During the last week, I had an unexpected break from work and sewing. The first few days I was in two different hospitals far from home and having tests to find out if there was anything seriously wrong with me (there wasn’t) and worrying about the implications if there was (quite scary thoughts running through my head) and I couldn’t focus enough to read anything. By the way, being a nurse does not necessarily mean being less stressed when you are in the hospital. If anything, it may make you more stressed because you know too much; but I will say that on the whole, I got really attentive, excellent care and was especially grateful that my overnight nurse the night I was most worried, after getting a bad result on a diagnostic imaging test and having to wait until the next day for the next test that would show that there was nothing to worry about, had 20 years experience as an air force nurse and had flown on helicopters and run 3 emergency departments in the military. Talk about feeling safe in someone’s care. Phew! Now, home, I am trying to make the best of having a few unexpected days off and have been doing a lot of reading.
Many of the books are recommendations I got from Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy whose wonderful podcast What Should I Read Next? I look forward to every week. I just wrote about how having one day a week unplugged from work and screens has made a big impact on my reading life. Looking back over the past week, I am struck by how many of the new books I read were not my usual choices and also by how much I enjoyed them. Most of the credit goes to the podcast. I can’t recommend it more highly. Here are some books I have been reading in the last couple of weeks.
The Big Short by Michael Lewis. (Actually not from the podcast just something I decided to read because I was thinking about seeing the movie and wanted to read the book first.) I was a banker before I was a nurse and I briefly dipped back into that world when I went through a divorce which led to my own personal financial crisis. (My timing was pretty unreal. I was hired after several months of interviews by a large NYC bank at the end of August 2008 and just a few weeks later, the banking crisis exploded around me and one by one, the people who had hired me were let go.) The author is also a classmate from college so I had previously read Liar’s Poker which was written when I was in banking for the first time-although I was in the less glamorous and as it turns out more honest world of commercial banking where I helped structure loans to small and mid-sized businesses. These loans were not sold in secondary markets so they had to be structured with a mind to the credit-worthiness of the companies. I didn’t find the Big Short to be as good a read as Liar’s Poker but it was compelling and scary. Not my typical read. I am told the movie is excellent.
Ready Player One: I would never have picked this one on my own but after hearing Anne recommend it to a friend in this episode, I decided to give it a try because I wanted a book that would reel me in and keep me engaged. This was just the ticket. It is sort of a Harry Potter in a futuristic world. Hard to describe but kept me up way past my bedtime because it was that good. I am recommending it to everyone, especially my brother and my four nephews. It says a lot that I would really enjoy a book where the setting is a video game and I have never actually played a video game!
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed: I heard about this on Anne’s podcast and then saw that our town had selected it for its One Book One Town program this year. There was a whole table of copies of the book in the library when I went in so I picked it up. This is very thought-provoking and a little scary taken together with Ready Player One. It is a non-fiction account of several people whose lives were turned upside down because of something they did or tweeted that then was magnified by the beast that is social media. Anyone who has a public persona in the way of a blog/twitter/instagram should read this, keeping in mind that things are changing so fast that in five years, there will likely be new things to worry about. Interestingly, when I went to link this title to the goodreads page for the book, the first listing in the google search was the amazon link to purchase the book. Almost the most scary and fascinating part of the book is the section where the author interviews a firm that repairs online reputations by trying to manipulate the search engines that make money every time we click on a link. Very thought-provoking. My blog is not monetized and I don’t link to book-sellers but I am aware that in providing links to goodreads I may be inadvertently steering people to amazon. It is not my intent. I get most of my books at the library. If I were able to financially, I would support independent booksellers or online booksellers such as Chinaberry, where I bought so many books that became treasures that my children and I enjoyed. If you are a parent or grandparent and don’t know them, do yourself a favor and check them out.
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day: Also recommended by Anne on What Should I Read Next. I enjoyed this. It was light and fun but I was shocked (probably shouldn’t have been) at some of the bigotry that was clearly part of the author’s viewpoint. It was written in the 1930’s in England so it is probably not surprising. But just as I was upset when I re-read the Little House books as an adult and read the descriptions of Native Americans and more recently when I read Bill Bryson’s book, Notes from a Small Island, which I really enjoyed for the most part and read some disparaging language about people whose behavior might or might not have been related to a form of autism, those phrases, few though they were in the book as a whole, detracted from my experience of reading it.
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. This would not be a typical read for me because the subject matter which evokes The Lovely Bones is tough to read as the parent of daughters. However, I picked it up for a book to get lost in-recommended on the podcast- and I was struck by the beauty of the writing, the character development and the compassion the author had for each of the characters (something that really matters to me when I read a book) and the way she wove the story together. I definitely recommend it.
