Thursday, January 20, 2022

Book Review: We Are Not Like Them

Christine Pride and Jo Piazza, a Black woman and a white woman, long-time friends and colleagues, write a book about a Black woman and a white woman who are best friends faced with incredible challenges to their relationship. It has the potential to be trite or overwrought, but it's neither of those things. It's thought-provoking, gut-wrenching, insightful. The prose is straight-forward, not overly flowery or emotional, but laced with wonderful well-turned phrases and astute observations. As I started reading, I was almost immediately sorry I was reading a library copy because I wanted to underline and comment. Instead, my book is filled with little post-it tabs I'll need to remove before I return it to the library.

When Pride and Piazza talk about their book, they quip "Come for the friendship, stay for the social justice." They explore the challenges of any close friendship (honesty, different life experiences, diverging achievements). And then they add an incendiary social justice issue to the mix. Riley is Black and a rising media figure in Philadelphia. Jen is white and married to a cop who kills an unarmed Black teenager. As a journalist, Riley takes the lead in covering the story. (No spoilers here. This is on the book flap and in the first few chapters of the book.) Through alternating first person narratives, Pride and Piazza explore the many cracks this exposes in Riley and Jen's relationship with nuance and compassion

We Are Not Like Them probes difficult subjects, often painfully, but it does so against the backdrop of a deep lasting friendship. As Riley says to herself, "Sometimes you just need to be around someone who loved you before you were a fully formed person. It's like finding your favorite sweatshirt in the back of the closet, the one you forgot why you stopped wearing and once you find it again you sleep in it every night." Awkwardly constructed but heartfelt. And I'm sure these two experienced writers and editors thought long and hard about each turn of phrase. 

As Jen struggles to cope with the fallout from her husband's horrific mistake, she pleads with Riley, "I just need you to be on my side." Riley, the more introspective of the two, and the authors along with her, understand that's it's not that simple. The situation has multiple sides, and there is no right side. And therein lies the strength of this book. There is no easy answer. There is no escaping the impact of race, so Jen and Riley (and the readers) might as well face it and deal with it. Here's Riley again: "I've been consumed these last few months (or a lifetime, really) with all the ways race oozes its sticky tentacles into every relationship, every interact, every intention... There are no easy choices, no safe choices, you can't plan your way to happiness."

We Are Not Like Them is a terrific, timely, important book.

Quote of the Day -- Eurdora Welty

My continuing passion is to part a curtain, that invisible veil of indifference that falls between us and that blinds us to each other's presence, each other's wonder, each other's human plight.


According to Wikipedia, Eudora Alice Welty (1909 – 2001) was an American short story writer, novelist and photographer, who wrote about the American South. Her novel The Optimist's Daughter won the Pulitzer Prize in 1973.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Bird by Bird, Book by Book

TBR (to be read). One of the most seductive and sometimes terrifying acronyms that I know. My physical TBR has reached monumental proportions, justifying the labels aspirational library or the lovely Japanese tsundoku. And my physical to-be-read library is positively dwarfed by the 1200+ titles on my Goodreads TBR. How in the world did I get here and how will I ever dig my way out?

For starters, I've always been an avid reader, and I've always loved to own books. I go through cycles where I try to restrain myself and rely solely on the library, but eventually I re-offend and start buying books again.  My family and friends know that I'm incapable of leaving a bookstore empty-handed, and I love bookstores.

I've stepped up my reading game in the past several years, partly because of the pandemic, of course, but also simply because it was time. Time to get a bit more serious.  Time to get over the graduate school experience of always needing to read so critically that it ruined "good books" for me for years. But those scars have healed. And there are so many "good books," both classic and recent, that I've decided to avoid wasting my precious reading hours on just average books or relying on the Barnes and Noble 3-for-the-price-of-2 table to make my selections.

I'm actively seeking out book recommenders whom I respect, and I'm entranced by all the possibilities. When it comes to books, I'm what Gretchen Rubin calls an abundance lover. I really, really enjoy being surrounded by lots of books. I have a priority list of sorts for my next 5 or 6 reads, but if none of those suits my mood when I'm ready for a new book, I know that everything within reach is "worthy" of my attention. I've set myself up to avoid the dreaded DNF (did not finish).

