For the Love of Reading

Read Alikes for the book Help, Thanks, Wow: Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott

Help, Thanks, Wow is a funny, candid, simple approch to spiritual practice. Lamott uses her unique brand of humor and wisdom to tell hilarious and often wrenching tales about situations in her own life that have insprired her own prayers and insprired her to encourage others to pray anywhere, anytime and any how. More than a prayer manual Help, Thanks, Wow is a book about getting through life and will inspire readers to think about notions of gratitude, sprituality and faith--all written in Lamott's own particular brand of intelligence, honesty and comedic timing. Think of it--as one reviewer put it--as Cliff notes for spirituality. 

Another author who draws on her own experiences as well as intimate conversations with both ordinary and famous figures is Krista Tippett, author of Speaking of Faith. The popular public radio host of the show On Being (formerly known as Speaking of Faith) has written a book about the conversational journey she has taken on her radio show about religion, meaning, ethics and faith. Readers who have enjoyed Tippett's radio show will be interested in her personal background and her own theological journey. For those who are unfamiliar with Tippet's public radio program this book will introduce the reader to all kinds of people from all walks of religious life including theologians, physicists, nuns, monks and philosophers speaking from a variety of perspectives.

My third read alike is Hand Wash Cold: Care Instructions for an Ordinary Life written by Karen Maezen Miller is a "reflection on awareness and finding happiness at the bottom of the laundry basket, the love in the kitchen sink and the peace possible in one's backyard." Beautifully written and simply told this book shares the authors ups and downs including a broken marriage, youthful ambition, self-absorption--then into the steady calm of an "ordinary life." The author is a  Zen Buddhist priest but  as Miller puts it " I'm not the kind of priest you have pictured in your mind. I'm the kind of priest that looks a lot like you, doing the same things you do every day." 

While You’re Waiting For… And the Mountains Echoed

ImageKhaled Hosseini’s new novel And the Mountains Echoed tells family stories of loss and love from multiple points of view. There is a long waiting list for this book at the library, so here are some ideas for other books you might enjoy reading while you wait.

The obvious first choices are Hosseini’s other popular and well received novels The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. Both stories are set in Afghanistan, the author’s native land, and reveal the impact the country’s political turmoil has upon its people, while focusing on more intimate stories of friendship and family.

If you have already read Hosseini’s other titles you might try The Moonlit Cage by Linda Holeman. This novel is also set in Afghanistan and follows the difficult life of Darya in the mid nineteenth century in a small village.  This is a heart wrenching, yet ultimately redeeming story of a woman discovering her value.

An author that has much of the same appeal as Hosseini is Jhumpa Lahiri.

Rosie Nominations Clean and Bitter End

CleanWhat I like about the Rosie nominations, is that there are books that cover a wide variety of subjects and vary in feel from light to pretty dark. Two books on the list deal realistically with the tough topics of dating violence and drug addiction.

In Bitter End, Alex is a typical teenager. She struggles with family issues, works a job she mostly enjoys and hangs out with her two best friends Zach and Bethany. Things change when the new boy at school, Cole, begins to show interest. Things are rosy at the beginning, but then Cole's interest becomes increasingly demanding, jealous and violent.

The path from rosy to violent is the crux of this story and is often difficult to read. Early on in the relationship, they becoming very close very quickly and share their deepest secrets. Alex feels that Cole loves her and is able to initially overlook some of Cole’s dark moods. The transition from overlooking the dark moods to blaming herself for them is gradual and terrifying. And even when the moods switch from being petty and sarcastic to physical violence Alex still is able to forgive Cole and the cycle continues.

Detroit: An American Autopsy

DetroitLeading the news today is the announcement that Detroit filed for bankruptcy. They aren’t the first municipality to file, but they are the largest. What this means for residents, city workers, retirees and the state of Michigan remains to be seen. 20 billion dollars is hard to wrap my mind around, and is a figure without names and faces.

Hoping to personalize this story is native son Charlie LeDuff. His recent nonfiction work is called Detroit: An American Autopsy. LeDuff is a journalist who left Detroit at an early age and traveled the world covering international conflicts and won a Pulitzer for his contributions at the New York Times. He returns to Detroit to work for The Detroit News.

This book covers a variety of stories, including the fall of ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, city council corruption, the crumbling auto industry implications, and the struggles of a local fire station. You also meet LeDuff’s family and follow them while they are coping (or not) with living in and near Detroit.

Geeking Out on the 80s

ImageThe decade was only roughly ten years gone when the BBC (and then US network VH1) brought nostalgia for the 1980s to TV with I Love the '80s in 2001. America has long been fascinated with looking back on its pop-culture history, but the decade that saw PCs, video games, cable TV, and a variety of musical sub-genres explode maintains a hold on our imaginations. Two of this year's Rosie Award nominees focus on the decade, centered on what has become our true national pastime – gaming.

America's First Tornado Scientists and What They Taught Us

I was afraid this would be another macho book about reckless men roaming the plains chasing tornadoes during storm season. Instead it turned out to be a wonderful compendium of tornado lore through the centuries. Also included are biographies of some of our most  important weather scientists.    

Storm Kings begins with a description of how during the 1600s New England settlers called any phenomenon that happened in the sky meteors including: meteors (of course), lightning, thunder, rainbows, comets, clouds in the shape of hands and faces, etc.  Although the science behind tornadoes was not understood and barely documented then, many colonists recognized that the weather in America was much more violent than in their home countries.

When a tornado swooped down near Cambridge, MA in 1680, two farming families were shocked when one lost a servant and another a barn during the storm.  They were so frightened by this event that one wrote to Increase Mather (the father of Cotton) asking about it. Increase, who was a self-educated weather expert, had no answers so he wrote to a scientific association in Europe. No one replied to his inquiry, but Benjamin Franklin found this letter seventy years later when he became interested in the study of weather and electricity.

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