Why I Keep a List of the Books I’ve Read

I have always loved reading. When I was in middle school, I used to read several books a week. Books were always my escape, and I have always loved the idea of reading as many books as I possibly can.

One of my best memories from school was in eighth grade when we had the Accelerated Reader tests for books. When we read books that were in this program, we would take a short test and get points. Our teacher required 25 points each quarter. Being the over-achiever and book-lover that I was, I decided to read as many books from this program as I could. I got well over a hundred points one quarter, and inspired a little bit of competition between my classmates.

My Great-Uncle Logan

When I was in my senior year of college, my grandma and I went to a family get-together. Since it was close to where her brother Logan lived, she thought it would be nice for me to meet him. I had heard things about my Great-Uncle Logan, but I had never met him. I knew he preferred to speak Pennsylvania Dutch over English and that he didn’t come to the family gatherings. He was the oldest child (like me). But other than that, he was a mystery.

We arrived at his little apartment, and Logan did not appear to be very happy to see us. However, he showed me around his apartment. When he showed me his books, I was amazed. He had giant bookshelves filled with books, and he had read them all. He pulled out some paper that contained a list of all of the books he had read since 1973. Proudly, he shared that he was getting close to 3000 books.

My Own “Logan’s List”

My “Logan’s List”

I started my own list of books in May of 2014, right after I graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree. I have continued to add books to the list, and transferred it into a journal about a year ago so that the list would be safe. As of 2017, I have just added my 109th book to the list. While it is far from the 3000 titles Logan had on his list, I believe it will eventually grow to that length.

Last year, my Great-Uncle Logan died. I only met him that one time, but I was sad to hear about his passing because of all that he had inspired in my life. I like to think that in a small way, his legacy is living on because I am keeping a list of the books I read, inspired by him. I’m often amazed by how much that one encounter has shaped and inspired me.

 

How Starting a Blog Made Me a Healthier Person

The entire time I was reading How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell, I was struck by the impact that creativity had on her health journey. It especially resonated with me because her creative outlet was writing and I have loved writing for as long as I can remember.

Although I have never done drugs, Cat’s story reminded me about how creating this blog and taking the time to intentionally write have turned me into a healthier person. I know that drawing parallel’s between Cat’s drug addiction and my mental illness may be strange, but the only intended parallel is that doing something creative helped both of us in our very different situations.

My Bipolar Disorder

When I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder, the diagnosing psychiatrist thought my condition was mild enough that I could go with or without medication. I tried a medication for about two months, but without insurance it was too expensive for me to maintain without asking my family for money (and confessing to them that I was diagnosed at a time I wasn’t ready to do that). I stopped taking the medication, and for about a year and a half did not have any major problems.

In 2014, I had a pretty bad concussion. One of the doctors I saw thought that it was possible that the concussion was making both my migraine condition and my bipolar disorder worse (although I didn’t really need a doctor to tell me that). In the years that followed, I started to actually feel like I had bipolar disorder.

Choosing to Medicate

In August of 2016, I was at one of the lowest points in my life. I had just finished my classes for my first Master’s Degree a few months before. Since January or so, my bipolar disorder had been fairly turbulent. Despite all of that, I still did not feel like I needed medication yet. I was still getting things done, even if I was not getting things done well.

However, in August I hit a low. There were problems with my family. When I completely overreacted to something because I was manic, I began to realize that I was not managing my symptoms as well as I had in the past. The situations I was dealing with that were causing me stress would have been more manageable if my mind were sound. As I watched my sister get good treatment for her bipolar disorder and become stable, I began to really desire that. I could act stable, but inside I wasn’t actually stable.

After swallowing my pride (and trust me there was a lot of it), I went to my doctor. I sat in the office and cried, telling her that I didn’t feel right. She immediately put me on a dose of medication that changed my life. Within a couple of weeks I found that I was able to focus on things for more than a couple of minutes. Best of all, the racing thoughts and crippling depression were gone. I was finally beginning to be stable.

Choosing to Write

So you might be asking yourself what this has to do with writing. It was around the same time that I chose to go to the doctor and start taking medication that I also realized that I needed a creative outlet. My jobs were feeling especially unfulfilling (even if that feeling was only temporary) and I wanted to have something that I could build and create that was my own.

I had been reading a book or two a week at that point, and thought that a book review blog would be really fun. Because I was especially enjoying biographies and memoirs, I thought it would be great to keep the focus on those books.

Growing as a Writer

When I first started this blog, I didn’t know anything about blogging. I knew how to write, and knew how to use Blogger. I got a free site there and began to write posts weekly (on a pretty ugly site). While I worked at my cleaning job, I began to listen to podcasts about blogging and writing. They gave me a focus and an energy I hadn’t had for a long time.