I sometimes wonder why I feel excited about all these books that I might never read, why I don't feel completely overwhelmed. Then I remember the story Anne Lamott told in her wonderful book Bird by Bird. When her brother was in elementary school, he had a big project that required him to research and report on a number of birds. As elementary school kids (or 70-year-old women) are wont to do, he procrastinated. And then, a few days before the project was due, he panicked. So much to do, so little time. Anne tells us: "Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder and said, 'Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'” And that is my approach to my TBR. My eye isn't on some end goal of reading them all. I just want to take it book by book and enjoy the journey.

Quote of the Day -- Thomas Sowell

The march of science and technology does not imply growing intellectual complexity in the lives of most people. It often means the opposite.


According to Wikipedia, Thomas Sowell is an American economist, social theorist, and senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. Sowell has written more than thirty books, and is a National Humanities Medal recipient for innovative scholarship which incorporated history, economics, and political science. Sadly, I had never heard of him until I encountered this quote.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Thoughts on Aging

People today are living longer, dramatically longer. The details of the chart on the right from Our World in Data are a little hard to read but the visual image is striking. For the developed world or the "global north," life expectancy was relatively stable from the mid 18th century through the mid 19th century. Starting in about 1875, it rises sharply from 35 years to nearly 80 years today. In the "global south," the increase in longevity starts almost 75 years later, but it is equally dramatic. And the increase continues. Experts estimate that a child born today in the developed world has a 50% chance of reaching the age of 100.

This trend has huge societal implications, particularly in the global north where the birth rate is declining. The growth in the percent of the population that is "elderly" isn't as shocking as some news stories imply, but it has the potential to become a significant burden. (As an aside, Our World in Data is a treasure trove of fascinating information.)

The Stanford Center on Longevity recently launched a new podcast called Century Lives. Their premise: if many of us now have the possibility of living to see 100, that calls for radical new thinking both as a society and as individuals. We need to construct lifelong learning, for example. The notion that we can educate our children intensely from ages 5 to 22 and equip them with everything they will need to know for the next 80 years is clearly misguided. As is the notion that most people should "retire" at age 65. Doesn't it make more sense to intersperse learning with work? And if we're going to work for 45 or 50 years, should we consider instituting sabbaticals for everyone?

On an individual level, we need to think about age differently. What does it mean to "look your age" or "act your age" when our potential lifespan is so much longer.  This image of the stars of Golden Girls in 1985 and the stars of the reboot of Sex and the City in 2022 is making the rounds on public media accompanied by lots of heated discussion. You can certainly make the argument for ageism and the outsize emphasis on appearance. On the other hand, no matter how much work (both physical and airbrushing) the ladies on the right have had, they simply look younger. 40+ years has made a difference in how people think, act, and feel after 50 (or 60, or 70). We as a society and we as individuals are doing a lot of soul searching about what age really means, and I think that's a good thing.

You can make the argument that we "elders" (the boomer generation) still want to have it all. We are spending substantial time, energy, and money trying to ensure that our wellspan aligns with our lifespan as much as possible. We want both a quantity of years and quality in those years. At the same time, we crave a society that isn't so focused on youth and that values the knowledge and wisdom we've acquired in our 6 or 7 or 8 decades. In my last decade or so of working, I was pretty careful to disguise my age. I dyed my gray hair. I hid my age in social media. I worked with lots of young people and didn't want them to think (or know) that I was old enough to be their mother. I'm not sure that was necessary, but at the time, it seemed the wisest course. When I turned 70 last year, I chose to be very public about it (and to expose my age on Facebook for my friends of all ages to see). I want friends, young and old, to see that you can have a full vibrant life at 70. That a 70-year-old woman knows some things that they don't. That being a "village elder" is something you earn and should wear proudly.


Quote of the Day -- Ingrid Fetell Lee

... most creative endeavors are an exercise of craft, not genius. The initial concept matters, but it’s the slow accumulation of progress that happens when you edit, revise, leave it alone and come back with fresh eyes, that actually makes it great. The first draft of a great idea is almost never better than the tenth draft of a so-so idea.


Ingrid Fetell Lee (age well hidden but she's in her 40's) is a Brooklyn-based designer and writer whose work focuses on the way that design affects our health and happiness. As founder of The Aesthetics of Joy and in her role as IDEO fellow, she empowers people to find more joy in daily life through design (and she has a good publicist who writes this stuff). She is the  author of Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness (on my TBR).

Monday, January 17, 2022

Quote of the Day -- Annie Dillard

One of the things I know about writing is this: Spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.


