What’s on Your “to Read” List?

One of my goals in 2012 is to set aside a block of time each and every day to read and I don’t mean read blog posts, though I do love reading those…

Lately I’ve been squeezing in this favorite activity of reading “whenever.”

This “whenever approach” is not working for me very well of late. Therefore, as I pursue my personal challenge to find “balance” this year, I intend to block off at least one hour every single day no matter what to just read.

And I will not feel guilty, even if I go over my allotted reading time!

Before the month of January gets away from me and before getting back to all things cancer and such, I would like to utilize one more blog  post to reflect a bit, this time on favorite books I’ve read during the past year, cancer and otherwise.

I’m pretty sure my family probably thinks I read too many cancer books and articles, but they’re rolling their eyes less and less, so I guess they’re getting used to the new me.

My fascination with reading all things cancer reminds me of the tried and true philosophy held by me and many educators which centers around encouraging reluctant readers to read by finding out what they are truly interested in whether it be history, dinosaurs, baseball, animals, insects or as in my case, cancer stuff.  I’m not a reluctant reader and it’s not like I don’t enjoy reading about other topics, but cancer has definitely become a subject of primary interest for me for obvious reasons.

Another goal of mine this year is to update the breast cancer resource page on my blog more frequently as well as the grief resource page. I’m not sure if people ever look at those pages, but just in case…

So, I’m asking for input from you, my readers, on this. But we’ll get to that…

Now on to my “best read picks” for the past year… I know these aren’t new hot-off-the press books, but none-the-less they are my picks since I read or re-read them recently.

In the non-cancer category, my favorite read this past year has without a doubt been The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. I literally could not put it down once I got started. It happens to be of my favorite genre, memoir, so that might have had something to do with it. It’s a wonderfully honest account about growing up in a dysfunctional family that was anything but normal, but does anyone really have a normal family???

I’m excited to read her next book, Half Broke Horses, which happily I received for Christmas.

In the cancer category, I’ve read some really good ones (please visit my resource page for a list of a few of them), but if I’m going to narrow it down, the two I’d have to pick are Pink Ribbon Blues by Gayle Sulik. And Being Sarah by Sarah Horton. It’s no surprise I personally reviewed them both here on my blog, so please take a look at my posts on each if you’re interested in learning more about these two great books. They are both must reads in my opinion.

In the grief category, a book that I really loved although it was difficult to read is Robin Romm’s The Mercy Papers. It’s a memoir about breast cancer and loss. Parts of it are gut-wrenchingly sad to read, but so worth it. I really like this book because it covers two topics I’m passionate about – breast cancer and losing a loved one to breast cancer. I love the raw honesty this author delivers about the reality of these two topics. I know one reads such words as raw honesty on book jackets all the time, but in this case they fit perfectly.

I have quite a few new books to get me going in 2012. Here are a few of them and over half of them are not about cancer!

Yes, I'm still reading the old-fashioned way by turning actual pages, but maybe that'll change soon...


Another one on my list for sure in the cancer category is The Emperor of All Maladies:  A Biography of Cancer by oncologist Siddhartha Mukherjee. The title alone fascinates me.

Finally, what I’d really appreciate is hearing from you, so hopefully some of you will share your favorites here…

I intend to add some of your suggestions to my own to read list and also to my resource pages, so thank you in advance for sharing your favorites.

Feel free to share in any or all categories below….

What is your favorite “cancer book” you’ve read recently? Or not so recently for that matter?

What is a favorite book of yours on loss or grief?

And just for fun, what’s a favorite book you’ve read recently in any category?

Finally, do you set aside time each day to read?

Thanks for sharing and happy reading!

The trick for me, too, is staying awake!




31 thoughts to “What’s on Your “to Read” List?”

  1. Nancy, I think you already read my review of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, which really helped me understand my dad’s remarriage so soon after my mom died. Even though it’s not technically a book about grief, it helped me!

    The books on my to-read list include the new one by Nevada Barr, “The Rope.” It’s another Anna Pigeon mystery, a character that I really like!

    1. Ginny Marie, Yes, I do remember your post. Isn’t it funny how books can have a special or different meaning to us depending on when we happen to read them. I’m glad you found a helpful book for when your dad remarried. In some ways his remarriage was a loss to you, but also a gain. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Well Nancy my reading material tastes vary widely. I generally have 4 or 5 titles going at the same time, as taste depends on mood. I just read Galway Bay which was historical fiction about the Irish potato famine. Fascinating and I couldn’t put it down. I’m also now reading about the Comanche Indian nation in Empire of the Summer Moon. Not for the faint of heart, but an incredible account so far. Another favorite is another nonfiction title called the The Worst Hard Time which is about life in the American Dustbowl. That was really fascinating. I could go on, but I do highly recommend Maladies and also Bathshebas Breast. Pink Ribbons, Inc is another good read in the cancer genre too.

