Exploring Anxiety Through Memoirs

Book List – There is a variety of self-help books concerning mental health. Memoirs are my favorite genre, featuring real stories from real people who share their raw experiences with mental illness. The following books explore anxiety through memoirs.

Okay Fine Whatever: The Year I Went From Being Afraid of Everything to Only Being Afraid of Most Things by Courtenay Hameister

In her memoir of goals, the author challenges herself to attack her fears face to face – an admirable task to take on, in a year. I was particularly interested in the chapter on using a Sensory Deprivation “Float” Tank – an adventurous activity, especially for the claustrophobic.  Hameister’s writing can come across as crude, due to her bluntness of storytelling, but I enjoyed how she narrated her inner monologue with each new experience. The book concentrates on fear, which I feel is strongly related to anxiety and the fear that prevents us from venturing into new and terrifying futures and endeavors.

Little Panic : Dispatches From an Anxious Life by Amanda Stern

The author’s memoir details her childhood growing up with anxiety and worry. I enjoyed reading of Amanda’s experiences, but also found them stress-inducing. Plagued by daily panic that her mother will suddenly die, or forget her own daughter exists, Stern lives in constant fear that everyone she loves might suddenly leave her. As a child of divorce, she is also caught between two conflicting worlds: that of the bohemian, free-spirited life with her mother and the strict, cold sterile environment with her father. I appreciate her honest and detailed narration, growing up a child fearing that her whole world could fall apart in an instant.

Other related books include: On Edge: A Journey Through Anxiety by Andrea Petersen, and Hi Anxiety: Life With a Bad Case of Nerves by Kat Kinsman.

 

 

Sweet Home Cafe Cookbook by Albert G. Lukas and Jessica B. Harris

Cover image for Sweet Home Cafe cookbook : a celebration of African American cookingBook – Not all cookbooks are created equal. The Sweet Home Cafe Cookbook is published by the Smithsonian Institution, so you will be educated as you cook. Cooking and becoming smarter go hand-in-hand! Most of the recipes are accompanied by a beautiful color photo and are elegant enough for the seasoned chef, but are also reader-friendly: easy to follow, concise, and do not scare off cooking newbies.

Recipes from the cafe fall under three categories: classic, regional, and modern. And in each corner of the page, we are unobtrusively informed of what area or region, such as the Agricultural South, the food originated from. Black and white photographic images of subjects ranging from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee at a restaurant in Georgia, to a full-service vendor standing in front of his sign serving Po-Boy fruit and the ‘Best’ shoe shine in New Orleans, or an owner and a patron in his barbecue joint in Harlem, enriches readers and/or would-be cooks of the Black Diaspora.

One of my favorite characteristics of this cookbook is how recipes call for a “pinch” of this or that. My favorite recipes? Fried Green Tomatoes, Grilled Snapper with Creole sauce, and Son-of-A-Gun Stew. For the health-conscious, try recipes for: Baby Kale Salad; Collard, Tomato & Cashew Stew; or Pan-Roasted Rainbow Trout. Bakers can’t go wrong with Bourbon Pecan Pie or Fried Apple Hand Pies. What long days (or weeks) or hot summer afternoons (or nights), couldn’t be cured by a Hibiscus & Ginger Sweet Tea, or a Sparkling Watermelon & Lemon Verbena drink?

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

Book – Sylvie and her family are taking a holiday to live as ancient Britons. Her father is obsessed with ancient ways of life, from traditional knowledge like hunting and foraging to ancient religion and the bodies found in the bogs. (Sylvie is named after an ancient goddess.) They’re joining a class of experimental archaeologists, students who are much less committed to the reenactment than Sylvie’s father. The longer the trip goes on, the further the students are drawn in to the environment of the Iron Age – just as Sylvie, inspired by the students’ stories, begins to dream of a different future for herself. And then the professor suggests that they build a ghost wall – a barricade topped with skulls the Iron Age Britons used to use in war – and things begin to get very serious very quickly.

Ghost Wall packs a hefty punch in less than 150 pages. Sylvie isn’t exactly an unreliable narrator (she knows perfectly well that her father is obsessive and abusive) but the things she accepts without question make for a very particular point of view. Her father’s obsession with a “pure” British history raises questions of immigration and identity, and the directions he takes his obsession raise even more questions about what virtues there are in knowing your own history.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Book– Do not let the book’s thickness fool you. Knowing that I gravitate towards historical fiction novels, a dear friend of mine recommended All the Light We Cannot See and I could not put it down!

