Reading as an Occupation: What I read in April

Interesting month of reading indeed! My focus for 2021 with reading was to have no hard and fast rules. I just wanted to enjoy reading and learning through books. I have been successful with achieving that goal!

With books that can improve occupational therapy practice, I have a clear vision of the skills that I would like to improve upon or learn. I have “discovered” cozy mysteries and have found a good crop of authors in this genre. I have a new author that will allow me to grow through well-written books of varying genres and so many other breakthroughs! Thank you for coming with me on this journey.

These are the books I read in April.

Small Great Things  by Jodi Picoult

Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1st edition (October 11, 2016)

For the longest time, I have heard many accolades about Jodi Picoult’s work. After reading Small Great Things, I can see why. This was an excellent book that was engrossing, enlightening, and a learning experience on many levels. This story follows the story of Ruth, a labor and delivery nurse whose path crosses with a White Supremacist couple at her job in a hospital. The crossing of those paths forever changes the lives of Ruth and the couple.

Race is very much in the elephant in any room. Tensions are always high when race is at the center of any conversation. Picoult is masterful at using these characters to present race and the experiences of each character to peel the layers of race, racism, and prejudice.

Reading this book, it is evident that Picoult conducted extensive research from a variety of individuals of different racial backgrounds to obtain a clear picture of the impact of race in our society today and in the past. This was clearly a project for Picoult to present different experiences and value systems in a way to impact not only change, but also understanding of all sides.

Beyond the serious topic of race, this is a story that is well-written, multilayered,  presented from multiple perspectives, and flows exquisitely. I will definitely choose more books by this author, not based solely on the topic of Small Great Things, but more on her ability to craft an engaging novel.

Rating: 4/4. I highly recommend this book. The story is well-written and the plot is sublime.

Foods for Thought: Understanding the Impact of Diet and Lifestyle on Mental Health  by Jason Pawloski

Publisher: FoodsForThoughtRD (February 27, 2021)

The OTPF-4 has many new additions that focus on how occupational therapy practitioners address the cornerstones of the profession—the use of and expertise in occupations. One addition that impacts the performance of occupations is a client’s management of their health. Therefore, in the current OTPF4, health management has been added as a separate occupation within the domain section.

The addition of health management is an important distinction, magnifying the impact of health on the ability of an individual to engage in their daily occupations. With the need for occupational therapy practitioners to address all components of health management, having resources to address client needs is important to our practice.

OTPF-4 defines health management as: “activities related to developing, managing, and maintaining health and wellness routines, including self-management with the goal of improving or maintaining health to support participation in other  occupations.”(Amini, 2021, p. CE2) . One component of assisting our clients with managing their health is being part of a transdisciplinary team that addresses the nutritional needs of clients.

Nutrition is an area where there are many members of the team, with nutritionists and registered dieticians are at the forefront of that team ensuring that the client has a balance diet that would not impact their current condition. According to the OTPF-4, nutrition management is defined as, “implementing and adhering to nutrition and hydration recommendations from the medical team, preparing meals to support health goals, participating in health-promoting diet routines.” (Amini, 2021, CE2). Therefore, occupational therapy’s knowledge base needs to have a strong foundation in not only assisting the client adhere to recommendations, but also one that allows for preparation and participation in a healthy diet.

When addressing the nutritional needs of clients, certain diagnoses are at the forefront. These include hypertension (low salt), diabetes (low sugar and carbs), and even picky eaters (balanced nutrition with preferred foods). However, there are other conditions that we must be mindful of when supporting the nutritional needs of clients and addressing these needs starts with obtaining quality resources that will allow us to contribute information and support to the team.  There are also mental health diagnoses that require certain diet elements. Understanding how to support our clients with conditions can begin with the book Foods for Thought.

With a large focus on balance to maintain one’s mental health, Foods for Thought provides the diet principles that aid in achieving that balance. Pawloski presents the research on the current mental health status of individuals today and the impact of diet on the mental health conditions of depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, and related psychotic disorders.

Pawloski explains the importance of specific diets by pulling in the gut-brain connection, pointing out the effect of consuming certain nutrients on brain function. For example, Pawloski expands on the role of certain vitamins, minerals, and amino acids on the production of the neurotransmitters that regulate mood and sleep, which can help with reducing anxiety. Methods for reducing inflammation with a proper diet is another area that is discussed along with concrete methods of implementing a suitable diet in one’s life to maintain optimal mental health.  

This is not a book that is filled with unsubstantiated beliefs. This is a book that presents statements supported by solid research on why particular food choices benefit individuals with certain mental health conditions. Additionally, the research in this book is presented in straightforward language that can be easily understood by all.

With a background as a registered dietician and a fitness trainer with 15 years of experience, Pawloski is more than qualified to guide individuals with food choices that positively impacts mental health and optimal daily function. This is also a book that recognizes that following a diet that is rich in nutrients has a cost, both in time and funds. Therefore, the final chapters provide guiding principles and methods of consuming prime nutrients in one’s life from a time and cost perspective.

Collectively, the information in this book can serve as a strong foundation to guide clients with their nutritional needs. The information can be provided to the client to allow for meal preparation organization, establishing vitamin needs, and gaining enough information to formulate questions for physicians and dieticians.

Rate: 4/4. Highly recommended this book for anyone who wants to learn how to address the nutritional needs of clients to positively impact mental health. This is also a good resource to assist clients organize thoughts and questions to ask other medical professionals for more guidance. Depending on the client and their diagnosis, it can either be information to allow for increased independence with organizing a healthy diet or a tool to gather information to ask pertinent questions of other health professionals.

The Hunting Party  by Lucy Foley

Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (February 12, 2019)

After finishing The Guest List, also by Lucy Foley, this book came onto by radar by virtue of the author. I liked The Guest List and felt that The Hunting Party would be just as good. This was a good read, but it does not have the same intricacies as The Guest List. This is the story of a group of good friends that celebrate the New Year together in a remote area of the United Kingdom. One thing I like about Lucy Foley is her ability to use desolate areas to add to the suspense and this book delivers.

The characters are unfortunately trying to solve the mystery surround the death of one of their friends. Everyone is a viable suspect, some characters with more motives than others. The story to find out who was killed and who was the killer unravels over the course of a few days. This book is suspenseful, and the reveal of the killer is climatic and makes one look closer at their web of friends and acquaintances.

Rating: 3.25/4. I recommend this read. The first few chapters while a good setup, made the book difficult to get into. Once the first few chapters are done, the story becomes more interesting.

The Patient  by Jasper DeWitt

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (July 7, 2020)

If ever there was a book that would provide a paradigm shift in understanding what a monster represents, this would be the book. This is a quick read and there is a lot of buildup in this book to learn of the mystery surrounding one of the main characters, Joe, the patient at an asylum for more than 20 years. Joe has a strong history at the asylum and many professionals have not been able work with Joe for a host of sinister reasons.  The story is told by Parker, a psychiatrist intern at the facility in the east coast where Joe resides. Supposedly, this a true story with many changes to keep the people and location private.  The ending is a definite “whoa” moment.

Rating: 3.5/4. I recommend this novel. This would be a great Halloween read, where after finishing, one would make sure all the doors are locked bolted shut!

I already have a great list for May! What is everyone reading? Any books to recommend to my TBR pile?!

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