Essential Reading: Thankfulness
This month, we’re celebrating books for which we are thankful. These works speak to us and offer perspective, hope and understanding; they remind us to value what we value. Personally, I’m grateful for every minute I spend reading any book, but I’m also grateful to my fellow Literary Mamas for their discerning recommendations.
Reviews Editor Colleen Rich writes, “I am thankful for journalist Brigid Schulte and her book Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time. I read a Washington Post article she had written about chaotic family dinners and immediately knew that I had a kindred spirit. While reading the book hasn’t made my life easier (and frankly, I have no idea where my 15-year-old’s hoodie went because I never touched it and we just need to buy a new one and stop trying to find someone to blame), I do feel less alone in my chaos, and I am examining my ‘leisure’ and work hours more closely.”
Lisa Factora-Borchers, Creative Nonfiction Editor, shares, “Right now, I am really grateful to have found Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams. This collection of essays explores the fascinating, complex and often elusive experience of empathy. It has led me into deeper reflection on my own pattern of empathy: how I extend it easily to like-minded adults, but not so easily to my four-year-old son. Although the collection of essays does not tackle motherhood directly, Jamison’s writing provides a guide to the obstacles we all experience in trying to truly connect with and appreciate the human face in front of us.”
Irena Smith, Columns Editorial Assistant, recommends a different kind of book about empathy and appreciation: “Gregory Maguire’s Egg and Spoon, at first blush a fairy tale, is so much more than that. Set (ostensibly) in late-19th-century Tsarist Russia, it depicts a world imperiled by, among other things, the death of magic and a dearth of human empathy and imagination. Two girls—one a privileged member of the aristocracy, one an impoverished peasant—inadvertently switch places; one ends up on a luxury train to St. Petersburg, the other, lost in the Russian countryside where she encounters Baba Yaga, one of the most feared characters in Russian folklore. Along the way, each discovers much to be grateful for—not simply material comfort, but the wonder and wildness of a world that may be worth saving after all.”
“Birthing the Mother Writer” Columnist Cassie Premo Steele has her own list for this list: “Three things I’m thankful for: my garden, my daughter, and my women friends. Here are three books that celebrate each, and they make wonderful holiday gifts, too!
- Garden Blessings, edited by June Cotner, includes poems, prose, and prayers celebrating the love of gardening. (Self-promotion warning: I have a poem in there!)
- Bless Us All, by Cynthia Rylant, was given to me at the birth of my daughter by a dear yogini friend. Although this is a children’s book, Rylant’s drawings and poems for each month are perfect for a holiday dinner toast.
- She... by Kobi Yamada was given to me by a woman friend on my birthday. It celebrates all women, and begins with the lines, ‘She loved life and it loved her right back. Celebrate her passion.'”
“Dear Marjo” Columnist Marjorie Osterhout raves, “I’ve read many, many books about parenting, but the one single book that fell into my life exactly when I needed it was Mother Shock by Andrea Buchanan. It gave me the perfect metaphor for what I was experiencing: becoming a mother is just like having culture shock (hence the title). The exhausting jet lag, the babbling foreign language, strollers and car seats as transportation, and OMG the weird food. Having a name for it made me feel normal, like a fellow weary traveler meeting others along the same path. By extension, the metaphor also gave me strategies: deal with homesickness and accept that you live in this new country now; sleep when you can; learn the language quickly; transportation is a snap once you get used to it; and you don’t have to eat the native food. I was so thankful, so released by this book, that I wrote shameless fan mail to the author. She happened to be the Editor-in-Chief of Literary Mama, and so began my eight years of editing and writing for this lovely site. Am I grateful? You bet—for so many things.”