Raven Black by Anne Cleeves. This is the first book of a mystery series that was recommended by a friend of mine from my book club. It takes place in the Shetland Islands north of Scotland. I didn’t know anything about the Shetland Islands prior to reading this and the book was well written and suspenseful with a great sense of place. Highly recommended. Speaking of sense of place, do you have books you enjoy just because of where they take place? One day I will write a post devoted to books that take place in Maine which is probably my favorite place in the world. The descriptions of the Shetland Islands evoked some of that feeling for me.
I am in the middle of reading several other books. I am not a linear, one book at a time, reader but after reading this post , I don’t view it as a problem any more. I am reading The Invention of Wings for bookclub. I am finding the descriptions of life in the pre-Civil War South difficult, particularly after reading/listening to Between the World and Me (highly, highly recommended, especially as read by the author) but Sue Monk Kidd does write beautifully about relationships between women and about strong women (I loved The Secret Life of Bees) and so I am glad to be reading it.
I am reading The Narrow Door: A Memoir of Friendship by Paul Lisicky which I found when I read this quote on Lindsey’s beautiful blog A Design so Vast. The writing is beautiful and I know this will fall into the beautiful, heartbreaking memoir category-probably the category of books that make the biggest imprint on my soul but which I have to balance with lighter reads. I am taking it slow. There is only so much heartbreaking that I can take at a time (my day job is as an oncology nurse.)
I am reading One Foot in Eden which was lent to me by a friend so long ago I am afraid to think how long ago. It is beautifully written so far. It is fiction. There is a murder. It may turn out to be heartbreaking. Not far enough in to know at this point but it came highly recommended by one of my oldest and best friends so I know it will be good.
And because my attention span is not always the greatest and because I ban myself from going on social media on Sundays, I downloaded a guilty read, the next book in a very light murder mystery series I discovered a while back: Death with All the Trimmings by Lucy Burdette. These take place in Key West, Florida which is a fun place to read about on a day when it snowed overnight here in Connecticut (just a dusting but seriously, April 3rd folks). I started reading these mysteries when my daughter moved to Florida and have really enjoyed the character and the descriptions of Key West. Fun for all you foodies out there. The protagonist is a restaurant critic who lives on a boat in Key West. Dream job in a dream location and totally escapist, fast reads. Good for an airplane.
I am also thinking about using the opportunity of having more free time to finally finish some books I have been meaning to read but have stalled on. These include Sense and Sensibility (I know Jane Austen is a great social commentator on people who are annoying but I was listening to this as an audio book and I found it annoying to listen to annoying people. I am hoping that I will enjoy it more reading it To be fair, I wasn’t too far in when I stopped the audio book). I have also started but not finished our last book group book: People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks I got stalled on descriptions of poverty, deprivation, lice. I am not a shallow person but sometimes I just don’t want to read about hardship despite how well written or compelling the story is but I do feel bad for not finishing it. I had also tried this on audio book and really enjoyed the beginning when the narrator had an Australian accent and in the descriptions of the meticulous work involved in being a rare book restorer but then got lost in the multiple accents of the different characters which I found didn’t enhance the story for me. I think that because I am a fast reader, I get impatient at times with listening to rather than reading a book unless I love the narrator’s voice and intonations.
I have not been listening to audio books this week because I am banned from driving and also because I have not been quilting. Sadly I finished listening to all of the Flavia De Luce mysteries which I can’t recommend more highly. I loved listening to them and will listen to all of them again at some point. I started listening to A Walk in the Woods which I am enjoying and have downloaded The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith, aka J.K. Rowling, the first in a mystery series. Anne recommends it on audio and she is generally spot-on. Also, British accents make listening more fun for me. Other books in my to-be-read queue include the first book of another British mystery series by Deborah Crombie, also recommended by Anne; Outlander ( I am probably one of the few people who has not yet read this but so many pages! Not sure if I am ready for the time commitment) , Gilead (which I started and never finished several years back, probably just due to being busy with work and school-I loved Lila) and Home by Marilynn Robinson and The House of Mirth and Rules of Civility (see What Should I Read Next episode 8). I was also told by my college-aged daughter the the book of poetry: Citizen is a must-read so that is on my shortlist.
I am eagerly awaiting Catherine Newman‘s new book Catastrophic Happiness. I will drop everything to read it when it comes out in two days and a bit later this spring to the new book by the author of The Emperor of All Maladies about genetics which I expect to be fascinating and terrifying.
What books are you reading now?