SALT LAKE CTIY — Never has there been a better time to escape life with a good book than now.
Between the COVID-19 pandemic and last week’s earthquake felt along the Wasatch Front (and the hundreds of aftershocks that followed), this month has been quite the year. Movie theaters, gyms and restaurants are closed and most group activities are canceled for the time being, but books are still there for us. If you’ve been meaning to "get to that book" or start reading again, now’s the perfect time.
Welcome back to the KSL.com Book Club. It’s a book club with a twist where some of the KSL.com team members read a different book and then recap our picks on the last Friday of each month.
This month's KSL.com Book Club features book picks from social media manager Yvette Cruz, reporter Carter Williams and breaking news reporters Jacob Klopfenstein and Lauren Bennett. If you think of a book one of us might like based on our book choices and reviews, feel free to let us know!
Yvette’s pick: "The Library Book" by Susan Orlean
On April 29, 1986, a devastating fire broke out in the Los Angeles Public Library. It burned for more than seven hours, and by the time it was out, it had damaged or destroyed more than 1 million books. To this day, the mystery remains, did someone intentionally start the fire?
Not only does Susan Orlean explore that question in "The Library Book," she also takes readers on an incredible journey about the history of libraries and what they mean to societies. What starts out as a mystery about the largest public library fire ever becomes a love letter to books, libraries and librarians.
I couldn’t get enough of this book. Orlean does a fantastic job in presenting each character she encounters in her research and more importantly, humanizing them. I was captivated each time she’d introduce a new person and the role they played in running a library. This book not only gave me a new sense of appreciation for libraries and what they do for societies, but also for the librarians — the true heart of all libraries.
When the coronavirus outbreak is over, I look forward to spending more time at my local library and getting to know the librarians there.
Who would like this book? History buffs and book lovers. Also, if people and their stories fascinate you, you will love this book.
My next read: My DMs are open for book recommendations or send them to email@example.com.
Carter’s pick: "The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier and More Creative" by Florence Williams
If you’ve felt refreshed returning from an outdoors trip, there’s actually some science behind why you feel that way. In the "The Nature Fix," journalist Florence Williams travels all over the world to speak with scientists and land management officials who are tied into researching the health benefits of nature.
For example, did you know Japan and South Korea have designated "healing forests" where stressed out workers meander to relax? Her travels also take her to a retreat to Moab with some of the nation’s top experts on researching nature’s emotional and physical benefits, which include University of Utah researchers. They find that your heart rate and body’s cortisol levels can decrease within just a few minutes in nature.
Through her thorough reporting and own personal experiences detailed throughout, you’ll find the true benefits from everything from songbirds singing to positioning a hospital bed next to a window overlooking natural scenery, to "forest bathing." Once you finish this book, you’ll never want to leave the outdoors again.
Who would like this book? Outdoors or science enthusiasts and anyone trying to find peace during this chaotic time in history.
What else am I reading? I’m currently finishing up "Gumption" by actor Nick Offerman, which reflects on about two dozen of his personal heroes in history, entertainment and woodworking. I also have "The Hidden Brain" by Shankar Vedantam on deck after that. You may recognize this is the book that launched the uber-popular NPR podcast, "Hidden Brain."
Jacob’s pick: "Wolf Hall" by Hilary Mantel
"Wolf Hall" is one of the most critically-acclaimed historical novels of the past few decades. It is the first installment in a fictionalized epic trilogy documenting the life of Thomas Cromwell, an English dignitary who served as adviser to notorious King Henry VIII from 1532 to 1540.
The first book focuses mainly on Cromwell’s role in facilitating the lengthy divorce process of Henry from his first wife, and his subsequent to Anne Boleyn. It’s a slow-burn epic that spares no detail of Cromwell’s meticulous scheming that saw him rise to become Henry’s most-trusted adviser.
Mantel’s writing is endlessly intriguing as she explores the deepest depths of Cromwell’s psyche from his perspective. It also won’t be everyone’s cup of tea — she tells the story in present tense when other writers would use past tense, and she constantly refers to Cromwell simply as "he," which is confusing at times.
Nevertheless, the depth of detail with which she tells Cromwell’s story is extraordinary and impressive.
Who would like this book? Fans of English Tudor history, or fans of historical fiction in general, will devour "Wolf Hall."
My next read: I have one more library book to finish: Esi Edugyan’s jazz and war novel "Half-Blood Blues." After that, I’m hoping to use my quarantine time to finally read the books I’ve owned for years but have just been collecting dust on my bookshelf, such as Dostoevsky's "The Brothers Karamazov."
Lauren’s pick: ”Know My Name" by Chanel Miller
When a young, recent college graduate was thrust into the public light after a violent assault in 2015, she struggled with her sense of self and split her identity into two; there was Emily Doe, the victim, and Chanel Miller, the normal young adult.
In her memoir, Miller takes back her name and demands the world stop identifying her simply as Stanford swimmer Brock Turner’s victim.
The book gives readers an insight into what Miller experienced and how she was able to reclaim herself after the attack partly through her art.
One theme that especially stands out is the simple truth that healing is not linear.
Miller's victim impact statement, signed Emily Doe, was read worldwide in 2016 and predated the #MeToo movement.
This story of bravery, resilience and strength unapologetically challenges readers to face the hard truths that Miller faced after the attack, during the trial and even today.
Who would like this book? Those who love stories of resilience and strength. "Know My Name" contains graphic content and may not be suitable for all ages.
My next read: "Yes Please" by Amy Poehler