The most recent 20 books I read this year were all non-fiction. I desperately wanted to learn more about people’s lived experiences, and connect to real live stories- after so much social distancing and isolation, I craved the human connection that comes from non-fiction reading and memoirs. My children must have felt this same stirring, because even their books of choice recently tended to be non-fiction. I also focused on black voices, books on racism, and memoirs by women working in men’s fields, members of the LGBTQ community, and other minorities. I am continuing to learn and grow through my reading list.
Here are my latest 20 reads:
- Talking as Fast As I Can, Lauren Graham- I loved the Gilmore Girls, and I wanted to learn more about the star. Turns out, she is a college educated, smart, witty actress and I loved her book.
- Princess Diarist, Carrie Fisher- I am a huge Star Wars Fan, and I grieved the loss of Carrie Fisher, so I decided to read the memoir she wrote just before her death- I found some of it to be rambling, likely a result of her struggles with addiction that ultimately led to hear passing, and yet, it was a sentimental experience to read her words.
- Wishful Drinking, Carrie Fisher- I decided to also read her earlier memoir, and it was raw, witty, and well done.
- Troublemaker, Leah Remini- I was drawn to this memoir because I am always interested in other religions and the impact religion has on people’s lives. Leah writes about her experience as a Scientologist, and it was unbelievable at times. I am glad I read her book.
- Crocodile Vs. Wildebeest, Predator vs. Prey- Somehow, this book because the go-to kid book over the last month. It is a graphic, depressing picture documentation of a Crocodile hunting a Wildebeest, ultimately killing the beast. My kids were drawn to this book almost daily for a month- if that isn’t the most 2020 children’s book they could find… goes with the theme of this unbelievable year.
- The State of Affairs, Esther Perel, This book was in the bargain section of the Audible App, so I decided to check it- I am glad I did. A great look at the complicated nature of relationships and love, a helpful tool in my relationships and my role as a pre-marriage counselor.
- When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi- This memoir is written by a renowned neurosurgeon after he discovers he has incurable cancer. He shares his reflections on living, dying and what it all means. I was moved beyond words by this book- an important look at mortality and how we can all choose to live well in the time we have.
- The Bright Hour, Nina Riggs- I followed up with this memoir written by Nina Riggs as she faces her own terminal diagnosis- partially because I was so interested in the back story. Paul and Nina’s spouses fell in love after these memoirs were published and after they had passed- I loved seeing the parallel perspectives and wrestlings in these two books side by side.
- In Pieces, Sally Field- I am a Sally Field fan, and I found myself interested in the stories of women actresses in this recent reading cycle. I appreciated Sally’s honesty and raw sharing around her experiences with sexism, sexual assault and the challenges of trying to make it as a professional woman in a man’s field… something I relate to, sadly.
- Buddy Books- I made a Buddy Book for each of my kids in this quarantine. 100 pages of pictures featuring them and their friends. My kids have been so isolated in this pandemic, these two buddy books helped them remember the good times they have had with their friends and the memories we’ve made already in their lives- even if we are not adding to them right now- a huge hit, and an important book to remind us of more connected moments.
- Raising Human Beings, Dr. Ross Greene- I try to read a parenting book at least once a quarter, and this book was a perfect pick in July. It is a follow-up book to Greene’s “The Explosive Child”, with broader recommendations for parents of neuro-typical kids. I loved his suggestions about collaboration, communication, and diffusing hard moments.
- You Can’t Touch My Hair, Phoebe Robinson-This was one of my favorite books so far in 2020. Phoebe addresses the systemic racism in our country with humor and grace. I laughed out loud throughout this book, and I came away with a better understanding of how to check my white privilege and advocate for people of color in my life.
- Why Not Me, Mindy Kaling- Another great memoir from another funny comedian woman. Mindy talks about her experience at Dartmouth, working on The Office, and starting her own show- she is honest, humorous and fun to read.
- White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo- This book was a slap in the face- in the BEST possible way. Robin spells out the problematic ways we White folks use our privilege, power and tears to keep racism alive and well in our culture- I learned so much and realized I still have so much to learn.
- 38 Birthday Book- My beloved Andrew put together a book for me for my 38th Birthday with love letters from 43 different friends, family, mentors and congregants- in one of the nicest, biggest and most grand gestures I have ever received. The book is filled with pictures, affirmations and words of encouragement from people who have supported me throughout my life. I have been feeling down and discouraged in the past 6 months- and this book lifted me up. Thank you to those who contributed, my cup overflows.
- I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness, Austin Channing Brown- In my continued quest to learn about racism and my own role in it, I loved reading the wisdom and experience of Austin. She explores her own encounters with racism and shares wisdom about how we can all work to change the system.
- Be The Bridge: Pursuing God’s Heart for Racial Reconciliation, Latasha Morrison- This was an amazing resource filled with prayers, resources, discussion questions and raw reflections from Latasha, the author. I appreciated the spiritual perspective she brought to the discussion of racism in our community. I hope to bring this to my book club.
- Me and White Supremacy, Layla Saad- This was a 28 day experience of looking at my own racism and going through exercises and questions to really understand the roots of white privilege and how we can work to change. Another great book and great resource for church leaders.
- The Rainbow Comes and Goes, Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt- This was a collection of letters and conversations between Anderson Cooper and his mom, Gloria Vanderbilt. They wanted to say what needed to be said and process through the tragedies and triumphs of their family and their lives before it was too late- I loved it.
- Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau- my kids love this book right now. Felix is learning to swim and hold his breath, and he loves to hear the story of the person who invented the ‘aqualung’, or, the ability to scuba dive. There is an important environmental message in this work as well. High on our list.
After all the non-fiction and antiracism reading of this quarter, my head and heart are full. I am taking some vacation days in August, and I plan to turn to fiction for the next 20- I’m ready to imagine again and get lost in good literature.