Sometimes we just need to push pause and find a way to take a break from all of the 'ins and outs,' and 'ups and downs' of life. And thus, in steps the novel. We all love a good story. And reading a novel is my way of slipping into the La-La land of "Don't worry. Be happy."
It is not something that I recommend all of the time, because there really are very serious things that require our attention, both personally and globally. We need to care for ourselves and our loved ones. And we need to care for our world, literally. On the very serious side, and for an extremely illuminating reality check, I recommend listening to a recent Q&A with Noam Chomsky about the Future of our World. He speaks of the systematic dismantling of arms control measures that has taken place over the last few decades, leaving just one in place, making a nuclear holocaust a very real potential, and the lack of awareness about this, and about the reality of climate change, both looming very large before us all. He also proposes what we can do about it.
We do need to lend our energy to movements for positive change. This is part of our responsibility as global citizens. Like our self care, it is part of our soul growth. And, I certainly do put time and effort into this aspect of my life. But I also need a little down time from time to time. TV doesn't often interest me much, I prefer stories. So, I thought I'd share with you a small handful of some of my favorite novels.
Recently I've been reading some rollicking good fun, in the form of historical fiction. I've been focused on changes that women have made which have helped to generate cultural advancement. My recent favorite is Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus. I fell in love with her protagonist, Elizabeth Zott. Set in the 1950's, this book is full of humor and hope and shows how things were and why they got better.
I also really loved, The Giver of Stars, by Jojo Moyes. This novel is based on the true story of the depression era Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky. These women rode out into very rural areas and brought books that people could borrow for free, increasing literacy and connection for isolated families. Jojo Moyes wrote another book that I truly enjoyed with some great girl-inspired capers, bringing wrong doers to right, called Someone Else's Shoes.
Being a woman myself, of course I do love to read about strong female characters. Another author who focuses on historical fiction to elaborate on our past and how women have helped to change things for the better is Barbara Kingslover. She has some of the most insightful and far reaching stories in her quiver of novels. Perhaps my favorite of hers is Prodigal Summer.
One of the classics of modern literature, and an absolute must read is Beryl Markham's West With the Night. This book, about the true stories of her life is filled with love and the bravery of a woman living and working in a man's world. If you read nothing else on this list, this would be the one.
All of these books have helped me to see and appreciate the (albeit slow,) changes and much needed progressive strides that we have made toward love, respect and allowance. They have brought me joy and have helped me to hold a positive view in the face of all that life here on earth has to offer.
There are three others, by male authors, that are really fun and wonderful. My grandmother gave me my copy of My Family and Other Animals, by Gerald Durrell. Frank and I have both read this one many times and we laugh and giggle our way through it every time. Durrell's prose and descriptions of nature on the pre-war island of Corfu are beautiful. And the antics of his family are sure to bring a smile into your heart.
The Dalai Lama's Cat by David Michie, is one the most heartwarming and enjoyable books I've found. This wise little cat lets us peek into the inner sanctum of life at Dharamsala, bringing insights on how to find delight and peace of mind in our own lives.
And lastly, Niall Williams, with This Is Happiness, for it's sheer beauty, left me transfixed by the inner workings of the heart, a young boy's first tender loves, and how the culture of old world Ireland reaching into today, has shaped his perspective and brought him to the eloquence of a life enlightened. This is a book to be savored and it brings happiness, indeed.
May you all have some fun with this list, 'push pause' when you need to and take a little break.