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At the end of each year here at The Book Jam, we post reading suggestions for the down-time in between the holiday rush and New Year’s Eve. We traditionally call this list “What To Read After The Relatives Have Left.” But this year, that doesn’t quite work. Those observing strict safety practices would feel oh so grateful to be in need of quiet after a slurry of visitors. And yet, there is still something about this hushed valley of time in December/those initial days of January that allows us to get lost in a great story. So we continue this list today, even if the title is a bit clunky. How about this year we call it “Books for the Hush of Late December/early January?” Whatever the title, we offer these suggestions it in the hopes that you are able to find calm as well as the space to curl up with a wonderful, transformative, and healing book. Happy 2021!
What Are You Going Through by Sigrid Nunez (2020). At first glance, this story, one about a woman accompanying a friend with a terminal illness through the process of dying, might seem depressing - and yet, it never is. Instead it is witty, insightful, profound, quotidian, and compassionate. The narrator’s voice is conversational and intimate, which makes it easy to spend time with her and what might otherwise be difficult subjects. Nunez has a gift for exploring themes of companionship and meaning (for those who have not yet read her 2018 National Book Award winning The Friend: A Novel should know we also highly recommend this; after finishing it, I wanted to put it in the hands or everyone I knew). Ms. Nunez’s new book also explores the topic of our threatened environment, hope, and healing and moves readers from hospital rooms, college lecture halls, and to an airbnb where the friend wishes to spend her final days. There is even a talking cat who tells us its life story. In a year when it was often challenging to find books that seemed relevant or were able to hold a reader’s attention, this one strikes just the right chord. And the reader feels transformed by the end. ~Lisa Cadow
A Promised Land by Barack Obama (2020). Wow, can our former President write a well crafted sentence/paragraph/chapter/book. At over 700 pages you need a bit of time to settle in and enjoy; so we include it in this post about what to read during the "hush of late December/early January" even though it has been everywhere for awhile (and many of you may already own it, but have it in a stack, unread). We hope you can take some time, pick this up, settle into your favorite chair, and learn about what life as the United States President actually entails, and then discover how this particular person dealt with all that the Presidency offers. I, for one, was heartened by the pragmatic optimism infused throughout.~ Lisa Christie
More Than Enough by Elaine Welteroth (2020). The critics talk about how this book is great for young adults as they begin their careers and lives away from their parents/guardians. I, as a 54 year old woman found it to just be a great book about life, told through the prism of Ms. Welteroth, who among other career accolades was the first Black editor of Teen Vogue. In her stories, you will find help claiming your space and assistance refuting biases; mostly you will be reminded that you are "more than enough". ~ Lisa Christie