As the holidays get closer, we are looking forward to spending time with family and friends — and having a little extra time to curl up with a good book! The Lilja team is happy to share our winter reading recommendations below.
Alicia: “When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi
This impeccably written memoir starts by taking you through the journey of a young student's search to find a career that will show him the meaning of life, torn by equal interests in English and medicine. After choosing medicine and nearly finishing his residency with a bright career as a neurosurgeon ahead of him, he receives a cancer diagnosis that ultimately ends his life.
This book initially hooked me with Kalanithi's constant curiosity, desire for meaning and reactions to the unique process that is medical school. And then it took me on a very different ride when he found himself on the other end of the patient/doctor relationship, trying to determine the best way to spend the last few years or months of his life.
Mary: “Before We Were Yours” by Lisa Wingate
While this is a work of fiction, it’s based on the true story of decades of corruption by Georgia Tann and the Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage in Memphis. Wingate imagines the life of a family during the Depression living happily onboard a riverboat. When the parents must leave during a difficult delivery, the remaining children are swept up in a raid by police and taken to the orphanage, where they are abused, eventually separated and adopted by families that could pay Tann’s hefty adoption fees. Wingate also includes a parallel modern tale of one young woman’s quest to find out the truth about her family. “Before We Were Yours” is a heartbreaking story of love and loss — and ultimately redemption — that I could hardly put down.
Lauren: "The Reckonings" by Lacy M. Johnson
This book of essays explores the ways we think about justice. Lacy M. Johnson covers a variety of topics, from environmental disasters and art to gender and race. She combines her personal experiences, such as getting kidnapped and assaulted by a man she loved, working with children who have cancer, surviving Hurricane Harvey, and more, with current events and cultural references to ask questions about how we respond to violence. These essays are very thoughtful and well-researched, and they ask us to expand our ideas of justice to create space for something more compassionate and merciful.
Linda: “Resistance Women” by Jennifer Chiaverini
At a time when resistance feels urgent and necessary, this book is a timely and important read. I’m not even finished reading it yet, but “Resistance Women” inspires me to continue the fight for justice.
Inspired by actual events, “Resistance Women” shares the story of an American woman, her German husband, and her network of women who secretly fought to bring down the Third Reich from within. They were ordinary people who did extraordinary things to fight injustice in a very dark world.
Kate: “The Great Alone” by Kristin Hannah
This epic story follows the life of Leni as her family starts a new life in a remote Alaskan outpost in the 1970s. This move is supposed to be the fresh start that the family sorely needs. At first, it appears that way. But as winter descends, darkness emerges.
At its brightest moments, I enjoyed the descriptions of Alaska's incredible natural beauty, the colorful characters that inhabit the town and their strong sense of community, and the sweetness of young romance. At its darkest moments, I grappled with the intense dysfunction of Leni's parents’ relationship and the unforgiving Alaskan winter. All in all, this is a rich read that kept me enthralled.