Since August, I’ve learned a lot about writing and blogging. I bought a domain and moved my blog to WordPress. I’ve started adding more content and asking friends to write guest posts for the blog. And as the blog has grown, so have I.

While the medication has been a big part of getting healthier, medication does not give me self-confidence. Medication does not force me to have self-discipline. Blogging has forced me to build time into my schedule for creating and editing my content.

While there are still Mondays when I don’t post (sorry!), those days are fewer and fewer. I have gotten better at sticking to my schedule, and have gained so much confidence through my writing. That confidence has carried over into other parts of my life. I feel like blogging has brought me to a very healthy place and turned me into a better person.

 

How to Murder Your Life

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How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell was funny, dark and irreverent. It was the perfect guilty pleasure read that had enough good hidden inside it to justify the cringe-worthy content.

How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell
How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell

Cat grew up the middle child of two psychiatrists. Her father’s temper and the problems between her parents made home life turbulent. In her teenage years, she went to boarding school. It was there that she was first introduced to Ritalin and its ability to take her from failing grades to the top grades in the school. Unfortunately, Cat failed to take her Ritalin as prescribed and her lifelong addiction to prescription medication began. In her senior year of high school, she became pregnant, dropped out of school, and had an abortion.

Cat slowly worked her way back through the depression in the aftermath of her abortion, finding a passion for fashion journalism. As she attended college, she worked as an intern at several different fashion magazines. Even as she began to build a career, though, her addiction only escalated. She added to her prescription medication harder drugs. She spiraled out of control, landing in rehab multiple times. It was only through creativity that she eventually regained some amount of control over her life.

The Inner Life of an Addict

Perhaps I was overly naive to think that prescription medication addicts stole their pills from relatives or bought their pills on the black market. Cat writes extensively about the process of shopping for doctors who would write prescriptions for her, and how easy it was for her to walk in and get exactly what she wanted from different doctors. While there were occasions where she got pills in other ways, she primarily got her medication legitimately. That’s terrifying.

The first time she went to rehab, she did not get better because she did not want to give up drugs. Cat wanted to have a better grasp on her life, but she did not want to give up all of her addictive behaviors. She just didn’t want to feel as addicted as she did.

It wasn’t until she really wanted to get better that she was able to improve her life as much as she did. In the end, she still uses Adderall. She has given up other drugs and even drinking. Although I wanted to get to the end of the book and read about her giving up all of her addictions and addictive behaviors, part of me realizes that with her underlying ADHD she probably needs some amount of medication as treatment. With her history of abusing medication, though, she realizes that she is in a delicate place where she can easily end up back in the the throes of addiction.

The Power of Words

At one point, Cat checked herself into a mental hospital as a way of avoiding rehab. When the psychiatrist realized she was not depressed, she wanted to get Cat to go to rehab. When Cat refused, the psychiatrist called her parents and had them visit. Infuriated, Cat refused to be a part of the conversation with them. After years of bottling up her anger and frustration toward her father, she told him off (with some profanity I won’t use here).

The part that resonated with me was that she didn’t feel the satisfaction she thought she would. Instead, she immediately felt regret. The words she thought would make her feel so good and powerful did just the opposite.

Our words are powerful. I can think of several times I’ve said something that I’ve immediately regretted. Words have the ability to stick with you for years, and you may not even know if your words are the ones someone has carried with them for so long. Even if you’re angry or have been angry for years, it’s worth it to be careful what you say.

The Power of Creativity

At one point, Cat’s grandma tried to help her by having her meet with a life coach a couple times a week. The life coach had Cat take several personality tests. When she looked over the results, she found that Cat was extremely creative. She believed that if that creativity could be properly channeled, Cat may be able to more easily keep herself from depression and addiction.

It was not until Cat came to write this book that she was able to get healthier and fight back against her addiction. She is now able to work from home doing freelance writing. The creativity that writing allows her has given her a lot of fulfillment. It is a part of her personality that she needed to satisfy in order to feel complete.

I love the idea of getting to the core of who we are and what we were really made to do. I wholeheartedly believe that when we fight against our personality in our vocation, it leads to depression and can lead to addiction. And perhaps pursuing our passion cannot always be a career. The things we are passionate about do not always pay the bills, but we can make time for them (even if it’s a few minutes a day). When we find that thing that makes us tick, that passion will shine through all parts of our lives.

Quick Review

There is a lot not to like in this book. Cat Marnell’s excessive use of profanity can be off-putting, since hardly a page passes without some curse word. In addition she uses anti-Semitic racial slurs as well as other offensive language to describe the people in her life. Despite these things, there are enough redeeming qualities in the book that I enjoyed it immensely. Overall, I found her to be funny. Her writing style was excellent. And her ability to capture the inner life of an addict gave me real insight into an addiction I had not given much thought to. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for an interesting read about prescription addiction.

Discussion Topic: What is the Best Memoir You’ve Ever Read?

