What I’m Currently Reading: Cancer to the Holocaust to Vaginas to Linchpins

This is a new type of post, that may be a recurring feature, so tell me what you think!  I read so many different things, I thought that the juxtaposition of everything I’m reading at one time would be interesting.   (And maybe help me find connections between what I’m reading.)

Because I tend to have ADHD-type issues, I typically read several books at once.  I have an audiobook in the car, a book at the kitchen table, one in the bathroom, and usually a couple of books in progress in the bedroom.  I know that a book has really captured my attention when I take it from place to place, which doesn’t happen often.

Right now, here’s the list:

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin (I have it on both audiobook and hardcover at the moment, and I’m listening to it for the second time on audio–it’s that good.)

The Dread Disease: Cancer and Modern American Culture by James T. Patterson

The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million by Daniel Mendelsohn

Four Souls by Louise Erdrich

Vagina:  A New Biography by Naomi Wolf

Leaving a Trace: The Art of Transforming a Life Into Stories by Alexandra Johnson

I’m really liking them all.  I wrote earlier about Seth Godin.  I’ve now subscribed to his blog and look forward to my daily dose of Seth.  Reading Linchpin and his blog has helped me to stay focused at my day job by looking at my role in a new way and has motivated me to keep going with my art.  

I’m reading Dread Disease as research for what I’m writing, to get perspective on what it would have been like to receive a cancer diagnosis in the 1940s or 1950s.  We think it sucks now, but it really sucked then, at the height of radical surgeries, newly-discovered (but not tweaked) radiation and X-ray therapy, and no chemotherapy for “insurance” to clean up any stray cancer cells.  As a rule, people, especially the poor and immigrants, didn’t trust doctors, so they often didn’t go to the doctor when they first thought something was wrong.  Most cancers weren’t diagnosed until it was far too late to do anything to affect them, and many patients weren’t even told that they had cancer.  It’s hard to reconcile that atmosphere with our “knowledge is power” world of instant access to information and what I like to call “Doctor Google.”

The Lost is an example of the kind of book I’d like to write, if maybe a little longer than I anticipate.  Mendelsohn is obsessed with finding out exactly what happened to his great-uncle and family in the Holocaust.  Amazingly, he finds out a great deal.  I really admire how he tells the story of his journey as he discovers what he is able to.  I’ve been taking my time with this one, savoring it.  It also is best read in small doses, so as not to get overwhelmed with the sadness.  But he tells a story that needed to be told.

Four Souls is another part of the story of Fleur Pillager and Nanapush, excellent Erdrich, as usual.  It connects with many of Erdrich’s other stories and is told in alternating perspectives.

Vagina is worldview-shattering, in my opinion.  I’ve tabbed many passages to quote in my book journal later, and keep saying to myself “No wonder!” as I read it.   Maybe it’s elementary, but here’s one of Wolf’s theses:  Good sex affects brain chemistry, and because women can have more orgasms than men, we have the capability to feel more of the effects of those brain chemicals.  So we (typically) feel more connected than men after sex, and it is normal for us to feel “addicted” to a lover when they’re not around, because of those same brain chemicals.  Wow!  It’s not some mental or emotional defect or result of a sexually-deprived and nerdy adolescence!

Leaving a Trace includes many promising techniques for journaling and for jumping off from a journal to more creative work.  Johnson also describes many types of journals–specifically keeping different journals for different purposes.  I already do a little of that, with my book journals, and a journal for my daughter.  But my general rambling, writing exercises, and book-brainstorming have gotten all jumbled together.  It’s food for thought to separate them more.

So those are the books that are in my head right now!  Let me know what you think.



2 thoughts on “What I’m Currently Reading: Cancer to the Holocaust to Vaginas to Linchpins

  1. Dale Elaine

    Nice summary of your personal library du jour. If you enjoy writing about what you read and want to do even more of it, you might want to find out if your local library is seeking guest book reviewers; I know my local library sometimes features such articles on their website. You never know who you might inspire to pick up a book and read!


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