Swabbing the decks…

swab_decksSometimes one needs to just swab the decks and catch up with posts, and this is what this post is. Several reviews for books that I have read recently, but for some reason or another (and not a fault of the book at all), I haven’t put together a long review for them. These, then, are the micro-reviews of some recent reads.

Happier at Home – Gretchen Rubin (2013) book271
Rubin’s second happiness-related book, this one focuses more on the home front as opposed to her more general subject of her previous book. I enjoy her blog and like how she melds in philosophy, history and other subjects with the subject of happiness – she is pretty thoughtful and I appreciate her enthusiasm for life. (It’s not bossy or OTT which I like.) So, this one is more focused on how to appreciate life at home a bit more and so each chapter has a focus on a different aspect of that ranging from de-cluttering to getting stuff done. It’s not new or cutting edge info, but I enjoyed how she organized the info and she’s a good writer. She has a big emphasis on “noticing the little things” in life, which I agree with, and so I enjoyed this read. It’s more of a reminder about things than new info, and she seems to enjoy a pretty privileged life overall – however, that doesn’t make the info that she relates invalid. She’s received criticism from just repeating a lot of what she wrote in her first book in this one, but as I haven’t read that one, I didn’t get that.

book263How to Disappear Completely: On Modern Anorexia – Kelsey Osgood (2013)
Osgood takes a close examination of eating disorders (and especially anorexia) here, with the twist of her criticism of how society tends to veer from “condemning the victims to canonizing them”. She focuses on the way that anorexia, as an illness, has evolved over time, and how certain girls (and young women) are attracted to the shiny veneer of the disease even whilst knowing about the potentially deadly consequences. It’s a complicated argument, but I agree with it. Developing anorexia can be insidious, and a portion of that patient population are totally swallowed by the “image” that anorexia has, an image which can be sustained by the numerous pro-ana websites out there which read like a how-to manual. Osgood argues that to destroy anorexia, we must remove the glamor from it: the media coverage of eating-disordered celebrities, the lists of symptoms that proliferate and offer themselves (unwittingly) as guidelines and goals for young girls searching for an identity. It’s a fascinating argument, and I mostly agree with it.

As the author writes, “To destroy anorexia, we must devalue its currency… and leave the salacious and profitable details for the medical professionals.” It’s true that western society tends to value thin-ness in people (especially females). It’s also true that it can be competitive, diagnosis-wise, within the mental health patient population itself if you’re in a rehab type environment. (“How many diagnoses do you have? Oh, I have this many…”) Osgood also makes the point that rehab places (for anorexia patients) should not be like spas. It’s true that some are not, but some of the more high-end places are like resorts with horse-riding, acupuncture, yoga and world-class chefs. Why on earth would you want to get better if you’re in a place like that? Not that health care should degrade back to workhouse standards, but I do think that within certain groups, there is a certain panache linked with how many times you’ve been to rehab and which ones and there is pride in being a particularly complex case.

This was a provocative book on many levels and may cause unrest in the therapy world. But it’s a discussion that needs to happen.

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