What did you read over the past year? If you made a reading goal: did you hit it? The books I read this year ranged from self-help to true crime to science fiction. Hear more about some of the books I enjoyed in 2022 (and in the year after I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis) and if you’ll want to pick them up for yourself.
Books mentioned in this episode:
- Creativity: A Short and Cheerful Guide
- The Comfort Book
- Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood
- It’s Trevor Noah: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood (Adapted for Young Readers)
- The House in the Cerulean Sea
- Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI
- The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream: The Hunt for a Victorian Era Serial Killer
- The Scarlet Letter
- Slapstick or Lonesome No More!: A Novel
- Hocus Pocus
- Turtles All the Way Down
- Project Hail Mary: A Novel
- Artemis: A Novel
Find Amber J Tresca at:
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- Verywell: Verywell Health
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- Facebook: @michaelandrewcooney
- Instagram: @maccooneycomposer
- Web: Cooney Studio
- Theme music, IBD Dance Party, is from ©Cooney Studio.
Episode transcript and more information at: https:/bit.ly/AIBD125
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[Music: IBD Dance Party]
Amber Tresca 0:04
I’m Amber Tresca. And this is About IBD.
I’m a medical writer and patient educator who lives with a J pouch due to ulcerative colitis. It’s my mission to educate people living with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, about their disease, and to bring awareness to the patient journey.
Amber Tresca 0:22
Welcome to Episode 125.
Amber Tresca 0:25
This is my year end book episode, I will take you through some of the books that I’ve read this year, let you know a little bit about why it picked them up whether or not I liked them what they’re about, and if they relate to chronic illness.
Amber Tresca 0:44
I’m not really one for making new year’s resolutions. But I do try to read a certain number of books each year, when I was a girl in a teenager and then a young adult, I read all of the time I read everything I could get my hands on, I read things more than once sometimes because we didn’t have e readers in those days. And I didn’t always have a car or another way to get to a library.
Amber Tresca 1:07
But as I’ve gotten older, I actually have less time. So I have more access to books now than I have ever had before. But I spend more time taking care of my family and working and volunteering and doing all of these other things. And that sometimes encroaches upon my ability to read the books that I want to read. So I need to be a little bit more intentional about my reading time.
Amber Tresca 1:29
And that sometimes makes me more selective about the books that I read. And it also means that I am more willing to let go of a book when I was younger, I don’t think I ever abandoned a book. But now if it’s something that I feel like I’ve given it some time, and I’m really not into it, I will let it go and move on.
Amber Tresca 1:50
So I’m not going to go through any of the books that I read this year that I struggled through, or that I read a couple of chapters and decided it wasn’t for me, just gonna go through the books that I read, that I liked, and that I feel that other people should read.
Amber Tresca 2:05
Usually when I get to the end of a book, I look around for another person that has read it, because I need to talk about it with someone. So if you do decide to read any of these books, please do get in touch, you can find me all over the interwebs as about IBD. Let me know that you read it, what you think about it. I’m always up for a great book discussion.
Amber Tresca 2:26
Even though I’m not really one for New Year’s resolutions in January, I tend to feel just like everybody else does, that you’re ready for a reset. Reframing, you want to set your intentions for the year you want to start new things you want to end things that aren’t serving you anymore. And these ideas affected some of the books that I read in January of 2022.
Amber Tresca 2:48
Rather, I should say I listened to I listened to a book called Creativity. And this was written by John Cleese. And he also read the audiobook version of it. And some of you may know John Cleese from the comedy group, Monty Python, of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. You might also know him from movies that he did later on, such as A Fish Called Wanda, great comedian, also turns out is in engaging writer, and he wrote this book about the creative process.
Amber Tresca 3:19
And his creative process is maybe not as structured as you would think a successful comedian would have. But that was what made it interesting. And I also liked hearing his words in his own voice. So it was really quick, only took an hour to listen to. But I recommend it if you’re looking for something to sort of get your juices flowing. Think about what you might want to do over the next year or the next several months. And maybe just give you a little punch, if you’re gonna get started on something that requires a little bit of creativity.
Amber Tresca 3:48
Another book that I listened to, in January was called the comfort book by Matt Haig. And that’s exactly what it is. It is a book about comfort. It was read by the author who did a great job of reading his own work.
Amber Tresca 4:06
And it really was something that I think that you can go back to over and over again, every time you think that you might need a little bit more support in what you’re approaching in your life at that moment. So I think a winter months like January, when it is dark, and there’s not a holiday, maybe you’re back to work, and there’s no vacation coming up for a while or whatever The Comfort Book might be something to turn to.
