The gift of a good book just can’t be underestimated! Here are some of my favorite reads, and tops on my must-read list. (And, don’t worry, NV’s children and young adult picks are coming out soon.) But isn’t it important to treat ourselves during the holidays, too? I think of it like oxygen on the airplane. You have to first breathe into your own emergency oxygen container before securing one onto your child, right? Similarly, don’t forget to put yourself on your holiday list with one of these inexpensive splurges. So, while you’re buying Santa’s gifts for your cherubs, pick up one of these for yourself! Think of it as momma’s indulgence: put the kiddos in bed, snuggle with a blanket, drink some coco (or other beverage) and drift far, far away.
1. Heft, a novel, by Liz Moore
Why I love this book: It’s remarkable when an author can make you feel compassion for extremely flawed characters. We come to see the morbidly obese ex-professor as the beautiful person that he is. Tragically caged by his mind and his habits in his house—we begin to see that he is one of the thoughtful, kind, compassionate souls the world needs more of. The depressed, alcoholic mother and her baseball fanatic son become people of worth. The co-dependent son is wise before his years. He doesn’t realize his true strength and courage may be off the baseball field. His mother, fighting lupus and addictions, has a kindness tangled beneath her depression, pain and booze. The young pregnant maid without a college degree, we come to see as courageous and street-smart. They all have gifts that would be rarely recognized in the real world or through our lens coated with societal constraints and judgements. Any book that can open our hearts and make us re-evaluate quick, stereotypical thinking, is high on my list. It’s a great read for teens and adults.
2. Ladder of Years, by Anne Tyler
I have read every book by Anne Tyler, and could easily recommend her latest or one of my other favorites by the Baltimore-based author—such as Back When We Were Grownups and Breathing Lessons. But this particular book is a great one for single moms, or any of us who have stayed the course in our lives and with our families, but sometimes fantasize catapulting a way out—even if just for a brief period.
Married with three almost-grown children, Delia Grinstead leaves her family’s beach house for an errand. Her bags aren’t packed, her next move not pre-meditated, but she just keeps going. It’s as if her feeling of liberation moves her forward and her mind must catch up later. She settles into a new life, that most would not find that exciting, but it is her own. She is in control of her life, her decisions and her time—and she is no longer reminded daily of how she is taken for granted. Oddly, even though most of us would never make this choice, it’s hard not to like this character and feel some understanding for her bizarre, steadfast “crack” that pushed her forward and onward—leaving her older children with her husband.
3. Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand
This remarkable example of the healing power of forgiveness tops my ‘must read list.’ I first saw an interview with Louis Zamperini, the champion of Unbroken, on CBS Sunday Morning Memorial Day weekend. (Watch the clip here, it’s worth it!) I’ve been meaning to read this book ever since, as I know that holding on to your pain, grudges and toxic memories only hurts you. Forgiving those who have hurt you, frees you to live a joyous life. It’s easy to say, very hard to do. So hopefully, Unbroken will be in Santa’s bag for me!
If you haven’t heard about this book, it’s about the life of Louis Zamperini, a young Olympian runner who was shot down in the Pacific near Japan during WWII. Imprisoned in a brutal camp for two years, Zamperini endured horrific torture and starvation. His story, written by Hillenbrand, shows how he managed to turn away from abusing alcohol to numb his post-traumatic stress and nightmares—to a lifetime of forgiveness—even forgiving the sadistic camp director. Just amazing.
4. Super Brain, by Deepak Chopra, M.D. & Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D.
I got inspired to read my first Chopra book after doing his 21 Day Meditation Challenge. During the challenge, I had a few ‘aha moments’. One, is that hearing “you are a transplendent being” or “worthy of love” every day—makes you believe it. And, finally, focussing on your inner beauty, strength and kindness helps you realize that you deserve health, love and abundance in your life.
Intellectually, you may think that you deserve these things, but emotionally, you may hold different beliefs—even those not spoken. Perhaps neglect or abuse from childhood, abuse during marriage, or other toxic memories have made you feel lesser than. This book explains how to harness your mind to overcome these issues, control your thoughts, and lessen anxiety to live a more joyful life.
As a good friend said to me: “If you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”
5. The Casual Vacancy, by J.K. Rowling
This is on my “must-read list” and I’m happy to report that one of my son’s “bought” this for my Christmas present today! I can’t wait to read J.K.’s latest just for pure escapism during the holidays. As a former London resident, I’ve developed a fondness for quaint English villages and the quirky, gossipy residents who typically live there. I can’t wait to indulge in this book that follows the aftermath of a young man’s death and how the families in this idyllic village don’t lead such idyllic lives.
So tell me, what’s on your list?