Book Chat

This month’s book reviews:
Long-time readers may recall that I had a daughter tested for ADHD a while back. Turns out, she doesn’t officially “have it,” but the topic is fascinating to me in many regards. What causes such a “diagnosis?” How is the diagnosis made? How is it that so many kids apparently have ADHD, ODD, autism, etc., when there were almost no kids having these disorders 50 years ago?

In typical rabble-rousing fashion, John Rosemond (the book seems to be 95% written by him) takes on these questions  in The Diseasing of America’s Children: Exposing the ADHD Fiasco and Empowering Parents to Take Back Control. Rosemond is famously common-sense and “old school,” and he basically believes ADHD is a concoction of the medical establishment and pharmaceutical companies in order to make money. I agree with him probably 75%.

Rosemond brings up several things that troubled me about ADHD diagnosis. For one thing, there is no definitive test to tell whether or not one “has” ADHD or not. Rather, the diagnosis is largely made from questionnaires asking whether behaviors are noticed “often,” etc. What is “often?” Mightn’t this differ from one person’s perspective to another?

He also questions the oft-repeated assertion from psychologists and doctors that ADHD is a problem with “brain chemistry” which medication can fix. Rosemond contends that “brain chemistry,” whatever that actually means, can’t be measured. But, it sure sounds encouraging to a parent who is searching for a quick answer for their child.

Rosemond also takes on the assertion that ADHD stimulant medications “slow a child with ADHD down, but they speed up a ‘regular’ person.” Rosemond says that, in the dosages given for ADHD, these stimulants would help anyone focus – not just those with ADHD. He contends that these medications only “speed up” people who are taking high, illegal-level doses. Interesting …

I was reminded while reading this book of a recent George Will reference to a novel by Peter De Vries, in which De Vries decries America’s tendency to “medicalize character flaws.” This really struck a chord with me:  perhaps our relative affluence has led to many medical diagnoses which would have been dealt with and lived with in the past.

I found this book fascinating in its counter-culture approach.


350 years ago, an English man of humble origins wrote the Christian (and, really, English language) classic, The Pilgrim’s Progress. John Bunyan (Christian Encounters Series) is his biography.

I must confess I’ve never read The Pilgrim’s Progress, although as a living-and-breathing human, I’ve certainly heard many references to it.  This book made me curious to read it.

This book is part of a new Thomas Nelson series – Christian Encounters. They are short (this book was 140 pages) biographies of various famous Christians. I like the concept – there are many folks I’d like to know more about, but perhaps not devote a 350-page book to. The length and depth of these is just right. They would be perfectly appropriate for teens and tweens as well.

What did I learn about Bunyan? Well, he was a “tinker” – he worked with metal and was poor, only getting a year or so of schooling. He treasured the 1 or 2 books he had access to. He became a preacher, which landed him in jail for over a decade during a tumultuous period of England’s history when “dissent” wasn’t looked upon favorably. It was during his first lengthy stint in prison that part 1 of Pilgrim’s Progress was written.

When, near the end of his life, the king offered him a political appointment, it’s a testament to his character that he turned it down. He rode through a rainstorm to preach at a faraway town, only to catch cold and die a few weeks later – his pilgrim’s life finally at an end.



Okay,  the above book made me so curious that I did read The Pilgrim’s Progress. While it takes awhile to get into that 17th century language, the effort is worthwhile. Since I think the basic story is pretty familiar  (a pilgrim, Christian, traveling life’s path and encountering various obstacles before finally reaching Heaven), I’ll just list some impressions.

When asked by Mr. Goodwill (one of many aptly-named folks Christian encounters on his journey) why no one joined him, he answers “because none of my neighbors saw their danger as I saw mine.” Do we see our danger clearly, or do our busy lives obscure it?

Although  many companions join Christian for a time, ultimately he makes his journey alone. And isn’t that quite true of the Christian walk? We’re basically on our own, regardless of the support we may get from time to time.

When Christian travels through the valley of the shadow of death, he is frightened by the darkness, but then hears a voice and is cheered, because this reminds him that others are there as well – although unseen to him at the time – and he realizes that God is with them all.

Christian’s final obstacle is crossing a river, which symbolizes death. His companion at the time, Hopeful, has a fairly easy passage, but Christian’s  is more difficult. However, they both reach the far shore and are greeted with cheers and trumpets. What an encouraging thought!

Pilgrim’s Progress is divided into 2 books, each 150 pages. The first was by far the best in my opinion, and it tells of Christian’s journey. It was written while Bunyan was imprisoned. The second half tells of the journey of Christian’s wife and 4 boys, and it was written after Bunyan’s imprisonment, and after he had become famous by writing part 1. It is interesting that part 2 has much less impact and urgency. Christiana (his wife) has a much easier passage, being accompanied on the entire journey by Greatheart. I’m not sure if Bunyan is trying to make things easier on her because she’s a woman, or whether he’s trying to show that some folks simply have an easier life, or what – but if you’re going to read one part or the other, I recommend part 1.

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7 thoughts on “Book Chat

  1. With regard to the ADHD issue, I fought with our school district for YEARS over my son.

    I insisted (still insist) that his only problem was that he was a pre-teen (and then teenage) boy – that, and a lack of discipline and stimulation in the classroom.

    A kid who is reading himself to sleep every night does not have a problem with concentration.

    A kid who’s tired of covering material in class ad nauseum that understood the first time isn’t depressed – he’s bored.

    (And a 22-year-old teacher who’s afraid of her students has no business teaching in a public high school.)

    Besides his being labeled as “emotionally disturbed” and suffering from “ODD” I was also labeled – as “difficult” and “uncooperative.” Why, I even refused to drug him like the “professional educators” wanted so he’d be a good little zombie!

    Strangely enough, once he got OUT of school and was no longer convinced that he “had problems” – why, most of those fictional problems went away (all but the genetic ones, of course!).

    Ack. Struck a nerve there, you did. 😉

  2. Oh I LOVE John Rosemond. I am sure I would love this book – even though I do not have a child with any of those diagnosis. Nor do I think they should be tested. However, I love his perspective on most things. I have read just about everyone of his books that pertain to everyday parenting.

  3. ADHD is a difficult topic, but I am glad these authors are getting the word out that he diagnosis is made too often.

    I’m glad you finally read Pilgrim’s Progress! Somehow I have never read the one about Pilgrim’s wife.

    I love biographies and I hope this series will spur people to read more, but I’d rather have people read these shorter biographies than none at all.

  4. These little bios by Thomas Nelson are an awesome resource for people, as you say, who don’t want to devote a great deal of time to learning about others but would like some information. I just read the one about Jane Austen and I have the Winston Churchill one sitting here on my desk. Can’t wait to dive on in!

  5. Those “Christian Encounters” biographies sound just up my alley. When it comes to biographies, I tend to like to get a quick background before I start reading an in-depth biography–otherwise I can get bogged down by all the details and miss the big picture. Thanks for the reviews!

  6. Very interesting! I have a feeling that the ADHD issue might come up with my son in coming years, and I want to be educated about the options and reality of it.

  7. Susan, are you aware that there is a version of Pilgrim’s Progress in modern English? That would avoid the pitfall of the King James-type English.

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