Iona Staff Picks for National Book Lovers Day

August 7, 2017

National Book Lovers DayWhen I first joined Iona’s team in 2013, I was happy to learn so many of my colleagues are, like me, avid readers. In fact, today I get some of my best book recommendations during my lunch break, sitting around Iona’s lunchroom table and discussing favorites.

So, after I learned National Book Lovers Day is coming up on August 9th, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to poll the team and share their recommendations.

In honor of National Book Lovers Day, here are some staff picks. Happy reading!

Donna Tanner, one of our psychotherapists who also leads support groups, suggests:
  • H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald. This memoir describes Helen’s year of working through grief after her father’s unexpected death when she was a youngish adult. She describes her experiences training a goshawk as how she is able to finally work through her debilitating grief.
  • This is a Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett. This is a collection of essays that Ann has written over the years that have appeared in magazines. They are personal and revelatory. She gives an unapologetic critique of her motivations and describes ordinary people in her life who have had a lasting influence.
  • My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout. Although a novel, it reads like a memoir. The narrator investigates her past in the service of trying to understand herself and why she is who she is. If you liked Olive Kitteridge, you will likely enjoy this.

Donna’s praise for these is high. She says she had read and listened to all three and wants to read them all again!

Geriatric care manager Carol Kaplun recommends:
  • Gratitude by Oliver Sacks. This is neurologist/author Sacks’ last book, written just before he died. Carol says she was surprised to discover that it’s not an end-of-life story, but a testimonial filled with gratitude and wonder for his life experiences and challenges.
Many people are talking about A Man Called Ove, by Fredrick Backman, but Deb Rubenstein, our clinical director, wants to give a shout-out to another book by Backman:
  • My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry. In this novel, a young girl named Elsa is bereft upon the death of her grandmother, her only friend, a woman who each night told Elsa amazing stories that made her feel better about being different. She discovers that her grandmother had left behind letters, letters that magically bring to life the fairy tale world of those night-time stories. Deb, and others, call this a charming and warm-hearted novel.
Finally, I offer three very different selections, each of which I enjoyed a great deal:
  • The Jersey Brothers by Sally Mott Freeman. The true story of three brothers, each of whom served in WWII. One ran FDR’s fabled Map Room – locus of war planning in the White House. Another was an officer on the U.S.S. Enterprise, a ship that was at sea during the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and so was able to battle the Japanese for years. And the third, the youngest brother, was taken captive by the Japanese and held in terrible P.O.W. camps in the Philippines. The book is about the older brothers’ attempts to find their baby brother amidst the chaos and horror of the war in the Pacific.
  • Best Boy by Eli Gottlieb. Unique novel told from the perspective of a 53-year-old man with autism who has lived in a facility for 40 years and what happens when a staff member arrives that he does not trust. Gottlieb himself has an older brother with autism for whom he is the guardian, and so the book is infused with understanding of residential life for disabled adults as well as the challenges individuals and families face. It’s actually an uplifting and hopeful book.
  • A Strangeness in My Mind by Orhan Pamuk. Translated from the Turkish edition, the story follows the life of high school dropout and yogurt-seller Mevlut in Istanbul from the 1960s to present day. Mevlut spent three years writing love letters to a girl from his village, only to find out on the night they eloped, that he had been writing to her sister. One would think this would be a tragedy, but it is not. Mevlut falls in love, they marry, and have two daughters. But Mevlut’s life as a street vendor is hard and family dynamics make his life even more difficult. I loved diving in to the ever-changing world of Istanbul and came to love Mevlut.

What are you reading? If you have suggestions for books you recommend, leave them in the comments! There’s nothing better than learning about new books to read.

By Susan A. Messina

Susan is Iona’s Director of Development and Communications. She holds three master’s degrees, including two from Bryn Mawr’s Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research, and is a Certified Fund Raising Executive.

10 thoughts on “Iona Staff Picks for National Book Lovers Day”

  1. Sounds inriguing. But i wish you had mentioned the books written by Iona Exhibitors. Mine is “Men I Have Met in Bed”, a tale about hospialised service men in WWII and my travels in war time to hospitals to sketch their portraits.

    Lila Oliver Asher

    1. Mary, I really enjoyed “The Glass Castle” and look forward to seeing the movie that is coming out soon. I suspect the book will be better, as it almost always is!

  2. Wow! Several of these are ones I have been meaning to read, and the Iona staff reviews have sent me to the library to get them.

    1. Farar, glad to help with your reading list! 🙂 I took all 3 of my picks out of the DC Public Library, so you have a leg up there!

  3. Two favorites seem especially fitting for Iona’s mission:

    Atul Gawande, “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End”
    A gifted writer, Gawande draws on both his experiences as a surgeon and happenings in his own family to provide a penetrating look at care for the elderly.

    Barbara Pym, “Quartet in Autumn”
    My favorite author paints a poignant, unsparing look at life for four aging Londoners. It was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1977 and was honestly much better than the book that won (Paul Scott’s “Staying On”).

    1. Peter, I 100% agree about Gawande’s book. It really should be must reading for everyone! And it’s so well-written and compelling. I was lucky enough to hear him speak at a hospice conference several years ago. He’s a dynamic speaker as well.

  4. I recently finished “Midnight at the Pera Palace.”. It uses the Pera Palace which was once the Orient Express Istanbul hotel as the peg for a fine take on Istanbul from just before WWI thru the first few years after WWII. I stayed in the Pera Palace in 1964 as a young teen when my father was assigned to Ankara so a bit of nostalgia there. I passed it to my stepmother who is now passing it on to my sister (who also stayed at the Pera Palace). As for movies, go see Kedi on Istanbul cats and their people.

    1. I’ve heard so many good things about the film “Kedi.” I’ll have to see it! Thank you, John, for your recommendations.

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