The kids are back in school and the usual routine is in full swing! Now that the “vacation” has started for so many of us, we can hopefully make more time to read.
I could wax poetic about the benefits of reading novels and back them up with scientific studies (improved vocabulary, emotional intelligence and writing skills, reduced stress). But I will keep it simple. I am often asked how I have time to read when my life is so busy. The truth is, reading helps me survive my life. As I go through my day--rushing, solving, fixing, doing, making--I often think about the fact that my novel awaits by my bedside table ready to enfold me and take me away.
I know that for many watching a good TV series is the way to relax, and I am not knocking it. In fact, I confess I have a thing for the TV show Younger. But if you have given up on reading, I urge you to give it another shot and begin with these three books. There is nothing like being emotionally invested in a book. The ability to sink into the inner world of a character is the ultimate form of escapism. It makes your issues melt away as the characters’ experiences, thoughts and feelings come to the forefront. And since your brain has to be fully engaged when reading, there is no room to multitask or think about anything else. Is it any wonder I took up reading again after my first child was born and now cling to my books while my second is struggling through her terrible twos?
Next Year In Havana by Chanel Cleeton
If you haven’t already read this one, run out and buy it (or download it on your phone/tablet ASAP). I don’t think I have ever come across a book that gave me so much in spades: well-defined characters with beautiful, strong, emotional connections; a history lesson that doesn’t feel heavy; and the perspectives of very different individuals on a situation that riles intense passions on opposite sides of the political spectrum. While I was immersed in two fulfilling love stories and captivated by the life experiences of the grandmother, I watched the Cuban revolution unravel before me. It was highly illuminating to see the different reasons why people supported the revolution or didn’t, and how seemingly small changes eventually resulted in a sweeping revolution that turned the country inside out. One of the main characters in this book is Cuba itself, and all of it--its people (those that remained and those in exile), culture and scenery-- come out looking lovely. Another thing I loved about this book is that it gets better with every page.
How To Walk Away by Katherine Center
Sometimes when life falls apart, it offers a fantastic opportunity to rebuild a better existence. Such is the case in this book where the main character is in a serious airplane crash right after becoming engaged. Her seemingly perfect life, along with part of her spine, get crushed in the accident. But the catastrophe also reveals what the people in her life are made of and allows her to see what she really wants to do with her time on earth. While the subject is gut-wrenching at times, the characters’ humanity and sense of humor make this a surprisingly pleasant read. You will be touched by the main character’s epiphanies and the relationships she builds. You will be inspired by her courage and resilience. And when you close the book for the last time, you will sit for a little while thinking about your own life.
Paris for One and Other Stories by Jojo Moyes
I loved Me Before You and found myself sobbing at the end--something that rarely happens to me. I also loved the two sequels Me After You and Still Me. It filled me with admiration for Jojo Moyes as I find it difficult for sequels to really impress. But what has cemented Moyes in the pantheon of my favorite writers is her collection of short stories. I find the idea of short stories to be quaint. I envision myself at a cafe enjoying a cup of tea and one full story from beginning to end. In reality, I find short stories to be quite unsatisfying. Not so when it comes to Paris For One and Other Stories! These little nuggets are rich, insightful, fun, quirky, and unforgettable. The characters and their inner worlds are very well-defined. The plots are heart-stirring and entertaining. Within the first paragraph, they will envelop you, and I promise you, when the story is done, you will be thoroughly enchanted and deep in thought.