The Pain of Remembering

I think I can count on one hand the number of memoirs I’ve read in my entire life, but this year I read two in as many months!

The memoirs I read are Educated by Tara Westover, and War Child by Emmanuel Jal. I was surprised to discover that I could actually relate to one of these memoirs, and as you might expect, it was not the one about child soldiers in Sudan. However, while I also have some tales from north Idaho that defy belief, Emmanuel Jal’s account of his life was even more gripping and horrifying (at times), so I’ll start with that one.

I had the honour and privilege of meeting Mr. Jal in person, and his life story is one I will never forget. He has lived through horrors that people in the West cannot begin to truly understand, and yet he came out of bitterness, death and hatred, to a life devoted to the spread of peace. He found healing when he met God, but also through music, and he has released several albums, topping the charts in Africa, and working with some very big names here in North America and the UK as well. (Check out We Want Peace, More Power, or Baai on YouTube.) Although there are devastating moments in this memoir, it is still quite easy to read, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Wow. What a tragic story. Educated is technically also an easy read, but emotionally speaking, ‘easy’ is not a word anyone would use to describe this book. I like reading while I eat, and there were times when I had to put the book down to finish my meal. So much violence. And plenty of emotional manipulation as well, although that was less stomach-churning. The worst part for me was that so much of the physical injuries (well, mental injuries too, but from head trauma, not emotional trauma – of which there is also plenty!) could have been easily avoided. This book is a real page-turner and also comes very highly recommended. And if it seems like it’s too extreme to be real, let me assure you that it is very likely true.

If there are memoirs out there that you would recommend, could you let me know the titles? I’d love to hear which ones have touches your lives, and get more acquainted with this genre at the same time. Thank you!

I Never Would’ve Read That!

Over the years, friends and family have broadened my reading horizons considerably. Gifts and reading recommendations have influenced me to read things that I never would have read on my own. Some examples of recommendations are: Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer, Headhunters by Jo Nesbø, and Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda. Each of these are books that did not catch my eye in the bookstore or library, but came with such persuasive insistence that I would enjoy them, that I felt I should at least give them the 50-page trial. And while each of them are totally different genres, they were all page-turners that I thoroughly enjoyed (and now recommend to others).
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My parents gave me the adorable, heart-warming story of Dewey the Library Cat by Vicki Myron for my birthday and I was unfamiliar with this amazing true story. I would never have picked it up if I’d seen it on the shelf at a bookstore, but after I unwrapped it and read about the poor kitten who was left for dead in the library’s book return and lived to brighten countless lives, I couldn’t resist it!

Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling by Ross King was a birthday present some years ago now, and as with Dewey, I was a little surprised when I unwrapped it. But, I had such a high regard for the friend who gave it to me, that when they told me that they had not only enjoyed it, but thought of me when reading it, I gave it a go. And I did love it! They were right – Ross King brings the history of the Sistine Chapel ceiling to life in an unforgettable, intriguing way.

Yet another birthday brought me Secret Sanction, the first in a series by Brian Haig, and I thought, “Hm..” when I opened it. Military suspense/thrillers are okay, but once again, not something I look for. I enjoyed it so much that I bought all the others in the series. Haig’s dry wit actually had me chuckling out loud throughout the books while I also enjoyed the action and suspense.
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In fact, the bookmark pictured here in Dewey, and that fun mug are gifts too. 🙂 Have you received gifts or recommendations that prompted you to read something you would otherwise not have considered? It’s always such a nice surprise to have your horizons broadened enjoyably!

Terror and Treachery

Recently, I read two non-fiction books that I heard about from friends. The first, Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan, was a page-turner. A vibrant, healthy, twenty-something woman suddenly becomes psychotic, and then, even worse, she loses her ability to speak properly and even to move. What makes this book so frightening is that what happened to the author could, in theory, happen to anyone. Susannah developed an autoimmune disease and was the 217th person in the world to ever be diagnosed with it. That was in 2009. The figure has quickly grown and continues to, as people become more aware of it.
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The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man by Luke Harding is an interesting tale about a young NSA employee who got disgusted with the carte-blanche information gathering that was going on unimpeded. He risked it all to expose the NSA’s shocking invasion of the world’s privacy.
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More Book Headlines: Graphic History, YA Controversy, and 15 Signs of Book Addiction.

It’s as if they were reading my blog yesterday! (I wish..) The Independent reports on a new history of U.S. civil rights, as told in the style of a graphic novel. Read all about it and its 1950s comic book inspiration in A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form.

The Ottawa Citizen is reporting on the backlash received by a Governor General Literary Award-winning book for young adults. Read, Critics of ‘vulgar’ book for young adults want Governor General’s award rescinded to find out why there’s a petition to the Canada Council to have the 2014 award rescinded.

Lastly, you may be addicted to books. That’s not a bad thing, though! The Guardian shares 15 tell-tale signs to watch for if you’re still not sure this is you: 15 signs to prove you’re a book addict