Book Reviews and My Garden

I’ve mentioned before that I love to listen to audio books. It’s the best thing since sliced bread, but really better. No need for me to eat bread sliced for me to enjoy it. Productivity makes me happy and multitasking is a skill I’ve honed. Especially this time of year when I’m trying to keep up on my yard, which is looking a little amazing (I’m not saying perfect). Don’t you love the orange!!? The spring rains, lots of sun, and two years of establishment for many of the plants have blossoms exploding. I can hear them saying, “Notice me! Notice me!” I know the goodness of this season has a limited life, so I’m giving these sweet braggarts as much attention as I can.

So within the last couple of months on my walks and yard work I’ve listened to a few books that I want you to love like I do. First I want to tell you that I use two platforms. One is Audible, and the other is Overdrive which is through our public library system. Audible is great because it carries most books and when I want a book I can access it on demand. But it’s a subscription of about $14.95/month, which I think is reasonable, but it’s not an extra I can budget right now. I’ve gone back and forth in being a member when they’ve offered a promotion. I just changed my membership again to their option of $9.95/year which has very limited benefits, but it’s better than nothing. Overdrive is great because it’s free, but often books aren’t available and usually you have to put requests on hold. Once you get a book, you only have two weeks to finish it before it’s returned to the library.

Book 1: My Beloved World, by Sonia Sotomayor

The audible version that I listened to on Overdrive is narrated by Rita Moreno, who I think might be more famous than Sonia Sotomayor about whom I now know more than I do the famous Rita Moreno.

Sonia Sotomayor is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court and is the first hispanic to hold this position. Growing up in the Bronx, Sonia’s family struggled to make ends meet. Her mother placed a high value on education and like a sponge, Sonia soaked up education, always thirsting for more. As a young girl she was thoughtful about her family and community, and discovered she innately wanted to contribute to what’s right and fair. The TV show Perry Mason opened her eyes to the possibiity of pursuing a career in law. Coming from a poor Puerto Rican family she took nothing for granted and seized every opportunity, while remaining loyal to her family and her culture. I loved the detail about her day to day life sharing a small apartment with extended family, the foods they would buy, the meals they would cook and the rituals they shared. From that life Justice Sotomayor found her way to Princeton and then Yale, representing the Fendi family out of law school, and then became an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. I loved the book, and Rita Moreno was good, too.

Book 2: It Was Me All Along: A Memoir by Andie Mitchell

I found this book when I was desperate one night to listen to another book. I was preparing to start a big casserole and didn’t want to miss an opportunity to listen to another great book while I mindlessly diced and chopped. I wasn’t back on the Audible subscription so I was using Overdrive. I must have searched for 20 books from Oprah’s book list before I finally found one that was available. I had no idea what the book was about, but I grabbed it, figuring that if it’s good enough for Oprah, it’s good enough for me. Now I think if it’s good enough for me, it’s good enough for you!

Ironically, the book I started while engaged in my sous chef activities was about food. Andie Mitchell’s memoir dates back to her young self through to her young adult life. Among Andie’s challenges is a father who is devoted when he isn’t drinking and her mother whose love language is cooking great food in mass quantities. Andie’s love language is eating the food. Through thick and thin, Andie walks us through every bite she chews and every flavor she craves with such detail that I was almost drooling. Except that her internal struggle is heartbreaking and the mood of chowing down on a cinnamon roll fresh out of the oven waned. The intensity with which she tells her story took me back to many relatables memories with my own family. Andie is sincere in exposing both her love and hate of food and herself, and we see the impact of both on her life. She narrates her story and I had to remind myself a couple of times that I was listening to a book, not a friend reliving her life with me. Although Andie thought she was defined by her eating habits, she brings much more to our world than having lived life with an eating disorder. She brings a different perspective to the subject and finds her way out as well. While I think this book has value for people who struggle with eating habits, for those who are in early stages of recovery from eating addictions, the book could be triggerig and you should consider carefully before reading it.

Book 3: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

I had no idea what “Born a Crime” could mean. I chose the book because the review told me it was a must read. I soon discovered the meaning of the title. I’m just halfway through and I love it. What’s funny to me is that I had no idea who Trevor Noah was before I began the book. In an effort to convince my son to at least listen to a book, if he’s not going to read one, I played a small sample of the book to him, sure that he would be seduced by the delivery of the sample I’d chosen. Immediately Bradley said, “Oh, Trevor Noah? That’s cool. I know him.” Bradley went on to tell me that he’s famous, everyone knows him, he’s on this show and that show, yadda yadda. Oh well, I know Trevor Noah now.

Trevor’s book is filled with color, no pun intended. I feel his energy for the life he lived as well as the misfortune, although he never complains, but paints a picture of things most of us can’t imagine. He also paints a picture of which many kids might dream, and maybe some adults, in the boldness with which he lives his life. What a treat to learn apartheid history, the social structures, the South Africa government, and more from this talented native who is faithful to his heritage but clearly adapted to American culture. It’s fun to hear his perspective on a life devoted to Jesus as required by his fiercely independent mom. I’ve known people who have gone to South Africa for missions work and I can piece their stories into this narrative and I feel like I kind of understand their experience. I agree: it’s a must listen.

Note: I don’t use Audible links because I’m not a big Amazon fan. This is my small way, even if it’s only one reader, to support Barnes and Noble. I cried when Borders went out of business!

4 replies
  1. JoElle Hval
    JoElle Hval says:

    I also really enjoyed “My Beloved World” I love getting good book recommendations-
    Thanks for sharing-keep them coming! 🙂

    • Joni Thurber
      Joni Thurber says:

      I can’t believe you read that, too! I just finished “Born A Crime.” I loved it. So many great messages. I don’t want to ruin it by telling you what they are, but it would be fun to talk about it if you read it.


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