What is the best memoir you’ve ever read? Why did you love it so much?

Personally, I loved Find Me Unafraid by Kennedy Odede and Jessica Posner. I found it heartbreaking and inspiring. It was a memoir that not only kept me interested, but changed the way I thought about charity work in poorer communities. A close second would be the haunting memoir by Amanda Knox, Waiting to be Heard. It rattled me and made me feel so saddened for those who face injustice like she did.

Let me know your favorites in the comments. I’d love to know!

Nobody’s Son

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Nobody’s Son by Mark Slouka was an interesting story written in an uninteresting way. Slouka’s writing style felt forced and awkward, but the compelling nature of his story may have redeemed his style.

Nobody's Son by Mark Slouka
Nobody's Son by Mark Slouka

Mark Slouka was a novelist. After the loss of his father and the impending death of his mother, he decided to reflect upon his upbringing and his mother’s decent into mental illness and addiction. Despite some problems between his parents and his mother’s depression, Slouka’s childhood was otherwise happy. As he grew into a teenager, his mother’s illness grew more pronounced. He argued with her about her delusions that he was trying to hurt her. On stormy day during their trip across Europe, they spent hours pulled over on the side of the road arguing. Slouka’s mother, as she often did, insisted that he was trying to harm her and that he was evil.

After college, Slouka married. His mother’s mental illness worsened. He discovered that she had an addiction to prescription medication. His parents separated, and after years apart his father died. Slouka went on to be a novelist. In his writing, he modeled characters after his mother and the pain he felt because of her illness. They had periods of estrangement, but he made a point to visit her shortly before she died. During the writing of Nobody’s Son, Slouka’s mother passed away.

Slouka’s writing style left a lot to be desired.

The biggest complaint I had with Slouka’s writing style was that it felt like he was trying too hard to be great. He spent an excessive amount of time saying things along the lines of, “I’m writing a memoir, and when you write memoirs, you feel things.” I generally do not mind some reflecting on the process of writing the memoir itself, but there was so much writing about the process of writing the memoir that it almost felt like it was a memoir about the time he wrote a memoir.

In addition to his excessive musing, I felt like his lack of chronology and the way he formatted his book made the plot less clear. He wrote in a way that was vague, and he often jumped between different periods of time. While jumping between timelines can often be done well, I felt like it was done in a very confusing way in Slouka’s memoir.

Slouka writes honestly about the struggles of having a mentally ill parent.

Having a parent with a serious mental illness is difficult. Despite my dislike for a lot of things in his writing, I found myself crying throughout the second half of the book. While his mother’s mental illness is different in many ways from my father’s bipolar disorder, being the child of a parent with a mental illness is a unique experience. The usual “parent-child” relationship does not apply.

He writes about his frustration and his anger.

When Slouka’s mother started having delusions, he did not understand what was happening. His father chose to ignore and support her delusions, rather than argue about them. Frustrated that his parents were denying that events that happened minutes before had actually happened, Slouka would argue with them. His mother would make him feel crazy, then call him evil when he did not support her version of reality. So frustrated and angry about his relationship with his mother, he had written about her death in novels and short stories.

“I need to acknowledge that you don’t imagine your mother’s death, even in a novel, without there maybe, just maybe, being some issues to think about.”

Mark Slouka

I’ve spent plenty of time frustrated and angry with my father. I have been frustrated with his antics when he’s been off of his medication and having manic delusions. Instead of just being frustrated, I’ve spent years angry at him when he’s turned to drugs to self-medicate his bipolar disorder. It’s so easy to be angry at a mentally ill parent when their actions so directly impact you. It is also easy to be angry when you know that they are doing things that are hurting themselves.

He writes about his guilt.

Slouka carried guilt over his mother’s illness. He felt responsible for some parts of if, primarily because he sometimes felt like he should have done more to help her. She often called him evil when she was having her delusions. I can imagine that this only added to the guilt he felt over being unable to help her.

“I want to know why I couldn’t save us, thought what I really want, I think, is absolution, the beginning of this sentence with the word “why” removed like a long thorn: I want to know I couldn’t save us.

Mark Slouka

What child doesn’t want to save his or her parents from what is wrong with them, regardless of what they have done? Before my dad got really sick, he used to drink a lot. I thought that alcoholism was the worst thing in the world (and it’s pretty darn bad). Some nights he would get mad at me and yell, “You drive me to drinking!” and get a beer. For the longest time, I thought it was true. Then I figured out that he was drinking whether or not he was angry with me. When he began using drugs and having problems with his mental health, I carried a lot of guilt. Even thought I knew (logically) that I didn’t “drive” him to do anything, there was always that part of me that wondered if there was anything I could have done.

He writes about loving his mother despite it all.

