There's an old saying that your life will change (for better or worse) depending on two things: the people you meet and the books you read
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Although, if you happen to encounter a terribly kind grandma in 18A .. you get a twofer
This summer, my library account registered nine paperbacks for sitting by the pool, stories of love and loss, growth and change, along with some really great historical fiction. At times they'd stack in two riveling towers on the nightstand, miniature Pisas, ready to fall onto the carpet if a kitty brushed past
My husband's office is not much better. There are books about history, art, business, religion, and social justice. In the kitchen? Cookbooks. Audiobooks for the car? Memoirs, always memoirs.
A friend used to say that wherever I went, I'd leave a book or two in my wake. And now, here I am. Still unchanged. Married to a man who is much the same
When I was just starting my career, I often traveled for work. In my backpack were (at least) three paperbacks, along with a hardcover memoir stuffed into my weekender. During one trip, as I settled into 18B, the grandmotherly woman next to me peered over her glasses at my tall stack of reading material
“A gift from my daughter” she pointed to her iPod “I never thought I'd love listening to books as much as I do now”
I'd thought of it
But I was sure I wouldn't like it
I wondered if I'd miss dog-earing the pages, the smell of the paper, the tossing of the dust cover, the cracking of the spine – the passing around of tattered copies. The joy of an hour or two spent lost in the library's shelves.
I thought I'd miss it all
The past couple of weeks found me on a road trip from Iowa to Colorado to Montana and back home again. The sun was shining, the scenery beautiful. For thirty+ hours, the driving was easy. “Just one more chapter,” I'd think “then I'll stop for gas or maybe a little something to eat”
And so I did. I listened and listened and keep listening.
I've never missed the cracked spines like I thought I would. After a while, the narrator's voice feels like an old friend. A slew of recommendations at the ready for when I'm finished or in the mood for something lighter
The grandma in 18A would be so proud
And so, if you’re in need of a great book to listen to. Or even some good old-fashioned nightstand clutter, might I recommend a few for your fall reading list?
When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi
You want something that re-prioritizes your life. That offers a jolt. That tips the great imbalanced balance scale until what doesn't matter topples into what does
Favorite passage: “The main message of Jesus, I believed, is that mercy trumps justice every time.”
Ever since listening to this episode of Planet Money, I've been fascinated with Bill Browder and the story behind the Magnitsky Act. My goodness, it's absolutely incredible (and just might shed some light into today's politics)
Favorite passage: “If I'm killed, you will know who did it. When my enemies read this book, they will know that you know.”
A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini
This one kept me company on my 14+ hour drive home. Quite possibly the best book I've ever read. The kind where you're a little afraid to start a new one because you're sure it won't compare
Favorite line: “You see, some things I can teach you. Some you learn from books. But there are things that, well, you have to see and feel.”
Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert
You want to make something (anything!) A business or your breakfast, six figures or six wool sweaters, but you’re stuck somewhere between step one and step thirty-two
Favorite line: “Creativity is sacred, and it is not sacred. What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all. We toil alone, and we are accompanied by spirits. We are terrified, and we are brave. Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege. Only when we are at our most playful can divinity finally get serious with us. Make space for all these paradoxes to be equally true inside your soul, and I promise—you can make anything”
The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
My love for novels set during World War II runs deep. Despite the historical savagery of Nazi Germany, the author was able to convey kindness, giving, acceptance, and love by fostering a little girl and a Jew. Death, as the narrator was a brilliant device. If you start this one, be warned. Clear your schedule.
Favorite line: “A DEFINITION NOT FOUND IN THE DICTIONARY. Not leaving: an act of trust and love, often deciphered by children”
Second Favorite line: “The only thing worse than a boy who hates you: a boy that loves you.”
Dept. of Speculation, by Jenny Offill
You want to laugh and smile at things that are both heavy and light, and you want to do it in the brief 7-minute window of opportunity between the time it takes your toddler to a) awake, and b) declare boredom.
Favorite line: “A few nights later, I secretly hope that I might be a genius. Why else can no amount of sleeping pills fell my brain? But in the morning my daughter asks me what a cloud is and I cannot say.”
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith
Loved the characters, the fun, and the lessons learned by Francie through her adolescence. Why did it take me so many years to get around to reading it?
Favorite line: “Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.”
What are you reading these days? Any good ones we should know about?
( Featured Image Photo Credit: Instagram – @dogbookclub )