Year 8, Book 1

1. Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald

This book is a result of the research of psychologists Banaji and Greenwald using the Implicit Association Test (more information about the test and the actual tests are available on their website.) They examine hidden biases people may have regarding thing such as race, gender, and age as well as a number of other things. They look at what those hidden biases may mean in regards to our behavior and what if anything we can do to guard against them. It’s definitely an interesting though slightly disheartening read. It’s hard to think that either your discriminating against people or they are discriminating against you via such an ingrained subliminal bias that there is almost no way it can be changed. I read an e-version of this book as an advanced reader’s copy through NetGalley. If you plan to read it I would highly recommend reading the book in print rather than electronically. There were a lot of tests included in the book that were virtually impossible to do anything with in the format that I read it. I give it a 6 out of 10.

Year 7, Book 103

103. The Last Best Cure: My Quest to Awaken the Healing Parts of My Brain and Get Back My Body, My Joy, and My Life
Currently Reading by Donna Jackson Nakazawa

I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book from NetGalley. I was drawn to reading it because Nakazawa I too suffer from autoimmune disorders though not the same ones that she has. In this book she investigates and writes about mind-body strategies for healing. I admit I was skeptical going into this book because there are far too many hey look how I cured my illness by doing such and such and you can too. That turned out not to really be what this book was about though. Nakazawa is a science writer as a profession and went in to her investigation just as skeptical as I was about reading it. She was not just trying random self-cures. Instead, she met with actual researchers and doctors doing work in these areas. She did not quit any of her traditional medical therapies during the process, and she though medical tests did show marked improvement she never claimed to be cured. The practices she went through in this book allowed her to regain control over her body and her illness in order to lead a richer life not ruled by her diseases.

Much of the research presented in the book is predicated on the fact that research has found that traumatic experiences during childhood have a very strong correlation with autoimmune disorders in adulthood. That does not in any way apply to me. The book actually includes a questionnaire used in the research and I did not answer yes to any of the questions, so much of the stuff specifically relating back to childhood wouldn’t really be for me. However, I do think there could be some value in incorporating some of these other practices for mindfulness into my life. I suspect that would be useful for even people without autoimmune disorders.

The author happens to live in the Baltimore area as do I, so I have the added benefit of actually checking out some of the same people and practices that she did. I haven’t really tried anything specific out yet, but I have at least incorporated some of the stress relieving breathing exercises she mentions when I start to feel stress levels rising up. I may not wind up pursuing much of what she wrote about, but I’m glad I read the book and I would recommend it at least as food for thought for other people suffering for autoimmune disorders. I give it a 7 out of 10.

Year 7, Book 102

102. Never Look a Polar Bear in the Eye: A Family Field Trip to the Arctic’s Edge in Search of Adventure, Truth and Mini-Marshmallows by Zac Unger

I received this book as an advanced reader’s copy from Netgalley. In Never Look a Polar Bear in the Eye, Zac Unger begins by wanting to embed himself for a few weeks with researchers studying polar bears. He is unable to secure a position with the scientists who are considered the elite researchers in the field, but winds up spending a couple of weeks outside Churchill, Manitoba with a scientist who begins to make him question whether what the news and the elite scientists are telling us about the inevitable demise of polar bears due to global warming is in fact accurate. The book then takes a shift when Unger decides to move to Churchill for three months with his wife and their three young children. The story then becomes not only about the polar bears, but about the town of Churchill and its existence as a tourist destination for viewing polar bears in their native habitat.

I really enjoyed the book, and appreciate the insight it gave me into the actual experience of being in Churchill and going on one of the polar bear excursions. My husband is probably wishing I had never read the book because it refueled my own desire to go on one of these trips. I first heard about them years ago during the Vancouver Olympics. Despite the fact that Churchill isn’t anywhere near Manitoba there was a story about these excursions during the Olympic coverage. I love polar bears and always tell my husband I want one as a pet. He just informs me that it would eat me. There are only a few short weeks when these vacations happen and they happen to fall around the time of my anniversary, so I like to ask my husband which anniversary is the polar bear anniversary. Should I ever get to go on one of these trips I am glad that I read this book ahead of time because it really gave a lot of good information about how austere Churchill is. There would be no glamor in going to Churchill itself. It will be cold and ugly, but despite all that I finish this book assured that viewing polar bears in the wild is a majestic and awe inspiring experience that would make the discomfort of the rest of the trip worth it. I give it 8 out of 10.