The Transformative Power of a Book

I love how a book can entertain, inspire, challenge our thinking and transport us to another place and time with a little bit of magic and an artful arrangement of words. My favorite genres are historical fiction, mysteries and psychological thrillers, but I will attempt almost anything. Most of what I read is either recommended by a friend, or from a book club list that I trust.

Book Club

Reese Witherspoon launched Hello Sunshine Book Club in 2017 with Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman. That book had a quirky lead character and taught us about loss, acceptance and how individuals can form a family – even when the members are not related.

My first introduction to this book club was last year when my neighborhood club chose, Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens, from her list. I loved the richness and detail of the development of the main character in that book as well as Ms. Owen’s highly descriptive passages on nature and how humans oftentimes mimic the behavior of animals.

Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng was also a favorite. Reese Witherspoon bought the production rights to that book and produced a successful Netflix mini-series. The main characters in the book are two protective mothers who’s parenting styles are in stark contrast to each other. Both are fundamentally flawed individuals plagued by choices. It will challenge your attitudes and beliefs regarding many social issues.

What I like about her book list is that many of her choices mirror my interests. Her picks typically have a strong female lead, (often inspirational) and are written by women. Some of her book choices have highly relatable characters and teachable moments, while some are ‘beach reads’, like the one I am recommending below; who doesn’t love one of those on occasion?

What I Am Reading

This week I read two books worth recommending. The first was a straight-up mystery which was very entertaining. The Last House Guest, by Megan Miranda is set in a fictional beach town in Maine.

At the last event of the season, the mysterious death of Avery Greer, a wealthy seasonal resident, raises questions and eventually reveals secrets that have long been held. The author successfully unfolds the mystery without revealing the ending through a myriad of twists and turns that will have you speed reading through the last few chapters.

This is not the type of book that stays with me or makes me think beyond the last page, but it does pass time in a very enjoyable way. If you are looking for something light and fun this book is for you.

The second book I recommend this week is The Rent Collector, by Cameron Wright. The setting for this book is Stung Meanchey, a waste dump in Cambodia. The main characters, Sang Ly, and her husband Ki Lim live at the base of the dump and pick through the trash daily, selling or keeping useful items in order to live. Sang Ly’s purpose in life is to find a cure for her chronically ill son. Her path becomes interwoven with the rent collector, an ill-tempered drunk, who harbors a deep and tragic secret. The unlikely bond between the two women is forged through an introduction to literature, as both teacher and student are forever changed. This is a story of hope, redemption, and above all, love.

The author used his son’s 2009 documentary of a Cambodian family as the basis for this tale and while the book is entirely fictional, the circumstances of their lives are not. The introduction of literature is used to explore the depth and complexity of the human condition as it provides a bridge to connectivity. Words are powerful and have the ability to change lives. This book illustrates that power.

Do not be fooled by the setting into thinking that this is another soul sucking tale of misery. It is quite the opposite and I think you will find it enlightening and hopeful. In its truest sense, this book is a love story.

Smiles of Gratitude

I am grateful for the uplifting power of books and literature. Today I will return these books to the library and pick up two more. I am especially grateful to be able to queue up several titles on-line and wait for them to become safely available for curbside pickup at my local library. How ‘new normal’ is that?

How about you? Have you taken solace or found an escape hatch through books and literature during this time? If so, I’d love to hear your suggestions for a good read. What is your favorite source for book recommendations? Has your local library made adjustments to accommodate continued service?

Shared

If you would like to share what made you smile this week, please visit Trent’s Weekly Smile blog.

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40 Responses to The Transformative Power of a Book

  1. dawnkinster says:

    I’m having trouble reading books during the virus scare. I don’t know why exactly, you’d think, now that I’m stuck at home, I’d be grateful for my kindle. I did just finish “Nobody Will Tell You This But Me” by Bess Kalb. It’s a biography of sorts about her grandmother, where the grandmother tells the story of her own mother, her daughter (the author’s mother) and her relationship with her granddaughter (the author). It was complicated in the beginning and I almost didn’t finish, but the 2nd half was sooooo good. Especially her relationship with the author, told mostly from the grandmother’s point of view, but often from the author’s point of view too. Interesting to see how they see the same thing from different places.

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    • Dawn, that is why I chose a ‘light read’ to reboot my reading habit. I lost the ability to focus for a while there and couldn’t imagine reading an entire book! I will take a look at “Nobody Will Tell You…” and see if it’s for me. Thanks for the recommendation.

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  2. Thank you Suzanne! I’m always looking for book recommendations. I enjoyed Little Fires Everywhere and Where the Crawdads Sing. I’m going to hit the library for the ones you mentioned!

    Deb

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  3. Suzanne, thank your this. You and I share a love of books. I’ve read the books you listed from the Reese Witherspoon book list and loved them all. My favorite of them was “Where the Crawdads Sing”. I’ve added the last two books you mentioned to my “want to read” list.

