books i’m loving lately

Growing up, my parents would read to us every night. We would read everything from Roald Dahl (my favorite) to the Julie of the Wolves series to the Great Brain series. I think spending this time with my parents instilled a love of reading in me. There’s nothing better than having a book that you are excited to go home and read (which makes me sound like a nerd, but it’s true!).

In my adult life, I would say I didn’t crave having a book to read until after college. All of the reading I did for class was enough for me at the time! But since graduating, I’ve always had a book I’m reading, or even a few at the time. Jon and I typically get each other books for Christmas or birthdays, and it’s always fun to see what we pick out for each other. This totally makes us sound like a boring old couple and if you thought that–you definitely wouldn’t be wrong.

Without further adieu, here is a list of some of the books I’ve been reading lately.

Non-Fiction:

  1. The Scalpel and the Silver Bear by Lori Arviso Alvord

This book is an autobiography about the first Navajo woman surgeon, and her story is incredible. She not only faces the challenge of being accepted by her peers at medical school but also faces being rejected by Navajo families on the reservation she grew up on. Lori details her time as an undergrad, in med school, and how she eventually returned to where she grew up to help Navajo people have access to medicine in a culturally acceptable way. It’s a short, easy read, and totally captivating. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in cross cultural medicine or just looking for an interesting autobiography pick up.

Here is a link to the book on Amazon.

2. Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States by Seth Holmes

Full disclosure is that I read this one a few months ago. It is one of my all time favorite non-fiction books, and incredibly relevant for anyone interested in immigration and U.S.-Mexico relations. Medical Anthropologist Seth Holmes follows the journey of indigenous Mexican immigrants (Triqui) from Oaxaca to California and Washington State. (As in, he walks with them across the border… talk about participant observation). He also documents the toll that the traveling and work has on the bodies of migrant workers, who more often than not do not have access to healthcare.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking to more fully understand the undocumented immigrant experience. Regardless of your political beliefs, it’s hard to read a book like this without feeling empathy for those looking for a better life. I also didn’t realize that there was a difference between Mexican and indigenous Mexican immigrants coming to the U.S. According to Homles, these differences are often manifested in the social hierarchies on the farms these immigrants work on. This book is incredibly informative and gives you an understandable academic background into immigration, migrant workers, and the journey many people face when coming to the United States.

3. The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail by Jason De León

This book was actually written partially in response to Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies. It offers a different, more theoretical look into the lives of Mexican immigrants. De León has a background in archaeology, which offers a unique perspective when considering the migrant trail in the Arizona desert. His research is focused on finding artifacts (backpacks, water bottles… even bodies) in the desert where many cross the border into the U.S.

The only thing I didn’t love about this book was its criticism of Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies. While I thought De León’s approach was interesting and different, I would use it to enhance Seth Holmes’ arguments, rather than to contradict them. He is critical of Holmes’ participant observation and findings. Still, I would recommend recommend this book for a unique perspective (archaeological rather than sociocultural) into the lives of immigrants.

4. You are Not So Smart by David McRaney

This book is hilarious and offers a healthy dose of humble pie. McRaney details the ways in which we come to the conclusions that we do about our lives and the world around us. Basically, his argument is that we believe that we have come to know things based on logic, reason, and facts, when in reality, our opinions taint every perspective we have ever had on anything. It is nearly impossible to come to any detached, logical conclusion, because humans are inherently biased in everything we do. This can influence our political and religious beliefs, our beliefs about ourselves, and our general world view. But he also argues that self-deception is necessary to human existence, just as long as we are aware of it.

This book is great if you are looking for a light, funny non-fiction read. But be warned: you will definitely question every opinion you have ever held! And if you don’t, well, you probably didn’t read the book right.

Fiction:

  1. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Okay, how did I go 25 years without reading this book? It’s hilarious. I had always heard about it, and it was on my list for a long time, but I never got to it until now. A few weeks ago, I was having a really stressful time at work and needed a light read. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is witty, light, and at times appropriately profound. Have you ever read a book where you can just hear the author’s voice on the pages? Ever time I would pick up this book, I could just hear Adams’ voice in it. I love that.

Jon listened to the audiobook while he was driving (yes, driving) from the U.S. to Hidalgo, Mexico, to do his field research, and he said the recording is even better. I will have to listen to it at some point.

A side-note to this–has anyone else watched Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency on Netflix? It’s a Netflix original series based on Douglas Adams’ book series of the same name. In the same way movies like Fantastic Mr. Fox and Matilda capture the quirky style of Roald Dahl, Dirk Gently definitely captures the quick wit of Adams’ writing style. Jon and I absolutely loved it and can’t wait for the next season. I haven’t read Dirk Gently yet, but I’m adding it to my list!

2. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams

This is the sequel to Hitchhiker’s Guide. I’m about done with it, and it’s just as funny as the original. It’s rare for a book to make me laugh out loud, but I always find myself laughing when I read it. I will probably read the whole series.

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What have you been reading lately?

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