While I love shopping and writing about shopping, clothing and personal style, it’s not my only pleasure in life.* Actually, I consider shopping and writing about shopping my “work,” so in that case, my other great pleasure (I’m so lucky I can do what I have a passion for as “work”…) is reading. I am a VORACIOUS reader, and there’s nothing I love more on Saturday mornings than a good book and my pot of coffee. NOTHING.
I usually have a few things going at once, something non-fiction and something fiction at least, and maybe something else on the side. I read 99% of the time on my kindle, and have for several years. Believe me, I NEVER expected to embrace e-books, because I treasured my physical books more than I treasured anything else I owned. But my husband bought me a first-gen kindle and I was hooked. And you may remember, I purged nearly all of my books recently, keeping only those that had VERY special meaning (belonged to my grandmother), so I’m no longer attached to them as I once was.
I get most of books on my kindle from my local library, only buying books I can’t get at the library. I also shop at a local used book store quite frequently, but when I’m finished with those books, I sell them back so someone else can enjoy them; I don’t want to build back up my book collection. Anyway, I read way too much to spend money on books anymore; I’d be beyond broke…
Now that summer is approaching, and it seems that is when most people try to get back into reading (I don’t have kids, so I have A LOT of me time for reading!), I thought I’d mention a few books I’ve read recently that have been incredibly meaningful. Maybe you can read a couple on those amazing vacations you all had me drooling over at the Inhabit giveaway post!!
All the Light We Cannot See
I read this the weekend before last after waiting for it at the library FOREVER. Lisa mentioned it as a book she’d enjoyed (at least I think it was Lisa, although I can’t find the post now…), and it has thousands of very high reviews, so I thought I’d try it. Honestly though, I have read so many books on WWII lately that I was sort of ready for a break, and was kind of hesitant to read it. (I’d just finished Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy also – although I loved the Pillars of the Earth so much more, I consider it one of my top ten favorite books ever – so I was coming off an historical fiction high! But I do love historical fiction).
When I started reading it, I was reading at night, and at that point, I only get a few pages in before I pass out, so I was having a hard time getting into the book. Once the weekend rolled around though, I had two days to finish it, and absolutely DEVOURED it. I couldn’t move for hours. What a brilliant book. I can’t even describe it, aside from saying that it was just written beautifully. The prose, the words, the flow, the story. Everything felt right. I was so devoted to the characters from the beginning it was one of those books I never wanted to end. You know those books?? Please read it.
I read this after All the Light We Cannot See, and also got it from the library after waiting for a long time. I have become very interested in healthcare recently, and mortality, my own, and my parents’, and this book just looked interesting; and also had many great reviews, so I thought I’d try it.
It’s a hard book to get through though. I actually spent a lot of time reading through tears, and had to put it down often to cry or just sit for a second, quietly. But it’s an important book. SO important. As I was reading it, I wanted to talk to everyone I care about about death. About how they wanted to die, what they wanted their end of life to be like, etc. I thought about what I want the end of my life to be like. I wondered if I make it to my 80’s, would I have enough money saved to be able to live/die like I want? What will the end of my life be like without kids/grandkids around? How will I make decisions?
All the emotions, all that stuff came up and it was hard to think about. So hard to deal with. But it’s important to think about. Important to plan for. And important to talk about. My husband got a little frustrated with me because I wanted to talk about it, and he didn’t at that moment. So be aware that your family might not be on the same page you are when you’re finished with this book!
But seriously, I feel like something shifted in me a little after I read this book. I have been taking a very hard look at what’s really important in my life these last several years as you’ve been following along, and I’m so glad, because I want to be sure at the end of my life that I know what I want, and how to get it, as much as possible, of course.
Man, I needed something super-light and easy after that last book, and I’d bought this one recently on sale at amazon for $1.99 so started it Sunday after I finished Being Mortal. I’m nearly finished with it already. It’s SO easy and quick, but engaging and interesting – in an x-files, or fringe sort of way. Actually it’s a TV series out already also, if you’d rather try it that way.
It’s nothing special, really, but it would be a good summer reading series of books, and I do love a good lighthearted (sort of) read after a couple of very heavy ones…
Women in Clothes
I haven’t read this one yet, but I did order it in paperback today because it has pictures and those always turn out wonky on the kindle. I’m going to see the authors speak at the Dallas Museum of Art in June, and I’m really excited about it. It’s a topic I’m extremely interested in; our relationship to our clothes, so I’m looking forward to reading this, and keeping it around.
