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Books I Enjoyed Reading in January 2016

Photography by Tammy Strobel

“Books became my closest confidants, finely ground lenses providing new views of the world.”
~ Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

In mid-January, Logan and I drove to Ashland, Oregon to see an art exhibit called “Exploring Reality” at the Schneider Museum of Art. On the drive, I kept talking about Sleeping with Cats, a memoir I’d just read, because the author’s life intrigued me. While I was talking to Logan about the book, I thought of a new series of articles to share on RowdyKittens.com. Throughout 2016, I’ll share monthly summaries of the books I enjoyed reading.

I’m an avid reader because books:

  • Inspire me
  • Help me feel less alone
  • Enable me to sort through life’s ups and downs
  • Expose me to new perspectives
  • Improve my writing and communication skills

Essentially, books have helped me deal with positive and negative life changes such as coping with loss, changing careers, simplifying my life, and becoming more creative. Plus, spending my time reading instead of surfing the Internet or watching TV has improved my daily life and mental health.

I hope my monthly book summaries help me to become a better reader and writer. Also, I hope this series provokes feelings of literary inspiration in you, too.

Let’s get started with my book review series. Here’s what I read in January 2016.

1. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer was the first book I read in 2016. I felt like I was reading fiction because there was so much drama and suspense within the pages. However, the book was a very real and personal account of a horrible tragedy.

2. I’m a big fan of Marie Kondo’s work and I enjoyed her latest book—Spark Joy. The book was filled with cute illustrations, and the sketches were handy because the visual cues helped me understand Kondo’s method of folding clothes. Also, her suggestions inspired me to reorganize my closet, pantry, bathroom cabinet, and more. If you need help letting go of stuff and figuring out what sparks joy in your life, read Kondo’s book.

3. Sleeping with Cats by Marge Piercy is an incredible memoir of Piercy’s writing life, relationships, and her involvement in the civil rights and women’s movements. I thought the memoir was brave and honest, especially when she wrote about open relationships, monogamy, and her experiences as a progressive organizer. My favorite parts of the book included Piercy’s descriptions of the cats she’s loved and lost in her lifetime.

Piercy closed the book with wise words. She said, “Cats continue to teach me a lot of what is important in my life, and also, how short it is, how we need to express our love to those for whom we feel it, daily, nightly, in every way we can. With everyone we love, we have only a limited time, so we must learn to celebrate it body and soul. They have taught me how precious every moment we can enjoy can be with whatever we love because it all passes and so do we.”

4. What Now? by Ann Patchett is based on her commencement address that she gave at Sarah Lawrence College in 2006. Patchett’s little book offered me hope and inspiration and reminded me to embrace uncertainty as a powerful force in life. Her words were apt because I’m learning to plan less, and that isn’t easy for me. What Now? is a delightful little book filled with wisdom for recent graduates and anyone who’s dealing with change (which is basically all of us).

5. After reading Lucy Kalanithi’s essay—My Marriage Didn’t End When I Became a Widow—and Janet Maslin’s book review, I bought When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. I’m so glad I bought the book because it was an incredibly touching story and Dr. Kalanithi’s prose was gorgeous.

When I finished reading When Breath Becomes Air, tears streamed down my face because his words were frank, true, humble, and important. Kalanithi’s honesty about his experience as a neurosurgeon, cancer patient, husband, father, writer, and his thoughts about what makes life worth living in the face of death moved me deeply.

What books did you read and love during January? I’d love to hear your recommendations in the comments section.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jill February 1, 2016, 10:01 am

    I didn’t read anything so meaningful as those that you read. I just finished re-reading “Jane and the Man of The Cloth” by Stephanie Barron. It’s part of a series of murder-mysteries based loosely on the life of Jane Austen, with Jane as the intrepid heroine who solves the puzzles. I get completely lost in the books and start using words like “forthwith”, “hither”, and “middling” in every day life.

  • kyenne williams February 1, 2016, 11:58 am

    The book that left the greatest mark for me this year (as of February 1) is BLACK MAN IN A WHITE COAT by Damon Tweedy, MD. His memoir is intertwined with thoughtfully framed reflection about the challenges of being a black man in a traditionally white profession. This dynamic is more complex as Tweedy, the son of a meat cutter and office worker, chose to go South to Duke university in Durham, North Carolina where the lingering residue of racism taint many of his experiences. He also discusses the day-to-day impact of having health defined in terms of diseases that overwhelming impact people of color more so than whites, and of having this brought home repeatedly in serving poorer communities who are overwhelmingly black. It’s a well-written, quietly explosive book.

  • Aaron February 1, 2016, 2:04 pm

    G’day Tammy,
    In January I enjoyed Cal Newport’s DEEP WORK, Mason Currey’s DAILY RITUALS and the Jaminets’ PERFECT HEALTH DIET. The Newport was particularly interesting, as it tackles the issue of developing the ability to get things of real value done amidst all the noise and clatter of this distracting world we have made.

    • Tammy Strobel February 2, 2016, 6:53 am

      I loved “Daily Rituals.” I read that book last year. Also, I’ll be reading “Deep Work” this month. Cal is going to send me a copy. I can’t wait to dive in! 😉

      • Aaron February 2, 2016, 12:13 pm

        Great stuff! I’m sure you”ll get something out of it.

  • Bette February 1, 2016, 4:15 pm

    My favorite book of January was Nora Pouillon’s My Organic Life. So interesting and inspiring — she never could have seen what lay around the next corner. Love!

  • Stephanie - The Travel Chica February 1, 2016, 6:25 pm

    I finally got around to reading Flow. So incredible, I know I’m going to re-read it.

    • Tammy Strobel February 2, 2016, 6:51 am

      Ohhh that’s my favorite magazine!

  • Sandra Pawula, Always Well Within February 1, 2016, 7:39 pm

    This will be such a terrific resource, Tammy. I don’t read books nearly as much as i used to so I really appreciate knowing about the best of the best. I’m especially attacked to When Breath Becomes Air but the Marge Piercy story sounds fabulous too.

    • Tammy Strobel February 2, 2016, 6:50 am

      Thanks Sandra! I think you’d love “When Breath Becomes Air.” It’s beautiful and I hope it starts a much needed conversation about death and illness in our death avoidant culture. Xo.

  • Sarah Marie February 3, 2016, 8:39 am

    I just started “The Girl On The Train” by Paula Hawkins. I am only 100 pages into it so far, but it is really well written.

  • sally February 7, 2016, 12:28 am

    Just finished reading Jasper Jones, really enjoyed it.

    Now rereading One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

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