Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Where I started

Several books helped me get started on this self-education journey. The first two were The New Lifetime Reading Plan: The Classical Guide to World Literature, Revised and Expanded by Clifton Fadiman and John S. Major and Great Books by David Denby.

Now I have to admit that I never finished Great Books. I started it numerous times but always got caught up in something else I was reading. This book, for me, is one to be read slow and thoughtfully because Denby, a New York film critic who goes back to Columbia to retake the Lit course he took in the late 60s, talks of the relevance of the class-assigned books in a personable way, not in dry, critical evaluations. He interweaves his opinions, observations and personal stories throughout the book and gives a different perspective on the importance of Great Books.

How books affect us depends on where we are in life and our frame of mind. Rereading books give us deeper perspectives and understanding, and Denby documents this. I still have Great Books and I will still read it.

The New Lifetime Reading Plan: The Classical Guide to World Literature, Revised and Expanded, on the other hand, is like a wish list of books to read. How obsessive am I? I have an Excel file running a list of these books. Checkmarks for completion? Very few. It's a work in progress. Like the title says, a lifetime plan.

The lifetime list of 133 authors (many with multiple works) plus another 100 notable authors, was intimidating. About three years ago I found another plan to follow and started March 1, 2004. It's been slow going and I'll share why next time.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Beginning of it All

When I started to think about self-education, I realized that there is one foundation that we all have to have, and that is our health. So my first two recommendations are books about nutrition and fitness. I guess I need to have a disclaimer: I am not a doctor or a nutritionist. The opinions expressed are soley my own and what works for me. Consult your doctor before starting any nutrition or exercise program, etc. etc.

*Think Responsibly*

My new favorite nutrition book is The Eat-Clean Diet by Tosca Reno. It is about sensible eating of good foods - fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. I would hesitate to call it a 'diet' book; it is more of a healthy eating plan, though the publisher (who happens to be Reno's husband and publisher of Oxygen magazine) seems to emphasize fat loss for marketing purposes.

Anyone who has seen Oxygen magazine probably thinks it is for hard-core women bodybuilders. I read it for the recipes, healthy eating tips and fitness plans. Like most things I read and write about, I take what I need and forget the rest.

One of my favorite fitness books is Core Performance Essentials: The Revolutionary Nutrition and Exercise Plan Adapted for Everyday Use by Mark Verstegen. This is the everyman's version of his pro athlete-focused The Core Performance: The Revolutionary Workout Program to Transform Your Body & Your Life. The Essentials book centers around a 30-minute 3X/week homebased program for improved strength, flexibility and overall health. The exercises help strengthen your core so you stand up straighter and have better balance.

The 30 minutes a day is sometimes hard for me to find when the kids are around, but I'm focusing on it. I think everyone feels better when they get some exercise and sunlight. I really notice a good difference in the kids when they play outside a lot. I'd be happy to hear what others have to say about their favorite fitness or nutrition books or programs.

Time management and goal setting is another of my passions, and you'll be hearing about that soon. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Why am I here and what is this place?

Several years ago I found a deficiency in my education. It probably occurred when trying to figure out grammar rules that didn’t come naturally, which is not good for a writer. Or when I went to a writer’s conference and a speaker lost me when talking about ‘troubleshooting your syntax’ (why didn’t I remember what a gerundive was?). Maybe it was spurred by seeing a list of the ‘Top 100 Books of All Times.’ Even as a college graduate, I had read, what, one or two of them? And did I ever finish them?

This is no fault of my educators. It rests on me, the person who was more interested in social activities than scholarly pursuits. I remembered just enough to get through a test in college.

But like most of the people on this planet, I wanted to write a novel. This turned out to be harder than I ever imagined. It also brought to life my insecurities about writing. Following advice of those who are published, I decided I needed to read the classics, the Great Books, hoping that I would glean some smarts along the way.

I started this educational process on the zigzag road that life often presents us, around the adoption of two wonderful children, and the care of a few acres, a few animals, and a very understanding and supportive husband. I’ve been on this path of self-discovery for a while now and have been led to a wide variety of books. I want to document my journey in case there are other seekers, like me, who want to increase their knowledge of themselves and the world we live in. Maybe we can share ideas on any number of topics or about self-education. I’m also writing to nurture that spirit of self-expression by doing something I enjoy: talking about books.

So this blog joins the other 174,999 blogs that are started each day. I hope you will find something useful in it. Stay tuned.