Each month my goal is to read five books on a variety of topics and from different genres. Here are the books I read in February 2023. If you click on the title, you’ll go to the longer post on More to Come. Enjoy.
The Half Known Life: In Search of Paradise (2023) by Pico Iyer is both an external odyssey and an internal journey to paradise. In a series of memorable essays, Iyer takes the reader from “the wrathful Old Testament landscape of Broome, Australia,” and the mosques and gardens of Iran to the lakes of Kashmir and the Hindu holy city of Varanasi. In each he leads the reader with skillful and expressive descriptions of the physical places. But he also calls upon a rich array of literature to flesh out the meaning of these shrines while examining the conflicts — open and hidden — often found there. Paradise on earth is a paradox. Often located in unimaginably beautiful landscapes or containing great holy shrines, these cities and sites have also seen incalculable suffering. Perhaps that’s because we are looking in the wrong places, Iyer reminds us. In the words of Franciscan priest Richard Rohr: “Our goal in life is not to become more spiritual, but to become human.”
Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals (2021) by Oliver Burkeman begins with the simple fact that we won’t live forever; 4,000 weeks, in fact, if we make it to 80. We all know this intellectually, but we buy into productivity gurus who push us to make almost infinitely ambitious plans. We are frenetically doing tasks instead of experiencing the wonder of life that is all around us. Burkeman, the self-described “recovering productivity geek”, reminds us of the truth behind the paradox of limitations: the more one confronts the facts of our limits — and works with them, rather than against them — the more productive, meaningful, and joyful life becomes. Things just take the time they take. The sooner we accept that fact and admit that the level of control demanded by the efficiency experts will never be attained, the sooner we can live the only life we have more fully.
A Long Way from Iowa: From the Heartland to the Heart of France (2023) by Janet Hulstrand is a delightful memoir where the author takes us from her grandmother’s hometown in Iowa to her current home in the French countryside. Janet is a long-time friend whose adventures include working as Caroline Kennedy’s editorial assistant and living in a gypsy caravan outside Paris. We learn much about Janet’s journey, including the complicated relationship with the two women who fueled her love for learning, exploration, and writing. In my blog post, I interview Janet about this testament to family and the writing life. A Long Way from Iowa will interest those who seek to understand the people and places that shape the path they choose.
Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch (1991) by Eileen Spinelli is — to put it simply — the best Valentine’s Day book ever. Mr. Hatch is the loneliest man in town. He would leave his brick house at 6:30 sharp every morning to walk to the shoelace factory, where he worked. At lunchtime he would sit alone in the corner, eating his cheese and mustard sandwich and drinking a cup of coffee. Sometimes he brought a prune for dessert. But one Valentine’s Day Mr. Hatch discovers that he has a secret admirer. By book’s end, Mr. Hatch learns who loves him. And it is more wonderful than he ever imagined.
Dead Man’s Folly (1956) by Agatha Christie is a mystery where no one is quite what they seem. The owners of an estate in Devon are hosting a charity fete for the local village. They decide to stage a mock murder for their guests and ask the famous crime writer, Ariadne Oliver, to organize the hunt. After developing the plot and clues, Mrs. Oliver calls her old friend, the world-renowned, mustachioed Belgian private detective Hercule Poirot, and asks him to join her for the party. Without a full understanding of the request, the self-proclaimed “greatest detective in the world” nonetheless accepts her invitation and arrives by train, where he learns that his friend feels something sinister is afoot. Her suspicions are confirmed on the day of the party when they find the young village woman who had been tapped as the victim in the drama actually murdered and lying in the boathouse — just as Mrs. Oliver’s plot had outlined. And that’s only the beginning of the puzzle!
More to come…
NOTE: Click on the month to see the books I read in January. Also check out my Ten tips for reading five books a month.
This Weekly Reader features links to recent articles, blog posts, or books that grabbed my interest or tickled my fancy. I hope you find something that makes you laugh, think, or cry.
Photo by Pavan Trikutam on Unsplash
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