My Summer Reads (so far)

Whenever I read a good book, I have to share. Here are a few that I enjoyed so far this summer. Maybe you’ll like them, too.

The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure
In the early 1940s, a wealthy French industrialist commissions an architect to design hiding places for Jews inside palatial homes around Paris. Great characters, plot, and subplots. How far would you go to save your neighbor?

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
A story of survival about a young girl who moves to the Alaskan bush with her crazy father and submissive mother. Rich description of the beauty and brutality of Alaska.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
A reclusive British woman with an unfortunate past and a quirky personality finds friendship in unlikely places. Comical scenes and dialogue, with a twist at the end.

Educated by Tara Westover
Memoir about a young girl living with a dysfunctional family in isolated Idaho. Without any formal education or socialization, she rises to earn a PhD from Cambridge University. This is a story of courage and survival.

What books do you recommend?

Feed the Good Wolf

An old Cherokee chief was teaching his grandson about life.

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil — he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt, and ego.

The other is good — he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. This same fight is going on inside you — and inside every person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old chief simply replied, “The one you feed.”

An Indomitable Woman

If you want to read about a relentless woman who was ahead of her time, read Eunice, The Kennedy Who Changed the World by Pulitzer-prize winner Eileen McNamara.

I remember my mother telling me that she credited Mrs. Shriver for single-handedly changing the world for people like my brother. This is mentioned in my book, Jimmy and Me, A Sister’s Memoir

Like many people, I knew that Eunice created Special Olympics but I did not know she was a tireless advocate for incarcerated women, pregnant teens, juvenile delinquents, and other citizens who were marginalized decades ago.

Most notably, you’ll read about her inexhaustible drive to bring individuals with intellectual disabilities out from the shadows of society. She lobbied her brother, President John F. Kennedy, for legislation to support these special citizens. Less than a month before his assassination in 1963, he signed the Maternal and Child Health and Mental Retardation Planning Amendment to the Social Security Act, which would grant $265 million in federal aid.

In the four decades after the death of JFK, Eunice would successfully lobby countless members of Congress and business executives to finance educational, vocational, and recreational programs for individuals with intellectual disabilities. She simply would not take no for an answer.

The biography details Eunice’s early life at a convent school, college years at Stanford, her work at the State Department, and copious travels abroad. It describes the relationships with her parents, siblings, husband, and children, and her devotion to the Catholic faith (she considered becoming a nun).

Eunice was a force of nature. I admire her even more after reading this book.

A Poetic Moment

In recognition of National Poetry Month, I perused my mother’s 7th grade poetry book that she never returned to the nuns in 1943. She clearly loved the tattered brown volume filled with her notes and dog-eared pages.

This poem reminds us how a simple moment can remain in our memory for a lifetime. It’s the premise of my essay collection titled Musing Off the Mat – memories and everyday moments.

Memory

My mind lets go a thousand things,
Like dates of wars and deaths of kings,
And yet recalls the very hour —
‘Twas noon by yonder village tower,
And on the last blue noon in May —
The wind came briskly up this way,
Crisping the brook beside the road;
Then, pausing here, set down its load
Of pine-scents, and shook listlessly
Two petals from that wild-rose tree.

                                              – Thomas Bailey Aldrich

Take time to read poetry. It will comfort you.

Favorite Books of 2017

Here’s a list of memorable books I read this year. Maybe you’ll enjoy one or two.

Fiction

Mercury by Margot Livesey – if you love horses and family drama
The Woman on the Stairs by Bernhard Schlink – if you appreciate art and intrigue
A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline – if you appreciate art and the Maine coast
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman – if you’re patient and like quirky characters

If you’re wondering what really happened and who’s involved:
The Dinner
by Herman Koch
The Couple Next Door by Shari LaPena
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

South of Broad by Pat Conroy – for fans of Conroy, his characters, and Charleston
The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve – one of Shreve’s better novels with a strong female protagonist
Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford – historical fiction set among 1909 Seattle World’s Fair
The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman – endearing story about unlikely relationships

Nonfiction

Rosemary by Kate Clifford Larson – eye-opening story about the hidden Kennedy daughter
Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance – growing up poor in the Rust Belt
Ma Speaks Up by Marianne Leone – if you relate to the loving and demonstrative Italian way of life

What book do you recommend?