15 Books that Entertained, Educated, or Changed Me in 2018

Books can entertain, educate, or even change one’s thinking.

When I looked back over the list of the 56 books I read in 2018, I was amazed at the variety and the things I learned. I learned some history while I was entertained, and I hope I learned something about writing. Several of the books changed my thinking. You can’t ask a book to give you more than that.

The books that entertained, educated, or changed me or my thinking in 2018 are listed here in alphabetical order by author.

Fascism:  A Warning, by Madeleine Korbel Albright

The Taster, by V.S. Alexander

The Atomic City Girls, by Janet Beard

White Chrysanthemum, by Mary Lynn Bracht

Climbing Over Grit, by Laleh Chini and Abnoos Mosleh-Shirazi

Another Ocean to Cross, by Ann Griffin

Sea Prayer, by Khaled Hosseini

The Tattooist of Auschwitz, by Heather Morris

A Bigger Table:  Building Messy, Authentic, and Hopeful Spiritual Community, by John Pavlovitz

Fighting to Win:  Samurai Techniques For Your Work and Life, by David J. Rogers

The Broken Girls, by Simone St. James

Undaunted:  Surviving Jonestown, Summoning Courage, and Fighting Back, by Jackie Speier

The Death of Mrs. Westaway, by Ruth Ware

Educated:  A Memoir, by Tara Westover

Before We Were Yours, by Lisa Wingate

Since my December 17, 2018 blog post

My December 17, 2018 blog post was more than a bit pessimistic. The title described my current dilemma:  https://janetswritingblog.com/2018/12/17/to-write-or-not-to-write/.

I have heard from a number of you since then. You have offered encouragement and helped prop me up. Knowing I have blog readers in quite a few countries from around the world in addition to those in the US who cared enough to take time to leave comments has boosted my morale and helped me to determine that I must continue to work on that historical novel I’ve worked on off and on for a decade.

Even if there are days I can only write for 15 minutes, then that’s what I’ll do in 2019. Slowly but surely, I will finish writing that book!

For those of you who read my blog from last Monday, https://janetswritingblog.com/2018/12/24/do-you-believe-in-miracles/, I hope you were moved by this real life story from 40 years ago.

Until my next blog post

At Home on the Kazakh Steppe: A Peace Corps Memoir, by Janet Givens

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading At Home on the Kazakh Steppe:  A Peace Corps Memoir, by Janet Givens. I’m thoroughly enjoying it. You can check out her website at https://janetgivens.com/.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog. I appreciate it and I welcome your comments.

Let’s continue the conversation.

What are some of the books that educated you or changed your life or your thinking?

Happy New Year!

Janet

Fiction & Nonfiction Read in September 2018

I read an interesting mix of books in September. I thought about just blogging about the novels I read but decided to include the nonfiction books, too.

The Death of Mrs. Westaway, by Ruth Ware

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The Death of Mrs. Westaway, by Ruth Ware

This book really kept me guessing! Harriet “Hal” receives a letter requesting her attendance at the funeral and reading of the will of her grandmother. Or is Mrs. Westaway her grandmother? Hal’s mother is dead, so she can’t ask her. Or was the woman who raised Hal really her mother?

Hal has never heard of Mrs. Westaway, but she could really use some inheritance money. Off she goes to meet this family she’s never known to try to be their long-lost relative long enough to grab her inheritance and run. That’s just the beginning. Sound like a novel you’d enjoy?

Ruth Ware is also the author of The Woman in Cabin 10, which I read last year and blogged about on October 4, 2016:  What I read in September.

 

The President is Missing, by Bill Clinton and James Patterson

The President is Missing
The President is Missing, by Bill Clinton and James Patterson

Right off the bat, I’ll say I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I’d never read a book by James Patterson, so I thought this one would be a good first selection. It did not disappoint.

The premise of the book turned out not to be what I was expecting. The book kept me on the edge of my seat – which isn’t easy for a 500+ page book. Since I am technologically challenged, the story grabbed me by the throat and wouldn’t let me go. I’m not going to ask anyone how plausible the story line is because I’d just as soon not know the answer. If it’s possible, there’s nothing I can do to stop it.

If you enjoy a thriller with non-stop action, you’ll like The President is Missing. If you aren’t a fan of former US President Bill Clinton, do yourself a favor. Forget he was the co-author and enjoy the book.

 

Women, Food and God:  An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything, by Geneen Roth

Women, Food and God
Women, Food and God, by Geneen Roth

I went into this book not knowing what to expect. Now that I’ve read it — well, more than half of it, — I don’t know what to say.

Don’t quote me on this, but I think the takeaway I was supposed to get is that it’s not about the food. If you over eat it’s because you’re trying to fill a void in your life. The deeper the book got into meditation and analyzing yourself, the more my mind drifted to other things. Things like, “What’s for supper?”

