Great book.  It makes you want to visit Africa and experience some of the things the Price family experiences, yet there are times it makes you so thankful you have running water and grocery stores.  Then again, you’ll often feel greedy compared to the characters in the book.  Nevertheless, it is a great read, full of detail.

Plus it will take you full circle with each of the Price girls and won’t leave you hanging at the very end.  You’ll feel like you journeyed through and came out at the end alive.

Adventure, a love story, sorrow, and historical value all wrapped up into this book.

Wieliczka Salt Mine Banquet Hall.

Wieliczka Salt Mine Banquet Hall.

Salt: A World History ~ Mark Kurlansky

If you like history or want to learn about it, this book offers a very interesting way to do so.  Salt is universal, every civilization has had a need for it.  Rich, poor, all used salt.  This book talks about different places in the world and how salt was used, including minority civilizations and not just the major ones.  It has some fascinating facts about salt use through the ages as well.  A good read.  However, each chapter is not connected, but can stand on its own.

One fascinating fact not included in the book:  Wieliczka Salt Mine, located in Poland.  A church has been carved out of salt in the salt mine.  Go ahead and Google it, the images are amazing.

The Last Lecture ~ Randy Pausch:     This is a very easy to read book.  Randy Pausch writes as if he is talking to you and is a great story teller.  His chapters are very short, some are only three to four pages.  His book makes you think about your own life and how you are living it.  It made me think about how I treat other people, how I live my life, am I regretting more than living?  The Last Lecture is also a very poignant story about Randy Pausch and his family, the ones he loves and knows he has to leave behind.  It is sad, but the story is one full of hope and life.  Funny, witty, simple, and intelligent.  A great read!

You can also watch Randy Pausch deliver his “Last Lecture” at Carnegie Mellon University on September 18, 2007:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ji5

But go read the book too.   =)

Okay, I cannot even begin to rave about my now absolute favorite children’s books author.  Mo Willems is G-R-E-A-T!  If you have young children, or even older children, these books are hilarious.  The author does his own illustrations and as you read through the books be sure to pay attention to them.

My favorite series is the ‘Elephant & Piggie’ series, which offer books about Gerald, the elephant, and his friend Piggie.

SO funny and SO great!

SO funny and SO great!

One of my best friends and I sat on the floor of the Children’s Section in our neighborhood bookstore for an hour reading through the ‘Elephant & Piggie’ series and cracked up the whole time.  My Friend is Sad and I Will Surprise My Friend! are two of my favorites.  Other ‘Elephant & Piggie’ books are:  Today I Will Fly!There Is a Bird on Your Head!; I Am Invited to a Party!I Love My New Toy!Are You Ready to Play Outside?; Watch Me Throw the Ball!.  And coming out in June ’09: Elephants Cannot Dance!.  I want them all!  For myself.

Mo Willems also authors several other books, including a couple that can be read to young toddlers learning manners or potty-training.

The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns ~ Khaled Hosseini:     Both are such wonderful books.  Both give us a glimpse of Afghanistan through the eyes of Amir (The Kite Runner), a young boy growing up in the last days of the monarchy to present day; and Mariam (A Thousand Splendid Suns), a young girl who grows up under the reign of the taliban.  Both stories are incredibly harrowing and gravely disturbing.A Thousand Splendid Suns ~ Khaled Hosseini.The Kite Runner ~ Khaled Hosseini.

They cause you to feel terror, despair, hopelessness, and sorrow, but the author somehow weaves in a thread of hope leaving you glued to the story, page by page.  Eventually, you will find you have finished the book and wish there were more.  Definitely two of my top five books.  I have recommended both books to many friends who have also loved them, so if you haven’t yet read them, please do.  You’ll lose yourself in Mariam’s story, and find yourself wishing you could fight alongside her.  And you’ll hold your breath while reading the memories of Amir’s past with his kind-hearted and loyal friend, Hassan.  Both books are stunning!

The Shack ~ William P. Young.The Shack ~ William P. Young:     A beautiful story about a broken man meeting the Holy Trinity face-to-face on Earth.  It is as life altering for the reader as it is for the main character, Mack.  Papa is God, Sarayu is the Holy Spirit, and Jesus is Jesus.  You MUST go out and get this book and read it; it is a book you will want to read over and over.  Whether you believe there is a God or not, this story is ravishing and captivating.

