Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Books I read in 2015 that made an impression on me

As mentioned, last year was a huge one...see: culmination of 16+ years of school and making the most important decision of my life aka Lewis. However (and thankfully!!), I did manage to squeeze in some excellent reads and some not-so-excellent reads. I love hearing about what others are reading and am always looking for recommendations, so I thought I'd post some memorable reads this year.

Without further ado and without spoilers :), here they are:

What it's about: "Fiona Maye is a leading High Court judge who presides over cases in the family division. She is renowned for her fierce intelligence, exactitude, and sensitivity. But her professional success belies private sorrow and domestic strife. There is the lingering regret of her childlessness, and now her marriage of thirty years is in crisis.

At the same time, she is called on to try an urgent case: Adam, a beautiful seventeen-year-old boy, is refusing for religious reasons the medical treatment that could save his life, and his devout parents echo his wishes. Time is running out. Should the secular court overrule sincerely expressed faith? In the course of reaching a decision, Fiona visits Adam in the hospital—an encounter that stirs long-buried feelings in her and powerful new emotions in the boy. Her judgment has momentous consequences for them both."

Why it made an impression on me: So many things. First, I love Ian McEwan's writing in general - Atonement, Sweet Tooth - I recommend them all. Secondly, it's about a female lawyer (judge!) who kicks ass professionally but whose personal life is sort of falling apart. This, I relate to. The hardest part of law school was the work-life balance. I mean, people became the best and worst versions of themselves and managing the demands of the legal profession is no joke. Finally, I was fascinated by the legal question here (denying medical treatment to an almost-adult for religious reasons) which actually was more an emotional, spiritual, and personal question. Highly recommend. Definitely makes you think, "What would I do?" and there isn't an easy answer. 

What it's about: "Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has barely been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex–Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.

Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living."

Why it made an impression on me: Because it drove me NUTS. I liked the beginning of this book...mostly. It was easy and interesting, but a little cliche so I was wondering if it would surprise me in the end. I say cliched, because it conformed to a lot of social norms and expectations and really reflected a relativistic attitude towards things ("It's my choice and has no effect on you and who are you to judge me" etc.). Long story short, no happy surprise. I hated the end, but it certainly made an impression. 

What it's about: "When American journalist Pamela Druckerman had a baby in Paris, she didn't aspire to become a "French parent." But she noticed that French children slept through the night by two or three months old. They ate braised leeks. They played by themselves while their parents sipped coffee. And yet French kids were still boisterous, curious, and creative. Why? How?"

Why it made an impression on me: An ultra-fascinating glimpse into a "French parenting philosophy," which in essence, is not to have a parenting philosophy and treat your kids like mini-adults. I loved reading about French women, their insistence on not gaining one extra pound during pregnancy, the government child-care system, and the daily cafeteria lunches. Note that this glorifies the French like nobody's business, but if you can get over that, it's such a fun read. 

What it's about:

"So, you've decided to use Natural Family Planning. Has it blessed your marriage? Deepened your respect for your body? Has it made your sex life fantastic? Do you and your spouse hold hands at sunset, and do pink flowers grow around your marital bed? 

If so, this book is not for you.

But if you've tried Natural Family Planning and have discovered that your life is now awful-or if you feel judged or judgey, or if you trust NFP but your doctor doesn't, or if you're just trying to figure out how the heck to have a sex life that is holy but still human-you'll find comfort, encouragement, honesty, wit, and, most important, practical advice in The Sinner's Guide to NFP."

Why it made an impression on me: You have to already be doing NFP for this book to really make the impression it's supposed to, but since we are, I loved this. If you're looking for an NFP guide or how-to book, this is not that book. If you are looking for encouragement and feel like you and/or your spouse sucks at NFP, this will make you laugh out loud. I particularly liked the chapter entitled "But What about the Woman? Part One: Does God Just Hate Women, Or What?" As a self-proclaimed Catholic feminist (two words that are not mutually exclusive), this book helped.

What it's about: "In this personal, eloquently-argued essay—adapted from her much-admired TEDx talk of the same name—Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, award-winning author of Americanah, offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century, one rooted in inclusion and awareness. Drawing extensively on her own experiences and her deep understanding of the often masked realities of sexual politics, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman now—and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists."

Why it made an impression on me: The title mostly speaks for itself, and this is a great, fast read (like, 100 pages). What I liked the most was how it de-mystified "being a feminist" in an honest and straightforward way. A lot of Catholic women I know are opposed to "being a feminist" and  even the word "feminism" can have a lot of baggage attached to it, as if "feminism" or "feminist" by default is a champion for every cause that ever described itself that way. This shouldn't be true, and this impression certainly won't be changed if no one ever claims the word in a different way. Adichie's book is a nice transition for those might not consider themselves feminists (but as the title states, should be). 

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