    I get most of my books in digital format from our library and usually have about 5 books on hold. The library has started doing the curbside pickup. Lately I have been enjoying historical fiction set during World War II. “Beneath a Scarlet Sky” and “The Diplomat’s Wife” were very good. Another book I would recommend is “Before we were Yours.” Happy reading!

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    • Beth, my book club has a ‘resident expert’ on WWII Historical Fiction so we read at least two of those each year. She just recommended “The Splendid and the Vile” which you might want to take a look at. It is about Winston Churchill. I will ask if she has read Beneath a Scarlet Sky. I’m pretty sure we read the Diplomat’s Wife, but I can’t remember the story. I thought Where the Crawdads Sing was one of the best books we read this past year. The wait time on the digital format option seems to be a bit longer than getting the physical book at my library. I don’t really understand why?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Here in Georgia all library members share the same download site. I just put “The Giver of Stars on Hold” and I am #187! That does seem strange you can get the physical book faster. I’ll look into the book you recommended.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. I’ve been a reader my entire life. My favorites are mysteries and thrillers. However, I will venture into chick lit as well. My sole purpose in nonfiction reading is entertainment and escape. Some in my book club like books that deal with human struggles and while I can enjoy those for what they are, they aren’t my cup of tea. I tend to read a lot of the same authors and my book club forces me to branch out, which is good. Just read “all about evie” by Cathy Lamb. Kind of quirky and I liked it. I am curious to hear our discussion next week!!

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    • Hi Linda, book clubs do have a way of forcing you to read titles you might never choose for yourself. I roll my eyes when someone suggests another WWII book, but then I read it and always find something to appreciate. I will put All About Evie on my list to review. Quirky sounds good.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi, Suzanne – One of my ‘COVID Shut In Projects’ was to read all 22 books on my two Book Club lists for 2020. I’m now on my last two books (‘The Golden Spruce’ and ‘Where I Live Now’). From these lists, I also recently read ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ and ‘Where the Crawdad’s Sing). I loved them both. Many people have shared that they haven’t been able to get into reading during shutdown. I’ve been quite the opposite. Like you, I am immensely grateful for the uplifting power of books and literature. Last night I finished Anne Korkeakivi’s “An Unexpected Guest’. It was quietly powerful. “MLSTL

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    • Donna, that’s an impressive accomplishment. I will check out the titles you mentioned and see if they fit my style. I admit to having a bit of a ‘focus’ issue around week 4 and into week 5, and reading a book seemed laborious to me at that time. I have since regrouped and have gotten back to basics. Whatever works, right? Thanks for visiting.

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  6. Thanks for these ideas! I am always looking for something good to read. A few of my favorites are “Before We Were Yours” by Lisa Wingate, “The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek” by Kim Michele Richardson, and “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak. I am in a book club and it has forced me to read books I would not normally have selected. All of these were good reads and kept my attention. We are reading “Little Fires Everywhere” next month and loved “Where the Crawdad Sings”. We just finished “My Lovely Wife” by Samantha Downing and plan to discuss it this Thursday night.

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  7. Natalie says:

    Hi Suzanne, Reading books is one of my favourite pastimes. I’ve read 21 books so far this year, and 62 last year. From your list, I’ve read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. This week I switched gear to listen to Harry Potter The Philosopher’s Stone readings by accomplished actors. I’ve read the book and watched the movie when it came out but the actors’ readings took the story to another level. It’s like book and movie combined to me. Toronto Public Library has offered amazing digital services during the lockdown. The branches are allowed to open for curbside pickups starting this week so I’m expecting a mini adventure to go and pick up my books 🙂

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    • Natalie, 62 books last year and already up to 21 this year. That’s a lot of reading,good for you. I am glad you had access to a great digital library and will soon be able to pick up a physical copy. I like reading on my laptop, but much prefer the real thing.

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  8. Thank you for this post, I enjoyed it. Most of the “beach reading” I do is when I get to go on an official vacation Sometimes for both of us the goal is reading, especially the week after Christimas in Pennsylvania. I hit the library before leaving town and happily stay in the cabin reading, except for brief excursions for food, shopping or a trip to the local library. It is THE most relaxing thing after the hectic season of Advent and Christmas. Because I have continued to work through the pandemic (part time of course and from home) most of the reading I have done that is not professional has been blog posts. Thankful for the connections, content and diversions. I do think I will check out The Rent Collector though. It sounds interesting. Thanks and blessings, Michele

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  9. Many great suggestions here. Here is a gripping true story, page-turner, about Theodore Roosevelt’s the last expedition, The River Of Doubt.

