Norris Burkes Ledger correspondent
Posted Sep 3, 2017 at 1:00 AM
If you’re looking for a good book to read, look no further than this column dedicated to my annual list of recommended books.
The first two books landed on my list during my part-time work as a hospice chaplain last year.
I unearthed powerful professional counsel in “Knocking on Heaven’s Door — The Path to a Better Way of Death.” The author, Katy Butler, begins by retelling her mother’s shocking request to disconnect her dad’s pacemaker. No, it’s not about euthanasia. Butler’s book explores how skewed the end of life becomes in the era of modern medicine. She concludes with strong practical advice to those caring for the dying.
Hospice chaplain Kerry Egan explores the poetic and philosophical side of dying in her reassuring book, “On Living.” She writes with overwhelming honesty about her personal journey to make sense of her own life while she sits beside those who are dying.
However, if you’d like to delay death as long as possible, read Chris Crowley and Dr. Henry Lodge’s book called “Younger Next Year: A Guide to Living Like 50 Until You’re 80 and Beyond.” Crowley is an aging man who writes alternating chapters with his physician, Lodge. The resulting combination becomes a motivational voice with scientific leanings that will boot you off the couch toward a more active life.
M. Scott Peck also had spiritual advice for me. In an effort to improve my ever-saddening game, I picked up his book, “Golf and the Spirit: Lessons For the Journey.” Peck is the popular psychiatrist who wrote the self-help bestseller, “The Road Less Traveled.” Peck leans a little heavily on the golf metaphors, but his advice not to keep track of the score is a good reminder that we must all be careful of life’s hazards while not letting those hazards keep us out of the game.
From my nerdy sub-list, I suggest Daniel Yergin’s 929-page book called “The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power.” This book covers the history of the global petroleum industry from the 1850s through the 1990s. With great storytelling, the author opened my eyes as to how often oil has been the root cause of many wars.
Reading isn’t limited to paper. This summer I’ve rediscovered the joys of audiobooks while crisscrossing Europe by train. For instance, I recommend travel writer Bill Bryson. He narrates all of his books, making his dry-witted approach easier to appreciate. He will mesmerize you with his knowledge of science, history and yes, grammar.
Some people get lost in long audible narrations, but Mary Roach keeps your attention by writing her chapters into nearly self-contained stories. Roach is a comedic science writer whose books cover sex, space travel, the digestive system and the mortician’s life. Believe me, they will keep you awake at night.
For suspense, I listen to Tana French’s books. Her recordings are made with an Irish accented narrator that makes them a dramatic choice for the listening ear. I recently finished “The Trespasser” and found it filled with deep spiritual insight as well as cagey detective work.
I also write books. My first, “No Small Miracles,” tells of my work as a pediatric hospital chaplain. My second, “Hero’s Highway,” recounts the stories of heroes in a combat hospital in Iraq. My third book, “Thriving Beyond Surviving,” reprises many of my past newspaper columns.
I’m always looking for a new book to read. I hope you’ll email me your suggestions.
Finally, this isn’t the last you’ll hear about books in this column. Next year, I’m going to Honduras to help my daughter start children’s libraries. If you’re a real bibliophile, consider joining me or ask how you might help. See chispaproject.org.
Email: [email protected]. Voicemail 843-608-9715 Twitter @chaplain Read past columns at www.thechaplain.net.