Appreciating the dark side of life since 1975.

If it’s boring, I’m moving on.

Not to toot my own horn or anything, but people consistently ask me for book recommendations. I read a lot and I have a ton of books sitting around in piles throughout my house (I just, in fact, knocked a pile over). Books are like abandoned puppies to me–they need to be saved. I have tried to stick to the one book in, one book out rule, but I think it’s fair to say that I am failing at this dumb rule.

I love it when people ask me what they should read. Most people who know me know that I’m pretty picky when it comes to books (which might sound contrary to what I just said above, but whatever). Here are a few of my peccadilloes:

  1. Is it boring? In the first 3 pages? I have a low tolerance for books/movies/stories that don’t grab me right away. People might argue that I’m impatient and that some of the best books have a slow build or some other such nonsense. Well, I don’t have time for that. Next!
  2. It is no secret that I tend to gravitate away from most fiction (I know, I know). Also, anything with a zombie angle or a premise involving a hunky man is not going to cut it. Next!
  3. What I DO read is a lot of non-fiction. Particularly books that have anything to do with weird/strange/creepy people, tragic tales from history, memoirs of those that have faced adversity and straight up true crime books of the Ann Rule variety. You know, real pick-me-uppers!

Basically, I am intrigued by the human condition. Are people born with or without a moral compass or is it developed over time? Do people choose their own destinies or is everything due to luck? How do people cope with tragedies or hardship? How do we, as a society, care for one another? I can imagine that a lot of people read to ESCAPE from these thoughts (cause, frankly, the world sucks sometimes, right?), but I have noticed a greater appreciation for life and all of it’s nuances when I’m true to myself and pay attention to the dark stuff. As my favorite life coach, Andrew W.K. (yes, you read that right), said, “You don’t have to look on the bright side. You are the bright side.”

Every once in awhile, I’ll throw a book at you that I consider to be one of my favorites. Here, I present to you one of the best by one of my favorite authors. Read it, already!

Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon

Warning: this book is a TOME. Like, seriously. However, I have good news for you. You don’t have to read it straight through from front to back, no sir. It’s separated into sections and you can jump around based on your interest (and it’s all interesting).

Andrew Solomon spent a decade gathering 10,000 pages of interviews that he conducted with parents of children born into unique circumstances such as autism, genetic conditions such as fragile X and children that grow up to commit crimes (see: Dylan Klebold’s parents). He built geniune relationships with these people in an attempt to understand how they cope (or, in some cases, very much do not cope) with having these exceptional children. It’s a beautiful book and if you want to find any hope for humanity, it’s in here.

Difference unites us. While each of these experiences can isolate those who are affected, together they compose an aggregate of millions whose struggles connect them profoundly. The exceptional is ubiquitous; to be entirely typical is the rare and lonely state.

Andrew Solomon

P.S. Another of my favorite books by him is The Noonday Demon.  It’s a National Book Award winner about mental illness and draws on his personal experience with depression along with the scientific and cultural dimensions to the disease. Snoozefest you say? NO WAY.

So, this is just the start of what I hope will be many introductions to books you may have never read, never heard about or heard about, but never read. If the book I just wrote about is too mundane for you, don’t worry. I’ve got plenty in my stash containing such topics as: cannibals, WW2 criminals, failed mountain climbing expeditions and lobotomies. The fun never ends!

 

 



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