Genius Foods

Genius Foods book coverI have been focusing on my physical health quite a bit lately and this lead to learning more about how food influences our physical and mental health. Genius Foods: Become Smarter, Happier, and More Productive While Protecting Your Brain for Life by Max Lugavere and Paul Grewal is a great resource and overall interesting book that delves into nutrition and health.

Max Lugavere lists a “genius food” with each chapter for a total of 10 important foods to include in your diet. Each chapter delves into a different affect within the body that is influenced by the foods we eat. Sometimes things get a little technical as far as biology and chemistry, but Max does a good job of making sure you can understand these processes without needing a science degree. There is a lot of great information that I took away from the book and have already started implementing to improve my mental and physical health.

I had started my health-focused mindset long before discovering this book, but this book has reinforced and supplemented my diet and exercise habits, and I already have a lot more energy, have lost a total of 15 pounds, and I am well on my way to reaching my health goals for this year. I had a lot of weight to lose so this change little but significant.

This book came out in 2018, but Max began his journey into how food impacts the brain several years ago after his mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He delved into how the disease manifests and what can help reduce and prevent further development. His journey was an extensive one that eventually produced this book. Paul Grewal is a medical doctor who provides snippets within each chapter about the topic discussed, practical application, or examples of how he has seen or treated certain symptoms for patients in relation to each topic. There is a “Genius Plan” discussed in the final chapter that outlines a diet and exercise regiment that, if followed, will result in vastly improved health. I admit I am not attempting that regiment but am continuing my own journey with a few modifications made as a result of the new information from this book. The regiment seems a little restricting, but that is why I’m sure it would work very well. My own regiment is proving to be a great improvement for my health.

Overall, I think this book has a lot of great information about how our diets impact our physical and mental health. Not just which foods are good, but how our bodies process different nutrients and how they can affect us at different times. This is why I’m recommending this book. I think you will learn a lot about how what you eat affects you mentally and physically, and you may likely change your diet or be more conscious about your food choices once you know more about certain food items.

As for me, I am continuing my health journey. It was hard to get started, but know I am on a roll with keeping up with exercise and focusing on what I eat. I have more energy which makes it easier to exercise, and I am happier overall. I’m already seeing other positive changes like clothes fitting better. I’ve always known physical health is linked to mental health. I’d just let myself go a bit over the past several years because I was happy and content (and quarantine weight is real as well). Now I am happier and equally content. I’m also overly excited about becoming a father and want to be healthy so I can ensure I can live a long happy life with my wife and children.

I hope that you eventually give this book a shot if you also want to improve your physical and mental health or simply want to know more about how our food choices impact our bodies and minds. Perhaps this can be the seed that makes you start your own journey. If so, I wish you the best of luck and feel free to contact me if you want an accountability buddy.

Happy Reading.

Reading Challenge

I’ve been participating in a reading challenge at work. One of my favorite things about working at a university is being able to participate in campus activities geared toward faculty, staff, and students, and meeting so many interesting people with specialties in different areas. This challenge recently made me think about my reading habits and what reading means to me and others. The challenge encourages participants to read books that will promote inclusivity and diverse perspectives. The challenge is split into months and cover the following categories:

  • Read a book about Activism, Advocacy, Antiracism, or Allyship
  • Read a book featuring a character with a [dis]Ability – to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Read a book in any genre by a Native, First Nations, or Indigenous Author
  • Read an LGBTQ+ book, graphic novel, memoir, or comic featuring an LGBTQ+ character and/or written by an LGBTQ+ author
  • Read a book written by or about a refugee
  • Read a book written by an author of color
  • Read a book written by or about someone that identifies as neurodiverse
  • Read an #ownvoices book set in Mexico or Central America

I have completed 7 of the 8 reading challenges on this list and will be reading the final one before the challenge is done. The recent self-reflection made me realize that although I read a lot and try to read widely, I also fail to venture into certain literary areas or pick up books that would be good for me to experience.

I am absolutely a big fan of science fiction and fantasy and many of my reading decisions sway toward this area. I read “classics” and memoirs and books on science and I try to remain open to all types of books. Granted, my reading list is forever long, but I couldn’t help but notice that there are many areas I should be including. I did take advantage of a few of these challenges to read authors I’d always intended to read but hadn’t yet picked up their work (like Octavia Butler and Viet Thanh Nguyen), but a few of the challenges above steered me toward a few new areas.

