I've been basking in the pool a lot this summer, reading tons, and collecting two months' worth of recommended reading! Buckle up...there are some doozies!
The Lost Prince by Selden Edwards
I picked up this book when I saw the endorsement by one of my favorites, the late Pat Conroy. Apparently, there's a prequel to this one that's worth reading, but it isn't necessary. I don't want to give things away (it's one of those), but there's a time travel element without being Sci-Fi. Really it's an exploration of how we go about our lives. If we had certainty about the future, would it really alter our course? An interesting thought experiment and a lovely, historic setting (WWI).
American Pastoral by Philip Roth
Have you heard American Pastoral has been made into a movie, set to open this fall? There's another Roth adaptation coming out soon, but the preview for this one hooked me. I thought: this is one I gotta read before seeing the movie.
DUDE. There's a lot to be mined from this one. Set in two time periods, the late 60s and the late 90s, I feel like history has come back around again and it's still applicable right now.
Here's one of my favorite passages:
"You fight your superficiality, your shallowness, so as to try to come at people without unreal expectations, without an overload of bias or hope or arrogance, as untanklike as you can be, sans cannon and machine guns and steel plating half a foot thick; you come at them unmenacingly on your own terms...and yet you never fail to get them wrong. ... The fact remains that getting people right is not what living is all about anyway. It's getting them wrong that is living, getting them wrong and wrong and wrong and then, on careful reconsideration, getting them wrong again. That's how we know we're alive: we're wrong. Maybe the best thing would be to forget being right or wrong about people and just go along for the ride. But if you can do that—well, lucky you."
The Human Stain by Philip Roth
Okay so Philip Roth books aren't exactly super uplifting, at least not the ones I've read so far. But they're important. This is another one set partly in the early part of the 20th century and partly in the 90s, and it's about race. Man oh man. (PS it was made into a movie years ago, starring Nicole Kidman, Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Gary Sinise and a young Wentworth Miller.) Here are three standout passages:
"The man who decides to forge a distinct historical destiny, who sets out to spring the historical lock, and who does so...only to be ensnared by the history he hadn't quite counted on: ...the present moment, the common lot, the current mood, the mind of one's country, the stranglehold of history that is one's own time."
"Simply to make the accusation is to prove it. To hear the allegation is to believe it. No motive for the perpetrator is necessary, no logic or rationale is required. Only a label is required. The label is the motive. The label is the evidence. The label is the logic."
"But the danger with hatred is, once you start in on it, you get a hundred times more than you bargained for. Once you start, you can't stop. I don't know anything harder to control than hating. Easier to kick drinking than to master hate. And that is saying something."
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
This one took me awhile, but not because I was bored or didn't like it. The book is set in WWII, in Germany and France, told through the lens of two young people: a blind French girl and an orphaned German boy. The chapters are short, but the writing is engulfing. If you like historical fiction, particularly WWII era, definitely give this one a shot. It didn't win the Pulitzer Prize for nothin.
The Man Who Couldn't Stop by David Adam
Someone very close to us has severe OCD, and this book was illuminating. For one thing, the cover reveals one main takeaway: OCD isn't about hand washing. It's a thought loop. Sometimes that manifests as hand washing, but there's a lot more to it than that.
The research the author shows, who himself suffers from OCD, proves that there's no such thing as "a little OCD." What there is within all of us though is the capability for a mental slip. Reading this book is key for a compassionate understanding of people with mental illness, particularly severe mental illness.
I highly recommend The Man Who Couldn't stop for getting a better understanding of mental illness.
Every Little Thing by Deidra Riggs
If you're a person of faith, this is a lovely book (by a writer doing important work) that'll help you wade through the uncertainty of discovering and living your purpose. A key passage:
"Why is it that God was so clear in the Bible days and today he seems to be talking to everyone but me? And if I do have an idea about what it is I'm supposed to do in the world for good or for God, how do I know that's not my voice in my head instead of God's voice in my heart? How come I can't hear anything?"
There's a certain type of church speak that can leave some of us feeling like we're missing the boat somehow. In this book, Deidra Riggs cuts through the lingo and gets to the truth: none of us have God figured out, and that doesn't preclude us from living meaningful lives.