Another month, another attempt to reduce the To Be Read pile. This month had a number of cool grey days that were perfect for curling up on the couch with a good book. Regrettably, they frown on doing that at work. Fortunately, there were enough evenings and weekends for me to make a dent in the pile, thought I can neither confirm nor deny that I added more new titles to the list than I read.
Anyway, here’s what topped the list this month:
First up, in honour of Dr. Seuess’ birthday, was The Sneetches. The story, a favourite of my son, packs a tremendous amount of action in a minimal amount of words. It is proof that you can tell a rich story very simply.
When the Star-Belly children went out to play ball,
Could a Plain Belly get into the game . . . ? Not at all.
You only could play if your bellies had stars
And the Plain-Belly children had none upon thars.
Considered a social commentary on discrimination between races and cultures, the story camouflages its seriousness with rhyming verses and imaginative pictures. It was a delightful start to my month’s reading. It’s hard to go wrong with Dr. Seuss, no matter how old you are.
A new author
Actually, this month it was two new authors. I started with The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. This book initially joined my electronic TBR pile back in January 2014. It received great reviews and, I have to admit, had special appeal for me because it was written by a former IT consultant. The story is a romantic comedy with a male voice about an extraordinary man learning to live and love in an ordinary world. It’s quirky and fun and after the first few pages I found it completely engaging.
“I may have found a solution to the Wife Problem. As with so many scientific breakthroughs, the answer was obvious in retrospect. But had it not been for a series of unscheduled events, it is unlikely I would have discovered it.”
The main character, a socially challenged genetics professor named Don Tillman, begins The Wife Project in order to find the perfect partner. Because real-life is rarely perfect, his scientific project doesn’t work out as planned, and his regularly scheduled life is interrupted by the Potential Father Project, the Great Cocktail Night, the New York Adventure, and the Reform Don Project, before finally leading to the Rosie Project and a chance at happily-ever-after. Don is charming and endearing and it’s impossible not to root for him as he works on his projects. This story was a winner for me and I look forward to reading more by this author.
Next up was Imperfect Chemistry by Mary Frame. I picked up this book just last week, based on a recommendation from the Word Wenches blog. Like The Rosie Project, it deals with an intelligent, socially challenged main character – in this case Lucy, a 20-year old with a PhD in microbiology. She’s knowledgeable about a lot of things, but not emotions or people, as is evidenced by her lack of success in the college peer counseling clinic.
I have to get her to stop crying. I shuffle through the index of knowledge in my brain and pull out items at random.
“He’s not worth it,” I try.
She’s still crying.
“You can do so much better.”
Not helping. If anything, it’s getting worse.
She’s got a grant to research “emotions as a pathogen” but has no real understanding of emotions or relationships. So, what does a scientific-minded, individual do when confronted with a problem? Make a plan, of course.
I need experience with relationships. The words run around in my head. I can find friends. That should be easy enough. Go to a social function, engage in conversation. How hard can it be?
Lucy goes about her plan with the same resolute persistence that Don showed in The Rosie Project and like him, after some challenges the results are more than she ever could have imagined. The characters in this story were well drawn and endearing and I was rooting for them as the story progressed. This one was another winner for me – I’ve already downloaded the author’s next book, Imperfectly Criminal.
My last selection for the month was The Art of Happiness by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The subject of happiness has interested me for some time and I’ve read a variety of books, taken classes, and watched any number of TED talks on the subject. I’m not sure exactly when I first picked up this particular book – I found it recently while clearing out my library shelves – but decided it was time to give it a try. Underlying all of the information provided in the book, were the Dalai Lama’s underlying beliefs:
. . . a belief in the fundamental gentleness and goodness of all human beings, a belief in the value of compassion, a belief in a policy of kindness, and a sense of commonality among all living creatures.
One section of the book that I felt tied in rather nicely with my other selections this month was the chapter on deepening connections to others. It talked about establishing empathy and developing an awareness and respect for the feelings of others. That is something that was evident in the other books I read. In their own ways, the main characters each showed the growth of both awareness and respect for others and themselves during the course of the story, which did truly seem to lead to happiness. This was not a book to breeze through (I’m still working through the “Bringing About Change” section) but it has nuggets of information throughout that provide good food for thought, making the reading journey worthwhile.
So what have you read this month? Any keepers or recommendations?