When Breathe Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi was a beautiful book. I read it on a sunny day over the summer because I knew it was a sad story. How could it not be? A doctor diagnosed with cancer dying just as his child was born? I did not expect it to be so engrossing. I read the book in one sitting. One day would be more accurate. I broke it up by pausing to make myself some lunch.
The book is a reflection on life and death. Paul was a magnificent writer. His thoughts flowed well and had an ability to articulate his thoughts succinctly and clearly. It’s fascinating to me that Paul wrote this book in the last year of his life. To be able to examine your life and the future that will happen without you in such a thoughtful way is a gift. The world lost not only a promising doctor but an amazing author.
His wife, Lucy, writes the epilogue and that was when the tears started to come. It was hard to read it but it was beautiful. I heard a lot about the book but didn’t want to read something about someone who was dying. It seemed too sad a story but Paul didn’t allow it to be sad. It was thought provoking that made me think about my own mortality.
If you can’t tell, I absolutely loved this book. I highly recommend reading it if you get the chance. Everyone can take something away from this book. Who has read this book? What did you think about it?
I’m not going to lie, I love a good parable. One of my favorite books is The Alchemist. I’ve sent the book to many a friend who was on their own person journey. Upon reflection, I don’t remember the last parable I’ve read. It’s funny that’s I’ve read two this year.
My love of parables led me to a TERRIBLE one earlier this year. It was a story about a woman, written by a man, who was spending her life away on lattes. Spoiler alert: the lattes are not the reason women are financially behind. It’s the males like the moron who wrote the book who make it difficult for women to get ahead.
Which brings us to the delightful collection of stories by Cecelia Ahern. Roar is the collection of parables you didn’t know you needed to read. Ahern writes short stories about women who have been smothered in one way or another and their quest to break through.
Ahern tells thirty unique stories that fit seamlessly together or could stand on their own. At 273 pages, it’s the length of a typical novel but you feel like you are getting so much more because of the diversity of the stories. A couple of my favorites were “The Women Who Thought the Grass Was Greener on the Other Side” and “The Woman Who Wore Pink”. This will be the new book I will be mailing my friends.
In The Farm, Joanne Ramos examines motherhood in this dystopian novel set in present day.
Hidden away in the Catskills, there is a luxury retreat for pregnant women. At Golden Oaks, you are given everything you could need to have a happy and healthy pregnancy: fitness classes, chef prepared organic meals, luxury clothing, and world class doctors checking in on their health and that of their unborn babies.
But you’re not carrying your child. You’re a “Host”, carrying a baby for a “Client” who can’t (or chooses not to) have a baby themselves. At the end of your pregnancy with the delivery of a healthy baby, you receive a large payment.
The novel follows Reagan and Jane, two hosts, each hand picked to be a host but both motivated by vastly different circumstances.
The Farm is a thought provoking examination of motherhood. Is it okay to pay someone to carry your child if you can? Is it more acceptable if you are unable to conceive? Does the surrogate have a say in whether or not a pregnancy is terminated? Is it exploitative to have immigrant women act as surrogates? Is it predatory to pay them a bonus for delivering a healthy child?
The world of The Farm isn’t too far in the future. Paid surrogacy is a controversial topic that is currently being debated in states across the nation. While a work of fiction, it explores the exploitative side that paid surrogacy can create.
Overall, a great book that should be read by all. If you liked A Handmaid’s Tale, you’ll enjoy Joanne Ramos novel The Farm.
I’m about to be in the minority but Rachel Hollis book is not impressive.
I was having doubts about her in the first four chapters. Then we arrived at Chapter 5. It could have been a good chapter but then she detailed her borderline abusive first year of her relationship with her now husband. The title of the chapter gives the indication that she realized having a man is not important. When in reality, she is perpetuating the myth of the big gesture. She is perpetuating that if you give an ultimatum then the man will change. Threats will make someone change.
The reality is that if he acts like an asshole, he is an asshole. This chapter tinged the way I took the rest of her advice. I find that the “lies” she is trying to correct, she was still doing them herself.
Beyond that, I found her writing style to be convoluted. She has some good points but they were lost in the way she wrote about them. I found her to be privileged and unable to see her privilege.
There are a plethora of self help/self improvement books out there. There are plenty of other ones that can actually help you get to where you want to be.
I have no idea what I even did with April. I finally had some more time for myself. I picked up two books that I started in January and put down after about 20 pages. April felt like the right time to puck them up again.
April brought a lot of big changes to my life. It seems fitting that I finally finished two self improvement or self help books this month.
I finally finished the Year of Yes. Shonda Rhimes is my new hero. It also has caused me to dive head first into catching up on Grey’s Anatomy. For those who care- I will also be catching up on Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder. I have a whole new found respect for Shonda Rhimes. I need to see all of her bodies of work.
