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Praise-worthy reads to stimulate and inspire

McHenry County Magazine

November prompts a time to give thanks and express gratitude. I also see it as a time to give praise. Giving out compliments is an honest way to help friends and family feel good while having to undergo the stressful tasks of making out gift lists and figuring out who is going to cook the Thanksgiving Day turkey. 

So, let the compliments flow by sending a text message, email or even a hand-written letter. Perhaps you could send a friend or family member a new book as a random act of appreciation. 

The following books make it easy to give praise, and I hope they will provide you with inspiration and stimulation this season.  

By Ian McEwan

A murderous plot unfolds when Trudy, a woman who is nine-months pregnant, begins an affair with the doltish uncle of the child, Claude. If this story sounds familiar, McEwan seems to be retelling Shakespeare’s classic Hamlet play, only – this time – “Hamlet” is unnamed, and unborn. 

The unborn child must rely on sensitive sensory stimulation from the womb, while he desperately tries to thwart his mother and uncle’s plan. He perceives nervousness in his murderous mother’s gut, and is able to detect (and crave) the occasional fine glass of wine (permitted by a lenient approach to how much alcohol a fetus can tolerate). If you are expecting sanitized “baby talk,” you will be surprised. This narrator speaks more like a professor at Oxford than a child, which adds an element of humor to an otherwise sinister plot. 

This book is a delightful read, and a fantastic answer to what must have been a simmering  question in the writer’s mind. One part mystery, one part humor and one part revisionist theater, this book is a must-read. 

‘After Visiting Friends: A Son’s Story’
By Michael Hainey 

Michael Hainey, current editor of Esquire magazine, penned this memoir a few years ago. The story details his search for answers about his father’s death. Hainey’s father died when he was just 6 years old and, according to obituaries, “after visiting friends.” The lack of information about these aforementioned “friends” leads Hainey to some personal detective work about his father’s death. The process brings him closer to his mother and family, and helps him find closure that he didn’t know he needed. 

This book was recommended by a fellow coworker in my book club. It seems that most libraries carry quite a few copies, and I was delighted to see a string of Chicago historical events laced between the lines of this story. I definitely recommend this book for those who enjoy a Chicago-based read. 

‘52 Lists of Happiness: Weekly Journaling Inspiration for Positivity, Balance, and Joy’
By Moorea Seal 

Journaling for me is always a challenge. I can acknowledge the benefits of journaling as a practice (especially as someone who likes to write), but I find blank pages to be intimidating. 

In this new journal, there is guidance for list making that reflects on joyful thoughts and activities. I have to wonder if Ms. Seal consulted peer-reviewed research on the subject of gratitude journals (evidence-based for enhanced well-being in many populations). These lists include suggestions for acting on what makes us happy, and putting positive action to positive thought is always a good thing. 

So, when the stress of the holidays are upon you, and the lists you make are for trips to the grocery store for Thanksgiving dinner, pick up this treat for yourself. You won’t regret it. 

Sandra Manley, LSW, grew up in Island Lake, IL. She is an Oncology Social Worker at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center, specializing in Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology and Solid Tumors. In her spare time she can be found roasting vegetables in her oven, enjoying a very dark cup of coffee, and of course, reading. You can follow what she is reading on Goodreads: 

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