In Celebration of National Book Month

Missing from the photo – March’s book (I read a library copy) and June’s book (Another library copy, though I plan to buy it and add it to my almost-full bookcase.)

October.

Time for pumpkin-flavored everything it seems. 

Time for small bite-sized candy bars. 

And time to talk about books.

Because October is also National Book Month.

I tried to think about how to commemorate the month. So in honor of National Book Month, I’m taking a look back at the books I have read during 2021. I’m sharing one stand-out book from each month. Maybe you’ll find yourself adding to your “want-to-read” list. 

Or maybe you’ll find yourself adding to your holiday gift list. Because October also means the holiday season is just around the corner.

January:

This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett

I’ve read this book more than once. It’s that good. From a reader’s standpoint, and a writer’s standpoint, I’m just in awe.

February:

The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley

A true test that I really enjoyed a book? When I order my own copy after reading a library copy. And that’s what happened with this novel. I just found myself really caring for these characters. And, it’s another good reminder that people are often not what they seem at first glance. You can’t know what someone is really dealing with just by looking at them.

March:

How to Astronaut: An Insider’s Guide to Leaving Planet Earth by Terry Virts

For most of my childhood, actually until my junior year of high school, my career goal was to become an astronaut. And all these years later, I’m still incredibly curious and interested in learning about astronauts’ lives. This isn’t a dry memoir at all. You’ll find lots of humor and fun observations.  

April:

Beach Read by Emily Henry

Such a delight to read about these two authors and go along on this journey with them. This was my first novel by Ms. Henry, but certainly not my last. (People We Meet on Vacation was published in May and is on my ever-growing want-to-read list.)

May:

Bravey: Chasing Dreams, Befriending Pain, and Other Big Ideas by Alexi Pappas

I was reading a copy of Bravey I had borrowed from the library. But, I found I was putting sticky notes on so many pages, that I ordered my own copy before I had even finished reading this powerful memoir. Honest, raw, touching. 

June:

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

Mixed within this sweet, original love story are some serious topics – emotional abuse, wrongful incarceration. It’s a story I didn’t want to end. And now I’ve added Ms. O’Leary’s other novels (The Switch, The Road Trip) onto my want-to-read list.

July:

Surviving and Thriving with an Invisible Chronic Illness: How to Stay Sane and Live One Step Ahead of Your Symptoms by Ilana Jacqueline

When a patient is given a chronic illness diagnosis, they should also be given this book. It’s an important, valuable resource that would have been so helpful when I first became ill.

August:

Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Wow! This book is everything — heartbreaking, funny, touching, devastating, enlightening. I didn’t realize how little I knew about South Africa and Apartheid. Just an incredible read. 

September:

Dusk, Night, Dawn: On Revival and Courage by Anne Lamott

There is no one quite like Anne Lamott. It’s that rare combination of what she says and how she says it. She writes with such warmth and honesty about the big things (climate change) and the small things (like pants not fitting).

October:

I’m still reading the first book of October. Stay tuned!

Readers, have you read any books that blew you away? That touched you? That made you smile? That you can’t stop telling your friends about? Please, do share. 

A Joyful Read

One of my favorite fiction authors is Katherine Center. I eagerly await her books. But then a funny thing happens. Once I buy her newest book, I hesitate to start reading it. Because once I start reading, it’s hard to stop. And if I read too quickly, I’ll finish the book too quickly. 

Ms. Center’s latest novel, What You Wish For,  was no different. It made me smile. It made me laugh. It made me cry. It made me bite my lip. And it made me look up George Michael’s “Freedom! ‘90,” and play the sample on the iTunes store. (page 234, if you’re curious)

This week, allow me to share some of my favorite passages with you:

“Joy is an antidote to fear. To anger. To boredom. To sorrow.”
“But you just can’t decide to feel joyful.”
“True. But you can decide to do something joyful. You can hug somebody. Or crank up the radio. Or watch a funny movie. Or tickle somebody. Or lip-synch your favorite song. Or buy the person behind you at Starbucks a coffee. Or wear a flower hat to work.”

 

You really have to read the description of the school library (page 107) to become fully enchanted, but meanwhile I’ll share this bit with you:

“I wanted to make sure that if kids felt an impulse at any moment to pop by the library, there’d be nothing to stop them. It was the best way I knew to turn them into readers: to catch those little sparks when they happened and turn them into flames.”

 

“I’m not happy because it comes easily to me. I bite and scratch and claw my way toward happiness every day.”
“It’s a choice. A choice to value the good things that matter. A choice to rise above everything that could pull you down. A choice to look misery right in the eyes … and then give it the finger.”
“It’s a deliberate kind of joy. It’s a conscious kind of joy. It’s joy on purpose.”
“I’m telling you. I know all about darkness. That’s why I am so hell-bent, every damn day, on looking for the light.”

“Life doesn’t ever give you what you want just the way you want it. Life doesn’t ever make things easy. How dare you demand that happiness should be yours without any sacrifice – without any courage? What an incredibly spoiled idea – that anything should come easy? Love makes you better because it’s hard. Taking risks makes you better because it’s terrifying. That’s how it works. You’ll never get anything that matters without earning it. And even what you get, you won’t get to keep. Joy is fleeting. Nothing lasts. That’s exactly what courage is. Knowing all that going in – and going in anyway.” 

A Title for the Times

The problem with being a reader with an insatiable appetite is that I read so much I don’t always remember books I’ve read in the past.

During this shutdown, I’ve been doing the book-version of shopping from my closet. I’m re-reading and re-discovering books I already own and have read in years past. 

My latest “re-read-but-it-felt-like-a-new-read-because-I-read-it-so-long-ago-I-didn’t-remember-it” was Terry McMillan’s The Interruption of Everything. (In my defense, the book was published in 2005.)

Because without even reading the book’s jacket copy, the title was perfect for life right now.

While the protagonist, Marilyn, is the same age as me (44), her kids are in college. My son will be starting the 7th grade this fall.

But how perfect is this paragraph when it comes to describing moms?

“Being a lifetime wife and mother has afforded me the luxury of having multiple and even simultaneous careers: I’ve been a chauffeur. A chef. An interior decorator. A landscape architect, as well as a gardener. I’ve been a painter. A furniture restorer. A personal shopper. A veterinarian’s assistant and sometimes the veterinarian. I’ve been an accountant, a banker, and on occasion, a broker. I’ve been a beautician. A map. A psychic. Santa Claus. The Tooth Fairy. The T.V. Guide. A movie reviewer. An angel. God. A nurse and a nursemaid. A psychiatrist and psychologist. Evangelist.”

And then there’s this paragraph, about acknowledging the need for change:

“It has taken me a long time to recognize that I’ve never put myself first, I’m always on the bottom of my things to do list and I keep getting carried over to the next day/month/year. But not this time. I think I finally get it. You don’t have to give up everything to own your life. And you don’t have to give everything you own to fuel someone else’s.”

That’s the part I’m working on.