Reprinted from auburnpub.com:
One of the side effects of being cooped up inside for so long is that our attention spans have shrunk. After binge-watching episode after episode of the latest Netflix craze, we need a break. When it comes to reading, the thought of tackling a big novel or doorstopper of a biography can be too daunting. This month’s Book Report has three suggestions for books you can dip into and out of to give your self a break.
Todd Doughty’s book Little Pieces of Hope had its origins on March 11, 2020 when he began to make a list of “happy-making things in a difficult world” and posted the list with a photo on his Instagram account (@todddoughty). That was the day the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic.
The post became the basis for his book. Most of his lists are a single page, so this makes it the perfect book to just grab when you have a few minutes and want something to bring a smile to your face as you recognize things that brought you joy as a youngster or give you hope today.
He lists things like “Staying up late and hearing “Live From New York, it’s Saturday Night!”, “A day at the state fair”, and “Ripping open the presents” that evoke a visceral memory for so many of us. He has pages titled “Bucket-List Suggestions” (seeing a Red Sox- Yankees game at Fenway), “Things You Might Consider Doing Today” (make Ina Garten’s weeknight Bolognese), and “That Moment in Life When You” (realized your parents are people too).
There are many things in this delightful book to make you think, make you smile, make you nostalgic. Sometimes it’s just one word- “Kevin!” (from the movie Home Alone), or his Mixtape pages of songs that will have you rushing to make a Spotify playlist to dance to that bring you happiness. I particularly like his lists of characters from my favorite TV shows of yore, or books I Ioved. His name-checking of famous paintings and photographs had me Googling them to take a look.
Little Pieces of Hope is the kind of book you’ll want to take a highlighter to so you can refer back to your favorite sections, or call your siblings or best friends to ask them if they remember this or that. It will bring a smile to your face and earn a permanent place on your favorites bookshelf.
Ann Patchett’s book of essays These Precious Days compiles some of her best pieces of nonfiction writing where she asked herself “what mattered most in this precarious and precious life.” The first essay, “Three Fathers” is a beautiful homage to the men her mother married, including her own father, and recalls what each brought to her life. She shares a lovely photo of her with the men at a family wedding in 2005, shortly before she began to lose them.
In “Flight Plan”, Ann relays her doctor-husband’s love of piloting his plane, and how even though she worries when he takes off, she knows how much joy it brings to his life. The title essay, “These Precious Days” is the best of the book. Ann met Tom Hanks’ assistant Sooki at an event and was drawn to her right away.
Sooki had a serious illness, and one of the medical trials for her condition was taking place in Nashville, where Ann lived. Ann’s husband was able to get Sooki into the trial, and Ann insisted Sooki stay with them during the trial. Shortly after Sooki arrived the pandemic hit, and she ended up staying with Ann for much longer than expected. Sooki staying with Ann and her husband changed their lives, and this essay is one of the most moving I have ever read.
Crime fiction writer Laura Lippman’s short story collection Seasonal Work is filled with unforgettable characters, mostly girls and young women. “Seasonal Work” is the first and strongest story, about a family whose van filled with their Christmas gifts is robbed on Christmas Eve. “Snowflake Time” is a sly story about “the woke culture” and how it affects a television news personality. People spying on others is a theme- a woman thinks her neighbor is up to no good, a wife finds her husband’s secret burner phone- and it doesn’t always end well. Even though you can read one story at a time, I admit I devoured this delectable collection in one day.
Little Pieces of Hope by Todd Doughty- A
Published by Penguin Life
Trade paperback, $16, 245 pages
These Precious Days by Ann Patchett- A
Published by Harper
Hardcover, $26.99, 336 pages
Seasonal Work by Laura Lippman- A
Published by William Morrow
Hardcover, $26.99, 336 pages