Doerr uses succinct, alternating chapters narrated by a blind French girl and a German boy, illustrating different perspectives of World War II from a child’s point of view. Although the Holocaust, Russian sieges, invasion of Paris, and the Allied Invasion of France are acknowledged, it is worth noting that the author assumes readers have some background on World War II, as the novel’s focus is on how the character’s development is shaped by war conflict.

Marie-Laure lives in Paris with her father, who works at the Museum of Natural History. The museum is rumored to hold The Sea of Flames, a jewel whose beholder becomes immortal at the expense of all their loved ones fatal suffering. At six years old, Marie-Laure’s vision deteriorates and she eventually loses her eyesight completely. Despite Marie-Laure’s visual impairment, her father makes it his mission that she learn to navigate on her own. He builds a miniature model of the town so she can tactilely memorize her way about the neighborhood. Fast-forward six years to Nazi-occupied Paris. Seeking refuge, Marie-Laure and her father flee to Saint-Malo and stay with her agoraphobic great-uncle, and with them, they carry the most valuable and dangerous stone, The Sea of Flames.

Werner is an orphan boy who lives in a mining town in Germany. Fond of applied mathematics and science, he is fully enticed with the processes behind operating and maintaining devices, so much so that he becomes the town’s go-to person for fixing various radios. After another successful repair, Werner is recruited to an academy for Hitler’s Youth, where his talents will be put to use. Werner is kept in the dark regarding the implications of his special assignments to track the resistance. At first, he creates triangles and finds points on a map, and only later comes to realize the destruction caused by his seemingly innocuous actions. Torn between doing what is expected and understanding what is moral, Werner questions his loyalties when he and Marie-Laure’s paths converge in their attempts to survive Saint-Malo’s bombings.

All the Light We Cannot See poses compelling questions about fate, free will, and making the right choice in a time when the pressures of political forces meet moral ambiguities. It is available in book, audiobook on CD, and e-audiobook via OverDrive formats.

Do or Die Cowboy by June Faver

Book – Tyler Garrett is the middle son of a big ranch tycoon. Both of his brothers have ranching in their blood and that is all they have ever wanted to do. Tyler, on the other hand, has music in his head and in his heart. After yet another argument with his father about what he should do with his life he packs up his horse, dog, and truck ready to hit the road for Dallas. There, a close friend will help him record his first CD and audition for a reality singing competition TV show.

On his way out of town, he meets Leah Benson and her daughter Gracie who are on their way to their Grandma’s ranch. It is clear to him that Leah and Gracie are running from something or someone in Oklahoma. Ty, your typical good person, decides he can spare a few days before heading to Dallas, to help Leah and Gracie who are down on their luck.

June Faver is a more recent author to me and I am excited to say that I tremendously appreciate her writing. She does not delve into the intimate bedroom scenes one comes to expect in romance novels. She does, however, have the right mix of romance, energy, mystery, and relatable characters which make me eager to read the next story in the Dark Horse Cowboy series.

Behave: The Biology of Humans at our Best and Worst by Robert M. Sapolsky

Book – It’s the fundamental question of the biological and social sciences — why do humans do the things they do? Every discipline has its own answers, from the complex chemical interactions of neurobiology to the deep history of evolution. In Behave, Sapolsky pulls together all of these and more to explore the causes and meanings of human behavior, with an eye toward the most important question of all: How can we be better people?

This book is long, hard going, but it’s well worth it – it’s one of the only books on neuroscience I’ve ever read where the author doesn’t treat the core biological mechanics of neurochemicals and genes as though that provides a meaningful answer to any question. Rather, Sapolsky goes into detail about the interaction between genes, hormones, biochemistry, environment, and long-lasting biological change, making it clear that while there’s a biological explanation for everything, there are so many variables involved that saying we can identify a single source of any given human behavior is laughable at best. The book really gets good in the second half, when he starts to apply all this to the things we’re really concerned about – compassion and generosity, violence and aggression. Sapolsky is optimistic overall, but he makes it clear that improving society is going to mean fighting our biology in some ways (or, more effectively, learning how to trick it).

Large Print Books

Books – Large Print Format You may not be aware, but we have over 1000 titles in our Large Print collection. Yes, the books are a tad bigger in size, but the font is undeniably easier on the eyes. The collection is located in the Adult department toward the back of the Library, in between the Biography section and the magazines. We own fiction, nonfiction, and mysteries and are continuously adding new titles.

Here’s a little secret – if you are impatient to read a new book that has numerous holds, check to see if the title is available in Large Print. If so, then it could be available on the shelf.  If not, the hold list may be short. Members who checked out Large Print as an alternative, found that they actually prefer the print size.

Discover which Large Print tiles we own, by doing the following at one of our IPAC stations:  on our catalog page click on “Advanced Search”, scroll down to “Limits”, check the box next to “Large Print Books”, then click on the green “Advanced Search” button.

