A few months ago I realized that most of what I read consisted of cooking and/or quilting blog posts and online news articles on foreign policy. Which is a great mix IMO, but also doesn’t require too much of an attention span or immerse me in a story.
Until starting my first post-graduate school job a bit over year ago, I tended to devour books pretty much weekly. And read multiple books at once. I never thought that would be a habit or hobby that would slide away in the midst of cleaning, working, dog-walking, and cooking.
I’m still behind on my goal to read one book a month this year, but I blew through a couple of books recently. Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking and Live What You Love, loaned to us by our good friend John.
It’s difficult to say I liked or enjoyed this book, as it’s a book about the author’s journey through mourning and grief in the year after the sudden death of her husband. Her writing beautifully and painfully details her remembering of their marriage and her experiences in the aftermath of her husband’s death. It definitely brought tears, especially when she writes of how the death and absence of her husband did not immediately translate into altering her habits of running to tell him news or wanting his opinion on her writing. Her writing also caused me wonder what details, happenings, locations, and people will stick out in my remembering of mine and Josh’s marriage; it highlighted the painful fact of life that we (I) always want to ignore–that the people we desperately love are finite, that loss is inevitable, that loving someone deeply also guarantees pain. It reminded me of the quote from True Women, after one of the characters has lost her son: “I don’t think our loved ones make our life. But lovin’ them does.” The Year of Magical Thinking is a raw and exquisite book, and I’m so glad my friend Anna recommended it.
This was a fast and easy (like, 1.5 hours?) read. Our friend John loaned it to us since we’re currently facing major location and job transitions, and we aren’t sure where we are going to land. My husband and I had a great talk about this book over breakfast this morning because it brought up some good ethical questions.The essential message of the book struck me as: 1) Dreams are an expression of what you love so 2) You should figure out what your dreams are and then 3) Go after them while using your 4) Feelings as the best guide for how your life is going. What strikes me about the Blanchard’s life story is their willingness to take risks for what they want, their ability to have a plan and move towards goals even in the midst of incredibly challenging situations, and their flexibility in moving from one (ad)venture to the next. I think the premise of the book doesn’t sit completely well with me because it feels too narrow or self-centered. It’s wonderful and right to love the people closest to us and pursue things that make us happy–but what about the rest of the world? This book doesn’t seem to connect love with something beyond our immediate family or personal desires…it seems like any wider and positive impact of our dreams would be nice happenstance, but not a goal itself. Are feelings the best barometer to use for measuring your life? Can dreams be too selfish–and is that okay? Live What You Love certainly got me thinking, and I’m grateful for that.
So, two books down and ten to go!