I’m a bit late sharing last months books with you but I hope it was worth the wait. I have a confession to make before I begin. Books, outside of my family and friends, are the one thing I hold dear. Books have always been there for me, through thick and thin yet it took more than four years before I began sharing all the books I read with you. The reason I did this was because I felt that by sharing my eclectic taste in books I would be sharing too much of my soul. As you can see, I have finally exposed myself to you. 🙂
Let’s begin, shall we?
The first book of February was The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce: This is the story of Harold, retired and allowing life to happen one day at a time almost as if going through the motions until life ends – something too many of us do. One morning Harold receives a letter from an old friend, a co-worker, telling him she is dying of cancer. Harold pens a short note to tell her he’s sorry and walks to the corner to mail the note. But when he arrives at the post box he realizes it feels good to walk and keeps going to the next box and the one after that and the one after that.
That first night Harold calls the hospice and leaves a message for his friend that he is coming to see her. That he will be walking the entire distance from one side of England to the other and she must hold on and wait for him. He is convinced he can keep her alive and give her a reason to live. What Harold doesn’t realize is that this pilgrimage will be much more about him and how it will change his life.
The Legacy Of Luna: A story of a tree, a woman and the struggles to save the Redwoods by Julia Butterfly Hill: I was aware of Julia Butterfly Hill as an environmentalist and knew of her tree sitting adventure. What I didn’t know prior to reading the Legacy of Luna is that Luna was the beginning of Hill’s activism. This is the story told by Hill of how she found herself a tree sitter in a giant Redwood for two years. Yes, for two years Hill sat in Luna and didn’t touch her feet to the ground. From having to be taught how to climb into Luna, to getting over her fear of falling off the platform this retelling held me. I was stunned to read Hill refused to wear shoes, even in the winter, to better climb around from branch to branch and even more so to read she was uncomfortable wearing a harness so didn’t.
Hill goes into great detail into the hardships of living two hundred feet in the air as storms shook her nearly out of the tree to the spring when she would find spiders and insects climbing all over her as if she were in fact an extension of Luna. Hill details the loggers’ attempts to get her out of the tree and the valiant efforts of others to get past guards, whose duty it was to prevent Hill from receiving food, to deliver her packages of food. This is both an interesting read and a reminder that our purpose in life can find us unexpectedly.
Prairie Tale by Melissa Gilbert: Melissa Gilbert first came to the attention of the public playing the part of Laura Ingalls Wilder in the TV series Little House on the Prairie. I don’t often read autobiographies because I know it’s hard to be open enough about yourself to share not only the side you want the world to see but the side of yourself you wish didn’t exist. Plus, while I love a good book to escape into I have never found a biography/autobiography to be an escape, it’s more of an experience of voyeurism. That said, when I saw this book I found myself curious how Gilbert escaped the problems so many child actors find, which I learned she didn’t completely.
The one thing I found most interesting about Gilbert’s life was her insecurity which resulted from knowing she was adopted at birth. On the set she was confident yet deep down the question of why her birth parents gave her up left her feeling there must be something wrong with her.
Money Secrets of the Amish by Lorilee Craker: I was very disappointed by this book. There were some great insights from the Amish way of life but they were overshadowed by more pages on how the author found to shop and save in what I saw as an effort to live a lifestyle she craves while trying to convince herself she is modeling the Amish values. A few pages from the end of the book summed up best the differences between how the Amish live to save money and how the rest of us live.
“The Amish are a people-culture…..Without television, and all the rest, much time is spent with friends and loved ones, and they’ve also got a lot of opportunities at hand to help one another out.”
To sum up the book, the Amish delay gratification by saving for what they want, refuse buying on time, make and mend what they already have and grow most of their own food. They also shop second hand primarily, repurpose what they have to fill needs and barter better than we do. If more of the book was centered on the Amish way of living I would have liked it much more.
The Disappeared by Kristina Ohlsson: This is a crime book by who the Los Angeles Times refers to as “one of Sweden’s best young authors. If you enjoy crime books but are tired of the typical detective novels this one might interest you.
The story revolves around new mother and returning detective Fredrika Bergman who finds the latest case of missing person will drag her family into the drama and make her question everything she thought she believed.