One thing I found in the book more than once was the recommendation to only eat when you’re hungry and to eat what you want to eat. I have tried to be more cognizant of eating when I’m hungry and not just because the clock tells me it’s time to eat.

If you’ve read the book, I’m interested in knowing what you thought of it. Maybe I missed something critical and life changing.

 

The Harvard Medical School Guide to A Good Night’s Sleep, by Lawrence Epstein, M.D. with Steven Mardon

Harvard Medical School Guide to a Good Night's Sleep
The Harvard Medical School Guide to A Good Night’s Sleep, by Lawrence Epstein, M.D. with Steven Mardon

I see you rolling your eyes. You’re saying, “You’ve got to be kidding!” I’m not kidding. I read the book. It includes many recommendations, depending on what your sleep problem is. There were five categories. The problem was that I checked off three.

That led to some confusion over which path I should follow to help with my sleep. For instance, for one of my problems it recommends that I stay on a daily schedule, including eating meals at the same time every day. So much for Ms. Roth’s recommendation to only eat when I’m hungry!

I have instituted some of the general sleep hygiene guidelines. One recommendation is to cover all the lights from electronic equipment in the bedroom. I now have a box over the light on my TV converter box, a dark blue washcloth over my clock radio, and business cards propped up over the green light on the side of my hearing aid Dry & Store.

I’m doing better about going to bed at a regular time. I no longer watch TV in bed. (The box over the converter box helped take care of that!) I listen to soft instrumental music when I go to bed. I try not to look at a computer screen for two hours before I go to bed. I try not to eat anything for two hours before bed.

After following these basic guidelines for a few weeks, I will probably have to see a sleep coach for additional instructions. With chronic fatigue syndrome, my circadian rhythm is off by four to six hours. After dealing with this for 31 years, I’m tired fighting it, and I don’t know what a sleep specialist can do about it. Time and a few appointments with a sleep coach will tell.

 

Snap, by Belinda Bauer

I read the first four or five chapters of this thriller before I had to return it to the public library. The first three chapters really had my attention. Then, it took a turn and I wondered if I’d missed something.

I’m interested enough in the characters to try to read it again. Have you read it? What did you think about it?

Since my last blog post

I’ve been following the United States Senate Judiciary Committee hearings about the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh for appointment to the United States Supreme Court. The political science student in me just can’t help herself. The hearings became quite explosive on Thursday and Friday. This promises to be another interesting week. I’m seriously considering not looking at Facebook again until the current crisis ends.

I’m trying to follow the news of the recovery after Hurricane Florence in eastern North Carolina and South Carolina, but the news is getting more difficult to access as politics and other topics are taking the spotlight.

Sample Carolina Hurricane Quilt Blocks
Sample Carolina Hurricane Quilt Blocks FromMyCarolinaHome.com

If you sew or quilt, a blogger I follow has launched a project to make quilts for the people affected by Hurricane Florence. If you’re interested or know someone who might be, you can learn about the project at https://frommycarolinahome.com/2018/09/26/carolina-hurricane-quilts/. Links to instructions and all the information you need can be found on Carole’s blog. I plan to try to make a few blocks to contribute to the project.

The news reports and photographs of the tsunami in Indonesia over the weekend are heart wrenching.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading The Tattooist of Auschwitz, by Heather Morris. It’s based on a true story.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog. I appreciate it! I welcome your comments.

Let’s continue the conversation. Have you read any of the books I mentioned in today’s blog post?

Janet

Two Thought-Provoking Books in August

August was a month for me to finish several books I had checked out earlier but not had time to finish reading before their library due dates. I finished reading two of them. Not a huge number in the scheme of things, but I really enjoyed both of them and was glad to check off a couple of books that have been on my Want to Read list for a long time.

Fascism:  A Warning, by Madeleine Albright

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Fascism: A Warning, by Madeleine Albright

I sort of put myself in a jam by telling my blog readers in May that I was reading Fascism:  A Warning, by Madeleine Albright. Then, I mentioned again in July that I was reading it. Alas, I didn’t finish reading it in July. It’s not a fast read because it delves into such a serious and timely subject. In July, I described the book as being “chilling.” That’s still the best word I can think of to sum up how the book made me feel.

I wish Madeleine Albright had written my history textbooks. Her command of history coupled with a very readable writing style combine to make this an unsettling read.

If your political leanings are to the far right, you probably won’t want to read this book. I hope that won’t deter you, though. Read it with an open mind and your eyes might be opened to see some indicators in today’s America that will give you pause.

Ms. Albright seamlessly gives the history of Fascists and would-be Fascists throughout the world in the 20th century and up to the present day. The facts just flow through her words. That said, though, it was a slow read for me. The book is packed with history. Many of the details she includes were unknown to me. I read and reread chapters. She addresses the economic and political factors that create an incubator for Fascist movements.

