think that would bother you I would stay away from this book.

She had other siblings who went to college before her but I was pulling for her because it seemed a matter of life and death. It wasn’t until she got to school and learned about bipolar disorder that she fit the diagnosis to her father. It is that coupled with his strict Mormonism that was as likely to hurt his family while trying to keep them safe from the outside world.

I found this book by accident while I was waiting on my reader app to give me another. Luckily I liked it. It is one of those “right place at the right time” books for me. I would recommend it if you think you can get around the violence. She has a good writing style which makes it an easy read.

The Hidden Life of Trees

Peter Wohlleben knows more about trees than you or I would ever need to know. He has worked in forestry for most of his life. I liked this book, “The Hidden Life of Trees” because I spent a lot of my childhood in the woods. He explains all the things I saw in the forest but had never studied. He also explains the processes going on beneath the ground that I couldn’t see. There is a lot going on in the forest that I had never even imagined.

He goes into detail about how trees compete with each other for sunlight and water above ground while at the same time helping each other below ground. Older larger tree share nutrients with smaller trees that don’t get enough sun or food. They do this through complex, symbiotic relationships with trillions of fungi in the ground. There are miles upon miles of fungi networks connecting trees in old growth forests. They work together to keep each other alive throughout trees long, slow motion lives.

Trees also have senses like animals. When one tree is attacked by insects it sends chemicals into the air that other trees “taste” and “smell” causing them to create their own insecticides in their leaves and keep the infestation contained. They also have a sense of touch which tells the roots where to grow with the least resistance and to stop spreading their crowns when their leaves touch another tree.

Those are just a few examples of what we have learned about trees over the years. The book contains a ton of science but it is written in a conversational style. He has a way with imagery through words. Illustrating the complex lifestyles of trees.

I don’t want to ruin too much here. This is a good book to read if you are into life sciences but also want a quick read without getting bogged down like you might with a textbook. It is written in common language. It’s a short book but it is filled with information. I think I read it in a few hours but now I know more about trees than anyone really needs to know.

I found this book on Hoopla Digital app. It is free to use, all you need is a device to read on and a library card. You can also read on your desktop or laptop or borrow a movie and stream it to your television. I won’t do that but you could.

Not another book review?

I really tried to get through this book. “Just Kids” by Patti Smith. I pushed myself 3 times but only managed to get halfway through. It’s a memoir and I just couldn’t get past all the lucky breaks she had when she was younger. She could have easily slipped through the cracks of history. Don’t get me wrong. She is a great writer and tells a good story.

If Robert Maplethorpe hadn’t scooped on her when she was homeless in NYC, there is a good chance nobody would know her name. Maplethorpe opened the doors to people who helped her career immensely. He got her into “The Factory” and also to many famous or soon to be famous musicians. It was the musicians who wanted to get into her pants who told her she should be a singer. Even though they had never heard her sing and she herself had no desire to sing in a band. I also wonder if she would have ever been published if she hadn’t had an affair with Sam Shepard, a famous playwright at the time. Even Bruce Springsteen wrote her most well known song.

Maplethorpe asked her to write this book to tell the story of their early love for each other. If you like memoirs or autobiographies or even like Patti Smith, you will probably have more luck with this book than I had.

Maybe it is sour grapes on my part but I just couldn’t see past the amazing coincidences that made her life story. I liked her latest book, “Year of the Monkey” better than this one. In fact, that book was the one that made me want to read more Patti Smith books. Now I think I am going to move on to something else. I would recommend this book if you are a fan of her music or her other writings. She still has great style as an author. The only reason I couldn’t finish the book was my personal problem. Don’t let that stop you. Her life is quite interesting and the list of who’s who she met in her lifetime is endless.