Slouka loved his mother. He knew that she couldn’t help her mental illness. And even though she had an addiction to prescription medication because of her mental illness, he still loved her. He loved her smile and her laugh. He loved the way she told him stories when he was young. She taught him so many things. And despite the damage she did later on, he loved the woman she was beyond her illness.

“I don’t know that she had a choice. And all I can be is sorry for it. And let her go.”

Mark Slouka

When my father is in his right mind, he is the most generous person I know. He’s funny. If he’s around a group of people, he’s the center of attention and will do anything to make everyone laugh. So many of my good qualities came from him. Whether or not he comes to terms with his illness and his addictions, I love him. He’s my dad. And I know there’s so much good in him. His illnesses just make it hard for some people to see that.

Quick Review:

Nobody’s Son had a powerful story. Slouka’s expression of what it is like to be the child of a mentally ill parent was what made this book worth reading. However, his writing style and the lack of chronology left a lot to be desired. He spent a lot of the book musing about how it felt to be writing his memoir, which felt unneeded and obnoxious. In a way, it felt as if he was trying to sound like a better and more philosophical writer than he was. It is unfortunate that such a great and powerful story may be obscured by these quirks in his writing.

Unashamed

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Unashamed is the powerful testimony about God’s transforming work in the life of Christian artist Lecrae Moore. Lecrae writes about growing up without a father, his mistakes, and his transformation into the artist he is today.

Unashamed by Lecrae Moore
Unashamed by Lecrae Moore

Lecrae was abandoned by his father, who he never met. His mother worked hard to provide for him. Because of the emptiness left by not having a father figure in his life, Lecrae looked up to rap artists and uncles who were not always good influences on him. After being molested by a babysitter, he gained a distorted view of sexuality. He used drugs and women. However, he earned a full scholarship to college for theater and continued his lifestyle on campus. It was there that he had to opportunity to go to a conference where he accepted Jesus as his savior.

“I’ve had to learn that my natural responses aren’t normal, that the only way to live a future that’s better than my past is to cling to God in the present.”

Lecrae Moore

Unfortunately, in his zeal he also became legalistic in his approach to his relationship with God. He believed he could do enough good to wipe away all of the wrong things he had done. When he started to slip, he gave up. He began a sexual relationship with a woman who got pregnant with his child. Not wanting to be a father, he told her to get an abortion. Not long after that, they separated and he continued his lifestyle. After checking into rehab, he realized his need for God’s grace. He moved in with a Christian friend and turned his life around completely. It was then that his career as a Christian artist began to take off.

Lecrae’s abandonment by his father severely impacted his life.

Lecrae hungered so much for a male role model that he clung to any male who invested in his life. Even the rap artists he listened to became role models to fill the void his father had left. The emptiness he felt left him eager to prove himself to everyone.

Even after becoming a Christian, the scars from being fatherless still remained. While they were not being filled with drugs and women, the hunger for approval was still there. The lack of a father in his life impacted the way he saw God as a Heavenly Father.

“Because I felt like my dad valued drugs more than having me as a son, I’ve constantly wrestled with my self-worth and craved the approval of others.”

Lecrae Moore

Although I was not abandoned by my father, my complicated relationship with my father has also left its scars on my life. It has left me starved for male role models. I often crave words of affirmation from the older men in my life, especially those I have labeled as role models. Words of criticism can be taken as outright attacks. However, I have been able to work through some of these issues because I am aware of them. As I read Lecrae’s story, I connected with his emotions. I found his honesty about the journey to be healing.

Lecrae has learned to become “okay” with the tension his music creates.

Lecrae’s testimony and his outspokenness about being a Christian have led to him being labeled a “Christian artist.” While a lot of his music does talk about things related to Christianity, he has started taking a direction away from being overtly Christian in his music in order to reach more people. His conviction is that in order to reach people, he needs to be an artist who is a Christian instead of a Christian artist. He wants to write music that will speak to the boy he was growing up so that he can allow doors to be opened to conversations about faith.

“Being an outspoken Christian in the music industry means always feeling out of place. It’s like whatever you have accomplished is less credible because of your faith. You’re in the circle, but you’re not really in the circle. You fit in, but you don’t really fit in.”

Lecrae Moore

While Lecrae is never going to fit in with the non-Christian crowd, he’s also been shunned by some segments of the Christian crowd as well. When he began to shift his focus in his music to follow his convictions, he did not communicate with his fans what his intentions were. Some fans accused him of chasing money. Others claimed he wasn’t a Christian anymore. And although the path he believes God has put him on has left him in a place of tension, he is staying there.

Quick Review:

Unashamed is a powerful and emotional memoir. It is an absolute must-read for fans of Lecrae. Even for those who are not his fans, I highly recommend it because of the powerful testimony that he writes in this book’s pages. This book contains mature content like sexual abuse, drugs, and abortion. However, Lecrae handles his past mistakes and his background in a tactful away. His book gives readers a raw, yet redeemed look inside what life looks like for a young black man in America. Overall, this may be one of the best books I have read in a long time.

