Stack of Books

Books for Gift Giving

Tracey Columns

When I sit down to write this column every week, my intention is to be as objective as I possibly can. It’s a trait I try to carry though many aspects of my life.

But I’m human … so get comfortable and settle in for a completely biased bit of rambling!

If you put me on a desert island, the thing that might actually do me in would be the lack of books to read! Okay, food and water might be higher on the list of essentials but trust me, not by much.

It’s fascinates me how individual tastes are so completely varied when it comes to reading material. This, of course, is great news for our culture. A population who takes the time to sit down and devour a book seems like a culture that will endure.

With the holiday just around the corner, and gift giving on my mind, I looked at what my bookshelves held from the last few months. Here are a few of my favorites. You’ll quickly see what I meant about “individual” tastes in reading material.

Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown, is the compelling story of nine college Americans and their quest for the gold medal at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. I could not put this book down! Brown has written a beautifully descriptive narrative full of personal challenge and triumph. It has to be good writing when, even though I knew how the story ended, I was cheering these young men on page after page. Set against the backdrop of social and economic struggle, coupled with political unrest, and you have a commanding literary journey.

Her Beautiful Brain, a memoir by Ann Hedreen, was a book that sat un-opened on my nightstand for awhile. It struck too close to home. But when I finally braved the pages, what I found was a thoughtfully written memoir chronicling the journey Hedreen and her family take when her mother is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Trust me, it’s worth your time to get to know this family.

The Grace in Aging, by Kathleen Dowling Singh, I happily open and close with  regularity, having learned that little pearls of wisdom are sprinkled throughout this very satisfying book. (My husband has read it twice now.) Singh is a psychotherapist and Dharma practitioner, and in her infinite wisdom, she offers a peaceful and optimistic look at the reality we all face — if we are lucky — aging. What I especially appreciate is her open mindedness. No matter what your spiritual beliefs,The Grace in Aging, has something to offer.

Dissonance, by Lisa Lenard-Cook, is a touching novel that takes the reader from present day New Mexico back to the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp and back again. It is beautifully written and emotionally charged. I especially enjoyed the way Lenard-Cook used music as a metaphor for the themes she so deftly explores. A haunting and lovely read this one.

Gulp, by Mary Roach, is not for the faint of heart. But if you have any interest in understanding your digestive system, this book is for you. I admit it, I’m a bit of a Roach groupie. (Roach’s Packing for Mars: the Curious Science of Life in the Void is one of my all time favorites!) The woman is simply one of the best science writers of our time. She manages to ask all the questions the rest of us want answers to but would be too embarrassed to ask. And, best of all, Roach does it with laugh-out-loud wit!

And yes, I’m ending with a total lack of objectivity and a shameless plug. I wanted to share with you that my novel, Duck Pond Epiphany, earned a finalist spot in the “Reader’s Favorite” competition this year. This recognition from actual readers means the world to me!  Thanks to those of you who may have participated.

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