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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Reading Round-up: December

December was so jam-packed with activity that my reading time suffered.  Hence I have only a few titles to share with you, but they were all great reads.

The Anxiety Disease by David Sheehan 

was first on my list.  I have several family members who suffer from anxiety.  Some suffer only occasionally, others suffer greatly and frequently.  I wanted to learn more about anxiety, so that I could be more understanding and maybe even be of help.  Though this book was written in 1983, I found it to be so very insightful and helpful. It looks at anxiety, not as a psychological disorder, but rather as a disease.  As such, it can then be treated and controlled.  Dr. Sheehan discusses the various stages of the disease, and believe me, he is spot on.  He also offers hope and suggestions for dealing with the disease.  If you or someone you love is trying to deal with anxiety, I highly recommend you read this book.  It gives you insight into the helplessness of the victim, and helps you gain empathy.  The disease is not as simple as "just get over it", anxiety is as real as any other disease and should be treated as such.

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

is also connected to the theme of anxiety.  Audrey, the main character, is trying to gain control of her severe anxiety and panic attacks, brought on by severe bullying incidents in school.  Audrey is in the midst of recovering through the aid of a good therapist, a very supportive family, and a new accepting friend.  Audrey makes a complete break from the hurtful incident and is home for now, but hopes to soon attend a new school.  Though she still has setbacks ( she hides from anyone who comes to the door) she is bravely taking steps to re-enter the real world.  She wears sunglasses 24/7 in order to feel comfortable around people; she needs this bit of symbolic distance to feel safe.  The book provides a great look into the anguish  and struggles of one who is dealing with severe anxiety and of the effects it has on those who love her.  In this age of social media that seems to promote a callousness brought on by a feeling of anonymity, it is important to remember that words do hurt and can do immense damage.

Two Across by Jeff Bartsch

This book made my list this month because I've become intrigued by crossword puzzles. Every morning since we have been retired, Bob complete's the Star Ledger's crossword puzzle as we sip our coffee and munch on some breakfast.  I tend to check emails while he works the puzzle but am sometimes called in as back up to use my computer, when when he gets stuck on a stubborn clue.  So when I saw this title in the library, I snatched it up.  A good choice - a very different plot and engaging characters.  Stanley and Vera, two brainiacs, meet at the National Spelling Bee, where they end up as co-winners defeating the list of most challenging words. The two form a somewhat weird bond as they meet again and again at yearly reunions.  Their relationship takes a even stranger twist when Stanley talks Vera into a "fake" marriage.  The relationship is often tortured by unrequited love and the two spend more time apart than together communicating through complex crossword puzzles they write and which are published in major papers such as the NY Times and Washington Post.  Besides the presence of interesting characters and a clever plot, Two Across taught me quite a bit about the construction of crossword puzzles.

Vintage by David Baker

was by far my favorite book this month.  This book has much to endear the reader to it:

  • a onetime bestselling author who has lost his way
  • two devoted daughters who adore their father 
  • a father who brings his daughters love and warmth along with the lovely meals he teaches them to prepare
  • a love for great wine
  • a scoundrel who indulges in excess of drinking and womanizing  
  • a mystery of a legendary spectacular vintage from 1943, stolen by the Nazis and a frantic search to find it
  • a search of a lost soul to finally find what is truly important in life (hint - he finds it!)
  • one of the best endings I've read in a long time
That's it for this month.  What books would you recommend for starting off a new  year?  I'd love to hear some suggestions so I can start a new reading list for 2016!  Happy New Year every one.  May it be the best one yet.