Book Buzz: Season’s Readings

 What We Keep: 150 People Share the One Object that Brings Them Joy, Magic, and Meaning by Bill Shapiro and Naomi Wax
1,000 Books to Read Before You Die: A Life-changing List by James Mustich
How to Be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals by Sy Montgomery

The leaves have fallen, the hours of daylight grow shorter and there is a cold snap in the air reminding us that year’s end is nigh, and with it, holiday shopping!

Delight the book-lover in your life with these recent releases in adult nonfiction that explore how objects, books and relationships shape us.

Objects can harbor deep meaning and represent the stories that make up our personal mythologies. Books can inspire and help us dream of the kind of people we would like to become. Relationships with the non-humans with whom we share the planet can inspire us to be our best selves.

A chance encounter with a locket at a garage sale caused authors Bill Shapiro and Naomi Wax to ponder what happens when our most treasured objects are removed from the people whose stories they represent. The result, What We Keep: 150 People Share the One Object that Brings Them Joy, Magic, and Meaning, is a collective trip down memory lane, where the famous and not-so-famous share secret histories of their most personal treasures, each beautifully unique.

Stunning photographs of the treasured objects and their people invite entry into these private worlds that harbor the seeds of self. Some “rememberers” are names you will recognize, like Cheryl Strayed, James Patterson, Melinda Gates, and Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Strayed says of her object, “It holds in its very being both the girl I was and the woman I became.” This beautiful book honors the curious connection we have with our special things and delights in our uniqueness.

Even the most avid reader would be hard-pressed to actually read all of the books recommended in 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die: A Life-changing List, but book-lovers can dream!

Encompassing fiction, poetry, science, science fiction, travel writing, biography, children’s books, history and more, this nearly 1,000-page tome manages to be reference book, inspiration and entertainment.
Arranged alphabetically by author to facilitate serendipitous discovery, 1,000 Books invites the reader to open anywhere and fantasize about having endless time to read.

“A Miscellany of Special Lists” suggests reading in categories such as short and long reads, terrific audiobooks, mind-expanding and escapist titles.  Of course, the first thing most bibliophiles will want to do is mark all the titles they have already read in the checklist at the back of the book.

More than a memoir, How to Be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals is a call to deepen our empathic connections with other living creatures. Sy Montgomery writes about her life in the context of 13 animals that taught her things about being a good human being. She describes learning how to play with children from a pig, how she learned about aging gracefully from a border collie and about forgiveness from a wild weasel.

Gorgeous language and Rebecca Green’s lovely illustrations combine to make this a beautiful gem of a book, and a sure pick for anyone who loves animals or feels deeply the connection humans share with all living things.

Lisa Gresham selects these and other adult nonfiction titles for Whatcom County Library System.

(Originally published in Cascadia Weekly, Wednesday, November 28, 2018.)