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  10. Hi Suzanne, we love the same genres and I’ve been enjoying reading much more during COVID-19. Little Fires Everywhere was so good and I also enjoyed Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine. I prefer British Crime thrillers and have read the DCI Ryan series by LJ Ross. I have When the Crawdads Sing downloaded but haven’t read it yet. I’ve recently discovered a new author, Lisa Jewell and would recommend Then She Was Gone and The Family Upstairs. My favourite go to book if I need comfort is The Italian Class by Maeve Binchy. I’ve read it so often I feel like the characters are friends and family. Thanks for the book suggestions as well. Have a lovely weekend. xx

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    • Sue, I think the Italian Class will have to go on my list for sure. Any book that is so captivating you read it more than once must be really good. I have added your other recommendations to my list of books to review and consider. Thanks!

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  11. Tracey says:

    Our libraries are still closed, but I’ve been getting by with books swaps. I just finished The Rules of Civility and Year of Wonders, both of which transported me to different times. I loved all of the books you mentioned.

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  12. I have read several of these books and enjoyed them too. The others I will put on my list (it seems that we have similar taste in genres). I think Little Fires Everywhere is on Hulu (not Netflix). Unfortunately, I don’t subscribe to Hulu. (Or, am I wrong and I just haven’t been able to find it on Netflix yet?)

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Erica/Erika says:

    Hi Suzanne, I find I gravitate to stories that “…will challenge your attitudes and beliefs…”.

    I especially love your sentence “Words are powerful and have the ability to change lives.”

    My reading patterns have changed significantly since I began blogging. I follow and read many blogs, of course. Some of these bloggers have written books. I am curious about their books and I want to support their writing. I cannot imagine the amount of blood, sweat, tears, love, time and energy that goes into writing a book. When I can’t sleep during the night I will read non-fiction books. When we go camping I will read a list of books I have been collecting all year. I find it takes a long wait time for a good ebook to come in from our library. I will often buy books for my reader.

    A great post, Suzanne! You communicated very well why reading a good book is a Happy Place for most of us. #MLSTL and shared SM

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    • Erica, if you have any recommendations for good books written by bloggers, please share.I’d love to check them out. I think we become better people when we read and why stick to things familiar. I can branch out.

      Same here for the long wait time for an ebook. Makes no sense to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. leannelc says:

    I’ve read a lot of books over the last few months Suzanne and they’ve been a great way to fill the spare hours that I’ve had. I’ve never really gotten into book reviews or book club recommendations because I tend to not enjoy most of those that are recommended. I tend to pick similar genres and themes – or from the “if you liked xxxx then you might enjoy xxxx” type online suggestions. Glad you’ve found a couple to enjoy though.
    Thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 😊

    Like

    • Leanne, based on some of your blog posts, I know you read a lot and you seem to have pretty specific tastes. I can see why you rely on the ‘if you liked this you might like this prompts’. I do that with favorite authors. Most book club lists include something to please everyone, so I am happy to have found one I can identify with.

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  15. Easin' Along says:

    Suzanne, I find that I am a member of the “can’t quite focus” club and haven’t had the motivation to read, although I have a list that I am saving to download before our RV trip. I will look into “River of Doubt”–my taste tends toward non-fiction. Helen is well into “Where the Crawdads Sing” and enjoys it greatly. Great topic. Have a wonderful week. Joe

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    • Joe, I am sure you will have lots of reading time on your cross-country trip. Not being able to ‘focus’ is a condition that comes and goes with me, and I am trying to stay away from anything too heavy or detail driven right now. River of Doubt will have to wait.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Our library started curbside pickup last week, but it is kind of interesting since you can only pick up on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday. Yesterday, I received an email midday that a book was ready, but I had to fill out a pickup form. Since it was after 10 a.m. which is the cutoff time, I couldn’t pick up today, Monday is a holiday, so I’ll pick it up between 4-6 on Wednesday which means it takes an entire week before I can pick it up. But, better than not picking one up at all. 🙂 Happy reading this holiday weekend.

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  17. patwdoyle11 says:

    Thanks for the suggestions. My book club has read a few heavy books lately, so I’ll be recommending the one you suggest as light and fun. I’ve struggled a bit with reading in quarantine myself! Not sure if because the books I’ve chosen or my mental mind space being challenged in other ways. My last 2 books were recommended to me by my book club members and both fit the historical fiction space a bit – so you might enjoy. It’s not a space I normally read, but I am learning quite a bit in the reading. The Island of Sea Women is set in Korea and spans from WWII to current time. I’m reading A Gentleman In Moscow right now, and finding it both challenging and delightful. I’ve got about 75 pages left (of over 450) and i’ve been reading it for 2 weeks – as I said, a challenging read for me. But I’m hoping my book club aligns to an easy read next!

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    • Pat, I loved A Gentleman In Moscow and The Island of Sea Women is on my book club reading list.I love how historical fiction leaves you with knowledge about the world that you might not have known. Taking a break after the heavy stuff is always a good idea.

      Liked by 1 person

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