Monday, August 29, 2011

Summer Reading Re-Cap

It's been a great reading summer. For the first time in years, instead of having a clear idea of what I wanted to read, I've enjoyed perusing the shelves on weekly visits to the library and picking up books that look interesting. I love that the Biography/Memoir section is closest to the children's section in our library branch so I can dig around in my favorite genre while still being able to keep an eye on the boys.

Three books stood out as my favorites this summer. Two of them are memoirs from local authors. The third falls in the "self-help" category. I stumbled upon all of them:

1. The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir by Kao Kalia Yang. An exceptionally beautiful story about the author's family's escape from Laos, time in refugee camps in Thailand, and eventual immigration to St. Paul, MN.  The family triumphs through tremendous hardship by remaining committed to each other. The author's relationship with her grandmother is especially touching. The overall message is that family is a resource not a burden. This is perhaps the most emotionally engrossing memoir I have ever read (and I've read a lot).

2. The Barn at the End of the World: The Apprenticeship of a Quaker, Buddhist Shepherd by Mary Rose O'Reilley. Another St. Paulite, the author builds a spiritual practice out of an apprenticeship learning to care for sheep at the agriculture school at the University of Minnesota. The book chronicles in detail the mindfulness that comes out of dealing with the bodily realities of livestock and juxtaposes it with her experience on a Buddhist retreat in France with Thich Nhat Hanh. O'Reilley's spirituality is planted firmly in the world, and I appreciate the way she struggles with her own surliness and frustration with trying to get along with other people.

3. Refuse to Choose!: A Revolutionary Program for Doing Everything that You Love by Barbara Sher. A self-help book is most effective when it is asset-based and gives a name to a common phenomenon. Sher's book does both. She identifies the fact that while our culture values specialists as the most successful people, there is a whole group of creative people who pursue a wide variety of interests, activities, and careers who are successful in a non-traditional way. She calls these folks scanners and shows there is tremendous value (on a Leonardo DaVinci level) in their more prolific approach to their lives. As an incorrigible scanner,  I appreciate Sher's validation of my myriad projects (even the ones I've started and never gone back to.) My favorite quote is "the worst thing you can say about a scanner is that they finish things before other people think they should."

What were your favorite reads this summer?
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1 comment:

Val Foltz said...

i read a barn at the end of the world several years ago and loved it. thank you for the reminder to revisit it. i've been a terrible reader this summer. your recommendations have inspired me to do better and reminded me why i love reading.....thank you.