December 2021 Book Marks
Like so many of you, I’m limping into the end of the year. Closing my laptop on Friday last week, my eyeballs burned with fatigue like calf muscles at the end of a long run. One more video conference meeting and every cell in my body would have staged an insurrection.
Every human being has limits. Many of us have certainly been pushed to our own frayed edges over the past almost two years.
The holidays and the New Year provide a chance to take stock. But this time of year is not all mistletoe and sugar plum fairies. Many of us have lost loved ones, some struggle with depression and loneliness. Others worry about unpaid bills, food insecurity, keeping a roof over their family’s heads.
For those of us able to find grace in the small things, this is a time of year to go both inward and outward. To give and to receive. I am grateful for having more than enough, of everything I hold dear… of family, of wonderful friends, of meaningful work and incredible clients. I have four tremendous children and a husband whom I can still laugh with on the couch at the end of a long day. I’m fortunate, blessed and lucky, all in one breath.
I hope each of you has something to look forward to as we usher in 2022. And if you need a little escape, a reminder of what matters or an engrossing tale, here’s a crop of good books to put on your list….may you find joy in both giving and receiving. And Happy New Year!
Bright Burning Things by Lisa Harding
Sonya used to be the “it girl,” performing on stage, dating handsome men and going to glamorous parties. Somewhere along the way she began to sink into the darkness of alcohol addiction. It becomes clear to her that her son, Tommy, is the one reason she has to fight to give up the bottle. Beautifully written, this novel provides an intricate look at an addict’s journey as they move two steps forward and one step back toward rehabilitation and redemption.
Defying the Nazis, The Sharps’ War by Artemis Joukowsky
This real-life tale formed the basis of a Ken Burns documentary about the author’s grandparents. Unitarian Reverend Waitstill Sharp and his social worker wife Martha were the first of 17 ministers to answer the call for volunteers to help the refugee crisis in Prague on the eve of WW2. They became an incredible force in the resistance against the Gestapo. Leaving their children behind in Massachusetts and carrying only $40,000, they embarked on a dangerous mission to save refugees, political dissidents and Jews. This gripping real life tale is the story of a couple whose faith and commitment to social justice allowed them to save the lives of countless numbers of people.
The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles
It’s 1954 and Emmett Watson has just been released from a juvenile detention facility for a crime that was not his fault. Arriving at the doorstep of his now deceased father’s farm in the heart of Nebraska, he is ready to begin again. His younger brother Billy has been dutifully waiting for his brother and they both begin an adventure to both find their mother, who left years ago, and set out for a brighter future. Billy has found a box of old postcards, hidden by their father, that their mother had written over the years as she headed west on the Lincoln Highway (yes, it’s a real road that begins on Broadway in Manhattan.) When two stow-away’s from the juvie facility pop out of the warden’s trunk, the journey takes a turn east to New York, where the promise of a fortune and settling a score will turn their fates. This story deftly winds around both highbrow characters from the wealthy NY suburbs to the seedy side of Vaudeville flophouses, circus and railroad homeless camps and up to the natural wonder of the Adirondack mountains. Towles story-telling purrs like an old Studebaker on a Sunday drive. It’s pleasurable, immersive writing that has its own cadence and rhythm and there were moments in its innocence and simplicity where I didn’t want to shut the book and come back to 2021.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Sexy film siren Evelyn Hugo has fought her way out of poverty to become one of the biggest screen legends of her time. The men she has married, cheated on, and then divorced, hide one of the biggest secrets of her life, a secret that she will take to the grave. When an up-and-coming journalist (going through her own difficult marriage) gets a call from Evelyn to write her life story, the book begins to unravel the truth at the center of the tale. An easy read, interspersed with gossipy newspaper bits about the star, makes this book a pleasure. And for those who loved “Malibu Rising,” you’ll see a through-line character from that book on these pages.
Bewilderment by Richard Powers
There are times when reading about the demise of our planet makes me turn away from the page. And I have to admit, there were moments when I forced myself back to the hard truths in the book about the cluelessness and selfishness of humankind. Robin is the nine-year old son of astrobiologist Theo Byrne, who is searching through the zillions of other planets out there for signs of life. Robin has behavioral challenges at school with his Asperger’s, and he has recently lost his mother, a passionate legal advocate for animal rights. Determined to keep his brilliant and loving son off the psychoactive drugs that the doctors and school want to be prescribed, Theo finds an alternative new therapy that uses neural feedback to help control his emotions. When the chance arises for him to use his own mother’s neural information, the story takes a switchback. Power’s beautifully painstaking writing aptly depicts a parent’s love and also forces us to confront the realities of life on earth for our children.
*These are books I genuinely love and am thrilled to recommend to my friends. These are Bookshop.org affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I get a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. Alternately, if you prefer to rent books at your local library or buy from your local bookstore, I very much support that!