January 2019 Book Marks
I’ve got a bone to pick with T.S. Elliott. The way I see it, January is actually the cruelest month. After the excitement and activity of the holidays, after they’ve swept up all the confetti, this stretch of time feels like a hard stop. Living on the east coast, the lengthening of days is almost imperceptible. Gray feels like a primary color.
I’ll admit that breaking my wrist during the holidays hasn’t helped my mindset. I’m grumpy. And not being “whole” has made me feel older and vulnerable, reminded me how precious good health is and how much we take it for granted when everything operates as it should. You try not to be a burden, while forgetting that you need two hands to hook a bra, unscrew a bottle of water or wash your hair. I think of people who struggle every day with different disabilities, friends with ill health and a host of so many other issues that it makes me slap myself with my one good wrist and start counting my blessings. A love of books and the escape of reading are at the top of that list. And as yet as another fear-based storm warning skitters across the headlines, here’s the good news… We’re one step closer to February!
Here are some great new choices this month to take your mind off everything from a bad mood to a broken wrist!
Learning to See by Elise Hooper
I knew Dorothea Lange had been a photographer during the Great Depression and dust bowl era, but I hadn’t focused much on the fact that she was a woman. Nor did I appreciate how difficult it was to make a living in what had always been a man’s world. Lange also became a pivotal figure in the art world as the first female recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1940. Yet her life was anything but placid. She continually juggled motherhood, an absentee and unfaithful painter husband and she struggled to keep food on the table as the country sunk deeper into the Depression. Often spending weeks travelling up and down the state of California, she documented migrant workers, malnourished children, families struggling for dignity and Japanese Americans in internment camps after Pearl Harbor. Hooper’s skillful recreation of dialogue, emotions and events makes this story a brisk read and re-creates the fascinating life of one of America’s iconic artists.
No Exit by Taylor Adams
Every so often you stumble on a book that scares the bejesus out of you with both plot and dialog. My first real heart thumping experience with a horror book? “Carrie” by Stephen King. Alone at 13, babysitting in a mountain cabin. “No Exit” is the first book in a long time that I had to set down as I was reading for fear I wouldn’t be able to sleep. Imagine being snowbound on a Colorado highway and you pull into a rest area to wait it out with a few strangers. You’ve lost cell service and as you park and walk into the building, you happen to glance into a sketchy van and see…… a child’s hand in a cage? That’s just the beginning, folks. Layer in some psychopaths, a nail gun and a few twists and turns and you have a scary movie in the making. Those with pacemakers better skip this one!
The Accidental Further Adventures of the Hundred-Year-Old- Man by Jonas Jonasson
Remember the 2012 adventures of Allan Karlsson, the 100 year old man who climbed out of his nursing home and Forrest-gumped his way through the world? This follow-up brings Allan out of retirement to investigate today’s crazy, mixed-up political world. With cameo appearances from Donald Trump, Kim Jong-Un, Angela Merkel and more, this 101-year old outwits everyone and amuses readers as he reminds us that it’s not so bad to grow old.
Hark by Sam Lipsyte
For lovers of futuristic, literary tales, Lipsyte’s first novel in ten years scrolls us ahead in time to a nihilistic world where technology and pollution have reduced us to a society with intense spiritual decay. Decency, altruism and civic duty have disappeared. Into this landscape comes Hark, a reluctant guru who has devised a panacea for the ills of the land with his “mental archery” technique, promising to help people “focus.” This combo of religion, archery, fake history, mindfulness and yoga has Hark poised to be the next big thing. While he stubbornly refuses to be canonized, Hark’s disciples have other plans. Through a series of well-drawn characters, an irreverent writing style and a story that pokes fun at contemporary life, the author depicts the struggle of trying to achieve meaning and dignity in an often absurd, dangerous and chaotic world.
55, Underemployed and Faking Normal by Elizabeth White
This book grew out of an essay that Elizabeth White wrote entitled “You Know Her,” in which she describes what it felt like to be suddenly downwardly mobile after her business failed. Her story struck a chord and the piece went viral. White could be anyone you or I know. She is a well-educated, professional woman whose business fails when the economy falters. Suddenly she finds herself one of the millions of people in their 50s and 60s who are out of work, unable to find a new job and not financially able or ready to retire. But this isn’t simply a memoir. This no-nonsense book offers a practical plan for getting past the shame or fear over finding oneself as “the person who used to be or once was” for the first time ever. She writes with personal honesty and valuable insight about how to crawl up the ladder rung by rung and find a path to a new normal. The book is a manifesto for the retirement income crisis we are facing in this country, but its more than that, it’s a practical guide and a reminder that it is possible to get your “mojo back.”
13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do by Amy Morin
I’ve covered this series of books before, but I found this one particularly interesting as the mother of three daughters during a time when it seems more important than ever to help women find their own voice and channel confidence that can lead to lives with more joy and meaning. OK, that was a mouthful and it sounded like shrink speak, but there is a lot in this book that’s relevant to the mature woman as well. Morin covers everything from social comparison and pressure to social media and sexism using examples from former patients and well-known figures to flesh out the anecdotes. At the end of the day the focus is on how to become mentally strong, which will only benefit everyone at the end of the day.
This month’s Indie book store pick…
“The Country Bookshelf” in Bozeman Montana was like getting lost in a really well-organized maze. The largest independent bookstore in Montana has something for everyone including marked down books. And get this – it’s on the same block as Vargo’s Jazz City and Books, making this a fabulous bookish town!!! (Country Bookshelf)