Annie Dillard (1945 -- ) is an American author best known for lyrical, narrative prose. In May 2021, I read and reviewed Pilgrim of Tinker Creek:

I have no interest in being a naturalist, a botanist, an etymologist, but I was enthralled by Dillard's lyrical, enraptured descriptions of nature in all its wild diversity. I can't imagine inching on my belly through long grass filled with who knows what bugs and critters just for the chance to observe a muskrat up close, but I'm glad that's exactly what Dillard did. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek opened my eyes to so many aspects of the natural world that I've never observed or even considered, giving me a new perspective on the "natural order" (or disorder). All in all, a very satisfying reading experience.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Book Review: Parable of the Sower

 Written in 1993 and set in 2025, Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler is a story set in a California that has descended into anarchy as a result of the impact of climate change. The fifteen-year-old narrator, Lauren Olamina alternates between fierce anger, gritty determination, and numb acceptance as she and first her biological family and then her adopted family struggle to survive.

With her straight-forward, understated style, Butler lays bare the many horrors of a rapidly disintegrating society. My mom always said "the veneer of civilization is very thin," and that's a central motif in Parable. When pushed to the brink, many will do unspeakable things.

The idea of a new "religion" called Earthseed is central to the book. It stems from the narrator Lauren's attempt to find meaning and hope in the insanity all around her. I confess that I don't really "get" Earthseed. It doesn't resonate with me, but Lauren's struggle to find meaning certainly does. Parable made me feel more terrified than hopeful. Definitely a parable for our times.

I thought that I struggled with dystopian books and that Parable of the Sower is an exception (along with Station Eleven), but then I googled "best dystopian novels" and discovered many I have loved and would even consider re-reading: 1984, Animal Farm, Handmaid's Tale, Hunger Games, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, Oryx and Crake, to name just a few. I need to figure out the sub-genre I haven't enjoyed (Zone One and A Visit from the Goon Squad) so I don't miss out in the future.

Quote of the Day -- Josh Billings

Love looks through a telescope; envy, through a microscope.


According to Wikipedia, Josh Billings was the pen name of 19th-century American humorist Henry Wheeler Shaw. He was a famous humor writer and lecturer in the United States during the latter half of the 19th century. He is often compared to Mark Twain.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

What Comes After?

It might seem strange to begin a discussion of the afterlife with A Wrinkle in Time, but for me the book was incredibly formative. I was 11 years old when it was published and was lucky enough to read it shortly after publication. I remember very little of the story (which obviously wasn't that earth-shaking for me) but the idea of tessering blew my mind: "essentially the act of traveling faster than the speed of light using a fifth dimension. ... You add that to the other four dimensions and you can travel through space without having to go the long way around." The idea that there were other worlds, that time isn't linear, that alternative ways to approach reality are possible -- just wow!  To this day, I'm fascinated by stories on the page or in film that break the barriers of time, space, or both.

Fast forward to 1989 and another book that has stayed with me, The Boat of a Million Years by Poul Anderson. It gave solidity to my notion that "after," we will be able to see across the expanse of history, understand what happened and why, and ask questions of whatever designer put it all together. I remember attending a confirmation class with our younger daughter. The facilitator asked each of us to describe heaven (assuming, of course, that we all believed in heaven). People waxed poetic about fluffy clouds and angels, beautiful pastures, seeing deceased loved ones. When my turn came, I simply said that heaven would mean getting the answers to life's unanswerable questions.

And that brings me to today and the source of these meanderings about what comes after. I recently read (and loved) The Sentence by Louise Erdrich, which prominently features the ghost of a beloved and irritating book store customer. My treadmill podcast for today was a conversation between Erdrich and Kerri Miller, an outstanding interviewer on our local public radio station, MPR. They had a lengthy, delightful, and funny conversation about ghosts, angels, and being haunted.  I remain skeptical but... as Erdrich pointed off, we often say "(fill in your favorite deceased relative) would be so happy if she saw us having so much fun ... or so much success." And of course, we say "Grandpa X would turn over in his grave if he saw this."

Ultimately, I don't long for immortality. I just long to see more, know more, understand more -- to be able to bridge space and time. In the party game where you ask everyone to name the super power they would love, I rarely hesitate -- Beam Me Up, Scotty.

Quote of the Day -- Margaret Mead

Home, I learned, can be anywhere you make it. Home is also the place to which you come back again and again.


