Book Corner: Grateful for Books

I’ve long maintained that I prize books for their ability to take me out of my reality, if just for a bit, and distract my often-overwhelmed brain from its incessant chatter. And, in this twisted apocalypse we call 2020, I rely on that escapism even more. (However, I must add that I’m pretty fortunate in the grand scheme of things—I’m just being a bit dramatic.) 

But there’s more to reading than just a vacation for the brain. Books are a means to establish common grounds, even when there seem none to be found. They can make us cry or belly laugh, unleashing emotions we usually bottle up, leaving us calmer in their wake. Books educate us, inspire us, and scare us silly. They make our hearts pound and provide hours of entertainment. Reading the stories of others, whether fictional or otherwise, fosters empathy and shows us the way toward overcoming adversity and building resilience. They expand our horizons and help us explore diverse perspectives.

For all those reasons and more, I’m thankful for the books in my life—past, present, and future. I’m thankful for the privilege of being taught to read early in life and having unlimited access to reading material in its many formats. 

Here are several books that I’m grateful to have read or listened to:

The Long Way to A Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
Is there such a thing as cozy sci-fi? There is now. Listening to this book was like being among a diverse, quirky cast of friends on their journey through outer space.

Haben: The Deafbind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law by Haben Girma
I’m a fan of Haben after reading her book and seeing her speak live last winter. Her story illustrates the power of resilience and grit in overcoming adversity, all told with a good dose of humor.

Get A Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
A smart, funny novel where the main character suffers from a chronic illness and doesn’t fit the mold of your typical romance heroine. I’m not a romance reader by nature but really enjoyed the escape this one provided.

Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby
All about Irby’s adventures in turning 40, which, as a 40-something myself, I can relate to. Her audio narration is deadpan funny and often raunchy (I’m always up for a good dose of raunch).

The Know-it-all by A.J. Jacobs
Jacobs decides to read the entire Encyclopædia Britannica from A-Z in a quest to become the smartest person on Earth. Hilarity ensues when Jacobs tries to insert his newfound knowledge into everyday conversation.

From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home by Tembi Locke
Locke’s audiobook narration is stellar as she works through the loss of her beloved husband and how it brings her closer to her Sicilian mother-in-law. You can practically feel the Sicilian sunshine on your face as you absorb Locke’s poignant writing.

The Soul of An Octopus by Sy Montgomery
I love learning about animals and their behavior. I also love naturalist Sy Montgomery. Her experience with some brilliant octopuses (no, it’s not octopi) will dazzle you.

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski
The Nagoski sisters present research about stress and burnout while providing realistic, not hokey, ways for women to understand themselves and complete the stress cycle. I enjoyed it so much I’m now listening to their podcast, “Feminist Survival Project 2020.” 

Abundance Now: Amplify Your Life and Achieve Prosperity Today by Lisa Nichols
Through books like Nichols’ “Abundance Now,” I learned the difference between a poverty mindset and a growth mindset. Nichols presents practical tips on embracing a growth mentality to achieve the life you want. 

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson, et al.
A must-read for advice on handling difficult conversations for any situation, complete with research on why we react the way we do in certain situations. Interesting and useful!

Get personalized reading recommendations from your very own librarian! Visit to meet Central Rappahannock Regional Library staff and submit a request or browse our My Librarian picks.

Tracy McPeck is the adult services coordinator at Central Rappahannock Regional Library. This column first appeared in the Free Lance-Star newspaper.