October 5th: Mother Nature, Sarah Blaffer Hrdy. I LOVED this book: very thought provoking and intellectually daring. It contains many highly controversial ideas, so the easily offended should probably avoid it. However, for anyone interested in history, anthropology or parenting (in the more theoretical sense: it is not at all a 'how-to' book) the book is fascinating and completely repays the effort required (it is very long and fairly intellectually challenging). Grade: A.
October 18th: The Slow Food Story: Politics and Pleasure, Geoff Andrews. Continuing my interest in learning about food, I picked this up to learn more about the 'slow food' philosophy. It's kind of like avoiding chain stores for consumer products: slow food is lovingly produced by skilled artisans making fair wages, is geographically/culturally specific (so a cheese would be different in every town, as a product of that particular place/culture), and uses sustainable, environmentally friendly methods. The philosophy promotes "good, clean and fair" food. I find this idea really appealing emotionally (although I have a lot of objections to it for practical reasons); it's also appealing for selfish reasons (because food produced in this manner tastes a lot better).
I did learn some interesting things (like that slow food is Communist-influenced and originated in Italy). Also, I didn't realize that there is a whole international organization with annual conferences, thousands of members worldwide and all kinds of advocacy/involvement options. The book itself is quite dull and surprisingly, lacks any kind of critical analysis of the movement or its philosophy (even though it was written by an academic). This is a big problem given the huge practical and even ethical drawbacks to adopting a slow food philosophy, so I would not recommend reading it. Grade: D.
October 19th: Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way, Mayim Bialik. By the actress best known for starring in Blossom, this is a personal account of how she parents her children. Her method is "attachment parenting", but a very doctrinaire, extreme version. I like a lot of things about attachment parenting (baby led weaning, babywearing, extended breastfeeding), but she seemed pretty crazy (like NEVER leaving her children without at least one parent, even though the oldest one is six; not vaccinating or using medicine, even Tylenol--instead she uses breastmilk as a cure-all; and feeding her children a strict vegan diet, to the point they can't ever eat birthday cake at parties). After I read it I began wondering if all attachment parents were just delusional, co-dependent hippies.
Leaving aside its (non) merits as a parenting guide, however, it's an interesting read. Bialik writes well, has an engaging style, and gives a fascinating look at how her parenting style plays out in real life. Grade: B-.
October 26th: The Happy Child: Everything You Need to Know to Raise Enthusiastic, Confident Children, Linda Blair. I just read this, but already I can hardly remember it. Fairly standard advice if quite non-specific (it's a short book and goes through the elementary school years, so naturally details are ignored in favor of broad generalities). It's fine but since there are so many better parenting books I would skip it. Grade: C-.