Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Snow Day / Reading Day!

I can’t believe how long it has been since I updated this blog.  But today I’m stuck at home in the midst of a snowpocalypse and started thinking about what I’ve been reading lately.  So here is a recap:

Tinkers by Paul Harding.  This small novel won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction last year.  I started it last September, taking it along to read in the waiting room on the day I went to get my yearly mammogram.  When I discovered it was about a man who is dying, I decided it wasn’t something I really wanted to read at a cancer screening center so I put it aside.  I didn’t pick it up again until a few weeks ago and found myself reading it with the sole purpose of finishing it.  ‘nuff said?

The Gifts of Imperfection: Letting go of who you think you’re Supposed to be and embrace who you are, by Brene Brown.   I’m not much into self-help books and this one, I know, reeks of self-helpism.  But Brene Brown gave a lovely speech at TED about her struggle to understand that vulnerability is essential for wholehearted living and I thought “I’d like to read one of her books!”.   So I did.  And for what it is I really enjoyed it.  It isn’t a self-help book in the sense that it doesn’t tell the reader to do any one thing, she talks much about her own struggle to realize her authentic self. 

"I try to make authenticity my number one goal when I go into a situation where I'm feeling vulnerable.  If authenticity is my goal and I keep it real, I never regret it.  I might get my feelings hurt, but I rarely feel shame.  When acceptance or approval becomes my goal, and it doesn't work out, that can trigger shame for me: "I'm not good enough.  If the goal is authenticity and they don't like me, I'm okay.  If the goal is being liked and they don't like me, I'm in trouble.  I get going by making authenticity the priority."

As someone who has had lifelong struggles with self-esteem, I found many of her ideas very useful.

A Short History of Women by Kate Walbert.   I enjoyed this story of multi-generations of women, most of whom are confusingly named Dorothy.  The first Dorothy starved herself to death in the fight to give women the vote in Britain.  A later Dorothy engages in civil disobedience in modern day Delaware.  All of the women are trying to find their own place in their worlds.  Walbert crammed a lot of ideas in a small book in which the story is not told chronologically but moves back and forth between the generations.

The Book of Joe by Jonathan Tropper.   Joe left his hometown behind, shook the dust off his feet and wrote a best-selling novel based on fictitious versions of town characters which was made into a moderately successful movie (starring Leo DiCaprio).  But now Joe’s father is dying and he must return and face the wrath of the townspeople who feel ill-used.   It is a good premise.  Reviews said it was funny.  My book group agreed that was false advertising.  We thought it was sad and we thought Joe was an asshole,  In fact, Joe agrees that he is an asshole. But you know what?  Admitting that you are an asshole doesn’t really make you NOT an asshole.  I suspect that men would like this book more than women.

I’m currently working on Alan Taylor’s The Divided Ground: Indians, Settlers, and the Northern Borderland of the American Revolution and Patti Smith’s Just Kids.