Of anything my husband and I are proud to have inspired in our daughter, voracious reading is near the top of the list. I'm not talking about magazines and newspapers and blogs and tweets -- though they've certainly provided lots of inspiration and giggles. I'm talking about books. The kind you hold in your hands and spill coffee on and put on your sweetheart's pile so you can enjoy them all over again when she shares a passage that really got to her.
Care to swap reading lists? I'll go first. Here are a few books that made an impression on me, for wildly different reasons...
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot, isn't a book I would've picked out for myself. It was a birthday present. But I dare you to read it and not come away with a renewed sense of awe about life. That so many of us reach old age relatively healthy, relatively intact, is such a miracle. There are so many things that can go wrong -- and when they do, spin out of control so quickly and so thoroughly -- cutting short your time on this planet.
Vow, by Wendy Plump, is a study of marriage gone awry. Infidelity has always fascinated me because getting married isn't the law. If you don't want to forsake all others, why bother?
I read Vow for fun, as an escape from problems I don't have. So I was surprised to have been stopped cold by this insight, that the people who seem to fare better in breakups -- who recover the first, and most -- are those who were dumped, who were cheated on.
Isn't that interesting? And if you've noticed it among your friends, I'd love to hear why you think that is. I'll go first again. Maybe because whoever got left didn't have a choice in the matter, so that person doesn't have the added drain of second-guessing quite the monumental decision.
The Undefeated Mind: On the Science of Constructing an Indestructible Self, by Alex Lickerman, reminded me what it means to be a friend. I mean, what do you get when much of your job is to find interesting people to talk with about things that matter -- and to conduct those conversations in a way you're comfortable sharing with a radio audience? You get some pretty cool friends, that's what. Alex is a perfect example of why The Career Clinic is misnamed. It's really a show about doing what works -- and if you want to see what I mean you can listen to the podcast of my most recent interview with Alex.
Alex doesn't just offer advice -- how to go on living after the person you loved most has died, for example -- he supports that with research. He also does what Rebecca Skloot did -- he makes you wonder why you hated science, because he explains it in a way that doesn't make your head hurt.
I gave a copy of The Undefeated Mind to a friend who happens to be the person who gave me Rebecca Skloot's book. She was going through a difficult time, and she told me Alex's book helped. What sucks the most about a friend hurting? Not knowing how to pitch in. Alex's book helped me help her. That's what friends are for.
The main thing I got out of Alex's book was a renewed appreciation for how much joy people find in lives that are filled with suffering. If they can do it, so can I. And so can you.