I Will Find You

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I Will Find You is a compelling and well-written memoir about a journalist’s journey to find out what brought her and her rapist together on the day of her attack. Joanna Connors writes her heartbreaking tale about how her rape changed the way she lived for over twenty years.

I Will Find You by Joanna Connors
I Will Find You by Joanna Connors

Joanna was thirty years old when she was raped by David Francis at a University theater where she had gone to get a story as part of her job as a journalist. It was by catching a glimpse of his tattoo that she was able to give a compelling description to police. They were able to catch him a day later returning to the scene of the crime. He was convicted and sentenced to thirty to seventy years in prison. But even with her rapist behind bars, Joanna went on to live in fear. A year after the rape, she had her first child with her husband. Unintentionally, she hovered over her two children excessively, afraid that they may fall into harm’s way.

After a college campus visit with her daughter, Joanna realized that she needed to put her fear to rest. She would find David Francis and find out what made him into a rapist. Although he told her that he would find her (a thought that once filled her with dread), she was now determined to find him. She gathered the court documents from her trial. Among them, she found his records and found out he had died several years prior. Although she was relieved that she would not have to face him, she also knew that she would not have all of her answers. Joanna found out that David and his siblings had been abused terribly by his father. This abuse, along with an older man willing to mentor David in crime, may have been contributing factors in David’s outcome.

Joanna powerfully reflects on the journey many survivors go through.

I found myself echoing so many of Joanna’s thoughts and words throughout her story. Although our stories are very different, the emotional toll it took is similar. Joanna is one of the rare cases of a rape committed by a stranger, while my abuse was carried out over a period of nine months by someone I knew. Yet there were several times that her reflected thoughts could have easily been my own.

Joanna reflected throughout the book about her guilt over the rape. She wrote that she blamed herself, even though she would have never blamed someone else in her shoes. Her guilt intensified when the attorney prosecuting her case asked her why she went into the empty building. When I opened up about my abuse, an adult I trusted said, “I thought you were smarter than that.” When they said these things, it only confirmed what we were already thinking: “This is my fault.”

“It was not your fault, even if you were drunk, even if you were wearing a low-cut minidress, even if you were out walking along at night, even if you were on a date with the rapist and kind of liked him but didn’t want to have sex with him.”

Joanna Connors

Joanna also reflected on the fearfulness she felt after her rape. Because of this, she developed a fear of everything around her, to the point that she could not function like she did before. While years of counseling have made that fearfulness less constant in my life, there are still times when I feel afraid for reasons I cannot explain. Men I do not know sometimes make me wary. I startle easily. I’m fortunate that the fear lessens over time, but when it is there, it is very apparent.

Joanna wanted to find out what made her rapist the way he was.

Instead of writing David Francis off as a “bad man,” Joanna wanted to find out what made him the way he was. On her journey, she found out about the abuse he endured at the hands of his father. She found his two sisters, both of which had also been rape victims themselves. Joanna found that in his vulnerability, David was mentored by an older criminal and jailed as a juvenile. In jail, it is possible that he himself was sexually abused.

While not all people who are abused become abusers themselves, those who commit these crimes have often been hurt terribly by other people. Although it is merely anecdotal evidence, the young man who abused me had been abused terribly as a child. I believe that the abuse he endured could easily have been the reason for his actions against me.

Quick Review:

I Will Find You is a very powerful book. It is very emotional. It also has mature content. Joanna Connors spends a chapter going into detail describing her rape, so I would not recommend this book for younger audiences, sensitive audiences, or for recent survivors of sexual assault. Additionally, there was some language throughout the book. It was a very good look at one woman’s journey to find answers about what made her rapist into the man he was. As a survivor myself, I enjoyed the rawness of her reflections of what it looks like to cope with a sexual assault.

Her Again

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Her Again is the charming and emotional biography that details Meryl Streep’s early life and rise to fame. Michael Schulman artfully weaves together her story in a way that will enchant readers.

Her Again by Michael Schulman
Her Again by Michael Schulman

Meryl Streep grew up in Bernadsville, New Jersey. In high school she developed her talent and passion for acting. She left high school and entered an all girls college, where she flourished without the distraction of boys. However, in her junior year the school started allowing boys to enroll, causing tension among students. Meryl continued to act, and enrolled in acting school at Yale. Her fellow students looked up to her talent and versatility in the roles she played. This versatility would follow her throughout her career, as she slipped easily in and out of roles.

After college, she began to act in more plays. She took many Shakespearean roles, and in one of those roles she met John Cazale. They fell deeply in love, and continued to act together. When John fell ill with lung cancer, Meryl stood by his side until the end. In the aftermath of his death, her career as a movie actress began to take off. Only six months after his death, she married Don Gummer. Although the wounds of losing John had not healed, she found something enduring in Don that she knew was right. She and Don have four children and remain married to this day.