Amber Tresca 4:36
And it was another really quick listen. And I think people that are living through hard things might take a lot out of it. So I would certainly recommend The Comfort Book by Matt Haig, especially maybe in your January and February time frames.
Amber Tresca 4:52
Something I like to do is I like to read what my children are reading. So they’re currently 12 and 15, which is nice. Because the things that they’re reading at school are a little more interesting to me. And it also means that I can get something out of it. And we can talk about the themes of the books.
Amber Tresca 5:10
So my daughter read Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. And then I picked up the book as well. Now we read two different versions of the book, because it is an autobiography of Trevor Noah’s life. While he was living in South Africa, where he was born, where he grew up, his life was not easy. And it was very different from what many of us in the United States are going to experience because of the political and social structures in South Africa.
Amber Tresca 5:43
It was really a great read, just to learn about that. I didn’t know enough about South Africa, about how everyday life was there for people, and especially for somebody like, Trevor. So my daughter read the version that was for younger people. And I read the, I guess, unabridged, or adult version. So I was reading things that she wasn’t because some of the experiences are probably meant more for adults than they are for teens.
Amber Tresca 6:17
So but we were able to discuss what went on in the book. And I was really grateful to be shown this slice of life from South Africa that I didn’t know anything about previously. And, and I never learned what went on there when Trevor Noah was a child, and what the political structure was, was like then.
Amber Tresca 6:42
And of course, he’s a comedian. So there was plenty of funny moments in the book. But there was also a lot of serious ones. And he taught you about the background of what was going on at the time, and how that impacted his life. So it was really very educational in in that respect.
Amber Tresca 7:01
And I was glad that it was assigned to my daughter, and that we both read it. And then we could talk about what went on. And then because the timing of the book, also, I lived through those times as well, although what a different country and having a vastly different experience. But I was able to sort of frame some of the things for my daughter, we were able to have a discussion about it.
Amber Tresca 7:23
So I would certainly recommend Born a Crime by Trevor Noah to anybody. And if you can get your hands on the young adult version, or I think there may even be a version that is for even younger kids. And then the adult version for the parents. It’s something that you can both read and both get something out of and then have something to talk about in discuss.
Amber Tresca 7:47
In March, I read a book called The House in the Cerulean Sea, by TJ Clune. I don’t think it’s something that I ever would have picked up, except that it was the one book one town selection for the year in the town in which I live. So it did get a lot of attention. I saw it on plenty of Best of lists, what it is about — I don’t…it’s funny, because I don’t even know how to put a genre on it. It is fiction.
Amber Tresca 8:18
But it is about a world in which mythical beings are real. And the story focuses, especially on an orphanage for children who have abilities. And so they need to learn different things than human children who don’t have these abilities. And so they’re kind of in separate schools, which is a metaphor for a lot of other things.
Amber Tresca 8:45
And it turns out that maybe all these experiences aren’t so great at these different facilities where the kids are. So there’s a lot there, under the guise of a story that’s just pure fiction. But it definitely relates into our world and things that are going on right now.
Amber Tresca 9:02
It is also in the LGBTQ genre, it was a great read in that respect. And the use of language in this book is very interesting. And while it is very relatable, and understandable, it was really well written. And I think, different than a lot of the other contemporary fiction that ends up on some of the best of lists at the end of the year.
Amber Tresca 9:30
So I would certainly recommend it. I think anyone would get a lot out of it. That is The House in the Cerulean Sea. And that is written by TJ Clune.
Amber Tresca 9:40
So along comes spring. And I started to go back to some of the heavier titles that I tend to like, and I read a book called Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann. This book was recommended to me, I don’t think I would have found it otherwise.
Amber Tresca 9:59
This book takes place in the 1920s. And it takes place in Oklahoma, in the Osage Nation, on the Osage land is found oil. And this Native American tribe receives the money from the sale of this oil. But you would think that that would mean that their life would get easier and that things would be better.
Amber Tresca 10:20
But actually, what happens is several of them die under very mysterious circumstances. And it’s a true story, the author takes you through everything that happened, including, after all was said and done. And up until present day.
Amber Tresca 10:38
It is actually a very shameful piece of history that more Americans should know about, something that I had never heard of before. And almost every page, it was a shocking revelation about how these people were murdered. And the people that were guilty of it got away with it. And everything that went on and how people were ignored, and that their fears were glossed over and nobody listened to them.
Amber Tresca 11:12
And so it should be a story that is taught to every kid in their history class, because what happened is so unbelievably shocking. So that book is Killers of the Flower Moon, by David Grann, and highly, highly recommend it.