The House by the Lake by Robert Paine: This has to be the most disappointing book I’ve picked up in a long time. Paine, it turns out writes mostly books on surviving the end of the world as we know it, this time in a fictional novel rather than a how to book. There were plenty of grammatical and spelling mistakes but with how bad the rest of the book was those are easy to forget.
The story unfolds as the United States is bombed up and down the coast by some unnamed enemy. Shane Wallace, who pens books on surviving the end of the world, finds himself running to the family’s house on the lake hoping to escape death. I thought the book would be good but it unfolds as a story which would have every possible problem thrown at the characters with no follow up. Take for example a week into exile at the lake house. Wallace is up in a tree hunting when he sees a flock of robins begin to drop out of the air, dead. He immediately thinks poison and turns to see a green fog. He wonders how long before the poison reaches the cabin and realizes he doesn’t have gas masks. That’s it, no follow up. Never again does he mention the gas nor does the gas have any impact on their lives. Or the day, months after the first attacks, Wallace decides he needs gas, guns and food. After pointing out there is no electricity and that all businesses were looted the first night the bombing starts he suddenly finds the one business in town not destroyed in the bombing and miraculously free from looting. He finds that not only do the gas pumps work but his credit card is accepted for payment of said gas. After filling up the vehicle and empty gas cans he enters the gas station to find all the junk food one could want to live out the unfolding of the destruction of America. Paine does this again and again. He throws out a new problem and then either drops it or manipulates a solution and moves on. Another thing that really got under my skin was Paine’s twist of having the attackers be Muslim. I felt this was just another of those situations he wanted to be sure to include in his story and didn’t know any other way to make it happen.
This book was so unrealistic it felt contrived just to sell books I stopped reading halfway through.
Maybe it was how bad this last book was or just the end of winter leaving me antsy or maybe the stress that has seeped into my life but I couldn’t bring myself to pick up the tablet again to read for a couple of weeks. I desperately craved a real book and placed an order on half.com for new reading material. I rarely ever purchase a book for more than $0.75. Visiting Half.com I’ll search for a book I want the most, in this case Simple Food by Helen Nearing and then search the seller’s store for more titles I would like. This is a good strategy because Half.com charges you more for shipping for the first book and you can save quite a bit on shipping costs by ordering all books from the same seller. When these arrived I felt my excitement grow and happily settled down to reading again. I should mention the following books I read were all purchased for $0.75.
I began with Simple Food by Helen Nearing: This I had read as an ebook a couple of months ago but desperately wanted a paper copy. It took me no time to settle down and reread the book marking the recipes I wanted to make.
I would highly recommend this book not only for anyone who eats simply or wants to add more simple meals into their diet but also for the person, like me, who doesn’t normally like preparing meals from recipes.
Next I picked up Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo: This was a book suggesting by the lovely Marlene and was the perfect book to fix the melancholy I had been feeling. By the end of the book I was energized and ready to jump back into life. Breakfast with Buddha is a road trip between Otto and his sister’s friend Rinpoche, a monk. Otto is far from open to the lessons Rinpoche can teach him about life in the beginning resenting this monk’s intrusion into his life at this moment. Far from preachy Breakfast with Buddha is a story to absorb and enjoy while letting the lessons percolate long after you set the book down.
I can’t say I found much new from Rinpoche’s teachings I hadn’t already explored previously but it was nice to have such an entertaining reminder on issues of life. This book would be the perfect companion book on my bookshelf next to Ishmael by Daniel Quinn and Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder.
Finally, I read The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Fiffenbaugh: The best words I can come up with to describe this book comes directly from Fiffenbaugh in an interview at the end of the book. “I started with the idea of writing a novel about the foster-care system…the true story of life inside the system is much more complicated and emotional….With Victoria[the main character], I wanted to create a character that people could connect with on an emotional level-at her best and at her worst-which I hoped would give readers a deeper understanding of the challenges of growing up in foster case.
Dififfenbaugh does a wonderful job creating a story of a woman who comes out of the foster-care system mistrusting all but the world of flowers. Victoria, communicates with flowers to replace the emotions she can’t allow herself to voice. This is a lovely story that will also break your heart.
I should also mention that Fififfenbaugh uses her book to reach out to help foster care children and has formed a nonprofit organization, Camellia Network to activate “citizens in every community to provide the critical support young people need to transition from foster care to adulthood.” If you would like to learn more you can visit www.camellianetwork.org.
Have you read any good books lately?