The Long and Short of it

Well, I did it! I read an entire nonfiction book! I successfully completed Pete Buttigieg’s The Shortest Way Home.

The book covers everything from growing up in a college town, to volunteering for campaigns, to failing when he ran for state treasurer, to joining the Navy Reserves and spending seven months in Afghanistan (while also being mayor of South Bend, by the way), to coming out as a gay man, to getting married, to running for (and losing) DNC chair, and looking ahead to the future. Though he’s only 37 years old (just four years older than me!), he’s already experienced and accomplished so much.

Barring some salacious scandal, I’d vote for Buttigieg! What a smart, forward-thinking, kind, hard-working leader. Mayor Pete really listens to the citizens of South Bend and works to actively address issues. He is someone I’m very excited about.

But also, I have to keep thinking about this sign whenever I have to pronounce Mayor Pete’s last name correctly:

Making the Case for Political Books

What if, instead of short, online articles with shocking titles about politicians designed purely as clickbait, or news pundits who take audio snippets out of context, or twitter wars that distract from real-life issues that need attention, we actually heard about politician’s beliefs, upbringing, accomplishments, and plans?

What an idea, huh?

We could discuss where the candidates stand on the issues and point to actual actions they have taken, rather than discussing whether they, say, decided to wear a scrunchie or whether they are “electable” or “qualified.” (Let’s be real, Donald Trump was neither of those qualities and he still managed to win the presidency.)

How could we do this? Where could we learn what the politician is actually thinking? Why, in their book, of course! I find that this is one of the best ways to really get to know a candidate. Since 2016, I’ve read a handful of these books, including The Secretary: A Journey with Hillary Clinton from Beirut to the Heart of American Power by Kim Ghattas, What Happened by Hillary Clinton, This Fight is Our Fight by Elizabeth Warren, Becoming by Michelle Obama, and Pete Buttigieg’s Shortest Way Home: One Mayor’s Challenge and a Model for America’s Future.

These books are where I get a better understanding of the candidates, who are often dragged through the media mud. It’s where I learned that Hillary has a lot of diplomacy experience and that she (who was constantly criticized for not being “real”) is a book nerd who loves being a grandma, watched Downton Abbey, and eats Pepperidge Farm Goldfish. I learned that Elizabeth could afford college even though her family almost lost their house when her father had to take time off of work to recover from a stroke. Her mother got a minimum wage job at Sears and this provided enough income to keep the family afloat. Today, this isn’t possible, so Elizabeth is deeply concerned about the price of college and other financial burdens people face. I learned that Michelle worked hard to become a high-paid lawyer before she met the philosophical Barack and realized her job wasn’t as fulfilling as she’d hoped it would be. I also learned that Mayor Pete has used research and analysis to implement new strategies and technologies to improve life in South Bend, Indiana, like a program to fix up or demolish 1,000 vacant homes in 1,000 days.

While Paul Farhi, author of the 2014 Washington Post article, “Who Wrote that Political Memoir? No, Who Actually Wrote It?” would argue that these books aren’t written by the politicians themselves, but rather by a team of ghostwriters, I’m not bothered by this fact. It’s obvious to me that these very busy people don’t have months of free time to write lengthy novels. I’m more concerned with the information presented inside and the impression I get. If I had to sum up Hillary, Elizabeth, Michelle, and Pete in one word, it would be “smart.” These four are incredibly well-educated, insightful, reflective, and service-driven. Their intentions seem to be coming from the right place, and they align with my own values.

That’s not to say that political books are “fun” or easy to read. In fact, I find myself moving at a snail’s pace through these fact-heavy, name-dropping books. I don’t know what it is about nonfiction, but the books always feel 100 or 200 pages too long! Walt Hickey from FiveThirtyEight.com found Audible.com data on how far people listened into 24 different political books. In most cases, readers only made it to around 50%. These lengthy books turn into 10 or even 20+ hours of audiobook, so it’s no wonder people can’t read them all.

