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  • Writer's pictureMaria Wade

Book Review Q1, 2022

I read. I’m a reader.

My favorites are fiction books. The second place in my reading priorities is for non-fiction books, including memoirs. Less enjoyable, but sometimes quite exciting, are white papers and articles in peer-reviewed journals. I almost never read magazines and newspapers. For some reason, I just don’t appreciate the form and style.

I remember that it wasn’t always like this. I mostly read fiction during my school years but put it away when I entered university. I studied law, and reading the literature related to my major replaced all other types of written work. After I completed my master’s degree in law, fiction reappeared in my life but rarely and sporadically. I worked, studied law as part of a doctoral program, and later pursued degrees in finance and business administration. To be honest, I couldn’t afford the luxury of reading fiction literature. I was so focused on my professional development, leaving little time to do anything else. As my career rapidly developed, I practically never had time for entertaining reading.

Everything changed when I started learning English seriously in 2016 after a year of living in the United States. I needed to support my language studies by reading different types of literature and I realized how much I had missed reading. I suddenly found myself with a great reason to read and a lack of strong language skills to enjoy the process  Habitually, I plunged into non-fiction sources thinking of multiple tests, exams, and certifications I was going through reclaiming my qualifications and relaunching my career. I read eighteen books in 2017, twenty-one in 2018, thirty-one in 2019, forty-seven in 2020 and slowed down a little bit in 2021 (just nineteen books) saturated with reading of any kind.

Now I’m reading not because I need to read but because I want to do it. I often ask for recommendations but seldom write reviews. I told you I’m a reader, not a writer 

Today, though, I want to share with you very short reviews on four of the books I have read since the beginning of the year.

The Citadel by A.J. Cronin. Loving this period in English literature. I’m captivated with the elegance and beauty of the language. I’m thrilling with the realization that I admire the author’s value system. The story of the young doctor resonates with my experience enormously. Yes, you’re right. I’m not young. But I re-established my career just six years ago. I still remember all the choices I have made since then, and not all of them perfect. In one of my blog posts on fear, I wrote that that the point is not to be unafraid, it’s about choices we make when we’re afraid. The situation with establishing career or business is not about being afraid - though sometimes you may be scared - it’s about choices you make pursuing your dream and aspiration.

When you’re investing your time, effort, money in the work you love very much, you may become impatient. You may be eager to see a return on investment sooner not later. And this is the question what you’re ready to do to achieve your goals in the shortest timeframe. Do you want to be recognized, awarded, valued? Quite likely. What are you willing to do to get it? Everything that is required?

The Citadel captivated my attention, I spent every spare minute reading it. I cried while finishing the book. I don’t remember when I cried with the same kind of vibes, the same kind of emotions. The tears I shed were tears of joy.

Reading the book, I contemplated on the idea that nothing has really changed in over a century. There are the same challenges, moral dilemmas, and tough decisions to make. It may look scary or desperate, but it’s not. It means that the one and only thing to change is you. You’re not changing the world; you’re changing yourself, growing your own complexity to respond the challenges of the rapidly non-changing world.

Between Two Kingdoms by Suleika Jaouad. Recently, I started enjoying books that educate me on different topics through storytelling. I don’t necessarily want to experience any of the major events described in these books, but I do want to learn about them. I often repeat to my kids that that our life is not long enough to accommodate all possible scenarios, but we can read about many of them.

This book, Between Two Kingdoms, is a memoir. I love memoirs. I play with them in my mind figuring out alternatives and other possibilities. What I take in most is the feelings and emotions of characters. I believe that this is the main reason of my affection for memoirs.

Suleika Jaouad did a beautiful job presenting the emotional world of people who are fighting cancer and their caregivers. I’m so grateful to her for shedding some light on what people think, feel, being afraid of or tired of. Suleika led me through a whole story of her fight with cancer. Honest and keen story is an example of the author’s inner growth that I appreciate very much. I wish the author the best and am praying for the millions of people who are fighting a cancer.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. One more book that I see as educational and thought- provoking. I had never cared about my race before I moved to the USA in 2015. The color of my skin was completely natural and not requiring any thoughts or attention. I had never realized all the privileges attached to this color of skin. I took a lot of things for granted. Early in my exploration of race related topics, I learned that we’re responsible for our own education on race and racism. I appreciate great sources on the topic. I participate in conversations about racism, biases, and prejudice and am trying to tame that uneasy feeling of recognizing unconscious biases, ignoring privileges, and tolerating polarized talks on racism.

I’m grateful to Jodi Picoult for bringing my attention to the fact that racism is not always aggressive or cruel, that it may be just an ignorance without bad intention, that this is our human responsibility to educate ourselves, to widen our perspectives, to learn to understand each other regardless of the color of our skins, to share our love (not hate), and as always, to have a brave and candid conversations. Don’t assume, ask! Don’t require others to make assumptions, share! Beautiful story about love that saves the world.

The Adventure of Sally by P.G. Wodehouse. As I mentioned earlier, there is something special in the writing of this period. I opened this review with A.J. Cronin’s book featuring events from 1924 and want to close it with P.G. Wodehouse’s focused on 1922. This book is a pure joy. The author’s sense of humor and ethical standards are what kept me captivated. Lightness and sophistication… Humor in very serious matters… True mastery in putting words together… Such a pleasure for me as a reader and a writer (I’m writing this review, so I’m a writer, am I not?).

Don’t expect too much. It’s simply a witty romantic comedy, but it’s definitely worth your time if you like to chill out with a good book. And one more reminder that nothing is new in this world:

“It’s just my luck,” he said gloomily. “it’s the kind of thing that couldn’t happen to anyone but me. Damned fools! Where’s the sense in shutting the theatres, even if there is influenza about? They let people jam against one another all day in the stores. If that doesn’t hurt them why should it hurt them to go the theatres? Besides, it’s all infernal nonsense about this thing. I don’t believe there is such a thing as Spanish influenza. People get colds in their heads and think they’re dying. It’s all a fake scare.”

It reminds something from our recent experience, doesn’t it? 

I hope that you will find this review at least not boring, and at most useful. Have you read any of these? What did you think? I also invite you to please share with me a word about books that you found interesting and thought-provoking. I always appreciate book recommendations.

Until next time: Happy Reading!

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