Margaret Mead (1901 - 1978) was a renowned and ground-breaking American cultural anthropologist. Although I've never read her work books directly, I have, like so many others, read about her work and her theories. I have read Composing a Further Life by her daughter, Mary Catherine Bateson.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Quote of the Day -- Octavia Butler

All struggles are power struggles. And most are no more intellectual than two rams knocking their heads together.

-- Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Quote of the Day -- Neil Gaiman

I hope in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world.


Neil Gaiman (1960 - ) is a prolific English author who spans multiple genres. His work is on my TBR.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Quote of the Day -- Hubert Humphrey

Freedom is hammered out in the anvil of discussion, dissent, and debate...



Hubert Humphrey (1911 - 1978) is a favorite son of Minnesota. He served for many years in the U.S. Senate and as Vice President for Lyndon Johnson. He ran for President in 1968 amidst the roaring controversy over the Vietnam war. He lost to Richard Nixon. How different history might have been...

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

The Women in My Ear

I'm a podcast junkie. Many extol the virtues of audio books, but I prefer my books on paper, in my hands. When I'm walking, doing mindless tasks at home, or driving any distance, I prefer to occupy my mind with a podcast. My purchase of airpods felt like a splurge (OK, it was a splurge), but it has transformed my listening experience -- the quality of sound, the noise canceling (used judiciously when walking outside), and look, no cord!

It all started with Gretchen Rubin about 5 years ago. I was exploring options beyond my music playlist to accompany my walks and discovered her Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast. It feels like a modern-day Ladies Home Journal, a mix of serious important topics laced with fluffier stuff. Bordering on guilty pleasure. But I was hooked. I still find Gretchen's voice, and particularly her laugh, a bit grating, but I'm a faithful listener. And some of her guests have led me to discover other favorite podcasts.


Another long-time favorite, whose made-for-radio voice is the opposite of grating, is Kerri Miller. She is a first-class interviewer whom I have enjoyed for years on our local public radio station, MPR. My favorite segments have always been her author interviews which are available on podcast. She also hosts several live author events each year, and her guests often compliment her on her skill as a questioner. Kerri's podcast has gone through several iterations and is currently called MRP News with Kerri Miller

A segment on Happier with Gretchen Rubin about book recommenders led me to Anne Bogel and the What Should I Read Next podcast. It has been around for 5 years or so, and I'm a late arrival, so I find myself binging on old episodes. I admire Anne's ability to succinctly summarize the essence of a book and hone in on its target audience. She describes herself as a matchmaker -- recommending just the right books for her podcast guest. her soothing voice and approachable manner balance her vast knowledge and razor-sharp intellect. Listening has of course made my TBR (to be read) explode, but I've also become more selective in what I choose to read. The success of my 2021 reading (measured by the quality and range of what I read) is in large part due to What Should I Read Next.

In an episode of What Should I Read Next, Anne interviewed the team of Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers. They are co-authors and hosts of the podcast Pantsuit Politics. I appreciated their knowledge, their philosophy, and their humor, so I searched out their podcast and fell in love. As their tagline says, it really is a different approach to the news and current events. And for me, a welcome change from other news podcasts I was listening to that painfully try to save America. I've become a Sarah and Beth groupie.

In the vein of "know thyself," I recently find myself turning to Brené Brown's Dare to Lead. Although I hung up my powerpoints and power suits more than a decade ago, I still value her insights about self-knowledge and authentic leadership. And I just love listening to her voice and her laugh. Her book Atlas of the Heart is high on my TBR.


And finally, The Happiness Lab with Laurie Santos. Laurie's famous for the class on happiness that she teaches at Yale, but despite her fame, she is a serious scholar, not a pop psychologist. But like all these women whom I love to have in my ear, she is brilliant, insightful, funny, and approachable. She sifts through the latest research and combines that with the wisdom of the ancients, delivered in bite-sized podcast episodes. Attending her online class is on my to-do list this year.

Notice that all these podcasts feature the voices of women? That seems to be where I gravitate, and I don't think it's because they are in the treble clef. All of these women are truly brilliant and insightful. And they are all funny, accessible, and self-deprecating to just the right degree. The Pantsuit Politics hosts explicitly talk about approaching the world with grace. That's an important word that hasn't necessarily headlined my own lexicon. But more and more, I believe that combining knowledge with grace is the true source of wisdom.

