Summer Books

It’s been months since I shared with you the books I read. May was a good month for reading but once June arrived my reading slowed to a trickle and just picked up in the last two weeks.  I’d like to share with you the books that have stayed with me long after I turned the last page instead of a full recap of every book I read.

i-am-malalaI am Malala: The Girl Who Stood up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai   Malala was a 13 year old when she was shot by the Taliban to send a message to her father that girls were not permitted to be educated according to their religious views.

Much of the story dealt with the struggles her father fought to start his school and how prior to the rise of the Taliban (which is blamed on the agression of the US  after the 9/11 attacks) curtailed the freedoms of the people in this area.

What really stuck with me was how fearful of the Taliban these people are and how they deal with the threats.  They feared for their lives should they not submit to Taliban rules even though they didn’t agree with them.  We don’t often think just how dangerous it is to stand up to a violent group that has the blessing of the government, like Malala’s family did.

the-dirty-lifeThe Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food and Love by Kristin Kimball In a nutshell The Dirty Life is the story of a woman who gives everything up for love, luckily this isn’t a sappy love story.

Kristen headed out one day to interview a young farmer and ends up falling in love with him and leaving the big city behind to join him in his dream to live in a run down farmhouse while building a life for themselves to fulfill her husband’s dreams.

The adjustment for a city girl to adopt a life on the farm isn’t all that easy but it did bring a humorous touch to the story, such as how Kristen copes with the rodent problems in the ramshackle house when they first move in, or how when announcing she would not change her last name and take her husband’s name he simply says he will have to take hers.

oil-and-honeyOil and Honey by Bill McKibben  In Oil and Honey McKibben combines his work to stop the Keystone XL pipeline and the role his organization played in the effort with a friend’s work with beehives.

The stories about the bees were the most interesting to me.  He goes into great detail on the types of honeybees being raised, how his friend is able to start new queens, the fact (which I didn’t know)that bees were not native to the US, and even how climate change helps spread the disease that killed off millions of bees and how his friend found a solution that saved his hives, no chemicals needed.  Oil and Honey, is a hopeful story while being realistic about the effects of climate change.

lights-outLights out by Ted Koppel  This was by far the scariest book I’ve read in years.  Ted Koppel, better known to many as a TV news anchor, spent 18 months with several researchers learning all his could about our electrical grid and its vulnerability to failures.  The book is downright scary when you stop to think about it.  Koppel interviews everyone from Homeland Security, FEMA, scientists, Electric power industry CEOs and many more.  Most of the book covers the possibility of a terrorist attack on the power grid and only a small section on an EMP that could bring down the grid.

What he learns is that not only have there been attacks (at least one successful) on our electrical grid but that all countries use similar program coding for their power grid. His conclusions are that it would be highly unlikely that a super power such as China or Russia would attack our grid out of fear of retaliation but worries that a terrorist group or a nation such as North Korea would have no qualms in following through with an attack.  He further reports that ISIS has enough money (billions) to be able to pay a hacker to attack for them.

What makes this worse is that Koppel and his researchers find there are no plans in place in our government to address the aftermath of a complete grid failure.  When pushed on whether there is a plan current Homeland Security Director responded “At some point, this is on the individual member of the public to do a little bit to plan for that contingency…You lost power completely, you out to have, you gotta have a radio.” All I could think at this point was “A RADIO? What about heat?”  He also admitted that should a grid failure occur his agency would turn to FEMA.

FEMA admits there is no plan in place for a grid failure but FEMA’s Associate Administrator believes the same policies that work in the case of an earthquake would suffice. “The plan is, you start moving people east.  You take them out of Los Angeles, put them in hotel rooms in Nevada….You either restore power or move them out.”  Can you see this working?

Finally, Koppel looks to the Mormon community and their warehouses of food and the tight-knit community who have been taught to prepare for emergencies by putting up a year’s worth of money, food and water. He leaves us with his suggestions for building resilience both in the home and in the community.

It was time for some lighter reading after these titles.

the-fireman The Fireman by Joe Hill was perfect.  Joe Hill is the son of Stephen King (for those of you who didn’t know) and has written three previous books with much the same style as his father. This book was different and at over 700 pages held me until the end.

If I were forced to make a comparison or pigeon hole this book, I would say that Hill combined SHTF (shit hits the fan) stories and zombie stories into a story that is neither.  Instead, Hill chooses to focus on the strength and resilience of humanity.


leave-meFinally, Leave Me by Gayle Forman  is the story of, Maribeth, the typical overworked, over-scheduled, working mother who suffers a heart attack. Her doctor inadvertently  complicate matters when performing exploratory procedure which results in emergency open heart bypass surgery.

Arriving home to recuperate, Maribeth, is overwhelmed with the demands on her once again feeling the need to rest and for once be taken care of. One day she ups and leaves her family to be alone to recuperate. While gone she realizes that things may not be how she perceived them.  Interesting book with a happy ending and a happy ending is the perfect place to end this recap.

What are you reading?




  1. I am interested in a few of the titles. But I just downloaded the Joe Hill book on Audible. I am a big fan of Stephen Kings earlier works. I did not know he had a writer son. So I will give him a try. I love end of the world books. Ted koppels book sounds interesting as well. Maybe next month.


    • Elaine, Stephen King has three children. His daughter doesn’t write last I knew but his oldest Owen King is a writer who didn’t follow this father into the genre of horror. Joe Hill, using a family name from his mother’s side to see if he could make it without anyone knowing he was King’s son, has a very similar style to his father. My favorite books by Joe would be Heart-Shaped Box and Horns. I’m curious to hear what you think of his writing.

      As for Lights Out, it left me very uncomfortable. I would like to think I could survive without the power grid but I need electricity to charge my chair and definitely need heat in the winter.


  2. My reading has slowed a lot recently also, My mind is kind of drawing a blank, but one book I do remember that I really liked was “A Man called Ove”, by Fredrik Backman. Ove is a crotchedy man who is down on his luck and has given up on life. Despite his protests, he is slowly transformed by those around him. The book has a bit of dark humor, but you grow to love Ove despite his hard exterior. It’s a quick, easy read, but I read it slowly, so I could go back and visit Ove every day.


    • I read A Man Called Ove a couple of months ago, April maybe? and loved it too. I can’t imagine you have much time for reading with the work you are doing on two houses. Hopefully, that all comes together and life will settle down real soon for you.


  3. Thanks, these sound like some great books. Of late, I’ve been reading a lot of books about dog behavior and training (because we got a new dog 2 months ago). I’m also reading Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon, and I’m about to start reading The Empathy Exams, by Leslie Jamison, for my neighborhood book club.


    • Hi Christy, congrats on the new dog. I read the first five or so books by Diana Gabaldon then lost interest but Outlander was by far my favorite in the series.


  4. Malala is such an inspiration… And a champion for young girls and women.. Thank you for your book choices Lois.. I really must find time again to read.. My evenings are taken up at the moment with knitting.. 🙂 xx


    • My evenings are taken up with all kinds of crafts to finish Christmas gifts so I understand. Yes, Malala is really an inspiration. I almost called her a little girl but I guess she’s not all that little any more, she definitely has guts even after all the fear they tried to instill in her.

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