In fourth grade my son ran for student council. He wasn’t elected, and although he didn’t take it too badly at the time, he never ran again. That little boy is now a combat soldier dealing with more serious challenges than losing the “popularity vote” in grade school. Military life hasn’t been easy, and I often wonder if I could have helped him build greater resilience by framing those smaller emotional hardships in a more useful way. Since reading Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy, I know that’s possible. Written in first person by Sheryl Sandberg, and based on her family’s experience of mourning the sudden death of her husband Dave, this book can give hope to anyone who is dealing with, or has dealt with, emotional stress. Option B is co-authored by Adam Grant, Professor of Psychology at Wharton, who brings psychological insight to the mix in the form of research and practical tools. I found myself writing the strategies out in a notebook so that I could easily refer back to them in the future. I also noted the advice on how to comfort a friend (something I have been struggling with recently). Sandberg admits that her situation was cushioned by financial stability and a strong support network, things not everyone can leverage in times of crisis, but other ways to ease pain that she leaned on and recommends, such as journaling and expressing gratitude are accessible: “Resilience comes from deep within us and from support outside us. It comes from gratitude for what’s good in our lives and from leaning in to the suck.” If you are interested in raising resilient kids, becoming more resilient yourself, or helping others get through hard times, I suggest you check this very readable book out.
If you like sci-fi novels, Amanda Fields, Publisher, recommends this one: “I’m particularly drawn to science fiction and fantasy in times of political and social extremes, so Rivers Solomon’s An Unkindness of Ghosts came to me at the perfect time. The novel is solidly sci-fi, as it’s located on a generational ship called The Matilda that has been traveling to a promised land for centuries. The ship is starkly divided based on race, and its infrastructure is dependent upon those confined to the lower decks of the ship, who endure restrictive, abusive conditions. The upper decks of the ship consist of individuals with an appalling yet unsurprising naivete about how their structured and comfortable lives are maintained, and the ship is ruled by The Sovereign, who has fallen ill. Aster Grey, the neurodiverse protagonist who resists the norms of the various groups on the ship, lives on the lower decks. Aster is self-taught in medicinal and herbal treatments and assists the privileged Surgeon, who has his own story of resistance. Aster uses her status as a respected healer, and the help of her friend (and sometimes enemy) Giselle, to investigate the mystery of her mother’s death many years prior, which leads to several understandings about herself and The Matilda. An intersectional focus is key to the novel. Gender fluidity and differences in the ways people perceive and discuss gender (including pronouns) abound among groups and cultures on the ship, and Aster Grey is just one of the nonbinary characters who populate the ship. It’s this keen insight into the nuanced ways we find to live, even in the face of horrific injustice, that draws me to the book. It’s rare for me to say I couldn’t put a book down, but, when I inevitably had to, I couldn’t wait to return to it.”
Senior Editor and Literary Reflections Editor Libby Maxey enjoyed listening to the audio version of this book: “It’s not often that I choose a book that exceeds 600 pages, but I listened to Nathan Hill’s debut novel The Nix in less than two weeks and never got tired of it. I love a good audiobook, and Ari Fliakos reading this one is about as good as it gets. (The Nix was Audible’s Audiobook of the Year in 2016, and Fliakos was named Narrator of the Year in 2017.) It’s a story about choices and the haphazard lives that even the most intentional of us find ourselves mired in, but it’s also a story about family and empathy and the gradual movement toward understanding—something that always seems to come too late, but which is no less valuable for all that. Samuel is a 30-something failed writer and jaded English professor whose social life consists of playing World of Elfquest. When his estranged mother, Faye, achieves YouTube infamy by throwing gravel at a conservative presidential candidate, he finds himself on a quest to figure out who she really is—and was—and why she abandoned his family when he was 11. Often funny, sometimes crass, but always well written, The Nix is a keen and cutting snapshot of modern America and the lies that both stifle and sustain it. Yet it’s also a surprisingly heartfelt story of forgiveness and redemption in which the truth really does set people free. Hill’s sprawling novel honors the complexity of humanity, particularly that of Faye, with the insight that ‘there is not one true self hidden by many false ones; rather, there is one true self hidden by many other true ones.'”