Schulman painted a bright picture of a brilliant woman.

Schulman’s excellent writing made it easy to be impressed by Meryl Streep’s talent. He wrote about her acting skills and their development in a way that made them come to life, even without a screen. Most interestingly, he wrote about Meryl’s shunning of method acting. Instead of conjuring up her own pain to get to a certain place while acting, Meryl preferred to act as a reflection of life as she saw it.

Schulman also gave the reader a glimpse at Meryl’s fire. Meryl was influenced heavily by second-wave feminism, and has always been vocal in those beliefs. She believes that both men and women should be able to step out of the roles society puts them into. Meryl has also been an advocate for herself and her acting. On one film she was offered, some scenes called for her nudity. Instead of merely turning it down, she asked if the male lead would also be showing the same amount of nudity. The part was offered to someone else.

Schulman captured her fun personality along with her strength.

Meryl has a lot of quirks, and Schulman captured them beautifully within the pages of the book. He wrote about her vocal desire for personal space and privacy, especially after having her first child. She loves pearls and a jacket she’s had since college. If she could do anything, she would act in plays instead of movies. And despite her fame, she still has some insecurities about her appearance.

Most interesting to me, though, was her marriage to Don Gummer. She had met and married him in a six month period. Although her friends and family wondered if she had lost her mind, she had fully thought through the marriage and it has become one of the most enduring marriages in Hollywood. Because I also had a hasty marriage, I am always fascinated by what goes into those decisions. Ultimately, I believe that when you know you’ve met the person you’re meant to be with, you know it’s them and you know when the timing is right. That timing might be mere months (to the dismay of family and friends) or that timing might be years. I do know that it didn’t feel fast to Grant and me, and I doubt it felt fast to Meryl Streep and Don Gummer.

Quick Review:

Her Again was a great read with great writing. Michael Schulman brings to life the story of Meryl Streep’s rise to fame in a very lively and linear way. My only complaint is that it did not cover more of Meryl Streep’s life, although it is a very good “rise to fame” tale. Although I have seen Meryl Streep in a few movies and enjoyed her performances, I would not call myself a “fan,” although this book certainly did a good job convincing me that I should be. For those who love her, this is a must read.

Borrow eBooks for Free through Your Digital Library

If you love to read books digitally and want another resource for obtaining them for free, you’ve come to the right place. Just like your local library allows you to borrow print books for free, your digital library allows you to borrow eBooks for free to read on your Kindle, phone, or computer. For most digital libraries, all you need is a local library card before thousands of eBooks are available for your reading pleasure.

I’ve compiled a list of the digital libraries in all fifty states. While a few states do not have digital libraries, most have libraries with thousands of titles. Those with libraries only require a library card (which is usually free to get at your local library) for the covered counties. Find your library, and happy reading!

 

AlabamaThe Alabama Virtual Library contains access to journal articles and other scholarly works, along with some eBooks. To gain access, an Alabama library card is needed.

Alaska – The Alaska Digital Library has about ten thousand eBooks for users to borrow. To gain access, an Alaska library card is needed.

Arizona – The Arizona State Library, Archives & Public Records has a section for eBooks. One section is available for free to all readers (regardless of location). Another section has more eBooks. To gain access to that section, an Arizona library card is needed.

Arkansas – Arkansas has both the Central Arkansas Library System and the ArkansasLibrary2Go. Arkansas users are able to use one of these two libraries based on location. To gain access, an Arkansas library card is needed.

California – California has both the Southern California Digital Library and the Northern California Digital Library. California users are able to use one of these two libraries based on location, although some users in central California may be left without coverage. To gain access, a California library card is needed.

Colorado – The Across Colorado Digital Consortium has over seventeen thousand titles. To gain access, a Colorado library card is needed.

Connecticut – None

Delaware – The Delaware Division of Libraries has over fifteen thousand titles for Delaware residents. To gain access, a Delaware library card is needed.

Florida – The Florida Electronic Library has a limited selection of eBooks, along with other resources. To gain access to eBooks, a Florida library card is needed.

Georgia – None

Hawaii – The Hawaii State Public Library System has over forty thousand digital titles available for Hawaii residents. To gain access, a Hawaii library card is needed.

Idaho – The Idaho Digital Consortium has eBooks available for Idaho residents. To gain access, an Idaho library card is needed.

Illinois – None

Indiana – Indiana has the Indiana Digital Media, Indiana Digital Download Center, and Northeast Indiana Digital Library. Indiana users will use one of these libraries, based on the location of their library. To gain access, an Indiana library card is needed.

Iowa – None

Kansas – The Kansas State Library has eBook lending. To gain access, a Kansas library card may be needed.

