New Year, More Books…

I really enjoy reading. Have I mentioned that before? And at the start of this year and several times during 2019, I came across books that I almost literally could not put down. I was tempted to cancel plans (except I do know that, yes, the books will still be on my coffee table when I get home), and I anticipated my coffee and lunch breaks at work more than usual.

One of these books was “The Radium Girls,” which is about the girls and women who painted dial faces on clocks and watches in the early and mid-1900s — a glamourous job for a short time, until the harmful effects of radium were realized in horrifying, painful, and sometimes fatal ways. The book details the girls’ fights with the companies that allowed the neglect to continue for years. Eventually, many changes were made to safety measures throughout workplaces across the country, laws were put in place, some of the girls and their families were compensated… but far too late, in many cases. My friend, who had recommended “The Radium Girls” to me, also recommended “Get Well Soon,” and that book engrossed me as well. The author describes a dozen or so different diseases that were treated with (mostly) not-so-effective methods at first. Much research has been done for this book, and it’s amazing to see how far the field of medicine has advanced in recent decades. It’s also a side-splitting read at times.

I’m not much of an adventurer — I prefer hobbies, trips, and general life choices that are relatively calm, safe, predictable — but I do like living vicariously through others’ adventures! The wild places and events in books like “100 Dives of a Lifetime” and “Moby-Duck” were fun to explore from the safety and warmth of my couch or kitchen table. And learning a bit about animals through words and photos (like those in the National Geographic photography books) is entertaining as well.

In the past year, I’ve read half a dozen novels, which is a lot for me. I fell in love with the writing of Kristin Hannah. “The Nightingale” is about two sisters in German-occupied France during World War II and how they each play very different roles during the war. Hannah’s book “The Great Alone” was also nearly impossible to put down; it’s about a young girl who moves to Alaska with her parents, and the struggles of family dysfunction, the aftermath of war, bitterly cold and dark winters in the north…. I plan to read more books by this author, for sure.

A few other favourites of mine in this list include “The Warmth of Other Suns,” “Becoming,” and “Joyful.”


The Human Swarm: how our societies arise, thrive, and fall – Mark W. Moffett
The Warmth of Other Suns: the epic story of America’s great migration — Isabel Wilkerson
Factfulness: 10 reasons we’re wrong about the world, and why things are better than you think — Hans Rosling
Get Well Soon: history’s worst plagues and the heroes who fought them — Jennifer Wright
The Radium Girls: the dark story of America’s shining women — Kate Moore

100 Dives of a Lifetime: the world’s ultimate underwater destinations – Brian Skerry and Carrie Miller
The Hidden Life of Trees: what they feel, how they communicate – discoveries from a secret world — Peter Wohlleben
Bees: nature’s little wonders — Candace Savage
Birdmania: a remarkable passion for birds — Bernd Brunner
Birds of the Photo Ark — Joel Sartore and Noah Strycker
The Photo Ark– Joel Sartore
Crows: encounters with the wise guys — Candace Savage
Moby-Duck: the true story of 28,800 bath toys lost at sea and of the beachcombers, oceanographers, environmentalists, and fools, including the author, who went in search of them — Donovan Hohn

Feeding My Mother: comfort and laughter in the kitchen as my mom lives with memory loss — Jann Arden
All Things Consoled: a daughter’s memoir — Elizabeth Hay
Becoming — Michelle Obama
The Suitcase and the Jar: a mother’s journey — Becky Livingston
Heartland: a memoir of working hard and being broke in the richest country on earth — Sarah Smarsh
The Way Around: finding my mother and myself among the Yanomami — David Good
My Squirrel Days: tales from the star of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and The Office — Ellie Kemper

His Whole Life — Elizabeth Hay
The Nightingale – Kristin Hannah
The Great Alone — Kristin Hannah
The Most Fun We Ever Had — Claire Lombard
Truly Madly Guilty — Liane Moriarty
Devoted — Jennifer Mathieu

Help Me: my perfectly disastrous journey through the world of self-help — Marianne Power
The Art of Noticing: 131 ways to spark creativity, find inspiration, and discover joy in the everyday — Rob Walker
Joyful: the surprising power of ordinary things to create extraordinary happiness — Ingrid Fetell Lee
Happiness Is a Choice You Make: lessons from a year among the oldest old — John Leland
The Village Effect: how face-to-face contact can make us healthier and happier — Susan Pinker
Necessary Losses: the loves, illusions, dependencies, and impossible expectations that all of us have to give up in order to grow — Judith Viorst