.I read someone's profile on SwapBot the other day and I absolutely loved her phrase "at home in an ocean of literature, in a storm, flooding all the floor, the tables, and the chairs — billows of books" How delicious does it sound to live in "billows of books," though as I look about me at every floor, table and flat surface in addition to numerous book shelves crammed full of books, perhaps I already do.
I don't know if anyone ever pays attention to the ever-changing left column of this page, but I have been changing the "Books Read in 2015" entry frequently lately. I'm in a real book-reading stage right now. Of course it always helps to read several books at once and in the last week or two I finished four books I'd been reading at for a long time.
The most recent was "How to Live Well with Chronic Pain and Illness," written by my friend Toni Bernhard. It's her third book inspired by her chronic illness, which she developed on a trip to Paris in 2001. Though they first thought it was a virus that would pass in time the virus affected her immune system and has never left. It has resulted in her having to retire from her position teaching at the UC Davis School of Law, and she has been mostly house-bound, and often bed-bound for the past 14 years, missing the opportunity to spend as much time as she planned with her grandchildren, often having to miss holiday events, etc. Her first book, "How to Be Sick," was a Buddhist-inspired how-to book which told how she has adapted to this life she never wanted to live. It has won prizes and many in her situation have started following her. She now writes a regular columnn for Psychology Today. Her next book was "How to be Well" (and I don't remember the jist of that one). This third one will be published in October, but she asked if I would review it for her, as I reviewed book 2.
Though I enjoyed her first two books, I found this the most "relatable" of the three. There is less Buddhism (though there was really not all that much) than in Book 1 and by the time you finish, you have a very clear picture of what chronic illness is, and how best to cope, while still making the most of your life. You also learn what not to say to someone with a chronic illness ("You look terrific!" is right up there, said to someone who has been able to go out for a short time and may look normal, but may be in pain), and, alternatively, you learn what someone with a chronic illness wants to hear from people who want to contact her (not "let me know if there is anything I can do for you," but "I'm going to the store; can I pick something up for you?" for example). Also many of her exercises to help the patient make it through a difficult day work well for helping those of us who are not suffering the physical debilitations of a chronic illness, but still have to get through difficult things in our lives.
This book was quite a change from the audio book I had been "reading" for the past several weeks. "Stolen Innocence" by Elissa Wall tells the story of a girl, born and raised in the FLDS (the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints -- the guys who still practice plural marriage). It tells of the power the FLDS authorities have over their followers. Elissa and her siblings were removed, along with their mother, from the father beause he was deemed to be "unworthy of the priesthood," and the mother was given in "marriage" to another man (who already had several wives). Elissa was forced into a marriage at age 14 with a 20 year old cousin she hated. She tried everything she could to get out of the marriage, but ultimately was forced into it, in threat of losing her chance at entering the kingdom of heaven, which you can only enter with your husband, apparently (and the husband can only enter if he has at least 3 wives).
My heart ached for the 14 year old Elissa who didn't know the first thing about relations between men and women, had not been told the facts of life (this is nothing you are permitted to discuss in the FLDS and a bride must learn about sex from her husband), and was essentially raped an abused by her husband regularly. She ultimately finds the strength to leave the FLDS and her husband and marry a man with whom she had fallen in love, after several years of marriage and five miscarriages. She ultimately played a big part in the arrest and life sentencing of Warren Jeffs, the self-appointed FLDS "prophet" who made her life a living hell for so many years.
And then there was "While I still Can," a book by Rick Phelps, diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers in his 50s, determined to record what he was going to in the hopes of it being of some help to other Alzheimers victims and their caregivers. Realizing that he would eventually not be able to do the writing, he connected with another author, Gary Joseph LeBlanc, who chronicled Rick's decline and his feelings and what was going on in his head. The last sections of the book are no longer about Rick but about the last years of LeBlanc's own father, who died of Alzheimers. I assume this was beause Rick was no longer able to communicte effectively.
One of the things that Rick did was to start group called "Memory People" on Facebook, a place where people suffering from Alzheimers or dementia...or mostly their caregivers...can communicate with each other. I joined immediately and have found it quite helpful.
And then to lighten the load a bit, I also finished Dick Francis' "Twice Shy." I haven't read a Dick Francis book in a long time and had read just about all of them up to a certain point. He is the former jockey to the queen and so his mysteries all concern some aspect of horse racing. This one had very little actual horses in it, but revolved around track betting. It wasn't his best, but I enjoyed it.
Now I'm starting a whole new raft of books. The audio book Walt and I are listening to together in the car is David Baldacci's "Last Man Standing," which it will take us a couple of trips to Santa Barbara to finish, because it's longer than most of his books. On my own, I'm listening to a new Harlan Coben book, "One False Move," which I haven't gotten too far into yet, but Coben is the master of the simile and/or metaphor and I about cracked up when I read that something "chaffed like a tweed condom."
And I'm also reading a book called "The Rosie Project," by Graeme Simsion, which I am reading for a new book club, one that Char belongs to. I'm going to try that one, though it means driving a bit over an hour once a month to meetings. But that's actually a perk because it means I can get through my audiobook that much faster and she seems to really enjoy this group. I am loving "The Rosie Project," about an awkward intellectual who has decided he needs to find a wife and sets about doing it scientifically. Anybody who is a fan of The Big Bang Theory will recognize that, though this book is set in England, the guy looking for a wife is exactly like Sheldon Cooper.