“Remember this, humans are not defined by their limitations, but by the intentions that I have for them; not by what they seem to be, but by everything it means to be created in my image.” ~ Papa, in The Shack.

This is one of my absolute favorite books.  It will make you laugh and sob.  It will make you feel so small, yet so big in the hands of God.  I don’t want to give anything away because this book is one that you have to experience for yourself.

Words cannot begin to express the emotions that bubble up when “the holocaust” is mentioned.  During the years of the Second World War, at the hands of the German Nazi soldiers, under Adolf Hitler, approximately six million Jewish lives were taken.   The reason was: race.  Hitler believed that the Jews were “racially inferior” to the Germans, or Aryans, that he favored; thus began a series of wretched attacks on the Jewish population of Europe.  Destroying Jewish temples, Jewish-owned shops, forcing them to leave their homes and everything they knew to enter filthy, overcrowded ghettos.  Then finally, deporting those they did not already kill, to concentration camps all over Europe.  In these camps, nearly two out of three European Jews were murdered.  It is an extremely horrifying and sad time in our history, as human beings.  So we must remember and never forget those who did not make it, and those who did.

Quote by Elie Wiesel (Holocaust Survivor):

“I decided to devote my life to telling the story because I felt that having survived I owe something to the dead, and anyone who does not remember betrays them again.

“Because of indifference, one dies before one actually dies.

“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation.  We must always take sides.  Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.  Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

Most of us know the book, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, which is the published diary of a young Jewish girl’s life in hiding – this is how most of us learn about the Holocaust in the first place.  However, there are many other memoirs available so that we can all remember and never forget.  The following books are not for everyone, some may find them too hard to read, due to the sometimes graphic recounting of life and death, but if you can, you will be affected and genuinely moved:

Elie Wiesel.

Night ~ Elie Wiesel (New Translation by Marion Wiesel):     A truly moving memoir, that will make   you ache to the depths of your soul; unforgettable, Elie Wiesel expresses desperation so movingly, “Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes.”   Night brought me to tears because Elie Wiesel holds nothing back and is so real, and so honest in his recounting of his experiences.  At the end of the book, his recounting of his last days with his father are heart-wrenching and shattering.  Take comfort in the fact that Elie Wiesel was one of the lucky ones, he survived to tell this story, and became a writer and poet, even winning the Nobel Prize.  A man with much to celebrate, yet so much to lament over.

Survival in Auschwitz ~ Primo Levi:     Primo Levi tells of his experiences in Auschwitz, and through his testimony wePrimo Levi.can learn what it means to merely exist in this world.  Primo Levi chillingly points out that, “I am not even alive enough to know how to kill myself.”  One cannot even imagine what life must have been like.  Through this memoir we can attempt to understand what “inhumane” really means, and we glimpse the thought process behind extermination and brutal living conditions.  This book is a shock to the system, and jolts new revelation about human survival into the reader.

I Was A Child Of Holocaust Survivors ~ Bernice Eisenstein:     A creatively told recounting of the authors’ relatives experiences during the Holocaust, and what “moving on” was like for them.  It shows that not all survivors were open about the harrowing things they experienced, but would rather leave them behind.  The author tells of how her parents’ experiences impacted her own life and led her to search for answers and information about the Holocaust.  To remember.  The illustrations add a sense of a child-like perspective, but clearly hold a deeper meaning.

Over the years I have always enjoyed reading.  Genres evolving from The Berenstein Bears collection to the Sweet Valley series to Lurlene McDaniel books to the present (which can include anything from Children’s Books to Adult Fiction or Non-Fiction.)  My bookshelf has always been full and overloaded, and I hope to one day have a large room devoted to books in my house.  And if that can’t happen, maybe I could move into Borders or Barnes&Noble.

I look at the youth around me today, and it saddens me that so many are reading at below their grade level.  Why is this happening?  What can we do about it?  Ask an adolescent what his/her favorite book is, and too often they say, “I don’t have one,” or “I don’t like to read.”  Hearts break everytime.  Reading offers a great many things.  Books can be educational, an escape, a counselor, a joyful laugh, a soap opera, a challenge, a romance, a guide, and so much more.

Find a book you like and tell me about it, recommendations are always welcome.  Or leave me comments about why you liked (or disliked) a book I wrote about.  I would love to hear your insight!

Most of all, please enjoy reading.  Whether it be a book by the wonderful Mo Willems or something deep, and soul-searching such as Captivating, by John and Stasi Eldredge.  Doesn’t matter.  Just read!