I also finished Jen Sincero’s You are a Bad Ass. Everyone had those moments where they doubt how awesome they are. Her concise chapters drive home her points in a fun and relatable way. Anyone can benefit from reading her book and I recommend that everyone does.
Who has read either of these books? What self help or self improvement book would you recommend?
May’s book club pick was An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen.
Jessica is a makeup artist trying to make ends meet in New York City. By chance she heard about a study from a client. She shows up for the study and is sucked into the mysterious Dr. Shields study on morality and ethics.
Jessica is looking to make some extra money and finds herself sucked into Dr. Shields study. Each task she accomplishes is directly followed by a large financial reward. She quickly realizes that Dr. Shields is not giving her the full story and that she may be a pawn in a dangerous game of cat and mouse.
This is the second book I’ve read by Hendricks and Pekkanen. They do a great job of setting up the reader to have the rug ripped out from under them. This is our May Book Club selection and I can’t wait to discuss it with everyone.
Who has read this book? What did you think about it?
The Age of Light is an intriguing historical fiction novel based on the life of Lee Miller. The novel focuses on her life in Europe. Miller first arrives in Europe and begins working as a photographer. She meets Man Ray on her travels through Paris and becomes his apprentice and later, business partner and lover.
The book focused a lot on Lee Miller’s relationship with Man Ray which I found to be puzzling. She only spent three years with him before moving on to become an accomplish photographer and war correspondent. Miller spent her entire life attempting to get out of Man Ray’s shadow. The story weaves between the past and her present (1960s) when she has been asked to produce a piece for Vogue about the art they created together.
The book explores the galleries, the parties, the sexual experimentation and drug experimentation that was pervasive in 1920 Surrealism circles. It was a bit raunchy at times to read and I’m not sure how much it added to the story. However, I don’t know much about these artists. This may have been a tame retelling of their actual lives.
The big takeaway from the book was that Lee Miller was a powerful woman. She had adversity her entire life. Men were constantly trying to sabotage her or hurt her but she never allowed them to derail her. She lived her life on her own terms.
The Age of Light is Whitney Scharer’s debut novel. This was the 2019 February selection for the Odyssey Bookshop First Edition Book Club.
Let’s start off by saying that I never realized how active my imagination is until I read this book. I had to stop reading this book for awhile because I kept having nightmares about the Golden State Killer. I have no idea how Michelle McNamara spent years researching, tracking and chasing down every single detail about these crimes.
With that being said, it was her obsession with her research that may have killed her. McNamara was haunted by these cases. She had insomnia caused by her research. She passed away in April 2016. Her death was attributed to an accidental overdose of a lethal combination of prescription drugs.
Her book was released two years after her death.
Due to her steadfast commitment, McNamara is the reason the Golden State Killer was finally caught. Unfortunately, she didn’t live long enough to see what her research led to. McNamara’s book was published posthumously and the details that she was able to pull together helped to lead the detectives to him. She had the advantage of looking at all the pieces in aggregate, years after the attacks stopped. She was only concerned with finding the truth.
This book is a must read for any true crime fan.
I had the opportunity to hear Laura Lippman at the Albany Book Festival last Fall. She was a funny speaker and she mentioned her twitter account.
She is a prolific tweeter. Recently she started a conversation about doing something for Lent rather than giving something up. She suggested that everyone read 100 pages a day. The conversation was started when she RTed an article from a NY Times author (Article Here) who said they couldn’t read, watch a movie or keep a conversation without being distracted by their phone. Lippman made the commitment to read 100 pages a day throughout Lent.
She gave it a hashtag:
And a movement is born!
It’s really easy to spend your evenings mindlessly scrolling through any number of social media channels. I’ve fallen prey to it. I’ll be spending Lent recommitting to reading instead on scrolling through social media each night.
Join me! Use the hashtag #AlwaysForPleasure and #LLWL tell me what you’re reading!
Short month means short list of completed books, right?
And one of the books I finished I started in 2018.
**Cringes even harder**
I started a handful of books this month but I had a hard time completing anything. Unique to this month is the fact that I highly recommend both of the books I read.
The Best American Short Stories 2018 Edited by Roxane Gay – I already wrote a review on this but THIS WAS GOOD. I haven’t picked up many shirt story collections but when I saw Roxane Gay was the editor I said “TAKE MY MONEY.” She did not disappoint. She selected diverse and thought provoking stories.
Fed Up: Emotional Labor, Women and the Way Forward by Gemma Hartley – The article that ignited the internet has become a book. I’ll be writing a long post on this later but the big takeaway is I think this should be required reading for everyone.