Tiny beautiful things
I checked this out of the library, but I’m going to buy it in paperback so I can have it around. Tiny Beautiful Things a wonderful advice book by Cheryl Strayed, who also wrote Wild, which I definitely recommend (read the book, then maybe see the movie, but read the book first). Cheryl Strayed makes me want to be a writer. She has an amazing way with words, and with empathy, putting them together in such a way that makes you feel warm and loved. The book is in the format of letters and replies, so you can read bits and pieces at a time, selecting ones that are relevant to you at the moment, or read the whole thing at once. It’s so good though. I need to always have it around. Oh, and listen to the podcast too, it’s also nice. Her voice is so soothing…
Mindfulness for Beginners
By Jon Kabat-Zinn – I’m slowly getting through this, preferring to make my way through other things before this for some reason…I saw him on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday one week and decided to pick up the book. If there is one thing I would like to achieve in the next year it is to become more mindful. Of everything. I am already trying to become more mindful, more conscious of my closet, but it is a struggle still, and even more of a struggle in other parts of my life. I think this book will help quite a bit when I get around to reading it, and then doing the work required of me.
Do you have any books to recommend? What have you read recently that you loved? Please share!!
*it is one of my favorite hobbies, though, and I have no problem with that. Hobbies are so personal, and we must do what we love, no matter what anyone else thinks of it, as long as it’s not destructive, of course. Debbie at Recovering Shopaholic wrote a great couple of posts on finding new hobbies in addition to shopping, which I also commented on – defending shopping as a hobby – if you’re interested in reading them.
Jana Miller says
My favorite is called a Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. I also like his new one called Scary Close.
Christine Gilmour says
Isn’t reading one of life’s greatest pleasures – so many beautiful books! I just finished “The Mockingbird Next Door” about Nelle Harper Lee, her sister Alice and their life in their small Alabama hometown. Did you know that every year the town stages a play of “To Kill a Mockingbird”? My husband doesn’t know it yet, and we’ll be attending soon!
Henny Liem says
Grechen, it’s b/c of you that I discovered a wonderful author named Liane Moriarty. A few blog posts ago you made some book recommendations and The Husband’s Secret was one of them (by this author). I not only read that one but almost all of her others which I found to be very good reads! I mostly go to the library (I luv the library!) for my books, no longer purchasing them unless I absolutely have to. Thanks for these new book recs…I’m going to check them out!
(Right now I’m reading book 4 of the Outlander series. The first one was my favorite).
Grechen Reiter says
oh! i loved the husband’s secret! and big little lies. i haven’t read the other ones though, i’ll have to get them in my library queue.
i don’t remember how far i read into outlander, maybe 5th or 6th book? i don’t know…they’re just so LONG anymore! i LOVED LOVED LOVED the first couple though. and i do enjoy watching the series also, they did a great job adapting it.
Grechen Reiter says
ah…to kill a mockingbird was one of my favorite books. i should go back and read it again. along with others from high school. i think they would be so much more meaningful now! thanks for the suggestion.
A few of my faves lately…
Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal
Beth Dery says
I loved All The Light We Cannot See! Best book in a long time. Thanks for the posts and the suggestions.
Christine M says
Whenever I’m asked to name my very favorite books, “to kill” is among them – along with “one hundred years of solitude” and “charlotte’s web,” all for very different reasons. I try to make time to re-read them from time to time.
Grechen Reiter says
i could NOT get through one hundred years of solitude. i tried a few times, and gave up. i give up pretty easily on books actually, and movies if they’re too convoluted. i think i just don’t want to work so hard at reading? what’s the trick to get through it? i’ve heard it helps to read with a guide, or something like cliff’s notes…
I loved All the Light We Cannot See, too.
My favorites, lately:
The Rosie Project by Graeme Samson
My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor
Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Thanks for your recommendations — I’m constantly looking for my next great read.
I generally enjoy your blog very much, and this change of subject was a surprise treat. Our taste in reading material seems very similar. I loved All the Light We Cannot See, recommending it to my book club (for August, I think). I also liked Wild (haven’t seen the movie yet), and her other book is on my Amazon Wish List.
