The season of giving is upon us, and a thoughtful book could be the best gift for yourself or others! Even if you’ve already stocked up on gifts, consider adding one or two more for a friend or loved one. Or start a new tradition, with a New Year’s gift! These are all books that have deepened my understanding and enriched my life in the past year. So, curl up with a fleece blanket, enjoy a cup of tea or hot chocolate, and start your journey!
TO START: SOME HISTORICAL FICTION WITH PRESENT DAY IMPLICATIONS
The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
This beautiful and tough story was truly epic. It is one of Kristin Hannah’s finest works. It meets our present moment of climate change and political crisis by bringing history to life. It was inspired by the memoirs of women who were Dust Bowl refugees during the Great Depression. Often forgotten by history, they fought devastating losses and persisted to save their families. I particularly liked the mother/daughter themes. These women’s strength reminds us of how resilient we can be as we work for a better future. (Note: It was amazing as an audiobook!)
NEXT: UNDERSTANDING LIVED EXPERIENCES OF INEQUALITY AND OTHER FORCES THAT AFFECT OUR COLLECTIVE HEALTH AND WELL-BEING
Amity & Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America by Eliza Griswold
This book helped me to better understand how environmental degradation drives poor health outcomes and societal divisions. It is the story of a courageous woman who fought the powerful oil and gas companies to save her children and her community from the dangers of fracking. It was truly inspiring.
I found myself captivated by the narratives of the two cohorts of high school seniors who were navigating the challenges of their lives in opposite corners of Los Angeles. Despite the obvious inequality in their circumstances, their stories were striking because of their shared humanity.
CONTINUING ON: FINDING MEANING IN LIFE’S JOURNEY
Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted by Suleika Jaouad
Suleika Jaouad’s memoir of her difficult battle with cancer was at once profoundly beautiful, moving, and hard. Her persistence through her journey to return to health informs any of us who have had to travel through tough times. She shows us how to learn to live with uncertainty and begin to accept that we may never fully get to the other side.
These Precious Days by Ann Patchett
This memoir-like series of essays from Ann Patchett is a wonderful blend of humorous and poignant moments. It is a reflection on what shapes our lives and makes them meaningful before and during the era of Covid. She opens herself up to her readers and shares her vulnerability, which makes her insights very relatable. I loved her authenticity!
AND LAST, BUT NOT LEAST, SOME HUMOR!
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
It’s hard to comprehend the distance Trevor Noah has traveled from his South African childhood to where he is today. In a series of remarkable accounts, Noah shares stories that range from being funny to poignant to outrageous. He seems to take most of it in stride, though his feelings of horror and shame during some of his most difficult times occasionally emerge. This is well worth the listen if you like audiobooks, particularly because it is read by Noah himself. I am grateful that he shared so much of his personal history and his perspective on life. He will broaden your world view!
As I’ve noted before, each book I share in my reading lists has had a great impact on me. If any of my suggested reads has also impacted you, or if you have a recommendation for a book that you think should make my next list, feel free to share with me – thank you!