This past month, I’ve managed to sneak in six quality books. I’ve passionately wanted to discuss each and every one of them. Just ask the poor lady in the washroom stall between WidowBadass and me, where I urgently gushed out my thoughts on “Go Set a Watchman,” Nerd alert!! I doubt that poor lady ever visited that particular washroom again!

When it comes to my usual “What’s On Your Bookshelf,” I tend to save discussing the last book I read for the next month’s post. This practice spares you, the reader, from overly long reads. It also gives me a reading cushion and a headstart on next month’s WOYBS. However, this month is an exception. I’m giving you the entire reading shebang! All the books I read were deserving of their high star rating, each with its own unique charm. Moreover, they led me down a series of rabbit holes from which I have (hopefully) just emerged.
Feel free to choose your preferred level of detailed reading and scrolling for this post. If you’ve read any of the following books or would like to discuss them, I’m all ears…or rather eyes! Each book listed below is highly discussion-worthy. Let’s dive right in, shall we?

Innocence and Injustice

I have long known the story of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’ Still, my recent reading of it rendered me speechless. I felt as though I was simultaneously embraced, empowered, and punched in the stomach.

Harper Lee’s talent, insight, and courage completely captivated me. I didn’t merely fall, I eagerly leapt into numerous rabbit holes about Lee’s background and the real-life historical aspects intricately woven into her narrative.

The gut-wrenching impact of this novel stems from its timeless tragedy, i.e. the harsh reality that racism, prejudice, social inequity, and injustice continue to persist rampantly in our society today.

Lee’s wisdom in narrating this story through the lens of a child is a poignant reminder that injustice can only prevail when we allow it. Tirelessly, Lee’s words urge us to persist in our efforts to create a more compassionate society, to refrain from hastily judging others, and to summon the courage to confront and challenge prejudice.

If you haven’t read or reread ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ lately, I strongly recommend it. It’s a powerful book to discuss with others, which is exactly what I plan to do. You’ve been warned!

5+ Stars

Provocative Read With Misleading Hype

I was not expecting to become so absorbed in reading “Go Set a Watchman.” Yet, become absorbed, I did — deeply!
In “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the character of Atticus Finch is presented as a moral compass and a symbol of integrity. He has been beloved by readers and movie-goers for decades. In “Go Set a Watchman,” set in the 1950s during the early days of the civil rights movement, Atticus Finch is a much more complex figure.

He is involved with a citizens’ council that opposes racial integration, which shocks his daughter (main character, Scout) and most readers, who have grown up idolizing Atticus for his strong sense of justice.
This revelation forces Scout (and, again, the reader) to confront the complexity of Atticus’s character. It challenges previous perceptions of the world and people known and loved. This is a central theme of the novel, exploring the disillusionment and struggle many faced during this era — and sadly continue to face today. The portrayal of Atticus Finch in “Go Set a Watchman” raises questions about the nature of heroism and the imperfections that can exist even within revered individuals.
Were there flaws in this novel? Absolutely! The plot can meander, and the narrative frequently jumps between past and present, disrupting the flow of the storyline. However, many of the conversations are heartwrenchingly brilliant.
Both “Mockingbird” and “Watchman” plea for our increased empathy. However, both do so in very different ways with very different stakes. Reading the latter was so emotionally charged for me I seriously needed to lie down.
If you are a fan of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and would like to know more about the author’s original thoughts and purposes in creating this story, I highly recommend reading “Go Set A Watchman.” However, it is essential to do so with an open mind and to remember that “Watchman” is the parent to ‘Mockingbird,’ not the sequel.

Due to its complexities, I did not give this book a star rating.

Putting an end to my rabbit hole tumbles

“Mockingbird Songs, My Friendship with Harper Lee” by Wayne Flynt is a compelling compilation of letters exchanged between Nelle Harper Lee, her sisters, and Flynt. With much hype, controversy, and contradictory information surrounding Harper Lee, this book offers a unique opportunity to read Lee’s own words on many of these hotly debated topics.