Reading, for me, is an enjoyable experience that lets me escape into wondrous worlds, learn new things, and meet great characters. Reading, especially fiction, is a great way to build empathy. I consider myself a highly empathetic person and I credit my enthusiasm for reading as a part of this. That being said, I think I was a bit surprised that my reading habits do often tend to stay on the same highway. One or two challenges above made me make a few pitstops I wouldn’t normally have made, and I realized I need to maybe make more pitstops on my journey through life. I will always read what I love to read, of course, but I think some great experiences may be waiting for me outside my standard fields of interest, and these experiences will likely make me a better person. To put it simply, I realized I need to read more widely than I have in the past. Libraries are great for trying new things.

I hope you examine your own reading habits and perhaps try a few books outside your own comfort bubble. Perhaps you will try some of the challenges above. Maybe you will find a new favorite arena to explore.

Happy Reading.

The Queen’s Gambit

The Queen's Gambit Netflix Banner

The Queen’s Gambit follows the character of Beth Harmon who is orphaned at a young age. Shortly after, she learns the game of chess and is a prodigy. Her various experiences and battles both on and off the chessboard will captivate your attention and have you wanting to know what happens next.

I must admit I simply love the story of The Queen’s Gambit. There are just many different factors that capture your attention, and I’ve always had a fascination with chess. I first discovered this story by watching Netflix’s adaptation. I wasn’t aware it was a book at first, so of course I picked up the book and read it after finishing the miniseries. The miniseries consists of seven episodes and is a phenomenal adaptation that follows the exact events of the book with few, minor changes that have no real impact on the story. The show is one of the best adaptations of a book I have come across if I’m honest. That being said, even though I knew everything that was going to happen, the book was still a fun read with exciting moments.

This only goes to show how well Walter Tevis can write. Tevis wrote seven books during his lifetime. The Queen’s Gambit is the fourth of his novels to be adapted into film. The other three were made into the movies The Man Who Fell to Earth, The Color of Money, and The Hustler. Tevis died in 1984 at the age of 56, just a year after The Queen’s Gambit was published.

Again, I have always enjoyed the game of chess, but I have not had many opportunities to play it. I learned from my father when I was around seven or eight years old. I vividly remember approaching him at the kitchen table as he was drinking coffee and asked him to teach me how to play the game. I never studied the game enough to know the designations of the squares on the board or any strategies that are found within this book. I merely played because I enjoyed it and it stimulated thought. It makes you strategize and there are many possibilities that can happen within a single move. There was a period where I would find people to play and for a short time I had several of my friends playing with me. The last time I can remember playing was in my early years at college. I haven’t played for many years now, but perhaps I will get back into it.

One thing I noticed after the show was released was an increase of interest in the game. I work at a university and I came across several students who were learning to play or picking it back up themselves. They had all seen the show. Both the show and the book create an interest in the game or make you want to play. I think this is because it delves into stratagem but also makes each game interesting in its own way. It makes the board seem like an entire world where anything is possible. A field where individual triumph or defeat is possible. Tevis was a player himself and the Author’s Note at the start of the book expresses his appreciation to the players who helped him ensure the games within the book were strategically sound exchanges.

I have also talked with several others who have watched the series who have no interest in the game of chess whatsoever. They still enjoyed the show because the story isn’t only about chess. It is about the interesting character of Beth Harmon who faces many struggles outside of chess as well. Thus, I consider this a story that many people will enjoy because of these universal elements. Whether you decide to watch it or read it, I hope you enjoy this story as well.

Happy reading….or binge-watching.

This is 30

Well, I’m officially 30 years old as of a few days ago. Three decades and a milestone that often calls for reflection because ten years prior I was 20, and hitting 20 years meant you were out to claim the world (or so it sometimes feels is expected). A lot has happened in the past decade and a lot has not happened. Of course I expected to accomplish things by now that have not been accomplished. Such as having written, and wishing to publish, my first novel. All I have is two novels started that now gather dust and one flash fiction piece that was published in 2017. So it goes to say my writing aspirations have fallen a bit short.

