American Pastoral. I asked my father for some fiction recommendations, and this is the first of them.
Books I’ve Read
Is It All In Your Head: True Stories of Imaginary Illness. This book about psychosomatic illness is very interesting, and the patient stories are fascinating! The author, a neurologist specializing in dissociative seizures, tells her patients’ stories with tremendous compassion, and provides a great summary of the history of medical thought about these illnesses.
Every Last Lie. This one was a page-turner for me, but I was disappointed with the ending. It’s a mystery, told from the perspectives of a husband and wife after the husband is killed in a car accident. I loved how the story was unspooled, but the ending was not what I expected or wanted – at all.
Saints for All Occasions: A Novel. I loved this book!! It’sthe story of two sisters who move to Boston from Ireland in the 1950s, and how the choices they both make shape their lives. I was completely engrossed from the very beginning.
The Perpetual Now : A Story of Amnesia, Memory, and Love. This is a very interesting read about severe amnesiacs, and what neuroscientists have learned and are learning from them. There were a few spots where the science got a little dry, but I learned a good amount about the structure of the brain and different types of memory.
The Dirty Life. I’ve always fantasized about becoming a farmer, so I hoped this book would be a great way for me to live vicariously through someone who actually made the transition from urban life, to a farmer’s life – right here in upstate New York. It was okay in this regard, but there was too much detail on topics like butchering and cooking all parts of a cow, for my taste.
Killers of the Flower Moon. This true-crime book looks at a story with which I was completely unfamiliar: the murder of dozens, if not hundreds, of Native Americans in Oklamhoma in the 1920s. They were murdered by, or on behalf of, their white “guardians”, who controlled access to the payments they received for the rights to drill for oil on their lands. Such a shameful story of greed and discrimination.
The Lowland. Every time I read one of Jhumpa Lahiri’s books, I’m amazed at how talented she is as a writer. This book tells the story of several generations of a Bengali family, and the tragedies that shape them. The story is told from several different characters’ perspectives, which made it particularly intriguing for me.
The Dry: A Novel. I’m not sure if I’ve ever read a mystery before, but I really enjoyed this one. It wasn’t at all predictable, and there were a number of twists. It’s also well-written, with interesting characters, and lots of great layers of the story.
The Happiness Project. I’m torn on this book. On the one hand, I love the idea of undertaking a project of increasing one’s happiness. While I’m not ready to take on a year-long project with different goals for each month, I got some great ideas and inspiration from the author and her research. However, there were definitely times when I was reading this book, when I rolled my eyes and thought, “Get over yourself.”
Separation: A Novel. After slogging through two dense nonfiction books, I was ready for some fiction. Unfortunately, this was not what I was looking for. I wanted much more plot, and based what I’d read about this book, I expected more of a mystery. This book is mainly about examining the characters, and while it’s well-written, I was disappointed.
The Case Against Sugar. It took me a long time to get through this book, mainly because the first two-thirds weren’t about what I thought it would be about. Instead of a straightforward, well, case against sugar, there was a lot of discussion of the history of sugar consumption and diabetes. While I learned some things from this, it wasn’t what I had been excited to read about. I finally started to get more into the book somewhere around page 200. While I’m not sure if the author is right in his wholesale condemnation of sugar – he basically ends by saying even eating it in moderation is too much – he makes a compelling case for the role sugar plays in multiple diseases, including gout, Alzheimer’s, and cancer. Scary stuff.
The House of the Dead: Siberian Exile Under the Tsars. This book is about a time and place about which I know very little. I know a bit more about it now, but overall, I found this book to just okay. The history and context were most interesting to me, but about 2/3 of the way in, the descriptions of corporal punishment techniques become more detailed, and it became more difficult to read. The final couple of chapters also felt very rushed, and since the history was what I enjoyed most, I really missed it at the end.
I Am Not Myself These Days: A Memoir. I didn’t love this book when I started it. It seemed like just a raunchy tale of a young, drunk drag queen in NYC. Having already read another book by Josh Kilmer-Purcell, I should’ve known that it would be much more. It’s a love story, a story of growing up, and a story of becoming comfortable in one’s skin.
Books I’ve Listened To
(I’m not 100% convinced this counts as “reading”, but I’m glad I started listening to audiobooks in 2017.)
Lilac Girls. I LOVED this book, and I’m so glad it was my first audiobook. It tells the stories of three young women during the 1940’s, 1950’s, and into the 1960’s, in parallel. One is an American socialite in New York, one is a German doctor at a Nazi concentration camp, and one is a Polish political prisoner in that concentration camp. I have a soft spot for books that simultaneously tell the stories of multiple characters like this one does, and I also really enjoy historical fiction. (I didn’t realize that two of the main characters were real people, until I “read” the author’s note at the end of the book.) I particularly enjoyed that each character truly had her own voice, since I listened to the audiobook.
Books I Plan To Read
Victoria: The Queen: An Intimate Portrait of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire. I imagine Victoria led a pretty fascinating life.
A Piece of the World. A novel about the woman in the Andrew Wyeth painting, Christina’s World.
The Things You Can Only See When You Slow Down. Because I can use all the advice I can get on being more mindful.
The Telomere Effect: A Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer. I heard the authors of this speak, and I would love to “hear” more from them on this topic.
Prescription for the Future: The Twelve Transformational Habits of Highly Effective Medical Care. Wherever you fall on the political spectrum, I think we can all agree that our healthcare system could use some help.
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