Kentucky – None

Louisiana – None

Maine – The Maine Infonet allows Maine users to borrow eBooks. To gain access, a Maine library card is needed.

MarylandMaryland’s Digital eLibrary Consortium contains over twenty thousand eBooks for Maryland users to borrow. To gain access, a Maryland library card is needed.

Massachusetts – The Massachusetts Libraries has a large collection of eBooks and other digital materials. Although many of the digital materials are freely available to online users, a Massachusetts library card is needed to gain access to the eBook collection.

Michigan – Michigan has both the Southwest Michigan Digital Library and the Michigan eLibrary. Michigan users can use these based on location. To gain access, a Michigan library card is needed. The Michigan eLibrary will also accept a Michigan driver’s license for identification.

Minnesota – The Minnesota Digital Library has digital resources freely available for online users and eBooks available for Minnesota residents. To gain access, a Minnesota library card is needed.

Mississippi – None

Missouri – The Missouri Libraries 2 Go has nearly thirty thousand eBook titles for Missouri users to borrow. To gain access, a Missouri library card is needed.

Montana – The Montana Library2Go has over twenty-five thousand eBook titles for Montana users to borrow. To gain access, a Montana library card is needed.

Nebraska – The Nebraska OverDrive Libraries has thousands of eBook titles for Nebraska users to borrow. To gain access, a Nebraska library card is needed.

Nevada – None

New Hampshire – The New Hampshire Downloadable Books Consortium has nearly twenty thousand eBook titles for New Hampshire users to borrow. To gain access, a New Hampshire library card is needed.

New Jersey – The eLibraryNJ has many eBook titles available for New Jersey users. To gain access, a New Jersey library card is needed.

New Mexico – The New Mexico Library to Go has over six thousand eBook titles available for New Mexico users. To gain access, a New Mexico library card is needed.

New York – The New York Public Library has nearly one hundred fifty thousand eBook titles available for New York users. To gain access, a New York library card is needed.

North Carolina – The North Carolina Digital Library has nearly forty thousand eBook titles available for North Carolina users. To gain access, a North Carolina library card is needed.

North Dakota – North Dakota’s Library2Go has nearly thirty thousand eBook titles available for North Dakota users. To gain access, a North Dakota library card is needed.

OhioThe Ohio Digital Library has nearly one hundred thirty thousand eBook titles available for Ohio users. Users are able to check out ten titles at a time for twenty-one days each. Additionally, they are able to put fifteen titles on hold and five thousand on a wish list. To gain access, an Ohio library card is needed.

Oklahoma – The OK Virtual Library has nearly twenty-five thousand eBook titles available for Oklahoma users. To gain access, an Oklahoma library card is needed.

Oregon – The Oregon Digital Library Consortium has nearly forty thousand eBook titles available for Oregon users. To gain access, an Oregon library card is needed.

Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania appears to have partial digital coverage with their Central PA Libraries, which has over ten thousand eBook titles. To gain access, a Pennsylvania library card from select counties is needed.

Rhode Island – The Ocean State Libraries eZone has over sixty thousand eBook titles available to Rhode Island users. To gain access, a Rhode Island library card is needed.

South Carolina – The Jasmine Digital Library covers select areas of South Carolina and has over twenty-five thousand eBook titles. To gain access, a South Carolina library card from one of the covered regions is needed.

South Dakota – The South Dakota Digital Consortium has nearly fifteen thousand eBook titles available for South Dakota users. To gain access, a South Dakota library card is needed.

Tennessee – The Tennessee R.E.A.D.S. has nearly eighty thousand eBook titles available for Tennessee users. To gain access, a Tennessee library card is needed.

Texas – The Central Texas Digital Consortium has over five thousand eBook titles available for users in select areas of Texas. To gain access, a Texas library card from one of the covered regions is needed.

UtahUtah’s Online Library has over thirty thousand eBook titles available for Utah users. To gain access, a Utah library card is needed.

Vermont – The Green Mountain Library Consortium has over ten thousand eBook titles available for Vermont users. To gain access, a Vermont library card is needed.

Virginia – None

Washington – The Washington Anytime Library has over thirty-five thousand eBook titles available for Washington users. To gain access, a Washington library card is needed.

West Virginia – West Virginia has both West Virginia DELI and the West Virginia Reads available for West Virginia users, based on region. To gain access, a West Virginia library card from one of the covered regions is needed.

WisconsinWisconsin’s Digital Library has nearly seventy thousand eBook titles available for Wisconsin users. To gain access, a Wisconsin library card is needed.

Wyoming – Wyoming’s GoWYLD has thousands of eBooks. They allow users to check out five eBooks at a time for fourteen days each. To gain access, a Wyoming library card is needed.

 

If you use any of the digital libraries listed and are able to provide additional details, please feel free to comment below. I would like to keep this resource as comprehensive and up-to-date as possible.

