By Chris Croll
Whether you are relaxing at the beach, sitting on a long flight or just chilling at home this summer, here are five books I read this month that are sure to captivate your attention and expand your thinking in new directions.
“Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine”by Gail Honeyman (Fiction). I don’t think I’ve laughed this hard while reading a book in a long time. It’s rare to read a first-person narrative told by someone who thinks so differently from the norm. Eleanor is socially confused, uptight, highly-flawed character who is easy to like. Memorable text:“The last party I’d been to—apart from that appalling wedding reception—was on Judy Jackson’s thirteenth birthday. It had involved ice-skating and milkshakes and hadn’t ended well. Surely no one was likely to vomit or lose a finger at an elderly invalid’s welcome home celebration?”
“White Fragility; Why It’s so Hard for White People to Talk About Racism”by Robin Deangelo (Non-Fiction). I’d like to buy a copy of this book for every public official, teacher, law enforcement agent, government worker and other influential member of our community. Concepts like white privilege, implicit bias and systemic racism are not only defined by the author who is a white equity coach, but she clearly articulates how all white people have unwittingly played a role in maintaining the white supremacy status quo in America. Memorable text:“If I as a white person conceptualize racism as a binary and I place myself on the “not racist” side, what further action is required of me? No action is required because I am not a racist. Therefore, racism is not my problem, it doesn’t concern me and there is nothing further I need to do. This worldview guarantees I will not build my skills in thinking critically about racism or use my position to challenge racial inequality.”
“Little Fires Everywhere”by Celeste Ng (Fiction). This breezy read is about how picture-perfect families are often deeply dysfunctional behind closed doors. With well-defined teen and adult characters, the reader peeks into the behind-the-scenes lives of two families intertwined by secrets and lies. Memorable text:“The baby had been tucked in a cardboard box, wearing several sets of clothing and cocooned in blankets against the January cold. There had been a note in the box, too, which Mrs. McCullough had eventually convinced the social worker to let her read: This baby name May Ling. Please take this baby and give her a better life. That first night, when the baby had finally fallen asleep in their lap, Mr. and Mrs. McCullough spent two hours flipping through the name dictionary. It had not occurred to them, then or at any point until now, to regret the loss of her old name.”
“When Things Fall Apart; Heart Advice for Difficult Times”by Pema Chodron (Non-Fiction). We all go through challenging times in life, and this book offers Buddhist wisdom to help us become comfortable with uncertainty, failure and even death. Memorable line:“A thoroughly good relationship with ourselves results in being still, which doesn’t mean we don’t run and jump and dance about. It means there’s no compulsiveness. We don’t overwork, overeat, oversmoke, overseduce. In short, we begin to stop causing harm.”
“21 Lessons for the 21st Century”by Yuval Noah Harari (Non-Fiction). I’m still plowing through this dense text but the author of New York Times best-seller “Sapiens” has already challenged my ideas about technology and the fate of humanity—and I’m only on chapter two. Memorable text,“In the last few decades research in areas such as neuroscience and behavioral economics allowed scientists to hack humans, and in particular to gain a much better understanding of how humans make decisions. It turns out that our choices of everything from food to mates result not from some mysterious free will but rather from billions of neurons calculating probabilities within a split second.”
These books were all recommended by friends, so I clearly have an eclectic friend set. There is something on this list for everyone and I hope you enjoy the mind-expanding lessons and entertaining stories found on the pages of these excellent books. Happy reading!
Chris Croll is a writer, community activist and member of the Loudoun County School Board (Catoctin District). She lives in Leesburg with her husband and two children.