January Reads

Thursday, February 02, 2017

I must have taken a subconscious cue from the fact that my favorite books of 2016 tended to be in the non-fiction category, because that is almost all that my January reads have consisted of. I've tried to get into a couple of novels, but just haven't been in the mood for them. So while on the surface, my January reads may seem as gloomy as our Indiana skies, they were actually quite enlightening and heartwarming. Just what my vitamin-D deprived self needed.

Where the Light Gets In- I love Kimberly Williams-Paisley. Maybe its because she's my doppleganger or maybe its because she is married to Brad Paisley. But something about her seems so down to earth, I"m sure we'd be fast friends. This book is about her struggle to accept her mother's dementia and the many tough decisions that accompanied her illness. A great read that reminded me to have the tough conversations now with those I love and to cherish every moment with them. Also, that our minds are weird and mysterious especially when they do not function as intended. 

When Breath Becomes Air- I blame Modern Mrs. Darcy for this one, because I kept hearing her reference this book on her podcast. I could not put this book down. At first glance, it may seem depressing but I can assure you, it was anything but. Paul Kalanthi spent his life as an academic, pursuing knowledge of what life after death and life leading to death brought. After nearly a decade's worth of study to become a neurosurgeon, Kalanthi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. This book is the culmination of his life's dedication to attempt to understand death and dying. How ironic and beautiful that he came to terms with what he sought his whole life to understand, in his very own life. I couldn't put this one down. Heart wrenching but beautiful. This one will stick with me for a long time. 

All At Sea- Another book about death and loss, but it too was strangely uplifting. I don't want to give away too much of this one, only to say that it is beautifully written. I do have to say that I tired a bit of reading the recaps of Tony's previous life so I may have skimmed some of those sections. But overall the thought was beautiful. 

Homegoing- The only novel I read this month, and it was epic. Absolutely epic. There is a lot of rhetoric in our world today about racial divides. Many people want to blame one thing or another for the way our country is today. This book has helped me to look at race in a completely different light. I don't want to say too much to give it away, but it is written in a manner that I have never before encountered. It follows nearly 300 years of generations, beginning with slave traders in Africa who sell their fellow Africans to the British. It ends some time in the 1970's USA. If you read one book from this list, make it Homegoing. 

Mother Tongue- I loved the subtitle from this book: "One Family's Globe-Trotting Quest to Dream in Madarin, Laugh in Arabic and Speak in Spanish." I mean, who doesn't want that for their family? For language lovers and those fascinated with linguistics, this book is for you. I felt at time bogged down by the syntax of the linguistical component of the book, but the overall story was fascinating. 

Lucky- The title is in reference to something that a police office told Alice Sebold after she had been raped. He told her that other girls in the same tunnel where her attack occurred had been murdered. She was lucky. This is an honest and raw memoir of a young woman who was brutally raped and fought to see her attacker prosecuted. Sebold went on to write the NYTimes best selling book "The Lovely Bones." This book started as an essay for one of her English writing classes and blossomed into this memoir. It is a great book, well-written though hard to read at times. If you care to understand those around you, it is a must for your TBR list. 

I fell like this month's books have helped me to gain understanding and appreciation for those around me who are in different circumstances. Tolerance, division, equal rights and societal differences are hot-button issues right now. While I am not one to play into those things, I do think it is important to not be ignorant of the world around me. Reading these books, particularly Homegoing, have helped me to gain a broader world-view. Other books like Lucky and Where The Light Gets In have increased my compassion and the sense that others need grace. I need to be extending grace to those around me, for as the old adage says, "Be kind to one another, for you do not know what battles they are facing" rings true. Above all, love. Love all. Serve all. Seek to find commonalities despite our differences and fight to find the beauty in what is foreign. 

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