I Was Hitler’s Chauffeur

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I Was Hitler’s Chauffeur is a fascinating alternative look at one of the most hated men in history. In his memoir of his time in service to Hitler, Erich Kempka reflects on the work he did and the man he thought Hitler really was.

I Was Hitler's Chauffeur by Erich Kempka
I Was Hitler's Chauffeur by Erich Kempka

In his twenties, Erich Kempka became one of Hitler’s drivers. After some time in his service, Kempka gained Hitler’s trust and moved up in rank to become his primary chauffeur. It was in Hitler’s service that Kempka got a closer look at the man Hitler was. Kempka shares several stories of Hitler’s kindness to him. Often Hitler would bring a snack along for Kempka to make sure he had plenty to eat on longer rides. When Kempka’s father died, Hitler showed compassion and care for his grief.

Kempka, who wrote his memoir in 1950, stood in alliance with his employer. His support of Hitler’s work is apparent throughout the pages, although any mention of the violence done in his name is conspicuously absent. Kempka’s memoir is not without a villain, though: Martin Bormann, who he believes manipulated and used Hitler’s kindness for political advancement. After Hitler’s suicide and the end of the war, Kempka writes that time will likely show that Hitler’s biggest flaw was that he was too trusting and too kind to those who would use him.

Was Hitler saintly, evil, or somewhere in the middle?

Kempka was a devoted follower of Hitler. After his cultural upbringing and then having Hitler treat him so well, one can hardly blame him for his devotion to Hitler and his causes. However, Kempka paints Hitler as a saint who did everything he did for the sake of others, rarely thinking of himself. Unlike Kempka, history has painted Hitler as one of the most evil men to ever live. Hitler’s kind actions toward those who followed him confuse a “black or white” look at the man we know to be responsible for so many deaths.

Kempka viewed Hitler as a hero.

He believed that Hitler truly cared for those around him, and for his country. While I read some passages with skepticism, he wrote about kind things Hitler did in response to hardship. For example, in one situation Hitler had heard about an area that had been suffering from hunger. He ordered that a large amount of grain be sent there for relief. My skeptical brain thought, “Yeah, but did you actually see the grain get delivered, Kempka?” However, Kempka’s belief in Hitler’s kindness in response to suffering was steadfast.

In the end, he believed that Hitler’s biggest flaw was how trusting he was. He watched as Hitler was manipulated by Bormann. After Hitler’s suicide, Kempka mourned him as a hero.

Most modern readers view Hitler as evil incarnate.

Hitler was responsible for the deaths of millions of people. Children who draw swastikas get in trouble because of the evil that the symbol represents. Nearly a hundred years later, we are aware of the damage that was done.

Reading about Hitler being kind is hard for a modern reader who knows about the evil that was done by Hitler. Every time I read about something kind Hitler did, my mind could not process it. My brain either pretended it was someone else or thought he was manipulating the person he was interacting with.

When I was talking to my (incredibly smart) husband about this, he reminded me that even evil people are good to their friends. “Isn’t that in the Bible?” he asked. We ended up discussing it some more, and it makes sense. And it is, like my husband asked, in the Bible. In Luke 6:33 it says, “And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.” Hitler being kind to those in his care was necessary for him to gain influence and loyalty. Even an evil man can do good to those who do good to him.

Though evil, Hitler was human.

It is easier to paint Hitler with a broad brush and say he was all evil. I want to do that. And it would be so much easier for me to do that. The millions of lives he took make me want to stamp him with that label. However, like all of us, Hitler was still human. Although his evil was greater than the evil of most people we will ever hear about, to elevate him to a superhuman position is to give him more power than he deserves.

“Only later generations will be able to form a precise assessment of this man.”

Erich Kempka

Hitler was a real human. He fell in love and got married. His employees worked for and loved him. Hitler gained their loyalty by his kindness toward them. While we cannot lose sight of the fact that his kindness was in the context of a greater evil, we also cannot lose sight of the fact that a man as evil as Hitler was capable of kindness. I like to believe that the capacity for kindness that Hitler had means that those who commit evil deeds today are equally capable of kindness. Perhaps then there is also hope of rehabilitation for the most evil men and women of our day, since Hitler’s time has passed.

Quick Review:

I Was Hitler’s Chauffeur was an enjoyable read for a very different perspective. While I did not read the appendices, they are supposed to add additional historical and political context. Although some of the longer, German words made it slower to read, that is less of a problem except where it occasionally impacts comprehension and speed. While I am never going to say that Hitler was a good man, this was a good book to stretch me outside of my comfort zone. It forced me to humanize a figure that I have seen as superhuman for so many years. Because of this, I highly recommend it to anyone who loves history or anyone who is interested in stretching themselves.

 

What most surprised you about Hitler from Kempka’s memoir? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!