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What I'm Reading: August 2008

August 16, 2008 at 2:45 PM

Here are the books I've read and especially admired in recent months, February-July 2008.

  • In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan, nonfiction
  • Why We Teach: Learning, Laughter, Love, and the Power to Transform Livesby Linda Alston, professional
  • The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream by Barack Obama, nonfiction
  • Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama, nonfiction
  • Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott, nonfiction
  • The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson, nonfiction
  • The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin, nonfiction
  • Major: A Black Athlete, a White Era, and the Fight to Be the World's Fastest Human Being by Todd Balf, nonfiction
  • The Sum of Our Days: A Memoir by Isabel Allende, memoir
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, historical fiction
  • The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan, nonfiction
  • The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch with Jefffrey Zaslow, nonfiction
  • My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor, nonfiction
  • The Six Secrets of Change: what the Best Leaders Do to Help Their Organizations Survive and Thrive by Michael Fullan, nonfiction
  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, fiction
  • When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka, fiction
  • Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri, short stories
  • The Mistress of Spices: A Novel by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, fiction
  • Say You're One of Them by Uwen Akpan, short stories

My favorite on this list is The Sum of Our Days by Isabel Allende. I found this exuberant memoir of an unconventional, loving family so compelling that I finished the book in two days. Afterwards, I just wanted to savor it and deliberately waited almost a week before beginning a new book.

Reading as Respite

These past six months and more, I have been immersed in writing a detailed professional development project. The work is the usual combination of demanding, exhausting, and fulfilling. At some point in the day, usually by late afternoon or after dinner, I pick up a book and disappear into the world the author has created. This call-to-read feels as great as my hunger for food, friendship, and love.

In fact, the many books I read continue to sustain me and give me a life beyond work. Beautifully crafted stories, both fiction and nonfiction, satisfy my need for total escape, peace, adventure, knowledge, and entry into a space where anything seems possible. Happily, I also observe reading-as-refuge in my husband Frank and our granddaughters Katie and Brooke. To see them so peacefully lost in a book, hunched over a desk or squished into a soft chair soaking up the rhythms of language and life, shows me that they, too, have captured the magic. I hope reading does the same for you.

Category: My Reading

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