I have read three books over the past few months that I can’t seem to get out of my head. You know the way you can’t seem to stop thinking about a certain someone? They’re in your dreams, there with you when you wake up, and throughout your day, you even start seeing their faces in other people. These books have had that, where-have-you-been-all-my-life effect on me.
I have found myself with them in cafes, on the couch. The movie I was watching forgotten in the background, and of course in bed spreading their pages apart. We’re expecting our first child before Christmas. Okay, I’m kidding. The children are already here in the form of a deeper understanding of the world, better awareness of the self, and a more fulfilling human experience.
1. Ask The Dust
On the top of that list is Ask The Dust by John Fante. “I was a young man, starving and drinking and trying to be a writer.” The book started and it didn’t let go until it was done with me.
It was done with me in the corner of a cafe. My face became hot and my eyes stung, as if I had been cutting onions. And I remember thinking to myself, ‘I have to get out of here. I can’t allow the waitress, and all these people to see me like this.’ “It’s the cost of living,” I could hear myself explaining. The weakening shilling will bring tears to anyone’s eyes.
The book is bursting with the beauty of trying to get a chance in a world that doesn’t seem to give a damn. A struggle we are all familiar with. It’s told in such a poetic style that you feel part of it. Part of those times when everything was fresh and ready for the taking.
It tricks you, like life often does with the hope that the days will get better, the load we carry lighter, and the road we travel, easier. Only to get to the destination and realize there isn’t one, the road continues unending and we only become stronger travelers that carry the load better.
If you find yourself picking up Ask The Dust; read it anywhere you want when you are starting. Retreat indoors when you are finishing but if you happen to find yourself in public like I did. Don’t blink, and if you do, take courage in knowing that sorrow is also part of being human.
2. Life of Pi
A captivating story is a story that goes to the edges of your imagination and shows you what the human spirit is capable of. Yann Martel’s, Life of Pi gets to the edge of that imagination and then it leaps, so that it’s nothing like you have experienced in a book before.
It begins in a Zoo and you’re already starting to become skeptical, wondering if you made the wrong decision picking it up because really what are a couple of animals in cages going to teach you about life? But you end up being wrong and you’re grateful you persisted through the first few pages.
The writing is inspired and you come across phrases that light up your soul and fill your spirit with color. Phrases that you will carry with you for the rest of your life. Here is one that captures the spirit of the book. “Things didn’t turn out the way they were supposed to, but what can you do? You must take life the way it comes at you and make the best of it.”
And damn, did Pi make the best of it. A dozen times I thought he would come undone and throw in the towel. A dozen times he proved me wrong. Fighting like hell even when the decks were overwhelmingly stacked against him. If you want to experience the beauty of the written word and the beauty of the human spirit, pick up Life of Pi and buckle up for a rollercoaster.
3. Good Morning Monster You hear about someone going to therapy and you might think they’re soft. You don’t need to talk about your feelings, you might decide. The world is hard and you are harder. “They don’t make us like they used to,” you might mummer with your nose in the air. You are tough as nails but sometimes you can’t help but wonder why you have certain phobias and dysfunctions; That you, tough as you are have been unable to break from.
You pick up Good Morning Monster by Catherine Gildiner not knowing what exactly you will get but it ends up being captivating and insightful. Helping you self-reflect, navigate, and understand how your upbringing and unconscious mind drives who you are; your shame, fears, and joys, and how you repress, deny, or sublimate your emotional problems.
It expands your sense of tolerance and empathy for the people you brush shoulders with every day—That you sometimes look at and wonder why they are the way they are. Oftentimes, that is the only way they’re able to cope with the years of pain that they carry silently on their shoulders.
As you turn the page, you’re also inspired as you see the damage that has been done for so many years being undone. And someone who was once imprisoned by their dysfunctions being freed from them and becoming functional. And you think, huh, there is some advantage to being soft, to talking about your feelings. The softness of a river does cut through rocks after all.
What book has had the where-have-you-been-all-my-life effect on you recently? Share it in the comments, it might just be my next read.
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