However, life is not just one endeavor. It is a multitude of adventures some of which we never knew we would experience. So I am focusing this post on what I have done over the past ten years that I treasure and will leave off on a few of my upcoming achievements.

First, I have maintained this blog for four years. I have remained (fairly) regular with my posts as well and I enjoy discussing books and related matters here. It is a place where I can geek out about things I don’t often get to run on about with an attentive listener or fellow fan. It is only when looking back that we see how far we have come because four years is not a short time. I hope to maintain this blog for years to come and, hopefully, be able to discuss the books I will eventually write and have published (I will make it happen).

Moving a bit further back, toward my early twenties, I had the privilege to travel outside of the U.S. for the first time and visit New Zealand for an extended period. I absolutely love the country and hope to visit again some day. I made several lifelong friends as well that I would never have been able to meet otherwise. Staying on travel but several years later, I had visited England for just a few days and then explored Ireland. I later took a little vacation in the Dominican Republic. I love to travel and hope I will be able to make more trips in the future as there are many places I still want to visit. Though time will be a more scarce the next several years.

Shortly after that first international traveling experience, I finished my Bachelors degree and went on to obtain a Masters degree in the Fine Arts. I am currently working on a Masters in Business Administration which will likely be the final degree I obtain as there will need to be very special circumstances to encourage me to obtain a Doctorate. I will be finishing the MBA later this year. I have always loved learning, which is one reason I love reading, and I intend to continue learning about this universe we live in until the day I die. I enjoy it and remain fascinated with what is out there to discover.

It was near the very end of my Bachelors degree when I met a girl. We knew immediately that we were stuck with each other for life and after waiting a bit too long, primarily due to my working on my MFA, we eventually became engaged and shortly after married. This year we will have been married three years. Time has definitely not slowed down. I became an uncle nearly two years ago and will be welcoming another niece in the near future. I will also become a father this summer. I know my life is about to change in ways I can only guess at, but I have wanted to have children for some time and I cannot be more excited to welcome our little girl when she arrives. We have already prepared her room in the house. It is astounding how much joy it brings me when I have a moment to think about the fact that we will be parents. There are times when I catch myself staring at my wife and our growing child and simply melt away into the excitement of what is to come.

So despite the many goals I had wished to accomplish by the time I turned 30, I feel extremely lucky about all I have accomplished and all that is happening in the near future. There are many things that have happened these past ten years of course. These are just my favorites that come to mind today.

I think any dreams and goals change as life happens and expectations get derailed. But that is life and sometimes it turns out better than we can ever expect.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian book coverThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie was first published in 2007 and won the National Book Award for Young Peoples Literature the same year. This story is a semi-autobiographical account about a young, aspiring cartoonist who makes the difficult decision to attend high school outside of the Spokane Indian Reservation. This decision draws much criticism from those on the reservation, and turns his best friend into his worst enemy.

I hate to say that Native American communities gain very little recognition today, but I may just be saying this simply because there are no reservations near my geographical region and there are very few, if any, members of this population in my area. I must admit my own ignorance when I first thought this book was published a few decades earlier than it was, but technically the story is based on events from many years ago so perhaps that is why I had this impression. Regardless, I am surprised at how recent this book has been published (yes is was over a decade ago, but I am getting old now so what is time really?).

One reason I enjoyed this book as much as I did was because of my lack of exposure. I have had little opportunity to learn from this extremely underrepresented community. This book is a surprising insight into this community with all of the economical hardships and difficult cultural dynamics.

Though this book does take place during our protagonist’s initial high school years, I would not recommend this book to anyone under the age of fifteen (or anyone whose maturity is around that age). I say this because there are some topics that, though part of life, can be difficult to read. The substance abuse, primarily alcohol, and how it impacts this community is alarming. I know this has become somewhat of a stereotype, but this book explores a few of the reasons why many turn to drinking. It is also alarming how common it is for young Native Americans to attend funerals. I hope this may be more fictionalized than it is in reality, but it feels as though it is just a hope.

This book is a great insight into a community many of us likely have little or no knowledge outside of a brief mention in history books. This story gives us a glimpse into their current livelihood, a group of people seemingly caught between holding onto their heritage and complete assimilation. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a quick, funny, heartbreaking, and hopeful read that I believe you should give a chance.

Happy Reading.