Personal Reflection

Getting Back to Reading – My Current Book Recommendations

I used to be a book-reading fiend. I would go through at least one book per week, if not more – YA novels were my favorite. Yes, I read the Twilight series and enjoyed it. Yes, I read Harry Potter – several times. I loved Sarah Dessen books and the Shiver series by Maggie Stiefvater. But then along came college and I couldn’t fathom reading for pleasure anymore as my days and evenings were consumed by 30+ page journal articles and 50+ page textbook chapters. So strong was my aversion to reading that it took me several years post-graduation to start picking up books again. When I started the Anti-racism Bookclub in June, it gave me the kick in the butt I needed to begin devouring the creamy white pages again. I may be overcompensating now as I’m rotating through about 4 books all at once. I can’t help it! I have years of non-reading to make up for and so today, I have a list of books that I’ve enjoyed this year:

Becoming Bodhisattvas: A Guidebook for Compassionate Action by Pema Chodron

I’ve been studying Buddhism on and off since around 2016. I’ve never been super consistent with my practice but I enjoy texts on the subject. Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun- previously within the Shambhala tradition- is famous for her wisdom and knowledge on the Dharma (Buddhist teachings). Becoming Bodhisattvas is her breakdown and analysis of a text written by Shantideva, an 8th century Buddhist monk, entitled The Way of the Bodhisattva and it is essentially a guide on how to live a more fulfilling and compassionate life. Esoteric teachings can be difficult to understand, especially for us Westerners, so Chodron’s simplification and explanation, as well as providing some context to the time period, is incredibly helpful. One of my favorite passages is this one:

6.111

Because of those whose minds are full of anger,

I engender patience in myself.

They are thus the cause of patience,

Fit for veneration, like the Doctrine.

– Shantideva

There are people (especially since the 2016 election) who are full of anger and will frustrate you and test your compassion. However, they provide us with an opportunity to practice patience, which is the great healer of anger, and thus they inadvertently and unintentionally become our teachers. As such, they deserve as much respect and veneration as the Dharma.

Midnight Sun (Twilight Series) by Stephanie Meyer

Don’t come for me, okay? I told you at the beginning of this post that I enjoyed reading the Twilight Series as a teenager and I am thoroughly enjoying revisiting the small town of Forks, Washington, with all its vampires, werewolves and love triangles. For the record, I am and always have been Team Edward and since this book is written from his perspective, I couldn’t not read it. Is it a little creepy just how thirsty he was for her blood? Absolutely. Am I still going to keep reading it? Absolutely.

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? by Caitlin Doughty

This is by far one of the most bizarre books I’ve picked up recently. Written by mortician Caitlin Doughty, it is a collection of questions she has received over the years regarding death and her work as a mortician along with her answers. This book takes a humorous and scientific look at death and what happens to our bodies after we take our last breath. Questions she answers include:

Will my cat eat my eyeballs? (spoiler alert: yes!)

What would happen to an astronaut body in space?

Can I preserve my dead body in amber?

And more!

As someone who is petrified of death and would rather not even utter the word (let alone write it out 3 times), this book has helped me come to terms with the inevitable fate we all will face just a bit more.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett was the Anti-Racism Book Club’s January pick. I won’t go too much into the details since I wrote a separate post on my thoughts. But this fiction is one I couldn’t put down! It follows the lives of the Vignes twins, who disappear from the small town of Mallard. Years later, one of them reappears and is in search for her other half. The book covers topics such as racism and colorism, domestic abuse, being biracial, white passing, white privilege and more. If you’re looking for a great book on those topics, you can’t go wrong with this one. It’s a quick read with lots of juice!

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Another book club pick, this one was our March book. I’ll be honest: I did not look forward to reading this one. Autobiographies aren’t really my cup of tea. I put it off until the last week of March and finished it within 2 days. It was so good! Angelou’s writing is very poetic and a pleasure to read, despite me having to look up words for their meaning more than I have for any other book I’ve read recently. Actually, that was part of the fun! The book covers Angelou’s early years from around age 3 to 17. She goes through a lot during that time, moving back and forth between her grandmother’s home in Stamps, Arkansas and her mother’s in San Francisco, California. She writes frankly and boldly about her experiences with racism, rape, sex, teenage pregnancy and more. It’s definitely not a book that’ll make you feel warm and fuzzy but instead provides a real look into what it was like to grow up as a Black girl in the 1930’s and 40’s.

What are some of your recent favorites? Leave them in the comments below!

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