7 Best Books for Grown-Ups – January 2018

Nothing like starting the year full of energy, enthusiasm, and a slew of great new books to get your teeth into!

Below are 7 excellent reads for Grown-ups for January 2018.

This is a series I’m aiming to do monthly – I’d like to cover more than just the mainstream best-sellers and get to something maybe a little more niche, but thought-provoking (e.g. American Wolf, or God – A Human History, both below), or plain old good holiday reads (like The Seven of Us, also below). Please let me know the books you are reading, or would like to read, for next month’s list!

1: The Immortalists – Chloe Benjamin

A book about four siblings, who visit a physic who has the power (curse??) to predict the day a person will die. She individually and privately tells the four children their dates. The Immortalists then follows each child throughout their lives, each one having their own section, and how they deal with life, death, love, hate, relationships. Above all, a tale of living when you KNOW when you are going to die – how does that affect you?

2: One Station Away – Olaf Olafsson

I got this from the local library. Magnus is a New York neurologist, with three serious female relationships in his life. His mother, somewhat distant and narcissistic piano player who after long years of toil is now finally finding the fame she feels she deserves, Malena his fiancee, a dancer who becomes very ill, and a nameless patient he and his team are monitoring. One Station Away is told from Magnus’s perspective, so the other characters may not be a fully-formed as they should be. You will either like it or hate it, but it will make you think about what it means to try to understand, and be understood.

3: Everything You Need To Know About Social Media (without having to call a kid) – Greta van Susteren

This is a well-written, funny, informative book for people (like me, and maybe you) who are a “little behind” when figuring out how social media “works”. It describes how the platforms are used, then through use of pictures etc walks the reader through going about signing up, and the various options open to them. To be clear, this book WON’T launch you as a blogging superstar (dammit!!), but will be a great guide in getting into the water, before you push off into the river. It is for those with limited experience, it covers the basics well, and importantly addresses online privacy and security.

4: God – A Human History – Reza Aslan

“What if God was one of us?” goes the song. Aslan looks at the God concept through the prism of history. This is not a religious novel. Whether you believe in one God, one particular version of God, multiple Gods or no Gods, Aslan states that, regardless of background, people tend to conceive of the divine in human terms, a feature of nearly every religious tradition.

For example, the ancient Sumerians (the first neolithic civilisation where we can read what they wrote about their gods) has Ilu (translated as “lofty person”), which became Elohim in Hebrew and Allah in Arabic, and their understanding of gods as super-human had the same effect on the societies that used those words. Unfortunately, we project the bad as well as the good onto our god(s), and this too becomes interwoven into our societies.

Comparable to Karen Armstrong’s 1993 book “A History Of God” which deals with the three major Abrahamic traditions, (I have this on my kindle for quite a long time now – a great read), it throws in more psychological and anthropological references, and deals with the history of the concept of God, and how that flowed and developed up to modern times.

Thoughtful, accessible, coherent, and extremely well-researched with copious notes, God – A Human History is a good read for those all along the belief spectrum, and sure to spark conversation.

5: American Wolf – Nate Blakeslee

I love wolves. My favourite soccer team in the UK are Wolverhampton Wanderers, aka Wolves. I saw this book (what a fantastic cover), and had to get it because, like my team, wolves have been run close to extinction, but are now on a revival. This book deals with the 1995 re-introduction of wolves into their natural environment in the US Rockies, the effect this caused on the eco-system, the action and reaction of the locals, the ranger Rick McIntyre and the hunters he faces, and is based on the real-life story of O-Six, the famous female lone wolf, who created her own pack and survived and thrived.

American Wolf is a story of environment and politics, but even bigger is the story of federal government against local control interests, and more broadly who should own and make decisions about public land in the US? Highly topical. A must-read.

6: Seven Days of Us – Katherine Hornak

Quirky, rich, dysfunctional (which good family story isn’t?), the Birches are together for Christmas for the first time in years. Mother, father, and the two girls. Olivia, the doctor working abroad, has to be quarantined for a contracted disease, so they all must stay indoors, with each other, with no wifi! They are forced to spend more time together than they really would want to, of course each has a secret they don’t want revealed, and naturally they are not great communicators.

Chapters are relatively concise, action is fast-paced, and with the background of secrets potentially upending the well-to-do Britishness of the family, is an enjoyable holiday read!

7: The Child Finder – Rene Denfield

“It’s never to late to be found”. 5 Years old Madison Culver disappeared three years ago, and now the parents have turned to Naomi, a private detective who herself had been lost (she cannot remember her life before being “found”), and is tough, determined and ruthless in her search for the missing. This tale is one of two voices, that of Naomi, and that of Snow Girl, a deeply imaginative small child. There is trauma, darkness, and hope, but ultimately The Child Finder is a moving story about courage and empathy.

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