My Advice on Political Nonfiction:

  1. Challenge yourself to pick up a political read, even if it’s not something you’ve read before. Bonus points for reading a book about a candidate currently running for president. Extra bonus points if it’s for a person on the other side of the aisle from you.
  2. Remember that nonfiction is broken up into chapters, so you can jump around to sections that interest you the most. Dense, statistics-heavy sections may appeal to some readers, but are easily skimmable or skippable for others.
  3. Share what you’ve learned with other people. Often, things you’re reading about aren’t covered in the mainstream media. For instance, did you know that South Bend, Indiana, has ShotSpotter technology, which uses “microphones to acoustically pinpoint gunshots” so that officers can “be immediately dispatched to the scene of a shooting…whether someone called it in or not” (Shortest Way Home)? Why have I never heard of this before? I’m certain Milwaukee, Wisconsin – not far from where I live – could benefit greatly from this technology. Now I’ll have to do some further reading to find out more about the technology and its effectiveness.

In Pete Buttigieg’s book, I’ve already added eight notes and 110 highlights on my kindle, and I’m only 54% of the way through! My library loan will end before I’m done reading the book, but I’m already so impressed by Mayor Pete that I intend to keep up with his campaign and talk him up whenever I am given a chance. While I’ve seen Pete on TV and online, I didn’t get the amount of clear, focused information that I received from his book.

Have you tackled any political reads? Do you plan on picking up a politician’s book any time soon?

What We Read Before Bed

Here’s what I read out loud to my five year old tonight:

First, we read the last two chapters from a book in The Critter Club series. In All About Ellie, Ellie is so excited about being the lead in the school play that she forgets to be a good friend. It was fun to have my daughter read the chapter numbers out loud and make predictions about what would happen in the book. I especially liked hearing her insights on how her friends seemed “jealous” of her. We made lots of connections between the main character Ellie and my daughter – they both take tap, like bunnies and birds, and like being the one to make plans.

Next we read two books from the How to Catch series by Adam Wallace. We started with How to Catch a Snowman, which was a book my daughter received for Christmas last year. Usually, it would be too early to get this book out, but we’ve already had a lot of snow in Wisconsin and we’re expecting super cold temps tomorrow. Then, we read How to Catch a Mermaid, which she recently got from her birthday party. I like these books in theory – because of course it’s fun to imagine catching magical creatures and befriending them – but the execution isn’t there for me. The rhymes are ho-hum, and in the case of the Snowman story, I think the traps are tricky for young kids to understand. The series is kind of gimmicky.

And here’s what I’ll be reading:

Meanwhile, I’ll be continuing to read Pete Buttigieg’s Shortest Way Home: One Mayor’s Challenge and a Model for America’s Future. I don’t know why, but nonfiction books take me forevvvvvver to read. I’m pretty sure my lending period will expire before I’m finished with this book. And the book is really great, by the way. Mayor Pete is one smart guy, and I’m learning a lot about his past, his education, and his beliefs. I have already highlighted a ton of passages filled with interesting details. Based on this book, I’d vote for him!

What I Read

I’m back for another year of National Blog Posting Month, and thank goodness I had been saving up little articles and bookish tidbits earlier in the year, because I feel underprepared for the month! To borrow a term from the other big November challenge, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I will be “pantsing” – flying by the seat of my pants – more than planning.  

If you’re new to my blog, thanks for stopping by. You can check out my About Me page to learn more about me and link to some of my most-visited posts. I hope to follow along with other NaBloPoMo bloggers throughout the month. 

The past year has brought a lot of great books my way, and I know based on my OverDrive holds list that I still have several more great books to read before 2019 comes to a close. Breaking it down, I read 27 Young Adult novels (mostly fantasy, with a little contemporary and sci-fi thrown in), 8 Adult fiction books, 2 nonfiction books, and 18 graphic novels. Graphic novels were my thing this year! Here is what I’ve read since last year’s NaBloPoMo:

I hope to go more into depth on some of these books as the month goes on. I’m especially excited to talk about the amazing graphic novels in this list. Let’s keep in touch this November. 