Quote of the Day -- Matshona Dhliwayo

Excellence in obscurity is better than mediocrity in the spotlight.


Matshona Dhliwayo(1982 - ) is a Canadian-based philosopher, entrepreneur, and author of books such as The Art of Winning, The Little Book of Inspiration, 100 Lessons Every Great Man Wants You to Know, Dinner with King Solomon and Lalibela's Wise Man.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Book Review: State of Terror

Louise Penny and Hillary Clinton -- what a powerhouse duo!  (Much better than James Patterson and Bill Clinton, IMHO.) They perfectly blend their different expertise and experiences with their obvious mutual respect and deep friendship to deliver a truly compelling story. A new administration is in the early stages of recovering from a disastrous 4 years with an incompetent and egotistical President who is never named but doesn't need to be.  For nefarious political reasons, the new President Doug Williams appoints Ellen Adams as his Secretary of State. Together, they confront a horrific terrorist plot that spans the globe and reaches into the depths of inner Washington.

Clinton brings to the table an enormous breadth of knowledge of world leaders, non-state actors, and Washington machinations. As Ellen Adams, she confronts some of her biggest nightmares and also gets to indulge her fondest desire to slap down a few political adversaries.

Penny contributes her masterful ability to construct an intricate plot, dropping just enough hints and red herrings along the way to keep the reader thoroughly engaged. She even includes a few nods to her loyal readers with a tiny bit of action in Three Pines and a cameo appearance by Armand Gamache. 

The thrilling, heart-stopping, page-turning plot would have made an excellent book. Combining that with the depth of female friendships, the fraught family relationships, and the nuanced portrayal of both the good guys and the bad guys bring this book to the next level. And the wonderful literary references, including the code between Ellen and Betsy, are icing on the cake. The subjunctive would have walked into a bar... had it only known. 

Needless to say, I really loved this book!

Quote of the Day -- Viktor Frankl

What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.

-- Viktor Frankl

Sunday, January 9, 2022

My Reading Life -- 2021

When I look back on my reading life in 2021, it feels like an embarrassment of riches. I read 113 books in a variety of genres. I got caught up on the backlist of some favorite authors like William Kent Krueger, Jacqueline Winspear, and Louise Penny. I branched out, reading more non-fiction, science fiction, and "social justice" fiction. Most of my selections rated a 4 or 5 on Goodreads. My reading was more selective, intentional, and well-curated than in past years. Despite the challenges of COVID, I'm not generally stressed or overloaded.  I'm retired, after all... So I have no need to use reading as a safety valve. I want my reading to challenge me, inform me, and make me wiser. I definitely cleared that bar in 2021.

Choosing 10 favorites was very difficult because it was such a good year. This list, in order by author not ranking, represents some of the best as well as the breadth of my year in books.

I attribute much of my reading success in 2021 to my decision to seek out book recommendations from a few trusted sources. Two of them, Anne Bogel and Gretchen Rubin, both sang the praises of Octavia Butler as one of their favorite authors. The book I chose to start with, Kindred, checked important boxes for me -- a writer of color whose corner of science fiction I like to think of as cultural anthropology combined with time travel. Wow! Kindred explored the horrors of slavery in a truly unique way. It's an important, eye-opening, moving book.

The Sentence by Louise Erdrich was my last book of 2021 and one of my very favorites. It tells the story of an incredibly challenging year in my home city from the perspective of a native American employee in a locally owned bookstore. Erdrich skillfully addresses racial justice issues around both the murder of George Floyd and the native American community. The book is filled with pain but also with so much humor.  Who knew Louise Erdrich could be so funny? It is both heart-breaking and heart-warming. And as a wonderful bonus, it is filled with book recommendations. My TBR positively exploded!

I heard Lisa Genova speak on a (virtual) book tour for her new book Remember: The Science of Memory and The Art of Forgetting.  She was funny and engaging while delivering important information succinctly. Loss of brain function as I age is probably my biggest fear, stemming from watching my father and other relatives struggle. I'm terrified that my mind will die while my body lives on. I read Genova's non-fiction book Remember (excellent) and then decided to read Still Alice, which has been sitting on my stack for several years. I found it wonderful and haunting. One of the final scenes, when Alice can't remember long enough to follow through on her earlier self's recommended course of action will be seared in my memory forever (or for as long as my memory functions. Still Alice is a book that has really stayed with me.

