What I’ve Been Reading:
I’ve already finished six books in May! I decided to take a break from podcasts and strictly listen to audiobooks while exercising and cleaning, and it’s definitely made a difference in my book completion capabilities. I also think it helps me stay in the flow of my work because books are, by nature, much longer than podcasts. When podcasts end, I tend to look around and say, “Hey! I’m sick of cleaning. Let’s see what folks are up to on the Internets!” and other nonsense along those lines. With books, I clean and I fold laundry and I get lost in my book and I look up and say, “Hey! Look at all I’ve accomplished while pleasantly occupied!” So there’s that.
But I still miss my podcasts a bit.
In case you’re wondering, the books I read are:
- Heartburn by Nora Ephron. This one I listened to because some list I found proclaimed it one of the best audiobooks ever. Which I totally get, because Meryl Streep reads it and she is truly fabulous in this work. BUT the book itself – which is predominantly concerned with infidelity and divorce – was a bit whiny and depressing. I was not sad when it ended. On another note, I also recently listened to The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. This one was also remarkably well read (by Bhani Turpin), and I really enjoyed the book. It’s definitely geared for the YA (young adult) audience, but not so inaccessible that a 45-year-old mom who was at one time a teenager could not appreciate it. It’s about an African-American girl who is dealing with racial issues on all sorts of levels (that’s the super-short version) and I am always struck by fiction so well-crafted that it changes or significantly enhances the way we see the world around us. The Hate U Give definitely succeeds in that category. I’d recommend it to anyone, with the caveat that there is “a lot of language” as my mother would say, and some mild sexual content, neither of which should put you off from reading (or even better, listening to) this novel.
- Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi. This one was a loaner from a friend. It’s the story of a man who was raised in a committed, loving Muslim family and who found himself questioning his religious upbringing. Ultimately, through a series of discussions combined with his own research, Qureshi is converted to Christianity, something he would have never thought possible. His story is remarkable and also covers some broad tenets of Islam, which is helpful to those of us who know little about it. Qureshi died in September 2017 from stomach cancer, and I found myself watching his last vlogs on YouTube to learn more about him.
- What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Marukami, narrated by Ray Porter. I listened to this while I ran, which was a little disheartening because I am still getting back in shape and he starts off by talking about running in Hawaii and how you can tell the veteran runners from the beginners by how effortlessly they stride along. Well, there is nothing effortless about my running right now, so I tried not to take offense. I didn’t really connect with this book, perhaps because I spent so much time trying not to be offended by my out-of-shapedness compared to his sub 9 min/mile marathon pace. There is something refreshing about listening to a writing style and subject matter that is so distant from one’s usual forays, however, and I didn’t mind not having a massive bond with the book. It’s very contemplative, quiet and nice, in its own way.
- Tears of Salt by Pietro Bartolo. I read this book in an evening. It’s the story of a doctor who lives on the island of Lampedusa off the coast of Italy, known mostly for its fishing and tourism industry. For a time, however, Lampedusa was the ground zero recipient of massive waves of refugees leaving unrest in Northern Africa and parts of the Middle East to reach Europe. And Dr. Bartolo found himself the point man for all medical necessities (including autopsies). The suffering he was witness to was inconceivable to most of us; his stories are compelling, tragic and heroic.
- Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions About Life and Sexuality by Nancy Pearcey. This book began with the premise that secular culture has separated the human body from human personhood (who we really are, our thoughts and feelings). With this dichotomy comes the rationale for dealing with such tricky issues as abortion (human life may begin at conception, secularists allow, but the fetus is not a person until…and from there the criteria is determined rather subjectively according to the expert du jour), euthanasia (if the body is not meeting up to certain subjective standards, it is no longer worth preserving), and other questions of gender and sexuality. I liked this book because it dealt frankly but still graciously with a number of extremely divisive topics. While many readers may not agree with Pearcey’s conclusions, the questions she raises are good and fair ones, and worthy of discussion. This book has a study guide at the back and would be an excellent resource for a book study or small group discussion.
- The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma’s Table by Rick Bragg. Rick Bragg grew up dirt poor on the red clay of Calhoun County, Alabama, raised largely by his strong, hard-working, no-nonsense mother. He’s written several excellent books detailing his family history, and this one is no exception. It is exceptional, however, in that it also is a cookbook of sorts. I read this book, but I would not mind also listening to the audiobook version. Rick Bragg’s voice sounds like home to me, which is probably one of the reasons I like his writing so much. He’s also funny, self-deprecating, and obviously determined to give his momma a fitting tribute for all she’s been through. It is funny to me that he writes (and has for some time) the monthly back page column for Southern Living magazine; I bet neither he nor his momma saw that coming when he was hitting his brother with a rock as he was captive, caught in a barbed wire fence. Bragg’s not claiming any expertise in the recipe writing; he simply overlaid cup and teaspoon measurements onto his momma’s handful of this and a smidgen of that. After finishing the book, I gave it to my husband, who is also no chef. Even someone whose cookery skills are minimal knows what good eating is, however, and can enjoy an excellent description and Bragg’s intertwined repartee with his mother as much as a chef de cuisine.
If I had to rank my finished six in May, I’d probably put them in reversed order of how I finished them (1. Bragg, 2. Pearcey, etc.).
Want to see what else I’m reading? You can always be my friend on Goodreads.