Posted in Book Talk

Reading is a huge favor for future-you

Let’s not make assumptions…

If you have never heard the good news before now, then let me have the joy of letting you know! I will make an assumption that if you’re reading this, you probably read a good deal. Well, your extensive time spent reading is one fantastic way to do future-you a favor. Reading and writing are proven ways to help strengthen your brain, which in turn compensates for deterioration later in life from dementia, Alzheimer’s, or simple aging.

While that alone is probably enough to convince you to keep the habit up (or to start developing it if it’s not quite a habit yet), more fascinating is exactly how reading and writing manage to encourage brain health.

Brain work makes the brain work

The idea of how mental stimulation can help your brain is called the cognitive reserve hypothesis (which definitely sounds like an episode title of the Big Bang Theory). Basically, you strengthen the connections between cells with your brain-busting activities. Later in life when the cells themselves are deteriorating, the strong connections between let them rely on each other more to get the work done.

Even when their brains actually had signs of deterioration or other brain damage, those who had a lifelong habit of reading retained more mental function in the last years of their life.

mental stimulation seemed to help protect memory and thinking skills, accounting for about 14 percent of the difference in decline, Keep Reading to Keep Alzheimer’s at Bay

In case it’s not clear, fourteen percent is HUGE in a study like this!

If you happen to be starting this habit late, don’t worry! The same study showed that those who didn’t start until later in life still had a 32% reduction in the rate of brain decline (again, that’s huge!).

If you don’t want to read, you could always become a taxi driver

Maybe reading isn’t your favorite thing, or maybe you just want to mix it up every now and then. No fear, because any activity that requires you to focus or think really hard about something will do you good. Here’s an example list from past activities participants in the study performed that were shown to have helped:

  • studying for medical exams
  • apprenticing as a London taxi driver
  • deciphering mirrored words or Morse codes
  • learning novel color names
  • performing brainteasers

Now to be honest, I’m not sure what “learning novel color names” means, but it sounds fun. On the other hand, I can totally see how working as a taxi driver in London would require focus and constant mental gymnastics. Just… don’t combine reading with taxi driving.

This is real too, this guy was pulled over for reading while driving. Sparked a new motto: “Stay Alive: Don’t Novel and Drive”


Keep Reading to Keep Alzheimer’s at Bay” by, The Alzheimer’s Information Site. Reviewed by William J. Netzer, Ph.D., Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation at The Rockefeller University.

Robert S. Wilson PhD, Patricia A. Boyle PhD, Lei Yu, PhD, et al: “Life-span Cognitive Activity, Neuropathologic Burden, and Cognitive Aging.” Neurology, Vol. 81. 2013.

Prashanthi Vemuri, PhD, Elizabeth C. Mormino, PhD: “Cognitive Stimulating Activities to Keep Dementia at Bay.” Neurology, Vol 81. 2013

It’s like a Moth story as an entire book

I stumbled across Jessica Pan’s Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come on hoopla a month or so ago and have had it on my list since then, waiting for the right mood to strike to pick it up. (Also I had some ARCs and library books to get through….) Well, on this rainy day post-party, THE MOOD HAS STRUCK!

I was pretty sure I would love this, and shortly in, I was loving it, and then she started talking about how much she loved The Moth, and then doing a show on The Moth, and then doing a show on The Moth with David Litt and my god, there’s probably no way I could love this more. Jessica Pan, how do I apply for friendship? I can visit London. I’m 100% willing to get into Deep Talk (just ask me about my difficulty sharing my passions with people!). I feel like this might be another five-star read. 😍

Two sentence summary: Jessica blocked herself off from life by hiding behind her introvert label. Jessica forces herself to do socially terrifying things to overcome her depression and stagnation, like asking Londoners if England has a Queen.

Posted in Reviews

Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart

Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart – ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Release Date: October 1, 2019
Whew. Would Ava hate it if I called this story “inspirational?” 😉

“Don’t you get it? It’s never going to be okay.”
“I never said it’s going to be okay. I said I’m not leaving.

