Books are amazing and libraries are dangerous.
Without fail, I find myself unable to exit a library unless I'm taking at least 2-6 books with me (my load is usually in the 5+ range...). Lately, I've read some pretty stellar books from a few different genres. Memoir about a young girl escaping from North Korea in the modern day? Check. Jane Austen-inspired novel? Check. Holocaust memoir? Check. One of the very few parenting books I've allowed myself to read? Check.
Like I said, it's a bit varied. So let's dive right in!
A Thousand Miles to Freedom: My escape from North Korea, by Eunsun Kim. I read this book in one evening-I did not want to put it down! This memoir follows Eunsun (which is a pseudonym) as she embarks on a nine-year process of escaping from North Korea with her mother and sister. Eye-opening and mindblowing, this tale gives us a glimpse into the harsh totalitarian regime that oppresses North Korea, shows us a reeducation camp, and describes the several escape attempts and trials that Eunsun underwent. We also see the mixed feelings and difficulties that come for people who successfully leave North Korea, as they have to leave behind so much of their heritage and then they face discrimination (this news article talks about this a little bit). I highly, highly recommend this book for high-school aged teens on up. Eunsun writes that, "For the twenty-five million people who live there, North Korea has become a true hell on earth, forgotten by the rest of the world." Friends, let's not allow the people of North Korea to be forgotten! (and read this book, because it really is amazing)
Love and Friendship, by Whit Stillman. I have to confess that I have not read Jane Austen's Lady Susan, but when I heard that Stillman, inspired by Lady Susan, created this story, I immediately requested Love and Friendship through the library. Lady Susan Vernon is not an admirable character, but Stillman's tone is so humorous, and the story so comedic, that it was pretty entertaining! I read one article that compares the character of Lady Susan to Mary Crawford, from Mansfield Park, and I'd say that's a pretty fair statement. I recommend this book to adults who are fans of Austen, and are interested in a very amusing take on one of her lesser-known works.
The Pianist, by Wladyslaw Szpilman. I saw the movie adaptation of this story years ago, and really enjoyed it-so I was excited read this book. The Pianist really captures the isolation that Szpilman faced as he was struggling to survive in Poland, which was really interesting. I also found it fascinating to read the story about a musician, whose talent ultimately played a large part in his survival. I recommend this book to adults who like World War II or Holocaust stories.
Tattoos on the Heart, by Gregory Boyle. This book was so riveting. It recounts stories from Fr. Boyle's work with the "homies" in Homeboy Industries. Reading about the struggles, lives, personalities, and hearts of gang members, former gang members, and those who sought to help them, made me tear up at times and laugh at other times. Not only is this a beautiful story about a priest's transformative work in California, but it causes the reader to look on his or her own life, so that each of us can reflect on how we treat others and how we deal with the issues in our own lives. I highly, highly recommend this book to older teens and adults, especially in this Year of Mercy. It's pretty powerful!
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, by Diane Wiessinger. I have very mixed feelings about this book, though I did have a general idea of what I'd be getting myself into when I picked it up to glean some helpful insights as I prepare for breastfeeding a newborn. The good elements of this book? It covers pretty much every breastfeeding-related issue under the sun and is extremely thorough when discussing the variety of ways in which women can breastfeed. The bad elements of this book? Even though it discusses pumping or using formula, this book casts a bit of a negative glance at anyone who does not breastfeed her child as soon as he or she whimpers. Breastfeeding is awesome, and I'm excited to breastfeed Baby, but I think that super extreme attitudes can cause quite a bit of harm, and the fact that some pretty heavy opinions in this book (even something as small as "swaddles are bad because of x, y, and z, including that the child would just be best in a mom's arms!") are just bluntly given causes me a little bit of hesitance. Because this book has so much good information, I do recommend it as a great go-to manual for breastfeeding tips. However, I also recommend taking this book with a grain (or two) of salt.
Bringing up Bebe, by Pamela Druckerman. Ever since becoming pregnant, I have tried to avoid parenting books like the plague. When I was younger, I was pretty obsessed with reading about parenting, and I developed some very narrow ideas about motherhood. So, no parenting books for me anymore! However, when I heard about Bringing up Bebe, I knew that I had to read it. An American woman discussing French parenting? I love France, and I love learning about other cultures, so yes please I need to read this now! And I am so, so glad that I did. Not only is reading about Druckerman's introduction to French culture and living quite interesting and entertaining, but being presented with a completely outlook on pregnancy & parenting than what we have in the U.S.A. was so very refreshing! I'm going to be honest with y'all: There are times when I feel like a complete weirdo when it comes to pregnancy or ideas about parenting (I don't follow pregnancy "rules," I'm not much of a comfort/coddler like other moms I know, etc.). When I read about the French perspective in Druckerman's book, I thought, Oh my goodness, other people like me! Granted, there are elements presented that I don't foresee Jacob & I using (having a child sleep in a separate room, not breastfeeding, putting Baby in daycare), but for the most part, the attitude and general perspective that was given is so spot-on with how I feel about many things. The importance of "The Pause," finding equilibrium and balance in all aspects of life, and setting firm perimeters for children with lots of freedom within those boundaries were just some of the topics she discussed that I really liked. I recommend this book to any parent (or pregnant woman) who is willing to look at parenting through a different lens than perhaps what he or she is used to. There is so much good stuff here! (If you can't tell, I really liked reading this book!!!)
Finally, these aren't books, but there are a couple really interesting blog posts for any of you interested in the whole topic of breastfeeding and want something a little more balanced to toss into the mix with The Womanly Art:
Isabelle wrote a great post on the history of breastfeeding. I really enjoy how Isabelle provides a knowledgeable, balanced perspective. Her blog is quite lovely, and I recommend reading her other stuff, too :) (like the post, "If your child is born, chances are he'll become an axe-murderer")
"Things I've learned about using formula" is an awesome, eye-opening post about overcoming prejudices about formula (and formula-using parents!). I wholeheartedly recommend reading this post!!!
Happy reading, everyone!