Library Look

This book caught my eye as I was looking through the shelves at our local library.  I started my de-cluttering and minimalism research about a year ago, and since then, I have been grabbing at every story/video/article I can find.  This book was less of a story of a woman's journey and more of a How-To book.  So while I found bits and pieces interesting, I was let down a little.  Let me say this is no way a reflection of the author's ability to write or even her success at minimalism.  Instead, it's just a reflection of my preference to hear stories.  I enjoy learning what brought people to want less, how they initiated the change, and every small step along the way.  So while this is a nice place to start if you are in the beginning stages of your journey, it wasn't as fulfilling as I had hoped for me

What books have you read about simplifying life?  If you are on this same journey, what are some aspects of de-cluttering, or minimalism, that interest you? 

Happy Reading!

Pulitzer Prize Winner

At 771 pages, I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I was hoping that this book would hold my interest.  I finished it in a day and a half, so I wasn't disappointed, but I will say that the last third dragged on for me.  I have mixed feelings about whether I feel this book was worthy of the Pulitzer Prize (I realize, of course, that I am nowhere near a qualified expert).  I wanted so badly to know others' opinions that I asked around, and when I could not find someone else who had read it, I took to Google to look for a review.  This is the first one I stumbled upon, and it neither destroyed nor confirmed my stance:

(Click to read review)  It's Tartt - But is it Art?  

At the beginning, I very much cared for Theo Decker as a character, but as the story hit it's climax, I was annoyed with his inability to grow up and listen to his conscience.  I felt at the end he failed to redeem himself.  Maybe this is what makes it an exceptional piece of literature - that people are talking about whether or not it is good enough. Maybe I was let down because it didn't have a happy ending, although I have read plenty of books without one that were gems.  This book has me stumped.  I don't know if I liked it, I don't know if it was worthy of the Pulitzer, but I know I want to talk about it.  Perhaps that is the point. 

 

A Gift

I didn't complete my 2016 Reading Challenge, but it was a year.  I am just going to continue on as if it doesn't matter what year it is.  Because it doesn't. Consider joining me!!  This category isn't even on my challenge list, I'm just adding it as I go.  See?  No rules!  Just read something and tell me if it was any good so I can read it too! :)

At first glance, this is a coming-of-age story wrapped in an abusive blanket that leaves the reader cold and wanting...something.  However, I found as I read on, that the child-like tone of the novel was appropriate as the relationship between two sisters unfolded.  I wanted to scoop them up and bring them to live with me.

My sister-in-law gave this book as a Christmas gift this year, and I almost called her up to ask if I had done something terrible to deserve exposure to such a heartwrenching story.  But I think there is something to be said for the child that lives in all of us when that moment presents; the moment when a grown-up reality bulldozes it's loud, ugly way into an existence that wasn't prepared.  It's terrifying and it sometimes changes the trajectory of a person's life, but this story reminds us that it can also be overcome.

Set aside a rainy day for this one.  You won't want to put it down.  Also, you might need a hug when it's over.

I Own It But Never Read It

Moving right along in my personal reading challenge, I pulled a book off the shelf that had been sitting untouched for quite some time.  I bought it because it was gaining tons of attention when it was published, but the one time I opened it to begin reading, I just couldn't retain interest.  This time…I kept reading.  

It seems to me that the book's popularity grew from the main character.  I've heard many people who have read the book refer to him as autistic, and these days, autism is a hot topic.  However, Mark Haddon has expressed on more than one occasion that his character, Christopher, is not necessarily autistic.  In fact, he had done absolutely no research on autism or asperger's during the writing process.  It made me reflect on how powerful words are and also the need for humans to relate to others on a level that is familiar.  Art is beautifully naked just waiting for us to clothe it in our individual interpretations.  While it is important, I think, to be aware of the artist's intent, what marks a true work of art is its ability to be appreciated by a myriad of eyes, ears, and imaginations - to become a part of our unique realities.  In this way, this novel was a success.  