I just finished a book called Longbourn, by Jo Baker. Pride and Prejudice is my favorite novel of all time (I’ve probably read it about five times), and Longbourn is the same story but told through the servants’ perspective. Actually, the real story is the servants’ story, but you also see the Pride and Prejudice events happening in the background. I’ve read a couple of other books playing off the Jane Austen original, but this one was outstanding and extremely well-written. The characters continued to live in my mind long after I finished the book. I highly recommend it.
I read a mix of stuff. I work at a academic library so take books out, but also read ebooks on my ipad mini and iphone. Right now from the library, I have Albion’s Seed (about British migration to the Americas in the 17th-18th century), The Warmth of Other Suns, about the Great Migration (when thousands of African-American families left farms in the American South and moved to the Midwest and Northeast to take factory jobs) and The Magician’s Book, about being a religious skeptic who loves Narnia. I am about 1/4 through Albion’s Seed, which is pretty academic, but I would recommend it to those who have an interest in Early American history. I haven’t started the other 2. I probably will catch up over this long weekend.
In contrast, ebooks are usually escapist reading, either fantasy or romance. I just finished a trilogy of “Georgian romances” by Stella Riley–The Parfit Knight, The Mésalliance, and The Player. There were a good distraction. Before that I read some science fiction–the first two books in the Ancillary trilogy by Ann Leckie (Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Justice) and WIlliam Gibson’s latest, The Periphery. The Ancillary books are rather Ursula LeGuin-ish (LOVE HER) and Periphery is not Gibson’s best but a good read any way.
You should see if your library works with Overdrive. It’s an app that lets you d/l audible books from your library. Great to listen when in the car, walking, etc
I’m not a fiction reader, just never been my bag, but i do like non-fiction, bio’s, etc. Just finished Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before, and am now on to Cary Elwes As You Wish – about the making of one of my fav movies ever – The Princess Bride.
The Princess Bride is one of the few fiction books I do love!
Christine M says
I didn’t always feel this way but now I’m certain that life is too short for books that are a chore to read. I’ve given up on many myself, including “The English Patient” (though the movie wasn’t so bad). “Solitude,” though, struck a chord for me. I like things that are non-linear and a little mystical. I’m not surprised though when people tell me it’s exhausting to follow the narrative and keep track of who’s who. If you do decide to pick it up again (and I’m not necessarily recommending that) maybe give up on any impulse to piece together the puzzle and just try to appreciate the magic and poetry of it. The writing is so gorgeous and rich. A guide to the characters would be helpful. My edition of the book has one in back 🙂
Grechen Reiter says
i can use overdrive – i just don’t listen to books much. when i visit my mom, we do, while we work puzzles, etc., but at home, i don’t. guess i’ve always rather read than listened. i don’t even listen to music much!
need to get that gretchen rubin book…
Grechen Reiter says
ha! i do agree with that. life is too short…
i like isabel allende, and i know she’s from the same magical realism school, no? she seemed to be much much easier to read and follow, though. i will take your suggestion though, to just read, instead of trying to figure everything out next time.
I’m also in my 40s with no children and love to read. 🙂 A book I read recently and really liked was Selfish, Shallow and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids edited by Meghan Daum (I also liked her book of essays called The Unspeakable). I absolutely loved Being Mortal and wish I could have Atul Gawande as my physician! It’s definitely a a book that everyone should read. Have you heard of the book Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast? It’s a graphic novel about her experience with her aging parents and is supposed to be great. I’ve never read a graphic novel, but plan to read it. Not sure why, but I’ve had a sort of fascination with books about death/end of life issues recently as well, so another that was really good is the latest by Lisa Genova, Inside the O’Briens, about a 44 year old man who found out he has Huntington’s Disease.
Grechen Reiter says
that meghan daum book is on my list too…glad to know you enjoyed it 🙂
i was thinking all during being mortal that i wished he was my dr. also. how can he be my dr?? how can i find a dr. like him??
i heard a talk with roz chast on NPR a while ago, sounded very interesting. also heard a chat with the author of bettyville, which also sounds like it would be interesting to read. i have to space these books out a bit though, or else i’ll get a little obsessed!!
thanks for the recommendations traci 🙂