Recommended: definitely
For anyone willing to gain some empathy and insight into what it’s like for your body to be more burned than not, who has ever fought to find their identity, who has ever felt hopeless, for anyone who wants to be torn apart only to heal shine brighter than before. It would also be a great read around Thanksgiving, because you’ll find a lot to be grateful for, like “my skin is all one piece” and “my toe is not being used as my thumb.”

I hate the cover, but I get it

The doctors say she’s more burn than girl. Her aunt and uncle say they love her and they’ll make things work, with pain in their eyes. Strangers say she’s an inspiration. Classmates say she’s a freak. The mirror says she’s a monster.
But Piper says she’s a badass.
And Ava is the only one who can decide if she’ll listen to what everyone else is telling her, or if she can find the strength to define herself after the fire that left her alive, but still took her life.

One of the things I liked best was the obvious research and detail given to making sure the treatments and expectations that Ava has to deal with post-burn are accurate. Both in the technical aspects, of how and why, but also in the emotional aspects, with the “finding her new normal.” That seems like something a lot of people might need at some point, even if not because they, like Ava, became a literal butthead due to where skin grafts were needed and where skin was available.

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Posted in Reviews

Every Colour of You by Amelia Mandeville

Every Colour of You by Amelia Mandeville – 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

WOW. I had no idea what I was getting into. First suggestion: don’t read the last quarter of this book in public. Huge thanks to Netgalley and Sphere for a free copy of this to review.

Recommended: YEEEESSSSS
For those who know, love, or are someone who has dealt with grief, love, depression, identity, mental illness, passion, general happiness… basically that list is “everyone” so my recommendation is more or less to “everyone.” A raw story, characters with secrets that are hinted at then revealed, a story that will make you feel terrible and lovely at the same time and renew the power of a smiley face. ☺

Be ready for a good cry (if you’re a particular softie for this stuff) and some deep thoughts about life that end with gratitude.

Classroom book for sure. Enough that I’m inspired to create a new Goodreads shelf right now for it and add some of my others on the list of “books I definitely want available for my students.”

Don’t be fooled by the curly font and bright colors: this book is heavy and intense and so, so good

Quiet pain: Zoe. Loud and outgoing and determined. Endlessly optimistic and manages to say exactly the right things, even when they might seem like just the opposite. And yet, giving up on her passion for athletics and abandoning her dreams, replacing them with salad and coaching and careful living.

Loud pain: Tristan, re-christened Tree by our aforementioned Zoe. Considering not living, carefully or otherwise. Fallen – or perhaps pushed – from his bright and charismatic self into a depression that is somehow both devoid of feeling and excruciatingly emotional.

Loss ties them together, but being together will help them create something new.

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Posted in Reviews

Heroine by Mindy McGinnis

Heroine by Mindy McGinnis – ⭐⭐⭐

New anti-drug campaign from this book: “Don’t do drugs if you still want to love puppies.”

Or possibly, “Did you know drug usage and withdrawal can make you uncontrollably throw up and poop yourself at the same time? Because it can. Don’t do drugs.”

Recommended: Maybe, for certain people/reasons
For people who have no sympathy for addicts, for people who blame the addict for their addiction, for people who might be starting that slide into addiction themselves and need a non-threatening dose of reality

I love a clever cover

Mickey plays softball. Mickey is a softball BEAST. Mickey gets in a bad accident. Mickey can’t play softball until she’s healed. Mickey is prescribed pills to help her heal. Mickey really likes the way the pills make her feel. Mickey makes friends through her pill use. Mickey is pretty much healed… Mickey doesn’t need the pills anymore. Except that Mickey DEFINITELY still needs the pills…

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Posted in Reviews

What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum

What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum – ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Sweet and honest and unexpected. ☺️

Recommended: yes!
For those who want a different-than-usual read on high school, particularly for those who aren’t neurotypical.

From Goodreads: When an unlikely friendship is sparked between relatively popular Kit Lowell and socially isolated David Drucker, everyone is surprised, most of all Kit and David. Kit appreciates David’s blunt honesty—in fact, she finds it bizarrely refreshing. David welcomes Kit’s attention and her inquisitive nature. When she asks for his help figuring out the how and why of her dad’s tragic car accident, David is all in. But neither of them can predict what they’ll find. Can their friendship survive the truth?

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