If you are interested in any titles that we do not have in our holdings, please feel free to fill out an Item Request form, available at the Info or Youth Services Desk, or submit an e-form http://warrenville.libnet.info/itemrequestform available on our Library’s website.

Here is a sampling of what we recently ordered:

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
The Clockmaker’s Daughter
by Kate Morton
Every Breath
by Nicholas Sparks
Night of Miracles
by Elizabeth Berg
The Reckoning
by John Grisham
Leadership in Turbulent Times
by Doris Kearns Goodwin

The following are part of our Library’s holdings, that made the Best Books of 2018 list:

Transcription by Kate Atkinson
Virgil Wander by Leif Enger
Educated by Tara Westover
The Feather Thief by Kirk Wallace Johnson
Calypso by David Sedaris
The Library Book by Susan Orlean
The Witch Elm by Tana French
Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny
Lethal White by Robert Galbraith
Dark Sacred Night by Michael Connelly

Also very popular in our Large Print collection:

Becoming by Michelle Obama
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

 

NeuroTribes by Steve Silberman

Link

Book – Odd and unusual behaviors do not in and of themselves constitute a disorder unless they are related to a manifestation or, to a series of dysfunctions within an individual.  Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs one’s ability to communicate and interact with others.  This is often characterized by restricted interests, repetitive behaviors, intellectual deficits, and unusual responses to sensory experiences. Those with Autism can vary highly in their symptoms.  Current diagnostic material now includes Asperger’s, PDD-NOS, and Childhood Disintegration Disorder, which were at one time utilized apart from one another.

NeuroTribes is a must-read for anyone in the field of education neuropsychology. The book dives into the developmental history of our understanding of Autism and its implications for those living with the condition, their families, researchers, and the media.  Growing up alongside a family member on the spectrum of Autism and working with children who have special needs, NeuroTribes gave me significant insight into the drastic changes differential diagnoses and treatment of those with disabilities, has made over the decades.

Few would argue that a parent’s sole responsibility is to care for one’s child. Desperate to affect the course of a child’s plight, we need not wonder why parents of children with Autism unceasingly seek out answers to the behaviors associated with Autism & are willing to try new therapies, diets, and approaches — all in the hope of finding a cure.

Attempting various alternatives to give children with Autism the best possible interventions available, parents and aides alike will find comfort in knowing that efforts in helping loved one manage daily hardships, is an undertaking which numerous people share. Neurodiversity is not wrong, simply – different. Although countless difficulties abound in the lives of those with Autism, we can and should, embrace the way in which persons with Autism think and perceive the world.

NeuroTribes is also available on Hoopla and Overdrive.

In Pieces by Sally Field

Book – Many times while reading In Pieces I couldn’t help but think about Sally Field’s famous remark after accepting her second Academy Award “…you like me, right now, you like me!” I was struck by the fact that throughout most of her life, as described it in this book, she didn’t much like herself.

Many of the choices Ms. Field made in her life were because she was lonely, angry, and easily intimidated. She reveals a good deal about herself, which is often unflattering and sometimes disturbing. Her parents divorced when she was very young, her stepfather abused her, and others passed through her life, coming when they needed something from her, then leaving after. While her mother was present during the time Ms. Field was raising her own children, she didn’t step up for Sally when she needed her the most. Bit by bit, the mother-daughter relationship came together. This book is aptly titled in that her life was lived in pieces.

If you’re looking for a quick, “Oh, I want to hear more about Gidget and what Burt Reynolds were like,” feel-good story, this is not the book for you. If you like exploring the forces in peoples’ lives, particularly celebrities, and the choices they make, you might just like In Pieces.

Vox by Christina Dalcher

Front CoverBook – At first glance, Vox‘s cover appears simplistic and unassuming – but this, dear reader, we would be wrong to presume.

Vox takes place in contemporary America and follows Dr. Jean McCellan, an acclaimed scientist and feminist. She, along with all women, must adhere to a strictly-enforced 100-word per day government decree or suffer punitive electric shocks if she goes over the allotment. In no small part due to the “Pure Movement,” women are not permitted to work outside of the home, nor girls taught to read or write. The author’s readable prose presents us with a thriller into which we are intimately drawn and a world which Dalcher deftly navigates.

Good Morning America lists Vox as one of their “Best books to bring to the beach this summer.” Wow…how shall I put this, uh – no. While Vox is significantly less voluminous than Margaret Atwood’s hefty The Handmaid’s Tale and is provocative and worthwhile reading on Fall, Spring, or Winter day, but one for a hot, forgettable, summer’s day? Not on your life.