Happy NaBloPoMo 2019!

We’ll All Become Stories

Many months ago, I read an article from the Washington Post called “Two dying memoirists wrote bestsellers about their final days. Then their spouses fell in love.” I knew then that I wanted to read Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air. This nonfiction, medically-heavy memoir is not what I usually read, but the Kalanithis sounded like people I wanted to know more about. With 13 years of Grey’s Anatomy under my belt, I was able to make enough sense of the clinical terminology and experiences to make this read worthwhile. I was incredibly surprised by how lyrical the prose was written. I hadn’t realized that while Paul Kalanithi was studying biology and neuroscience in college, he was also studying English literature, even applying for a masters in English literature at Stanford. Science and literature are sometimes clashing concepts, but Paul wanted to figure out the answer to the question: What makes human life meaningful? Whether the answer existed in language and meaning, or in the brain, he couldn’t quite decide, but he pursued the answer for his entire life. Despite finding out that he was terminally ill at the age of 36, Paul lived with dignity, following Samuel Beckett’s words, “I can’t go on. I’ll go on.”

I’m sure this book would affect me differently if I was experiencing a medical crisis in my own life or in the life of someone I know. I think this book would be more powerful at different stages of my life. Paul was intellectual, making him seem strong, but also distant from the reader at times. I would have appreciated more anger from Paul – it would have been completely understandable – or humor (as Lucy later points out, Paul was “wickedly funny” and also sweet and tender, crying many times throughout his prognosis). I was moved to tears reading Lucy’s epilogue. The book builds with an increasing tension as you realize that Paul’s time is about to run out. I was going to put the book down and go to sleep, but then kept reading because Paul’s story deserved the attention to see it through to the end. I stared at the beautiful family portrait of Paul, Lucy, and their baby daughter Cady at the end of the book for a long time. It just didn’t seem fair that this young husband and father and intelligent, caring doctor should be gone so soon. The book hurts, so it’s hard to say that I “liked” it, but I do respect it.   

My next book after When Breath Becomes Air was The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder. It wasn’t a particularly uplifting reading week for me, as this book also had to do with death and dying with dignity. However, it was kind of fitting to get a teen, fictional voice on cancer after such a heavy book.

The Probability of Miracles introduces readers to a teen named Campbell who has been battling cancer and receives some bad news at her recent trip to her doctor. Basically, the only thing that can save Cam now is a miracle, and Cam is not the miracle type. She’s spent too much time watching her family and friends work at Disney to believe in magic. Cam is cynical and sarcastic, distancing herself from people so that when her time comes to leave, it won’t hurt as much. Cam’s mother learns of a little town in Maine that is said to have magical powers, so she picks up her two daughters, loads up a U-haul, and goes in search of a miracle. After a road trip, Cam ends up in Maine and the quirky town seems to be making her feel better. But is it just a bit of relief before the end or a real miracle? For once, Cam allows herself to feel hopeful and open to possibilities.

At first, I found Cam to be a bit too cynical for my taste. After all, she really doesn’t speak very highly of Disney, and who does that?! But she is dealing with cancer and I’m sure her attitude is one way to handle the upset. She’s young and instead of dreaming about her future, she may not even make it to her 18th birthday. Cam changes during her time in Maine, and learns several important lessons, including, “It’s better to be kind than to be right.” In time, the book grew on me and I enjoyed it.

Whether fiction or nonfiction, stories provide tools for us to express our both our fears and dreams.

Welcoming the Stranger

Immigration. A hot button topic that puts people on edge. Why? Probably because we know how we should treat immigrants, but our fears and misconceptions get the better of us. While I was already open to immigration and comprehensive immigration reform before reading Matthew Soerens and  Jenny Hwang Yang’s book, I’m even more for it after reading Welcoming the Stranger: Compassion, Justice & Truth in the Immigration Debate.

