Books That Shed Light

I’ve tried to read more because I absolutely love reading. I figure that’s a pretty good reason. It is the best escape and it also supercharges my brain. Somehow reading relaxes my brain and me in general. I love thinking about things I know nothing about or considering something from a new point of view. It’s kind of like when I saw The Hurtlocker. I couldn’t truly understand why soldiers want to go back into combat until I saw that movie. Somehow books bring the world to life for me. Which is odd considering it’s a form of escapism and not a direct experience. It’s more like experience life through another person’s lens, which might be more interesting than my own. There are an embarrassing number of book samples on my Kindle that I want to read. Then I see all the titles and get overwhelmed and can’t decide. But here are some gems that made their way into my hands and that I found particularly illuminating.

The Giver by Lois Lowry

I never read The Giver when I was in middle school and I haven’t seen the movie. It’s written simply for the audience it’s geared toward, but handles some deep philosophical topics. I love when books expect a lot of their readers, and I think this book fits that bill. It’s kind of like what John Green said about The Fault in Our Stars, the only people who think that teenagers don’t have intelligent complex insights are people who aren’t teenagers. I had a love/hate relationship with the ending because I have a love/hate relationship with ambiguity. Which is why it’s ironic that one of my all-time favorite books is The Tiger’s Wife, which is ambiguous on nearly every level. Sometimes I still scratch my head and contemplate the meaning.

Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

Amy Pohler is hilarious and I love her. I love her more than Tina Fey. I just gel with her sense of humor. The only irritating part of the book is when she talks about how hard it is to write a book. I completely understand that a memoir is particularly hard to write, but I don’t want to read about that. It would have been good to alternate between this book and between In Cold Blood because her book is funny but generally light, with some of her life’s wisdom thrown in there. My favorite part was when she described how women get to decide what their currency is. It can be your looks, your intelligence, your personality, or some other aspect of yourself. Many people overlook the power of what they value in themselves.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

I gulped this book down quickly. Strayed can describe her 1,100 mile hike without boring me once. She wove in her back story in a meaningful way where it never felt disjointed. It reminds me of Not That Kind of Girl in the sense that she writes about herself without passing judgment and without calling for sympathy. That takes a great writer. I read something she wrote one time about how she didn’t write about her trek until years later. She says that “until I had something to say about the experience, I didn’t have any reason to write about it.” It took a few years to gain perspective and put the meaning of her journey into words. Talk about a little life lesson on perspective.

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

I should do a whole post on Not That Kind of Girl. I loved its raw honesty and I cringe every time people describe Lena as whiney and privileged. She gives a voice to a vast group of young women whose experiences are discounted. There’s an interview where she describes how lucky she felt to find Judd Aptow to produce Girls and she’s incredibly pleased with its reception because it shows the entertainment industry that there is a need for this kind of show and that there is an audience. In the book I enjoyed the format of interspersed lists. There were more laugh out loud moments for me with this book than almost any other book I’ve read. I highly recommend it if you’re a 20-35 year old woman. If you’re not, you still might enjoy it, but parts of it aren’t as relatable. Like when I started to read The Incredible Sadness of Lemon Cake, I couldn’t relate because I was about 18 at the time and it’s geared toward middle-aged women. There were aspects I enjoyed, but I wasn’t the target audience.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

I started this book a couple of months ago and haven’t gone back to it. Namely because it’s dark and I know how it ends. Capote is a talented writer. That is obvious. I said it anyway. His style is so interesting because it has a non-fiction feel at times, like a news article, yet his descriptions are poignant. They are perfect in the sense that they aren’t lyrical, they are on par, and you have a vivid image of what he’s talking about. For example “After rain, or when snowfalls thaw, the streets, unnamed, unshaded, unpaved, turn from the thickest dust into the direst mud.” Not beautiful per se but I know exactly which kind of midwestern town he’s talking about. I can see the roads and feel the weather. His descriptions of the characters are honest and raw. You have a sense of how this family functioned and what they were like.  Bonnie suffers from mental illness and Nancy is a teenage girl in 1959 where Mr. Clutter is concerned by “the youngster who had driven her home.” I can just feel the 50’s. The book brought forth a new genre of the non-fiction novel. It’s not dissimilar from historical fiction, except the events described aren’t yet historical. Mysteries fascinate me and I feel like there are still missing pieces from what really happened that night. In summary, read it for about an hour at a time and not at night when you’re home alone.

Mindfulness for Teen Anxiety by Christopher Willard PsyD

This book is geared toward teens but there are aspects that apply to anyone. I chose it on a whim and I’m glad I did. Mindfulness is certainly something I need to work on and something most people can improve upon unless you’re a meditation guru. It is a quick read and provides some easy exercises to increase mindfulness and help with anxiety management. My thoughts are constantly wandering and it is helping me focus on what I am doing in the present moment.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

I need to do a whole post on this book because it speaks to me like no other book has. I often feel ashamed for being quiet and shy and for preferring to spend time by myself. Some of this is my internal dialogue, but a lot of it is reinforced through messages I receive everyday in both direct and indirect ways. It has been incredibly validating to read this and recognize all the wonderful things about introversion. And hey, introverts make great leaders! I enjoy the tone of the book because it’s exploratory and it doesn’t condemn extroverts. It simply points out that there is an American ideal of the extrovert who is sociable, confident, and can sell himself. By holding this in such high esteem, we are alienating a group of people who have a lot to offer. I think it is valuable to introverts and extroverts alike. As the author points out, introversion and extraversion are on a spectrum and nobody is a complete introvert or extrovert, so we all have some introversion in us somewhere.

Try one of those titles and let me know what you think. I love talking to other people about books because everyone has a unique perspective and often bring up ideas or themes from a book I had never considered.