    1. Rachel, It’s impressive that you can have so many books going at the same time. I have this tendency to feel like a must finish one before I start the next, which is silly really. Need to get over that one…Sounds like you enjoy reading history stuff, as do I. I remember that you’ve read Maladies, not familiar with Bathsheba’s Breast. And of course, Pink Ribbons, Inc is the new movie too now which I can’t wait to see. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Nancy, this is a post near and dear to my heart (I fondly remember walking with my mom to our village library grand opening when I was 6 to get my first library card)! Hard to narrow down my picks but here goes. For BC, Hester Hill Schnipper’s “After Breast Cancer” was the 1st book I picked up when my own treatment ended last year. Her take on one’s state of mind resonated so well for me I required my husband to read it, too. I always enjoy re-reading Frances Mayes’ “Under the Tuscan Sun” which I read before it was a movie. It combines my other loves of eating, cooking and home remodeling. David Rhodes’ “Driftless” is a fascinating take on small town rural life and this WI author skillfully brings the characters to life. Currently, I’m reading “Confessions of a Surgeon: The Good, The Bad & the Complicated Life behind the O.R. Doors” by Paul Ruggieri, M.D. It’s eye-opening, especially for anyone who has gone under the knife! Also, check out “Gap Creek”, a NY Times best seller by Robert Morgan. It’s the story of a marriage during the Great Depression. I, too, love the feel of a “real” book but my Kindle comes in handy when we travel. I always read before going to sleep. Some nights, longer than others. & BTW, I thank you for your previous posts/resources on lymphedema! I developed very early stages last month and finding information that is current and not contradictory has been challenging. I really appreciate everyone in the BC blogging world that shares their experiences.

    1. Mary, My mom was a librarian so I have lots of “book memories,” as you might imagine. You have shared some interesting choices here. Thank you. I have not read any of them. Thanks so much for saying the lymphedema posts were helpful. I always wonder if people read them later on or get benefit…Jan Hasak author of the blog “Mourning Has Broken,” (on my blog roll) is a wonderful resource person if you need more lymphedema resources or questions answered. I know she’d be happy to help. Thank you for sharing, Mary.

  4. Culled from my own list of favorites, here are some recommendations for fascinating and accessible cancer reads:

    -I second Rachel’s nomination of _Bathsheba’s Breast_
    -_The Biopolitics of Breast Cancer_

    If you’re looking for some academic reading, let me know. For example, I just read Judy Segal’s “Breast Cancer Narratives as Public Rhetoric” and found it quite interesting.

    Uncancered reading:

    -I always love anything David Sedaris

    1. Prailior, Thanks for your list of recommendations. I’m taking special notice of any that are mentioned more than once such as Bathsheba’s Breast. I’ll keep your offer for ‘academic reading’ in mind! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Nancy,
    I am a reader too. My latest which was suggested by my friend Teri Smeija is “Surivival of the Sickest” Moalem as far as cancer related I really liked “Pretty is What Changes” by Jessica Queller, “Positive Results” by Joi Morris and of course “Beyond the Pink Moon” by Nicki Boscia Durlester. A book on grief that a friend bought for me a while back that really helped “The Orphaned Adult” (cannot recall the author). My favorite books to read are true crime and scientific type books. I still turn pages too and I love how my books feel and smell, I am still torn on whether or not to switch to the electronic age. :/ Thanks for a great post!

    1. Helen, Thanks for reminding me about “Positive Results.” I need to add that one to my resource page. “The Orphaned Adult” sounds pretty interesting, though I am not yet an orphaned adult. Your cancer picks sound pretty interesting as well. Thanks for sharing all your recommendations, Helen. Much appreciated!

  6. Here are a few to get you started Nancy –
    The Immortal Life of Herietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. I’ve not read this yet, this was going to be the next book fo the reading group i’m part of.
    Endal by Sandra an Allen parton. I just know you’ll love this. It’s about an assistnce dog called Endal who rings his master back from the brink of despair.
    Pretty is what changes – Jessica Queller. Not read this yet, but it’s on my list!
    I’m Stll Standing – Wendy Watson. Great background and funny stories make this a real heart warming read.