A Bay Area friend with somewhat quirky but discerning taste in books recommended Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro. It's an unusual coming-of-age story told from the perspective of an AI robotic companion to a young woman with fragile health. Ishiguro proves himself the master of first-person narrative. We enter the "mind" of the AI as it learns about the world and tries to apply key principles of its programming to complex situations and perplexing human emotions. Klara and the Sun artfully explores the ethics of AI as well as genetic and societal engineering. I was so impressed that I read Remains of the Day, another masterpiece of first-person narrative. I'm ashamed to admit I didn't read it sooner. There's more Ishiguro on my horizon.

My book club read The 100-Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson and found it delightful. It's very reminiscent of Fredrik Backman's A Man Called Ove and My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry. It features wry, almost slap-stick Scandinavian humor coupled with the knowledge that we lose much as a society if we ignore the unique wisdom of the young and the old. The value of injecting humor when exploring challenging topics seems to be an important theme in many of my favorite books this year.

Deacon King Kong by James McBride is such a funny book. I really appreciate authors like McBride who have the skill to explore challenging subjects with humor that doesn't diminish the importance of the issues. Deacon King Kong is a wild ride through Brooklyn in the 1960's, illuminating the culture of the black community and the attitudes that surround it. And it's so funny! My enjoyment motivated me to read The Good Lord Bird about James Brown -- equally funny and illuminating.

My daughter's book club (a very intellectual, highly educated group of young professionals) read The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGhee. I've found that I can't go wrong piggybacking on their picks. We have a growing lexicon of excellent books that help us understand the history and impact of racism in our country and how me might constructively move forward. McGhee's book is an important entry on that list, shedding light on the historic and current economic impacts of our decision first to enslave and then to segregate and discriminate. Perhaps if we can accept that racism hurts all of us in our pocketbooks, we can begin to eliminate it.

I was a bit hesitant to read All the Devils Are Here by Louise Penny because it was set in Paris, not in quaint, beloved Three Pines. I love Paris, of course, but I wasn't sure I could love a Louise Penny book that didn't feature the normal quirky cast of characters. But love it I did. One of the things I most admire about Louise Penny is her dedication to her craft. She never rests on her laurels, as some other famous authors do. The plot of each book is skillfully designed, and she continues to plumb the depths of her characters. All the Devils provides insights into Gamache's youth and the dynamics of his family today.  Penny, as usual, balances a page-turning story with keen psychological insight.  An engaging, thought-provoking read. 

Think Like a Pancreas by Gary Scheiner is a very personal selection for this list.  It has been life-changing for me in my journey to becoming a competent, well-controlled diabetic. My doctor has told me repeatedly that some people have an easy journey where oral meds and a few life-style changes do the trick. My journey is much more challenging, and it's not my fault. But whatever the fault, I was very baffled and frustrated until I discovered Scheiner's book. He helped me understand so much about how my pancreas works (or often doesn't work). And he gave me the tools to be more in control and competent. Life-changing.

Bryan Stevenson is an incredibly talented writer and an even more impressive human being. Just Mercy was "featured" at Starbucks quite a few years ago. I picked it up in Seattle when we were babysitting our granddaughter (so that makes it 6 years ago), and it sat on my shelf until this year. I heard Stevenson speak and immediately sought out the book and devoured it. He lays out a compelling case for the tremendous damage we have done with our mass incarceration policy and provides constructive suggestions for how we can begin to undo the damage. This is another key book in the lexicon of racial justice books that everyone should read.


Quote of the Day -- Hillary DiPiano

You can get excited about the future. The past won’t mind.

-- Hillary DiPiano

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Quote of the Day -- Oliver Burkeman

A life spent chasing the mythical state of being able to do everything is less meaningful than a life spent focusing on a few things that count.

-- Oliver Burkeman

Friday, January 7, 2022

Quote of the Day -- Keith Douglas

Silence is a strange thing to us who live: we desire it, we fear it, we worship it, we hate it. There is a divinity about cats, as long as they are silent: the silence of swans gives them an air of legend.

-- Keith Douglas

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Quote of the Day -- Robert Pirsig

To live only for some future goal is shallow. It's the sides of the mountain that sustain life, not the top.

-- Robert Pirsig

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Quote of the Day -- Leo Tolstoy

Nothing can make our life, or the lives of other people, more beautiful than perpetual kindness.

-- Leo Tolstoy