Sorry to be a party popper, though, I wasn't blown away.  I do think Mark Haddon has an interesting writing style, but I found myself wanting to know about the supporting characters.  While I don't know that I will read another novel by Haddon, I am interested in reading his book of poetry, The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under the Sea.  I'll be sure to let you know how I like it. :)

 

Published This Year

Ahh!  I have read about six books in the last two weeks!!  It has been completely wonderful and I am trying desperately to document my favorite parts of each.  The first one I want to share...it's another memoir.  But in my defense, it is one of the most thought-provoking memoirs I have read.  While Gilbert's thoughts on marriage were the catalysts for reflections on my own relationships and marriage in Committed, Kalanithi's When Breath Becomes Air spoke to the side of me that is obsessed with that place where a person sees their reflection, and their humanity stares back in all it's flawed beauty, suffering, shortcomings and burdens.  

Remarkably, he is also able to highlight the pieces of us that are good and hopeful...the shreds of selflessness, sacrifice, forgiveness, and unbridled, plentiful love...not reserved for only those closest to us, but for complete strangers.  I found that I wanted to know him, and more than that, I wanted to emulate the parts of him that made him exceptional.  I highlighted so many passages I can not even list them all here...and there are countless authors that I will read because of his mention of them.  As a nurse, I felt a kinship to his heart as a physician, as a student of literature I drank in his vast knowledge of books, and as a human being, I wanted to thank him for being so completely honest and insightful and kind.  

At one point he was reflecting on his awareness of what his career as a neurosurgeon entailed and how much he respected not only his calling, but the people he treated - and the extreme responsibility of it all:

Before operating on a patient's brain, I realized, I must first understand his mind: his identity, his values, what makes his life worth living, and what devastation makes it reasonable to let that life end.  The cost of my dedication to succeed was high, and the ineluctable failures brought me nearly unbearable guilt.  Those burdens are what make medicine holy and wholly impossible: in taking up another's cross, one must sometimes get crushed by the weight.

To say I recommend this book is an understatement, and if you are in the medical field, it is a must read.  

 

A Book Set In Another Country

I'm on day five of a six day stretch off from work, so in between games of Hi-Ho Cherry-O, Wii Bowling, and making meals, I have been reading my heart out.  It has been a much-needed trip home from all my travels through presentations, writing papers, and reading through nursing journals.  My classes will resume in February, so my retreat will be over soon - I am taking advantage of every little extra moment I have to consume my bookshelves.

Yesterday, I journeyed through Yeonmi Park's In Order to Live.  Monday nights are our Story Time evenings at the library, so while the kids played in the Children's area, I browsed the What's New section.  This woman's beautiful face kept drawing my attention, and while I walked past the book several times, I finally picked it up to read the blurb on the inside of the dust jacket. I knew I must read this book.  (Side note about dust jackets: They are a conundrum.  I love them when I am purchasing a book because I love the crisp sound they make when you crack open a new book and flip to the back to read about the author.  But once the book is home, and I start to read, I loathe them.  They slide all over the place and hang off the back of the book, or your children take them off and you find them stuffed in the toy basket or the dryer.  So I started to throw them away and streamline the look of my shelves, but I felt guilty, like the poor person who writes the blurbs and the author's bio was doing all this work just to be discarded like my daily banana peel.  Then I was curious about what the history of the dust jacket was, and I learned that in the early 19th century, they were just that - protection from dust and dirt during delivery - and once in the reader's hands, the paper covering was thrown away.  So I stopped feeling bad about it all and continued to pitch them.) 

I will be ordering this book, because if Ms. Park receives even pennies in royalties because of me, I want to support her.  When I was strutting through high school with my sad little teen dramas and begging my parents for that $60 sweater from Abercrombie, she was a little girl starving.  While I graduated and moved to Tennessee and then moved back home after wasting an obscene amount of my parents' money, her mother was being raped and beaten and they were both sold into human trafficking.  I am privileged, I am blessed and I am grateful for the life I was born in to.  However, as a teenager and young adult, I was oblivious to the world around me.  I was materialistic and self-centered.  But I want to believe, had I heard stories like this then, had I read the pages of her life while I was finding myself, I really have to believe that I would have stopped for a minute and smacked myself on the back of the head.  I don't take what I have for granted these days, because I know what it's like to lose people you love, and I know the work and sacrifice it takes to obtain a sense of security.  But I don't know it like she does.  I never will.  I don't know what loss is, what strength is, what determination is, what pain is, what joy is.  And while I know that it wasn't my choice to be born in America where I have always been free, while she was born in North Korea where no one is free, I know that I can make the choice every day to be thankful for my blessings and to be cognizant of others' struggles by choosing not to be extravagant, materialistic, and wasteful.  What does a person really need in life? 

