As soon as cold weather rolls in, I start daydreaming about becoming a full-time hermit with a stack of books and a hot tea. I’m definitely in Fall Reading mode, so this edition of What We’re Reading includes more review than usual.
While visiting Finland this summer, I was struck by how much safer it felt–I’m not talking about crime–but the cultural and legal sense of every person’s right to basic well-being. My husband had to visit an urgent care clinic, but we weren’t worried about what it would cost; in fact, we paid less out of pocket than we would have for the same care here in Minnesota with health insurance. So when I read The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life by journalist and Finnish expat Anu Partanen, I wanted to shout from the rooftops. Partanen makes a case for how and why the U.S. should take lessons from Nordic countries in order to create a more equitable, secure, and peaceful society. She doesn’t say Scandinavians are perfect, but she goes into sociological and economic research about the effectiveness of certain legislation and practices, adding in her own experiences. I devoured the book, and I sincerely wish everyone would read it, and then throw it at Congress.
Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson surprised no one by being hilarious, heartwarming, cringey, and authentic. Personally, I prefer her first memoir, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, but if you’re looking for a book that shares personal and funny anecdotes of coping with mental illness, collecting taxidermy, writing, and trusting relationships, Furiously Happy has it covered.
My book club’s selection this month was Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander III, M.D. The book came out four years ago, but if you haven’t read it, Dr. Alexander is bent on offering empirical proof of his near-death experience and miraculous recovery from severe bacterial meningitis. I question his motives, but I am fascinated in general by the mysteries around the brain, the mind, and the soul. This Salon article by Mark Martin gave the book an interesting reproach.
I whipped through Gretchen Rubin‘s second book, Happier at Home. It is kind of a focused follow-up to The Happiness Project, centering on her home’s environment and her relationships with her husband and daughters. I liked many of her ideas, but I had some trouble relating to her goals. A few months ago, I read her third book: Better Than Before. I highly recommend Better Than Before. It combines personality assessment with solid advice for keeping good habits and breaking bad habits. I guarantee you will find an insight that will help you understand or improve yourself, or help you understand someone else better.
My first grader is getting excited about chapter books, and, somewhat surprisingly, my 3-year-old will listen to me read them out loud for 15 minutes or even longer. Lately, we’ve been reading Ivy + Bean books by Annie Barrows, illustrated by Sophie Blackall, which I consider an essential collection for 5-10 year-olds. The characters are delightful.
We’ve also been into Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel. I feel sentimental about my childhood reading of Frog and Toad books, and Alexandra was so proud of herself for reading an entire chapter on her own!