A few years ago, I read The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini. I was so profoundly moved by it that I immediately purchased his second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns. I ended up reading it in two days. So I was eagerly anticipating reading his third novel, And the Mountains Echoed. It did not disappoint! What makes this novel different from his other two is that it begins years ago with a pivotal and traumatic event that sets in motion a series of other events in the lives of all involved. The act of a poor, desperate father selling his four year old daughter to a wealthy, childless family in Kabul is like a stone being thrown into a pool of water. Each ring of water left in its wake is the story of how this event affected those involved-- Pari (the young girl), Nila and Sulieman Wahdati (the couple in Kabul), Abdullah (Pari's adoring older biological brother), Pari's father and stepmother, Pari's Uncle Nabi (the Wahdati's chauffeur who arranged the entire exchange), and Dr. Varvaris, a plastic surgeon who ends up living in the Whadati home years later. All of these people's lives are seemingly separate, yet uniquely tied to each other, and you will have to read the novel to see if any of their lives ever connect again. I would highly recommend checking it out!
At the beginning of February, my dad took our kids for the afternoon and Mike and I found ourselves free to indulge in a movie. We picked Captain Phillips, one we both wanted to see with its Oscar nominations and high praise. Even though we knew the story, seeing it unfold on screen was intense and enthralling. After seeing the movie I decided to check out the book written by the real captain of the Maersk Alabama, Richard Phillips. It was interesting to read the book and compare the actual events he wrote about to what we had seen in the movie (most of which were all accurate). I enjoyed the background information that Captain Phillips wrote about-- his tough family background, how he ended up as a Merchant Mariner, how he met his wife, his struggle with faith, his love of the open sea and his love of his family. He weaves this background information into different parts of retelling the horrific capture by Somali pirates. It was an easy read, but one I thoroughly enjoyed.
Back in 2008, I stumbled upon a blog called MoneySavingMom.com. My friend had recommended checking it out as I was attempting to coupon and work weekly deals at both CVS and Walgreen's. What I found was more than just a place to check out coupons and good deals. Crystal Paine blogged about the struggles of parenting, keeping a vibrant, healthy marriage, financial goals and advice, as well as recipes and organizational tips. Her blog is uplifting and encouraging-- not at all pretentious (like she's got it all together and I don't). I appreciated both her humble nature and her push for excellence. I was hooked. This year, Crystal wrote her first book, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode: 9 Simple Strategies to Stress Less, Sleep More and Restore Your Passion for Life. I mean, who doesn't want to feel more passionate about where they are called?! I finished this book last night, and I can definitely say there are a LOT of great, very practical tips for how to streamline and simplify life. She directs most of her writing at mothers-- working or stay-at-home. But certainly this book would be great for singles and empty-nesters as well. One of the exercises I found most helpful was to list out your top five priorities in life. Once you list out your top priorities (i.e.--marriage, kids, business/career, personal health, spiritual life, friendships, hobbies, etc.), view all other decisions in light of these priorities. If saying yes to an event takes away from time that could be devoted to these priorities, then feel free to say no. Obviously, there are exceptions, but if saying yes out of obligation to do something takes away from one of your priorities, it might be better to say no. Even if that event or committee or position was a "good" thing. She emphasizes over and over the need to say no to good things and say yes to the best things. I can say I took away many good tips that I will definitely incorporate into our daily lives.
So there you have it. All three books were as different as could be, but all three were worthwhile reads. What have you been reading lately? I'd love some good recommendations!