So yes, I started and finished this one in a day, and by the end, my five-year old was asking, "Mommy, when are you going to stop reading that book?!".  But when she is fourteen and whining because she doesn't have anything to wear and her hair is too curly, I am going to wrap up this book in some beautiful paper, tie it up with a sweet pink bow, and tell her to read it for a healthy dose of perspective.

A Memoir

Well...I finished my first book of the 2016 Reading Challenge, and let me tell you...

When I pick up a book from a used book store, or a book swap, or a garage sale, I cross my fingers and make a wish that it will be a treasure.  I hold high hopes that this book has found its way onto my shelf for a reason...that I was meant to read it in order to enrich my life and that it will give me that validation I am yearning for that, Yes! I am on the right path.  So much PRESSURE! ;)

This just happened.

Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love was very popular quite a few years back, and while I do own the book (another used book haul), I have yet to read it.  But what made me reach for this one when I saw it was the fact that I had the opportunity to hear Elizabeth Gilbert speak at a photography conference (imagine that) a couple years back and she blew me away.  The natural gift of storytelling this woman possesses captivated me.  I wanted to own everything she had ever written.  And then I flew back home to Cleveland to my husband and my two children with their sweet faces smooshed against the windows of the car at the airport pickup, and I realized that I probably wouldn't have much time for actually locking myself in my bedroom and reading all the books she had ever written.  So when I saw this bright *orange cover screaming at me (TAKE ME HOME!), I snatched it up anyway.  This is the first book I have actually read of her's, and it will not be the last.

Let me preface this next sentence with this: I love my life and if I had not been through everything in my past I might not be where I am today.  But this book would have come in handy around the year 2000.  I am so convinced that I was meant to read this book that I am making my husband (not much of a reader) read this book.  There are so many wonderful reflections on relationships and marriage, and there are countless examples and testaments of human tendencies and pitfalls...I seriously want to buy this book for every person between the ages of 17-30.  This isn't to say that I agree with everything the author has to say regarding marriage - we are very different people in some respects (we could be the same person, in others).  But the beauty of this book is that the commonalities and differences between human beings is explored and examined and poked and prodded and dissected - the outcome is that our happiness is directly affected by the choices we make.  We are not victims in marriage (or divorce).  Happiness doesn't happen to us, we must be activists in our own contentment.

Anyway...read it.  And if you hate it, you can send me your copy because I know some people who could use it.  AND!  If you read it and you want to talk about it, leave me comments on this post.  I would love to chat about it.

On to my next book! :)

* The cover is now blue, FYI.

2016 Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge

"It is what you read when you don't have to, that determines what you will be when you can't help it." -Oscar Wilde

In an effort to quench my literary thirst, I am challenging myself to read at least 26 books this year.  I did a Pinterest search on past years' challenges, and combined all the categories that sounded fun and interesting.  I am going in random order, whatever piques my interest will be the order in which I travel.  Wish me luck!

 

  • A book published this year - When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

  • A book I can finish in a day - My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

  • A book recommended by a librarian or bookseller

  • A book I should have read in school

  • A book chosen by my spouse

  • A book published before I was born

  • A book that was banned at some point

  • A book I previously abandoned

  • A book I own, but never read - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

  • A book that intimidates me

  • A book I already read at least once

  • A memoir - Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert

  • A book set in another country - In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park

  • A book with more than 500 pages

  • A book with a one-word title

  • A nonfiction book

  • A book with antonyms in the title

  • A book at the bottom of my to-read list

  • A biography

  • A National Book Award winner

  • A book with a blue cover

  • A book with a number in the title

  • A Pulitzer Prize winner

  • A book based entirely on its cover

  • A play

  • A book with a color in the title