Friday, March 17, 2017

Books I Loved Lately

It's been a long time since I told you what I'm reading. I didn't mean to neglect you. I just got out of the habit for some reason. There are some amazing books out there that you need to know about.

An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Col. Chris Hadfield is a great book for teenagers or anybody else who has a difficult goal in life that they want to achieve. I'm listening to the audiobook. I like listening to his voice. Hadfield talks about how he was lucky enough and prepared enough to actually become an astronaut. He also talks about NASA methodology. Sweat the small stuff. The small stuff can kill you. Acknowledge your mistakes and dissect them so you can learn from them. Plan for what will go wrong. Watch your attitude. It's a pilot pun. He couldn't help himself.

The thing I like about Hadfield's book is that it has made me rethink how to get to my goals. It's cheerful, not preachy at all and his example inspires me. He has the attitude we try to instill into our Boy Scouts. You know - trustworthy, loyal, helpful, courteous, kind. You know the type of man I'm talking about.

As I listen to him describe his experiences, I can imagine as he looks through his visor and sees the Universe, right there beside him.

I always wanted to see the Earth from space. I realized a couple years ago that I probably wouldn't have done all that well. I get motion sickness sometimes. What do they do with puke on the inside of a space suit? Can they vent it into space? I get carsick in the back of a van. I get air sick on turbulent flights, but I never get seasick. It could be the horizon. And I was too excited the one time I was in a helicopter to do anything but laugh and cry with happiness. That pilot bobbed all the hell over the place when he realized how much I loved flying. Not a moment of motion sickness. Go figure.

I'm also a little claustrophobic. Three people in a tin can? Nope. It wouldn't work. Just picture me dancing around the house, trying to get out of Mike's dry suit shirt when it squeezed me around the neck just a little bit too tightly when I was getting ready for a kayak trip. I'm okay in elevators, unless people are packed in like sardines. But squeeze me into a tube like a cave or an MRI and I'm counting breaths, closing my eyes, and imagining how I'm floating out on the ocean.

No, I wouldn't have been a good astronaut, as much as I'd like to have seen that view, the Earth, a blue, green, and white jewel on a bed of black velvet space.

Hadfield's book could inspire a teenage boy who isn't sure he can see his own future. I'm buying copies for kids I know. I'd buy a copy for Nick if I thought he'd even open the book. It is so damned sad to me that I can love books so vehemently when he has such a lackluster response to them.

The other book I love is When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. The hard part is that he dies in the end. This man was a neurosurgeon and he was also a poet. It was a beautiful book about living and about dying. It confirmed for me yet again that the human body is a miracle of minute mechanisms and that death is, well, inevitable.

Don't you hate trying to write something beautiful about something beautiful? It's harder knowing that Kalanithi died and if there is life after death, he could be practically looking over my shoulder as I write. What's another word for profound? How can I write about the human body when I haven't studied the human body in so long? What are the details about this book that I loved so much? I can't just say it made me laugh and cry. I can't if I imagine he's right there, wondering what I'm going to type next.

Dead people plague me. I had a bullying boss once who died of pancreatic cancer after I quit being her minion. If there is life after death, this woman knows just exactly what a bitch I believed her to be. She could possibly have the gratification of knowing the anguish she put me through. I worked so hard for her never to see it. So, if Paul Kalanithi is floating out there somewhere, I hope he's not critiquing my critique. I gave up poetry years ago.

And dudes, I listened to Beowulf translated and read by Seamus Heaney. This book is a video game! I tried, I really tried, to get Nick to listen to it with me on our way to school, but I'm giving him have a choice in more arenas. I know, right? I want him to love books on his own now that I've run as far with him as I could. We read hundreds of books together. But he said no to Beowulf. How can you hate reading so much that you don't want to listen to a book on tape that's basically a run through a video game, weapons, armor, battles, and celebrating afterward all included? Of all the classic books I was supposed to read, Beowulf was one of the easiest.

That's all for now. My wish for you is to have enough time to sit down and read a whole book this weekend. Or listen to one.

Thank you for listening, jb

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