Day 16: Three Good Books

I am always reading a book. I am virtually incapable of falling asleep without reading in bed first (always with my blue light filter on). The last couple of weeks I have obviously had a lot of down time so I’m devouring more books than usual. Thank goodness for my Kindle. Say what you will about Amazon’s inexorable march towards global domination, but being able to download a book within seconds is pretty life enhancing when you’re couch bound.

Here are three good ones I read in the last two weeks.

Educated – Tara Westover. I was a little late to the party on this one as it has been out nearly a year and is still No. 2 on the New York Times bestsellers list (Michelle Obama is holding steady in the top spot). Educated is a memoir of growing up in a quasi-fundamentalist Mormon family of survivalists. The author suffered an often traumatic upbringing in a dysfunctional family and never went to school, yet gained admission to Brigham Young University, then earned graduate degrees at Cambridge and Columbia. It’s a truly fascinating and often dark read. The subject matter alone would be worth the time but the author’s excellent and insightful writing really make this book sing.

The Elephant in the Room: One Fat Man’s Quest to Get Smaller in a Growing America – Tommy Tomlinson. This book covers a year in which the author, who is 460 lbs (208 kg), attempts to lose weight in a slow and sustainable way. Mostly though, it is an affecting account of being massively overweight. The author, who is a former reporter and newspaper columnist, is brutally honest about the social and emotional origins of his overeating, and the shame he feels. He provides a humanizing and eloquent voice to an issue that is more often addressed as a faceless public health crisis. I’m guilty of characterizing very obese people this way too and this book made me re-examine some of my assumptions.

America the Anxious: How to Calm Down, Stop Worrying and Find Happiness – Ruth Whippman. Not, as the title suggests, a self help book to increase one’s happiness but rather a highly entertaining critique of exactly that kind of thing. The author is a British documentary maker who moved to California and became intrigued by the national obsession with pursuing happiness in the US. It’s fascinating and funny without being condescending to the people the author interacts with in her quest to find out what really makes people happy.

Around 95 percent of what I read is non fiction. Fiction either doesn’t engage me or engages me so much I can’t fall asleep. I have five books, all non fiction, on pre-order right now that should magically appear in my Kindle over the next few weeks. And yes, one of them is on happiness.

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