I’ve made an effort to read more after such an abysmal year of barely reading anything in 2015 (I didn’t exactly keep up with my goal of two books a month minimum). And by read I don’t mean revisiting shallow though entertaining young adult novels because I’m stressed or busy and “don’t want to think,” though there’s room for that too. I mean reading books I’ve never read before, more non-fiction and books on my faith, even classics I’ve never gotten around to.
This past month it was The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood and When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. The former was difficult to enjoy–the characters impossible to sympathize with and the plot perverse beyond necessity and plausibility. The selfishness and exploitation Atwood presented was unsettling, to say the least, but she still manages to write it all with the style and wit that makes her my favorite. The latter book I found beautiful and poetically written. There’s something very alluring about the memoir and the potential to understand another human being–their process of thought, what they believe, who they are–even in death. It’s a privilege. Like Kalanithi, I, too, am a lover of language and felt a familiarity not only with his words but also his desire, perhaps even need, to make sense of the human experience.
As someone who has spent a lot of time as a patient dependent on an authoritative medical expert to guide and protect me through the unknown, it was a relief to gain understanding of the mind of a doctor, to see how Kalanithi connected with and communicated with his patients, and to find that same doctor, when a patient himself, struggled with many of the same things I have.
The last pages I read in tears while my husband held my hand in comfort. A friend pointed out how rare it is to connect with an author in such a way, to have someone’s life and death move you. I’m grateful for that connection even in sorrow.
We own a store full of books but I sometimes think that makes figuring out what to read even harder. I’d love to hear any recommendations you have!