Sometimes it seems like our fellow man is more stranger than friend. How do we connect with each other when politics and electronics seem determined to keep us apart?
One of my coping strategies is to immerse myself in memoirs and biographies. I am particularly fascinated by people who live in worlds far different than mine.
Here are a few of my recent favorites…
- Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah – You do not need to be an avid Daily Show follower to appreciate Noah’s memoir. In fact, the show is on way past my bedtime so I have actually never seen him on it. However, his accounts of growing up in apartheid South Africa were uncomfortably riveting. An absolute must-read.
- The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel – I love adventure books. And I love books about people on the fringe. So I was sucked into this true story of a modern-day hermit, Christopher Knight, who one day walked into the woods and just stayed there for next twenty-seven years.
- Draft Animals: Living the Pro Cycling Dream by Phil Gaimon – In Phil’s first book, Pro Cycling on $10 Day, he details the injury-laden, not-so-glamorous life of a semi-pro cyclist trying to make it on a big-league professional team. Spoiler Alert #1: He eventually made it. Spoiler Alert #2: His life is still injury-laden and not-so-glamorous.
- When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi – Despite the overwhelmingly positive press, I hesitated to pick this one up due to my own cancer experience. I was not sure if I could handle a first-hand account of someone succumbing to this nasty disease. But I read it. And I cried. A lot. And I am glad I did. Absolutely beautiful.
- So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson – Public shaming is alive and well. While we no longer take people to the public square for a flogging, the damage we do on social media may actually be worse. Ronson explores why we are quick to find and illuminate other’s flaws. After reading this, you will think twice before retweeting that snarky comment about a stranger.
- At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe by Tsh Oxenreider – This travelogue is a love letter to being a wanderlust and a homebody. She writes: “Two opposing things can be equally true. Counting the days till Christmas doesn’t mean we hate Halloween. I go to church on Sundays, and still hold the same faith at the pub on Saturday night. I shamelessly play a steady stream of eighties pop music and likewise have an undying devotion to Chopin. And perhaps most significantly: I love to travel and I love my home.” YES. YES. YES.
How does this worker-bee/soccer-mom/rickety-runner find time to read 50 books a year? This is my secret.