The book, co-written by authors who work for World Relief and offer assistance to immigrants and people dealing with immigration legal issues, covers a number of topics: the history of U.S. immigration, the reasons why people come to the U.S., how immigration works (and doesn’t work), how the Bible views immigration and how we as Christians should treat immigrants (documented or not), how churches are serving immigrants, and how to get involved and take action.

I found myself constantly highlighting interesting facts, and then turning to my husband (who is an immigrant himself) to tell him about what I had just learned. What I quickly realized was that most of the things we think we know about immigration and undocumented immigrants is totally inaccurate. When asked about immigration, the standard reply is, “People should just come here legally. They should get in line and follow the rules.” But, there is no legal way for people who are poor and want to move to the U.S. to provide a better life for their family to come to the U.S. I repeat: There is NO LEGAL WAY for people to move to the U.S. in order to provide a better life for their family. There is no “line” for the majority of people who want to come to the U.S. Of course there are student visas, work visas, travel visas, and even fiancé visas – but none of these are options for families who are looking for a safer place to live.

People from Central America and Mexico take huge risks to illegally cross the border – paying coyotes lots of hard-earned money to transport them, spending days without food and water in the desert, leaving their homes and families behind – to live and work in tough conditions for very little pay, in constant fear of being deported.

Once here, there is no legal way for undocumented immigrants to get drivers licenses, apply for aid, attend colleges where applicants must provide proof of citizenship, or to become legal citizens. They will forever be trapped in a state of “otherness” as a second-class person.

Overall, I would almost give this jam-packed book a 5 star rating, as it has a lot of valuable information and is easy to read and understand, but there were a few weaknesses to the book. One, it’s obviously very biased in the Christian perspective, and I found the chapters that quoted scripture to be rather dull. I mean, I don’t care what religion a person is, shouldn’t we all realize that being a decent human being means that you treat other human beings with decency? I don’t understand why that’s such a difficult concept. Two, I also didn’t care for the chapter about what specific pastors have said about immigration and what specific congregations have done. It just felt like a big, long list. It wasn’t written in the same style as the rest of the chapters. Three, because the book was published in *2009, it mainly focuses on immigration from Mexico and Central America, so I was missing the authors’ thoughts on refugees and Middle Eastern immigrants. That being said, I would still HIGHLY RECOMMEND this book to anyone who wants to learn more about immigration and undocumented immigrants.

And just remember, no one is illegal.

 

 

*I see on Goodreads that there is now a revised and updated version of this book, published July 2018.

NaBloPoMo is Here!

It’s November and NaBloPoMo is back! Whether the event still exists is anyone’s guess – as I certainly can’t find anything about it on blogher anymore – but I’m officially declaring that I’ll be participating in this unofficial event! I’m eager to share all the bookish thoughts, reviews, and news I’ve been saving throughout the year. I hope you’ll follow along with me this month.

For those of you who are new to Love2Read365, welcome! Please check out my About page to learn a little bit more about the blog and find links to some of my most popular posts.

It has been another year of great books for me, and I hope you had a great year of reading, too. When I reflect on what I’ve read in the past year, I see that Young Adult books dominated once again. I think this is because I like the fast pace, the drama, the adventure, and freshness of Young Adult literature. Meanwhile, Adult Fiction often feels boring to me, with the plots more often than not focusing on a depressing marriage. While I thought that I had branched out to a larger variety of reading material, this breakdown clearly shows otherwise!

These labels are pretty limiting, though, because there’s so much more to each book. There’s Fantasy, Contemporary, Chick Lit, Social Justice, Science Fiction, and LGBTQ representations. Heck, one book (#7) was even a Western!  

I’ll talk to you more about some of these books as we make our way through November, but for now, I’d love to know if you read any of the same books as me. I’d also like to know if you’ll be participating in NaBloPoMo so I can follow along with your blog.

Here’s to a happy, creative, connected November!