First up was The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch.
A lot of professors give talks titled "The Last Lecture." Professors are asked to consider their demise and to ruminate on what matters most to them. And while they speak, audiences can't help but mull the same question: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance? If we had to vanish tomorrow, what would we want as our legacy?
When Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, was asked to give such a lecture, he didn't have to imagine it as his last, since he had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. But the lecture he gave--"Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams"--wasn't about dying. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment (because "time is all you have...and you may find one day that you have less than you think"). It was a summation of everything Randy had come to believe. It was about living.
I loved this. I was expecting it to be sad, but it wasn't sad until the very end, when I cried. It was inspirational and interesting to see life from the perspective of someone who knows he is dying.
Next up was Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, by Anna Quindlen.
In this irresistible memoir, Anna Quindlen writes about a woman’s life, from childhood memories to manic motherhood to middle age, using the events of her life to illuminate ours. Considering—and celebrating—everything from marriage, girlfriends, our mothers, parenting, faith, loss, to all the stuff in our closets, and more, Quindlen says for us here what we may wish we could have said ourselves. As she did in her beloved New York Times columns, and in A Short Guide to a Happy Life, Quindlen uses her past, present, and future to explore what matters most to women at different ages.
I did not love this. I enjoyed the chapter on friendship and there were some funny parts throughout, but it just felt overly preachy to me. I listened to this as an audio book and it was read by the author, who is from Philadelphia. I greatly enjoyed her Philadelphia accent.
The Longest Trip Home, by John Grogan.
Finding your place in the world can be the longest trip home…
In the highly anticipated follow-up to Marley & Me, John Grogan again works his magic, bringing us the story of what came first. Before there was Marley, there was a gleefully mischievous boy growing up in a devout Catholic home outside Detroit in the 1960s and '70s. Despite his loving parents' best efforts, John's attempts to meet their expectations failed spectacularly. Whether it was his disastrous first confession, the purloined swigs of sacramental wine, or the fumbled attempts to sneak contraband past his father, John was figuring out that the faith and fervor that came so effortlessly to his parents somehow had eluded him.
And then one day, a strong-willed young woman named Jenny walked into his life. As their love grew, John began the painful, funny, and poignant journey into adulthood -- away from his parents' orbit and into a life of his own. It would take a fateful call and the onset of illness to lead him on the final leg of his journey -- the trip home again.
John Grogan is the author of Marley and Me, which I want to re-read this summer and am literally watching right this minute. I love Marley and Me and I loved this book. I love the way he tells stories and so many times while reading this I laughed out loud and kept saying, "Matt, listen to this story!"
Next I read The Middle Place, by Kelly Corrigan.
For Kelly Corrigan, family is everything. At thirty-six, she had a marriage that worked, two funny, active kids, and a weekly newspaper column. But even as a thriving adult, Kelly still saw herself as the daughter of garrulous Irish-American charmer George Corrigan. She was living deep within what she calls the Middle Place--"that sliver of time when parenthood and childhood overlap"--comfortably wedged between her adult duties and her parents' care. But Kelly is abruptly shoved into coming-of-age when she finds a lump in her breast--and gets the diagnosis no one wants to hear. When George, too, learns that he has late-stage cancer, it is Kelly's turn to take care of the man who had always taken care of her--and to show us a woman who finally takes the leap and grows up.
Kelly grew up in a town nearby and where Matt and I lived after we got married, so it was fun to know the schools and malls and churches that she talked about. It also made me want to cry several times and by the end of the book, I felt like I knew her and her family. I really liked this one.
I picked up The Memoir Project by Marion Roach Smith next. I actually got this book in college for a class and with all the memoirs I was reading this month, decided to re-read this one. It focuses on the mechanics of writing a memoir and made me think that I could never write a memoir because the author says to focus on one event in your life, and I didn't think I had anything to write about. Then I remember I've written a blog about absolutely nothing for 7 years, so, bring on the memoir.
I ended this month on a light note, with Sweet Girl by Rachel Hollis.
Max Jennings is in a bad mood. It’s not anything you did; it’s just that secrets from her past make it her natural state of being. But she’s not going to talk about it or share her feelings, so don’t bother asking.
Max’s bad mood means that very few people actually truly understand her or know that her secret dream is to be a pastry chef. When a rare opportunity to work for world-famous Avis Phillips presents itself, Max jumps at the chance. Avis and her staff aren’t stingy with the tough love, so Max spends every spare minute practicing her craft. As she bakes brownies and custards, cookies and galettes, she builds an unlikely friendship with a man she once loathed and finds herself falling into something she’s spent the last six years avoiding. Will she let her painful past stand in the way, or will she muster the strength to forgive herself and realize her full potential?
Did you read any good books this month? I think I need a break from memoirs for a bit, but I'm all ears for suggestions!