I’ll share four quotes from the book here.

“Consider that, of the people celebrating their sixteenth birthday this year, almost nine in ten will do so in a country with a below-average standard of living.” ~ from Fascism:  A Warning, by Madeleine Albright

“In a true democracy, leaders respect the will of the majority but also the rights of the minority – one without the other is not enough.” ~ from Fascism:  A Warning, by Madeleine Albright

 “Good guys don’t always win, especially when they are divided and less determined than their adversaries. The desire for liberty may be ingrained in every human breast, but so is the potential for complacency, confusion, and cowardice.” ~ from Fascism:  A Warning, by Madeleine Albright

“This generosity of spirit – this caring about others and about the proposition that we are all created equal – is the single most effective antidote to the self-centered moral numbness that allows Fascism to thrive.” ~ from Fascism:  A Warning, by Madeleine Albright

A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles

AGentlemanInMoscow
A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles

I started reading A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles last October! It’s a wonderful book, so I’m at a loss to explain why I didn’t finish reading it until last month. I think I indicated in an earlier blog that I just couldn’t “get into it.” That comment brought at least one reply of surprise. It boiled down to, “How can anyone not like this book?”

I agree with that sentiment now. It is a wonderful novel, charmingly-, humorously-, and delightfully-written while giving the flavor of Russia in the years after the Bolshevik Revolution. It is about a Russian Count who is put under house arrest at the Metropol Hotel in Moscow and how he makes the best of his situation. He befriends a young girl who shows him all the nooks and crannies in the hotel. He eventually got a job in the hotel’s restaurant after it came to light that he knew wines and could be of use in the restaurant.

The book follows Count Rostov’s life into the 1950s. When he first moved into the attic of the grand Metropol Hotel right after the Bolshevik Revolution, he determined to make the best of his situation. He could not imagine the life he would have or the people who would come into his life there over the next decades.

My description doesn’t begin to do justice to A Gentleman in Moscow, so I recommend that you read it. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.

Since my last blog post

I’ve received many comments on last Monday’s blog post. Thank you for the conversation! Sadly, I did not get back to work on my historical novel. Too many interests are pulling me in too many directions!

Until my next blog post

I need to increase my time on social media, since I’ve essentially ignored my social media plan for Twitter and Pinterest for several weeks. I also plan to make time to work on genealogy.

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m almost through reading The Death of Mrs. Westover, by Ruth Ware, and I’m reading The President is Missing, by Bill Clinton and James Patterson.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog. I appreciate it! I welcome your comments

I invite your comments below. Have you read Fascism: A Warning or A Gentleman in Moscow? Share your thoughts. Have you read any good books lately?

Let’s continue the conversation.

Janet

Save Us From Ourselves

The Midnight Cool, by Lydia Peelle was one of the novels I read last July. My impressions of the book can be found in my August 8, 2017 blog post, Late July Reading.

I wrote down the following quote from the book in my writer’s notebook. The words were written in the context of temperance in an earlier time in US history; however, in light of the events of the last year and a half, I believe it is apropos to the state we Americans find ourselves in politically in 2018.

“Says right here — he pointed to the paper — ‘I’ve learned that the inalienable truth of America is that its people sometimes must be saved from themselves.'” ~ The Midnight Cool, by Lydia Peelle

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The Midnight Cool, by Lydia Peelle

You may disagree with me, but I am very concerned about the way things are going in my country. I never intended this blog to be a political platform but if I don’t speak out, I’m part of the problem.

I see facts being ignored, lies being normalized, science denigrated to the sidelines, journalists being shut out of events, children of refugees being separated from their parents with no forethought given for their reunification, our allies being insulted while enemies are being embraced, our justice system under constant attack, and now we’ve been told by the United States president not to believe what we see with our own eyes or hear with our own ears.

Freedom of the press and freedom of speech are bedrock principles upon which our country was founded. They are under attack from within our country and from outside sources. Freedom of speech allows me to write this blog and express my views.

I have faith in the goodness and the sense of fairness possessed by the majority of Americans. I believe good will ultimately overcome evil, but it won’t be easy.

Since my last blog post

I saw some relatives I hadn’t seen in a long time. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, a second cousin I’ve never met has located me and we look forward to getting acquainted.

With summer half over, I finally got around to doing some “spring cleaning.”

I wonder where May, June, and July went. The warm months are flying by!

Until my next blog post

I hope to visit a bookstore that is under new management since I first called on the owner after the publication of my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Support your local independent bookstore!

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading The Death of Mrs. Westaway, by Ruth Ware. After reading her novel, The Woman in Cabin 10 two years ago, I wanted to read her next book.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog. I appreciate it! I welcome your comments.

Janet