    1. Jackie, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Locks,” was on my Christmas list, but I didn’t get it, so I will be shopping for that one myself eventually. Did you notice “I’m Still Standing” was in my photo of books? It’s on my to read list for sure. The one about the assistance dog sounds good. Well, they all do! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Check out The Emperor of All Maladies – its very interesting non fiction on the history of cancer’s treatment, diagnosis, understanding. I read it in bits and pieces and am up to the good parts – where chemo is starting to be used. Its a little heavy but very readable as chapters are all short (5-10 pages). It came out last year so start with the library.

  8. Hey! Even though I said on FB I can’t read, I DID just download ‘(sic)-A Memoir’ author Joshua Cody. Was published in Oct and got excellent reviews by the NYT. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/21/books/sic-a-memoir-by-joshua-cody-review.html
    I was told about the book at a volunteer meeting. I’m only a chapter in and it is a cancer memoir with a definite twist. Read the review. It won’t be for everyone but it feels like a novel. Such a treat for me since I really can’t do novels. Since the author lives in NYC and I am familiar with many of the locales, I CAN keep up! There are some other suggestions in the comments that I am loving! Going to write my own list.

    Good idea – we can start a virtual book club!!!


    1. Ann Marie, Thanks for sharing your “pick.” I know you will be able to keep up just fine! I will check out the review, eventually! Thanks again!

  9. I want to read more as well. An hour a day would be a good goal for me. My problem is my lack of attention. Or that there are too many distractions. I read books most days, but only a page or two before I get distracted! Sometimes I read only a paragraph. Good grief. And it’s the same with blogs. I don’t take the time to sit down and actually read them. I start to read them, and then I get distracted.

    So my goal is to set aside time to actually read something and focus on what I am reading. It could be a book or a certain web site or whatever.

    1. Lindsay, Even if you’re only reading a page or two, that’s something! Why do you get so distracted? Maybe you need a quieter place to read. My problem is I always put it off til I’m too tired to concentrate. I need to set aside a time earlier in the day or evening. Good luck with your goal and thanks for commenting!

  10. Nancy,

    I also recommend Hester Hill Schnipper’s “After Breast Cancer,” as well as Cancervive and Close to the Bone (don’t remember the authors). They really hit home for me. Victor Frankel’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” is a brilliant piece that I have read several times. His thesis: People are able to suffer when they have meaning in their lives.

    I enjoy fiction and love anything by Amy Tan, Toni Morrison, John Steinbeck, and George Orwell.

    My challenge right now is time. Between raising a daughter, my job, and focusing most of my time on writing, I have felt that I had to give up reading until I was done with all the writing. However, your post inspired me to read for a certain portion every day.

    I LOVE to read, so I need to make the time.

    1. Beth, I know exactly what you mean. It can be a challenge setting aside the time. I’ve been focusing so much on the writing, too, that I have neglected the reading. I read some where you can’t be a good writer unless you are also an avid reader. May or may not be true. I don’t know. It is really hard, though, with young children, so it’s understandable you’ve had trouble finding time to read. This is all part of my “balance plan.” ha. Thanks for sharing your picks, Beth.

  11. My days start early and I drive an hour each way, to and from San Antonio everyday. There are some nights when I get home that I just want to veg in front of the TV and put my brain on hold. Lately, I’ve been trying to read instead.

    My favorite books in the last year have been Steve Jobs’ biography, Keith Richards autobiography and The House of Mondavi, the story of the Mondavi wine family, which reads like a soap opera. I never thought I would want to give up books, but I’m in love with my iPad.


    1. Brenda, Time and fatigue are always stumbling blocks for me too and sometimes vegging out is exactly what we need isn’t it? As always, we need to do the best we can I guess. Thanks for sharing some of your favorites.

  12. My favorite “cancer book” is “Cancer Vixen” a graphic memoir by Marisa Acocella Marchetto. The book now on my bedstand is “The Help.” I saw the movie and just had to read the book, which has many more details. I try to set aside an hour before bedtime to read. It’s one of my favorite pastimes, and I’m sure it’s one of yours, too. Thanks for posting about these great reads. I hope you are able this year to set aside the time you need to do what you love – read.

    1. Jan, I actually have “The Help” on my stack too. Like you, I also saw the movie. Generally, I don’t like to see the movie first, but…Thanks for sharing. And it looks like you aren’t the only one recommending “Cancer Vixen.”

  13. I just recently finished The Emperor of All Maladies and it is fantastic. (my gynecologist and I always have a “what are you reading now?!” conversation at the beginning of my appointments and she recommended it to me) I had it on my nightstand for quite a while before I could bring myself to read it–reading is my escape and escaping into cancer was not something I was ready to do. I’m glad I read it, though–it’s a hefty read, but it’s really engrossing.