Amber Tresca 11:32
Another book that was recommended to me is The Case of the Murderous Dr Cream, by Dean Jobb. This is also a book that is history. So it is not embellished in any way. But it’s told in such a way that it seems like a narrative story, rather than just a recitation of a bunch of facts.
Amber Tresca 11:55
What’s interesting about it is that it is about a doctor a physician, and about what he gets away with, which is, of course, murder, and how he gets away with it in several different continents, and how physicians were thought of during the time, and how they were trained, and how all of that ties into what he was able to get away with.
Amber Tresca 12:20
And if you’re interested in the history of medicine, this is one of those books that shine some light on how physicians were trained what medical school was like then what it was like to be a practicing physician. And how this person got away with traveling around and practicing medicine and murdering people and wasn’t caught for a long time.
Amber Tresca 12:45
So it’s in the Victorian era. So it has that aspect to it really well written. And people who have an interest in the history of medicine or what it was like to be a patient or be a physician, in those times, will definitely be interested in this book. And in the story. It’s another one that I’d never heard of before. So shocking to me that the that this is a story that most people don’t appear to know about. And yet it is absolutely wild, what this person got away with and how he did it. So that’s The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream by Dean Jobb.
Amber Tresca 13:45
I have to talk for a few minutes about Kurt Vonnegut. I came to Kurt Vonnegut so much later than I wish I would have I wish that somebody had handed me one of his books when I was a teenager.
Amber Tresca 13:59
And it’s actually a little bit interesting that I never did read Slaughterhouse Five when I was in high school or in college, I really don’t know how I got through those years, escaping reading it, and never having it assigned to me, especially because I had such wonderful English teachers.
Amber Tresca 14:19
One of the things that happened when I was I think 16 or 17, that is probably one of the most impactful things to ever happen to me, was that my English teacher took us — if she wasn’t my English teacher, then she was going to be my English teacher the next year. So she took us students into the room where the English teachers kept all of the books that they you know, give to the students to read. So there was 20-30 copies of every particular books so that a whole class could read it at one time.
Amber Tresca 14:53
So she lets us into this room and says, “Take whatever you want, take it home for the summer and read it.” And I had already been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at that point, I was often not really well enough to do a lot of the same things that my peers were doing. And I certainly didn’t have a huge amount of access to books in the summer. So this was wonderful.
Amber Tresca 15:24
And I don’t know how many books I grabbed. I didn’t really even know what I was taking. But I do remember I picked up a copy of Dune by Frank Herbert, and that those books absolutely changed my life. I picked up The Scarlet Letter. That was another book that I absolutely loved, and so many, many more.
Amber Tresca 15:45
I really don’t know why none of Kurt Vonnegut’s books ended up in my hands at that time. I think I had this perception that his books were dense or difficult, or boring. You know, I really don’t know what I thought, which is really kind of funny, because picking up Frank Herbert’s books, that those things have also been applied to his writing as well, and I loved those books.
Amber Tresca 16:14
But Kurt Vonnegut has been a wonderful addition to my reading time, over the past several years. And this year, I read slapstick, or lonesome, no more, and Hocus Pocus, I won’t really go into both of these books in detail, I will just say that I recommend picking up any of Kurt Vonnegut’s books, and seeing how it resonates with you, Slaughterhouse Five being the most famous, but there are so many more every book of his that I’ve read, I’ve gotten something different out of it.
Amber Tresca 16:51
And his writing is very clear, very plain, but also very distinct. So even though the themes that he’s exploring, and the characters are very nuanced, and have so many layers, there are still books that are not challenging to read, because he writes about them so plainly, and is so very succinct.
Amber Tresca 17:19
But they’re always certainly extremely entertaining will make you think differently about the world. And in some cases, books that he wrote decades ago, are so applicable to today, that it is astounding to me. So I absolutely recommend that you pick up anything by Kurt Vonnegut and give it a try and see how you enjoy his style of writing. And the satire that goes along with it.
Amber Tresca 17:45
Another author that I read a book from this year that many people may recognize in the IBD community is John Green. So this year, I read turtles all the way down. This book has a main character who’s dealing with very severe anxiety, it comes out in a variety of ways. So I did wonder at several points while reading it, how that would feel to someone who was also experiencing that level of anxiety. I don’t know.
Amber Tresca 18:15
But I do know that it was really interesting and instructive to me to see how a person can get caught in a circular set of thoughts and how that affected her decision making. And John Green is also someone that writes very cleanly, his books are always something that I can read pretty quickly, even though they deal with some very deep themes.
