Words to Live By

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe isn’t a new book, but it is a beautiful one which touched my heart.

It is a memoir based on the author’s relationship and experiences with his mother after she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Much of the book is the author’s recollections of the many times he accompanied his mother while she sat and received chemotherapy treatments. During this time they discussed many books which led them to become a book club of two.

Mary Anne Schwalbe led an incredible life of service to others in addition to being a wife, mother, and humanitarian. As I read this book, I came to love and admire her. I am grateful her son shared the story of their final years together. It was a great inspiration to me. If you’ve not yet read this memoir, I highly recommend it.

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Top Novels Read in 2017

  1. Past Imperfect by Julian Fellows
  2. Homer & Langley by E.L. Doctorow
  3. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
  4. The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure
  5. SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard
  6. Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami
  7. Us by David Nicholls
  8. March by Geraldine Brooks
  9. Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Bachman
  10. The One-In-A-Million Boy by Monica Wood
  11. Books for Living by Will Schwalbe
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What We Learn

Books for Living by Will Schwalbe is a book written for book lovers by a man who loves books. How gratifying it was to have come across it near the end of this year. It is a treasure trove of the author’s thoughts on many books and authors.

I found this book interesting as well as inspirational. I have read a number of the books discussed and after reading this, have added more to my lengthy “to be read” list. I borrowed this from the library and loved it so much I’ve put it on my Christmas wish and Top Books Read lists. It would make a great gift for anyone who loves to read!

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Migratory Tribe

My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell is the first book of The Corfu Trilogy which some of you may recognize from the PBS serial based upon it.

The memoir is derived from the author’s experiences prior to World War Two on Corfu, a small island off the coast of Greece. Gerald was ten-years-old when, desirous of warmer weather, his widowed mother sold their England residence and moved her small family to Corfu. His recollections of their experiences and his eccentric family and neighbor’s escapades are quite funny. At the same time, they provide a rich travelogue.

Gerald, a budding zoologist, found his heaven on earth in Corfu. The bugs, animals, and unbelievably supportive family were a dream come true for young Durrell who went on to become a well-known expert in his field.

Although I am not a fan of bugs, bats, and creepy crawling things in general, I really loved this book. It would make a great gift for anyone in search of a humorous escape of their own!

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The Battle of the Sexes

Paris for One by Jojo Moyes is a delightful collection of short stories. Short story collections rarely hold my interest, but the ones contained in this novel found me wishing for more.

Jojo is another of my favorite contemporary writers. I find I always look forward to her latest creation. I love her insights into male/female relationships. From new relationships to old, the stories in this novel hit the nail on the head. They are timely and accurately portray emotions of the heart.

I enjoyed every story in the book. The first and longest was probably my favorite, but the others are just as good. This is a quick read geared for women. I repeat myself when saying, “I love Jojo!”

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Footprints

The Deal of a Lifetime is a new novella by Fredrik Backman. The unusual story requires a short amount of time to read, but took me a good while to contemplate.

Told in the first-person, a father with cancer meets a little girl in the hospital who is dying of cancer. This encounter leads him to reflect on his life as he contemplates making a deal with death.

The story made me sad. In some way it reminds me of It’s a Wonderful Life. It also brought my thoughts back to a time almost twenty years ago when I did a serious life review of my own in a hospital bed prior to having major surgery.

I wouldn’t recommend this as a “holiday” story; it most certainly is not light reading. What it is however, is another interesting story from the mind of one of my favorite authors. Be prepared to be amazed.

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Till Death Do Us Part

Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner is one of the Top 150 Novels of the 20th Century. It’s author based the fictional novel on actual letters written by a well-known artist and author named Mary Hallock Foote who lived in the late 1800’s. Stegner named his main character Susan and juxtaposed her life with that of her fictional grandson Lyman living in the middle of the 20th century.

Susan and her husband Oliver spend the majority of their marriage in sparsely inhabited areas of the western U.S. With poverty and solitude as constant companions, their relationship suffers greatly. In addition to a physical handicap, Lyman, the narrator, has his own marital difficulties. This colors his attitude towards his late grandmother.

There are many things I liked about this novel. Wegner’s depiction of the Old West and his characters are captivating. His writing style is impeccable. In fact, he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for this novel. I was fascinated by the story’s main character Foote and hope to discover more about her life and work. The only criticism I have is that I found the character Lyman annoying, however, as the story unfolds, he has good reason to be. I wish his truth had been presented earlier in the novel. Other than that, I enjoyed this novel very much and recommend it highly.

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