Books in the Time of Coronavirus

Well, these are strange times. We’ll have a new normal when the virus easies up, but heck we have a new normal now. I’ve not worked since mid March when our schools closed. I’ve used my time constructively. I’ve painted walls and woodwork, deep cleaned my horrible laundry room, done beaucoups of yard work. Next is going through boxes in my attic and throwing out all the childhood school work of my children which I dedicatedly saved. My children laughed out loud at my suggestion that they take some of their “mementos.” How was I supposed to know they wouldn’t want any of this stuff?

In between all my “Martha Stewart” house projects, I’ve enjoyed sitting out in my little herb garden reading in the afternoons. This is not an activity that comes naturally to my Type A personality. It’s a new activity for me that I want to take into my new norm. We’ve had a beautiful spring along the Gulf Coast, and I’m reading a wide assortment of books.

I’ll share about several of these books. Maybe some will pique your interest. Fiction wise I just finished A Hero in France by Alan Furst. Furst is compared to John Le Carre whom I love to read. This book is an espionage thriller about the French Resistance in Paris before the US enters the war. It’s early in the Nazi occupation of the City of Light, and the star of the book Matthieu heads a resistance cell responsible for getting downed RAF airmen to safety in Spain. Great characters and of course lots of page-turning suspense and action. Very good escape reading!

As far as nonfiction is concerned, I’m browsing through Timeless Healing: The Power and Biology of Belief by Dr. Herbert Benson. It was published in 1996 when Dr. Benson was an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard and the Deaconess Hospital in Boston. He writes that we “are wired for God” and that a belief in a higher power is a huge contributor in our health and healing. Dr. Benson coins a term “remembered wellness” in which we can “remember the calm and confidence associated with health and happiness, but not just in an emotional or psychologically soothing way. This memory is also physical.” He also says a religious commitment has “ a lifetime of benefits.” He goes through these benefits, but I’m not far enough into the book yet to start listing them. I heard about this book a couple of months ago listening to a podcast with Thomas Moore, a former monk, therapist and author. Moore’s book that changed my life decades ago is Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life. If you haven’t read that one, please do. Also I enjoyed the memoir by Kreis Beall, the cofounder of BlackBerry Farm in Tennessee. Her memoir is called The Great Blue Hills of God: A Story of Facing Loss, Finding Peace, and Learning the True Meaning of Home. It’s a very poignant book of abundance and loss, and Beall’s resilience and determination in building new meaning in her life. She has a strong faith in God who gives her “strength, encouragement, and hope.” It’s a powerful read.

I’m just about finished with Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari, and wow is it powerful. Harari uses evolutionary biology to trace humankind from the Stone Age to the 21st century. He breaks down the timeline into four parts: the Cognitive Revolution, the Agricultural Revolution, the unification of humankind period and the Scientific Revolution. This guy is brilliant and can easily tie together aspects from different academic disciplines into a very readable book. I first read one of his books in the fall of 2018 which was 21 Questions for the 21st Century. Harari’s chapter on education caused me to rethink what I knew about education and was the impetus for me to start an academic enrichment STEM robotics program (science, technology, engineering and math). See my blog post from October 13, 2018.

Lastly, my beloved book club will be happy to know that I am beginning to read Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover. Whenever we gathered last, they shamed me that I had not yet read this book. It’s been on my list, and now I will read it. I’m sure I will enjoy it as much as they swear I will!

So, in this time of COVID-19, let’s make sure we read books. We are all spending a lot (too much?)time in front of various screens. There is something calming and special about reading a book outside while feeling a breeze and listening to birdsong. I loved it as a child, and now I love it again.

Stay well!

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