    I have a rule–1 trashy novel (Which I love–Steven King, et) means I have to read 1 book that makes me think. I’ve thought enough with Maladies, so I’m going to try The Hunger Games next. 🙂

    1. Wendy, It sounds like you have a good rule there. Glad to hear your thoughts on “Maladies.” I’ll be getting to it eventually. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your “picks!” And I totally understand about that “escape thing!”

  14. Hi Nancy – thanks very much for the shout out here!
    And what a great idea for a post. I too loved The Glass Castle – at your recommendation. I also have The Help lined up – saw the film but not read the book yet. “Maladies” is also on my radar but not got it yet…. I sometimes feel I’ve had enough of cancer books – sigh. But….
    On cancer books my all time ‘favourite’ is Audre Lorde’s Cancer Journals. Audre Lorde died of secondary breast cancer in 1992 but wrote this in 1980 after her primary diagnosis, I find it inspiring every time I read it – her anger jumps off the page.
    Another cancer book – a novel – is Lionel Shriver’s So Much For That, a very wry observation on the US healthcare system, and very interesting for me as a UK reader!
    I’m currently re-reading Jeanette Winterson’s memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? – worth it for the title alone! Brilliant, truth and family. Absolutely brilliant, I could quote from every page.
    Then I’m also re-reading another book (I usually have a couple on the go at one time), is The Morville House by Katherine Swift, a delightful true story and reflections of the author making her garden – so moving I’ve actually visited the garden (and wrote this blog about it http://beingsarahblog.wordpress.com/2011/05/15/i-come-to-morville/).
    And finally, maybe of interest to your resource section, I recently met the authors of End of Life, full of resources about death and dying (by Mary Jordan and Judy Carole Kauffmann), in fact Ronnie has written a review of it coming soon on the blog.
    Well! Didn’t mean to write that much Nancy – but then I do love to read too. Great post.

    1. Being Sarah, Thanks for all the great recommendations. Makes me think how it would be lovely if we could just sit around reading all day long! I recently read “The Cancer Journals” and was pretty amazed by it as well. I will definitely check out “End of Life” at some point. I look forward to Ronnie’s post. Thanks again for sharing.

  15. I can’t resist a book list!

    Favourite cancer book is ‘The secret history of the war on cancer’ by Debra Davis. Well written and brilliantly researched.

    Other favourite cancer book, ‘So much for that’ a novel by Lionel Shriver. Unputdownable.

    On loss and grief, a book I read just before Christmas and will be reviewing on Being Sarah soon ‘End of Life’ by Mary Jordan and Judy Carole Kauffmann.

    Favourite recent book, ‘Why be happy when you could be normal?’ a memoir by Jeanette Winterson. Had to buy a copy just for me as Sarah wouldn’t hand her’s over.

    Favourite book of the century so far, ‘Wild’ by Jay Griffiths. Travel, poetry, philosophy, anarchy. A book totally unlike any other.

    And favourite book from all the centuries ever, ‘Jane Eyre’, Charlotte Bronté. Managed not to read it until about 3 years ago, and was awestruck. I’d taken it as a given that Charles Dickens and Jane Austen were the greatest British novelists – and I do still love them both. But I’ve read Charlotte Bronté now, and so I know how well it’s possible for a human being to write.

    1. Ronnie, I like how you categorized your “picks.” And the word, “unputdownable,” what a perfect way to describe a favorite! So would you say “Jane Eyre” is your all time favorite of favorites then? Thanks for sharing your picks. I will be waiting for your review of “End of Life.”

  16. Ha! Hadn’t realised Sarah was posting on this one too. We must look like a pair of Muppets going round reading more or less the same books! Oh well, that goes with having similar opinions on many things, I suppose.

    But all time favourite? Like, if for some reason I was leaving the planet and could only take one book with me? Then I’d take ‘Wild’ by Jay Griffiths. ‘Jane Eyre’ is one exquisitely told story. ‘Wild’ is an Odyssey, one of its reviewers calls it a ‘raging oratorio’. So to give me energy and passion, and for sheer interestingness and opinionatedness, I’d take ‘Wild’. We saw Jay Griffiths last summer. And she said ‘One of the reasons I’m doing this event is because the organisers DIDN’T say ‘You’ll be amongst like-minded people’. Like, why would I want that? I want to be with people I can disagree with. People who will challenge me. ‘Like minded is boring’. Jay talks here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJqQxB5T_0g

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