If there’s one thing I love to do to unwind or escape, it’s reading. I’ve been an avid reader for about as long as I can remember, and it’s always been my way to escape from everything going on around me and delve into another kind of reality. It’s a running joke in my family that the reason I’m so directionally challenged is because I never looked up from my book when we were driving in the car, so I had no frame of reference when I got my license. Usually, I’m a quick reader - I call it “binge reading” - since I can get so immersed in a story that I simply have to know what happens next. When I was a senior in high school, I went on a trip to Quebec, and we drove for over 10 hours in a coach bus all the way to Canada. I got through two entire books that weekend. On my flight back home from Paris two summers ago, I read The Kite Runner in its entirety, barely looking up for lunch (not that it was that good…). Books have a way of pulling me in and not letting go until I’ve gotten to the last page, and it’s such a thrilling experience for me.
I have to read a lot for classes, so by the end of the day during the term, the last thing I want to do is read. When I was home on break, however, I read a ton!
I started with Leaving Time, by Jodi Picoult. She’s one of those authors that I can only binge read because her writing is incredibly compelling. This book starts with a girl named Jenna Metcalf whose mother disappeared when she was a baby. She lives with her grandmother and has spent years searching for her mother, Alice, who apparently vanished without a trace. She enlists the help of a disgraced psychic named Serenity Jones, as well as a detective named Virgil. Not only do we hear Jenna’s search for her mother, but we also get to hear her mother’s story, Serenity’s, and Virgil’s stories as well - this is a signature technique that Jodi Picoult uses. Alice used to work with elephants and study the grieving process, so that was an interesting storyline, as well. I literally flew through this book on our first day of vacation - that was how good it was. The end, however, took me by complete surprise, and I remember sitting there with my mouth hanging open, I was so shocked! I always say each book is better than the last, but it’s true every time. HIGHLY recommend!
I love historical fiction, so a friend recommended Ken Follett’s novels. He just completed a trilogy, which he calls The Century Trilogy. It’s aptly named, because each book traces a generation of the same group of families throughout the twentieth century. Fall of Giants is the first book, so it begins in 1912 or so, as Europe is heading for the Great War. Each of these families - English, American, Russian, German, and Welsh - becomes intertwined in some way, despite their class differences and countries or origin, so it was fascinating to read each of their perspectives on the events leading up to, during, and after the Great War. It’s romance, politics, history, and so much more, all together in this master story. This was another binge-read for me, even though his books are massive - we’re talking 900 pages here! I also had a ton of free time when we were on vacation, but I couldn’t put it down. If you love history, like I do, get this book. DO IT. I’ve moved on to the next book in the trilogy, Winter of the World, which is about the children of the characters in Fall of Giants, and this one deals with the Great Depression and World War II. I’m about 400 pages in, but it’s taking me longer to read this one because I’m back in school right now, not because it’s any less compelling.
I also finally finished Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s newest book, A Path Appears. That one took me longer because I like to take my time with non-fiction, but I loved it and was incredibly inspired by their ideas, as always. I read Half the Sky, which is about global issues facing women and girls and WOW was it incredible! I had never considered the impact that simple operations, for example, could make, or even the ripple effect that women and girls have on their communities. A Path Appears is almost like the next step you take after reading Half the Sky, because it is about what you can do to help resolve these issues. It first examines the organisation and initiatives that are already hard at work around the world, and then examines the sociology and science surrounding philanthropy itself, as well as how to make the best difference you can. This was easily the most inspiring book I’ve read in a long time.
Oh and if you’re wondering why I said “digital bookshelf” it is because I am a proud Kindle owner. I love paper books (I read the actual paper copy of Fall of Giants), but being able to read on both my iPad and my Kindle is just so convenient. This is especially true for a study-abroad student who has limited room in her suitcase! I’ve had a Kindle since they first came out, and upgraded a few years ago, and I still say it’s one of the best purchases I’ve ever made.
Any books you recommend? I’m always open to suggestions!