Amber Tresca 18:44
And they will resonate with people who live with chronic illness, especially because he understands that in a very intimate way himself and so that that clearly informs his writing. So this year, I read Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. I would recommend you read that or any of his other books, especially if you’re looking to understand more about the patient experience.
Amber Tresca 19:09
Also, this year, I read two books by Andy Weir, Project Hail Mary and Artemis. Andy Weir, you might remember also wrote The Martian, which is probably one of my favorite books, as well as a movie that I truly loved. I did not love these other two books quite as much, but still very interesting ideas.
Amber Tresca 19:34
They go deep into scientific topics, which I really appreciate because you’re going to learn a little bit about the scientific discipline that is being explored. And I know that he does plenty of research to write these books. So you know that whatever he’s writing about that he has gone to authorities on it and understands it in a deep way before he begins to write about it.
Amber Tresca 19:55
Hail Mary, I think was the better of the two books. And that’s because it is about someone who goes to space. And what happens to him because he needs to do something to save our planet because of course, we’re in trouble because we’ve screwed it up down here. And his experiences as he’s in space and what he learns about science and the universe.
Amber Tresca 20:20
And so it’s a little bit like the Martian in that way, the main characters maybe a little bit similar. What I liked about it was that he brought something new to the science fiction genre. And not necessarily that the main character is all that different from other ones, or that the idea that a character needs to save Earth by going into space.
Amber Tresca 20:43
But he meets other characters that are very different. And something that bothers me sometimes about science fiction is that why do humans go into space and then meet other beings that are like exactly like humans? Like, why would that be? Why wouldn’t there be life that is vastly different from our own, that we can’t even conceive of maybe physics work differently, maybe, you know, we just don’t know.
Amber Tresca 21:13
So I liked this book, because it did take that out of the box approach, and a species that isn’t anything like ours, and then trying to figure out how the two can coexist and work together. And so I really, I really enjoyed that aspect of it, as well as the science and learning more about how these things might work. And how’s the technology might work. So Hail Mary, by Andy Weir, I recommend that one.
Amber Tresca 21:44
I also read Artemis, what I did like about this book is at the main character is female, something that we probably don’t see enough of in the science fiction genre. And she’s living life on her own terms. She decides to do some crime, let’s say. And she’s really smart. She’s really resourceful. And she’s also doing this on the moon. So it’s an interesting idea.
Amber Tresca 22:10
It’s got funny parts, it’s got suspense. It’s kind of like a thriller in parts. So overall, an enjoyable read, it probably didn’t live up to my expectations of an annual yearbook. But still, I know plenty of people enjoyed it, and really got a lot out of it. So it’s certainly worth picking up. And because he writes in a very contemporary and relatable way, it does make for a really quick, easy read. So that was Artemis and project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir.
Amber Tresca 22:39
And the last book I’ll go over is feed by M. T. Anderson. This was another book that my son was reading. And when he told me about it, I decided to pick it up, too. I had never heard of this book before. So I had no idea what to expect. It was really, really surprising. It’s not a long book, it only took me a couple of hours to read it.
Amber Tresca 23:04
It was written in 2001, which I did not discover until after I finished the book. I thought it was written much later than that. Because the concept is in the future. And people are using technology, much like we’re already using our, our smartphones, or cellular phones or whatever the kids are calling them these days, except that it’s actually wired into your brain.
Amber Tresca 23:29
And what happens then, is not great. But the main character is a teenage boy, he meets a girl and exciting incident happens. And the girl is having some health problems as a result of it. And a lot of it is how he reacts to her health problems, as well as what is going on with the entire world, and how that all relates to the technology that they’re using, and the consumerism and what’s being done to the planet. So there’s a lot there.
Amber Tresca 24:05
All of it applies to everything that we’re going through today. So it was really precient in a lot of ways. I’m glad my son was assigned this book, and that I was able to read it and that we could have a discussion about it together. It is I think, meant for teen readers. But it also has enough that will apply to adults. The kids certainly talk like teenagers do things that teenagers do. So it may be more for older teens.
Amber Tresca 24:36
But it was really a great read gave us a lot to think about and a lot to talk about. And so I recommend if you’ve got kids of that age, you might want to read this book and then have them read it as well because the lessons that are in the book are completely applicable to what our teenagers are going through today.
Amber Tresca 25:00
As always, thanks for listening. Hope you enjoy this wrap up of the things that I’ve read this year. It’s a little different than a normal episode for me. But so many people have recommended great books to me. And I wanted to give a little bit of that back to the community.
Amber Tresca 25:15
As always, you can follow me, Amber Tresca across all social media, as About IBD. Thanks for listening. And remember, until next time, I want you to know more about IBD.