It dispels much of the misinformation that has often clouded our understanding of this reclusive author and her two extensively discussed literary works.
This collection includes a copy of “Atticus’s Vision of Ourselves,” a tribute Wayne Flynt delivered to Harper Lee in 2006 upon her receiving the Birmingham Pledge Foundation Award for her contributions to racial justice. Harper Lee requested that Flynt share this at her funeral, which he did five years later. This tribute delves into the profound lessons people worldwide have drawn from the pages of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ focusing on racial justice, class, differences, and community themes.
Flynt swiftly captures the essence of Harper Lee’s message in ‘Mockingbird’: the imperative to confront the darkness within ourselves. He underscores that Bob Ewell, the character, is no more accountable for Tom Robinson’s death than the ‘good folks’ of Maycomb who remained silent in the face of injustice. This tribute has valuable insights into our present day and is, as such, a must-read. It is conveniently available online at no cost.
I now have a much better understanding of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ ‘Go Set a Watchman’ and the author, Harper Lee, due to the letters in this book, as well as the anecdotes and eulogy. Many of my nagging questions surrounding Lee and her works have now been laid to rest (and I can hopefully stop my numerous rabbit hole tumbles regarding them)!
4.5 stars

If David Copperfield was Alive Today

There’s been significant buzz surrounding Barbara Kingsolver’s “Demon Copperhead” since its release in October 2022. In a nutshell, this is an unapologetic portrayal of life—a sprawling tapestry that’s devastatingly heartbreaking yet maintains an undeniable glimmer of hope.

This epic masterpiece showcases Kingsolver’s storytelling prowess, her sharp talent for vivid description and emotional depth, as well as her expertise for exploring timeless societal truths, i.e. sadly, little has changed since the Victorian era in terms of marginalizing and ignoring the disadvantaged.
A definite must-read. 5+ stars from me!

Why Did I Walk Into This Room?


Firmly grounded in science, “Remember” is an easy and compelling read. I quickly devoured it in two sittings. It provides insights into how memory operates, the reasons behind forgetting, and practical ways to enhance memory. It bridges the gap between scientific research on memory and its real-world applications, empowering readers to better understand and improve their memories.

With an engaging conversational style, the author grounds in research many brain health strategies that most of us know but far too often neglect. These strategies include the importance of a healthy diet (e.g. a blend of the Mediterranean and DASH diets), regular exercise, mental stimulation, social interaction, proper hydration, stress management, maintaining a positive outlook, and, most crucially, prioritizing both the quality and quantity of sleep.

This book offered precisely what I needed to read at this time. Moreover, it provides an excellent foundation for meaningful discussions. I immediately tried “the penny test” on my husband. Like most others, he failed miserably!

5 Stars.

The Universe Has Been Sending Me A Message

“This Is How We Grow: Stories and Poems for Perspective Taking,” edited by Yvette Prior, is a compelling anthology of memoirs, poetry, and essays that illustrate the transformative potential of seeking to understand others. This anthology challenges readers to reconsider assumptions, emphasizing the disparity between perception and reality. It advocates for withholding judgments, urging us to explore deeper truths beyond initial impressions.

Featuring both established and emerging voices, this book weaves together a rich tapestry of experiences, showcasing differing perspectives. The stories are deeply personal and moving, making it impossible to select a favourite. That being said, please do not skim over the introduction. It is crucial in setting the tone for a distinctive and meaningful reading experience.

Congratulations to Yvette Prior and the contributing authors who generously shared their authentic stories with us. Their collective effort produced an anthology that entertains and educates while inviting readers to reflect on their own growth and understanding of the human experience.

5 Stars. Highly recommended.

So what’s been on your bookshelf, kindle, library holds or ‘to be read’ pile lately? Please share in the comments, on FB, by ‘contact me’ or through the Link Up below. I’d really love to hear from you!…

Published by Retirement Reflections

Prior to retirement, I lived and worked in Beijing China for fourteen years (Middle School Principal/Deputy Director at The Western Academy of Beijing). Leaving international life behind, my husband and I retired to Vancouver Island in June 2015. To document both this transition and our new adventures, ‘Retirement Reflections’ was born. I hope that you enjoy reading these reflections, and will be willing to share your own.
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