The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World by John Robbins
I have now read quite a few books about the dangers of the American diet, specifically with regards to meat production, but this one was by far the scariest. I almost had to quit reading it because I was so unsettled. It is very disturbing to discover the truth about where our meat comes from, which is why I think people avoid it. But, I really believe we need to do a better job of being educated and supporting businesses that follow higher standards than the bare legal requirements, even if it costs more money. Robbins is a big proponent of vegetarianism (and veganism, to a lesser extent), and he provides a lot of convincing arguments about the health, environmental, and moral benefits of such a diet. I still don't think I will ever be a vegetarian (and I will NEVER be a vegan...hello, ice cream!), but this definitely encouraged me to continue to reduce my meat consumption and search for meat and dairy products that I can eat with a clear conscience.
A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How A Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband "Master" by Rachel Held Evans
Rachel is one of my favorite bloggers, and you may remember that I really enjoyed her first book, Evolving in Monkey Town. This one did not disappoint. In the style of A.J. Jacobs' A Year of Living Biblically, Rachel set out to follow all of the Bible's instructions for women as literally as possible during the course of a year to show that the concept of "Biblical" womanhood is unrealistic. Despite what some claim, no one is following the Bible completely literally; we are all "picking and choosing." Her point is well made, although I'm not sure it will convince many who firmly believe that God has a specific design for women (a design that closely resembles the 1950s). But, the book is more than just a tongue-in-cheek way to prove a point. She looks closely at the stories of women in the Bible and ends up gaining a lot of insight about those stories from an Orthodox Jewish woman she befriends. My favorite part is when the friend explains that Proverbs 31 is not viewed by Jews as some sort of "godly wife" checklist. Instead, it's a song of praise that husbands sing to their wives. The biggest takeaway for me is that we need to stop wasting time trying to measure up to some kind of "ideal" woman. Instead all of us, women and men, should cultivate the gifts God has given us.
The Secret Piano: From Mao's Labor Camps to Bach's Goldberg Variations by Zhu Xiao-Mei
This is the second memoir of a Chinese woman I've read recently, and I'm stunned by how little I know about China's history. The author was a student at a music conservatory in Beijing when Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution began in the early 1980s. She was sent to a labor camp for 5 years, where she and some other prisoners surreptitiously practiced forbidden western music. Eventually, she immigrated to the U.S., where she was able to restart her musical career. Throughout her life, she mourns for the years she and other Chinese young people lost due to the Cultural Revolution and its aftermath. It was not the most well-written book, but it was an interesting look into a part of recent history I was almost completely unfamiliar with.
Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller
I stole this from my brother's bookshelf at Thanksgiving. I still haven't read Miller's most famous book, Blue Like Jazz, but I figured this one might be a similar style. Basically, Miller argues that Christians have taken what is supposed to be an emotional, mysterious, unfathomable story and boiled it down to a set of propositions to agree with. I think this is a pretty accurate assessment. At times, Miller's writing style annoyed me, as he seems to be disingenuously self-deprecating, but, overall, I thought the message was good.
Lucky by Alice Sebold
This memoir, by the author of The Lovely Bones, details Alice's brutal beating and rape as a college freshman and the subsequent trial of her rapist. Although obviously difficult to read, the story is very engrossing, and it's interesting to read about how the rape affected everyone in Alice's life. What was saddest to me was how much Alice's integrity was questioned during the process. Despite the fact that she was seriously injured, there were many questions about whether she fought hard enough, what she was wearing, etc. This happened in the 80s, so I hope things are better now, but from what I've heard, female rape victims are still subjected to an unreasonable amount of scrutiny when they pursue prosecution.