August 9! It’s Book Lovers Day!
How and Why I Love Reading
To gear up for BLD I wrote about what got me started loving books. There’s a bit of a gap between then and now, but this is what I’m loving to read now. It’s quite an eclectic range. There’s 11 of ’em, so read on. From memoir with a political tone, to a non-fiction exploration of how we care, or don’t care for the aging populating in the United States, to inspiration from Eleanor Roosevelt, to a current food plan book about Whole30.
Part of why I love reading books is for “where” they can take me. I also relish the connections and memories that stories stir in me. I know I’m enjoying a book when I think, ”This reminds me of….”
The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt
I got this on Kindle after watching the Ken Burns series on the Roosevelts. A lonely childhood with a definite absence of warm family fuzzies. From where did she get her resilience? What instilled this sense of integrity? I’m finding out.
Cowgirls: Women of the American West by Teresa Jordan
After our early summer trip down to the Chiracahuas and a recent visual treat through the Phippen Museum up in Prescott, I pulled out Teresa Jordan’s Cowgirls: Women of the American West. Ms. Jordan is a prolific writer and part of a fourth generation of ranchers. Her bio alone reads like a pretty active story. The almost thirty Western cowgirl stories she has researched and compiled are vivid, exciting, and inspiring. These were and are strong women. What a great read!
Elderhood: Redefining Aging by Louise Aronson
For years, “old” was always ten or fifteen years older than I was. When I hit seventy some undeniable signs had me sliding into the category of “those people are really getting old.” Those people now include me. But I cringe when I hear folks say, “Well, I’m getting old and I can’t ____, or ____, or _____.” Fill in any number of activities someone thinks they have to give up because they are “old.” Maybe I won’t go skydiving now but it’s because I’m scared, not old.
Elderhood is helping me accept that yes, I am getting older, and old is not a synonym for “infirm.” It means relishing my accrued life experiences. I am becoming an elder in my family, my community, and my society. I am sharing experiences and being grateful that I’m enjoying my eighth decade of life. Childhood, adulthood, elderhood. All part of the progression of life.
In the Mystery’s Shadow: Reflections on Caring for the Elderly and Dying by Susan Swetnam
With decades of cultural training and often horror stories of mismanaged health care for the elderly, who would want to read about caring for the elderly? Add to that, the cultural perpetuation of death being a top fear along with taxes and public speaking, and this book’s title sounds like it could be a tough read. But for anyone who has loved, cared about, or cared for someone who is aging and declining, the author brings comfort, hope, and a sense of wonder at the opportunity to be a part of the connection with people who may be, as my friend says, “On the down side of the mountain.”
As I read this book, it brings back bittersweet memories of caring for, visiting with, laughing with, crying with, and coming to respect and adore my aging mother. I see the last five years of her life that I spent with my mother as a gift. Reading this book links similar experiences with my father, my brothers-in-law, and my stepdaughter, and eases my mind about their final journeys.
A Fighting Chance by Elizabeth Warren
Is Elizabeth Warren this decade’s champion or is she pushing too hard? Reading her 2014 memoir may provide grist for the mill. Her memoir combines a readable mix for me of biography and politics.
The Lido by Libby Page
This was recommended to me by my older sister. The Lido tells the story of a friendship between an octogenarian and a twenty-something reporter. Two very different generations. I keep pausing my reading because scenes in the book remind me of the friendships I’ve had that have crossed generations, as the two main characters in this charming book do.
Of course, the friendship that developed between my mother and me in the last years of her life is at the forefront.
I also had the privilege of befriending senior writers, not a few who were nearing or at the century mark. I was “teaching” them about the writing process. They taught me about dignity, resourcefulness, resistance, and resilience.
A “chance” meeting at a Habitat for Humanity outing with a local artist when I was in my forties and he was moving towards eighty was a gift to us both. We both, for our own reasons, knew next to nothing about building a house, but the organizer put a caulking gun in my hand and extra tubes of caulk in Marc’s. We worked our way through each room of the newly-built house, and over the next decade shared our life stories and friendship.
Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn. My bedside reading table go-to for remembering simplicity, the ideas of walking or standing as a meditation. Keeping it simple.
What a Writer Needs by Ralph Fletcher. This book was first introduced to me when I was teaching writing process to second graders. Thanks to a recent visit with my friend Bryn, I stayed in her guest room which has one whole wall filled with books. And there they were. Books about writing, emerging writers, and beginning readers that brought back fruitful lessons and the writing celebrations we had in the classroom. Most of all was the excitement of giving young children the belief that they were the bosses of their writing. And I was the boss of my writing. Fletcher’s book is timeless. More than twenty years later, it still works.
Whole30 by Melissa Hartwig and Dallas Hartwig. I first followed this food plan in 2015 and lost 15 pounds. That felt great. Four years later my motivation is to reclaim the energy that had been depleted over the last two years of stress, loss, and foolishly putting some issues before my health. Whole30 does work. On June 1, 2019 my husband and I committed to thirty days. Having him join me in this commitment earned him a renewal of his National Treasure title. I have kicked the sugar craving, lost weight, and have incredible energy. The very astounding thing is I have discovered I can not only prepare nutritious meals, but can experiment and create new combinations of foods that taste really terrific.
A Small Toot of My Own Horn
And finally… Remember the quote by Toni Morrison? “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” So I’m also rereading two of my favorites, Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships.
Contact me if you’ve read any of these. Let me know what you think.
Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. She also enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Tucson Tellers of Tales, and just about anywhere there’s a mic.