Caregiver Self Care Tip #1–READ!

Reading Self-care tip #1

If you’re a caregiver, you might find yourself with a lot of empty time waiting for things to happen.  From an early age, I learned to fill my empty moments with books, and during my caregiving seasons, I always escaped for a little self-care with a good book.  For the first time, I actually kept track of the books that I read during an entire year. I can’t promise that I remembered to log every single title—but think I did!

For the first time ever, I listened to audiobooks. I did a significant amount of driving over the summer, and I discovered that audiobooks keep me awake on long solo drives (they also almost caused me to run out of gas a time or two when I found myself so immersed in the story that I forgot to look for gas stations). I ended up listening to 11 audio books over the course of the year.

If you’re a caregiver, you might find that listening to audiobooks provides a great escape; you might even discover that listening to an audiobook with the person you care for provides a double benefit of entertaining both you and the one you care for.

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When I first purchased a Kindle reader six years ago, I didn’t think I would use it that often. Now, I don’t use it all—but I do use the Kindle app on my phone and iPad and I read 45 of the 64 books on my list via an electronic device. I love electronic readers because I only spent $20.00 on those 45 books. Many of them cost nothing or under a dollar (I subscribe to BookBub.com which sends a daily email with free or inexpensive books for electronic readers in categories that I choose).

Believe it or not, I only held eight actual books in my hands—a far cry from the girl who baked and sold whole wheat bread so she could purchase her very first book (Justine Morgan Had a Horse by Marguerite Henry back in 1976). After moving so many times (and often into small living spaces), I understand the value of having an electronic library. Now that I’ve upgraded to trifocals, I find I can read on my phone screen just fine—and that means I’m never without a book.

I discovered that I have a difficult time picking favorites, because so many of the books I read had great merit. I present to you the list of favorites from all that I read in 2015:

Biography
Unbroken by Laura Hildabrandt—This book caused hours of angst and wondering if poor Louis Zamperini would ever get out of prison camp. I have a whole new appreciation for all those who serve in the armed forces—especially those who have spent time as prisoners of war.

Emperor of all Maladies: A biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee—I listened to this one on audiobook. I now have a greater understanding of the history of cancer and how fortunate we are that Pedro is alive—I couldn’t believe how recently many of the cancer therapies have been developed. If he had received his diagnosis even five years earlier than he did (2002), he probably wouldn’t be alive today. Yet, we have so much more to learn and discover in treatment, prevention and curing the disease.

Jacksonland: President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John Ross, and a Great American Land Grab by Steve Inskeep—this book might carry the title of Jacksonland, but the hero of the book is John Ross, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Indians during the years surrounding President Andrew Jackson’s acquisition of millions of acres of land belonging to Native Americans through shady treaties and the subsequent signing of the Indian Removal Act.

Thunderstruck by Erik Larson—I love books by Erik Larson, and this biography of the original wireless inventor (Marconi) combined with how the development of the invention helped catch a murderer makes for intense reading.

The Black Count by Tom Reiss—The Count of Monte Cristo holds a place on my (virtual) shelf of all-time favorites. Tom Reiss chronicles the amazing life of Alexander Dumas’ father—whose life story reads almost like one of his son’s adventure books. Alexander Dumas (the father) is one of the few black men revered in French history for his part in the Napoleonic wars.

Dead Wake by Erik Larson—another great book—this one about World War I, British wartime intelligence and the sinking of the Lusitania. I learned a lot about early submarines and Woodrow Wilson along the way.

Missoula: Rape and Justice in a Small Town by Jon Krakaur—every parent should read this book. You can read the review I wrote about it here.

Autobiography
An Unquiet Mind by Dr. Kay Jamison—this book provided just what I needed in a time of great need—information about bipolar disorder. Everyone should read it. We need to stop the stigma surrounding mental illness—and the only way to do this is through education.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls—I’ve read this book three times—two times out loud to my senior English class. I edit the language as I read to them, because the author remains true to the truth and doesn’t edit her father’s words or actions. The kids all have a copy of the book, so they can read those choice words for themselves, but I’m not comfortable reading them out loud. Despite the language, it’s a beautiful story of overcoming the odds, loving the odd-balls in one’s life, and turning out ok despite one’s upbringing in poverty and neglect.

Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan—my daughter lent this book to me, and I couldn’t put it down. It’s an autobiography and medical mystery all rolled into one. Once again, knowledge is power, and we should always educate ourselves!

Religious/Self Help

The Hidden Half of the Gospel by Paul Coneff and Lindsey Gendke—this book is for anyone who has ever felt inadequate, misunderstood, slighted, suffered from abuse or trauma. It’s also for anyone who knows anyone who has suffered—so I guess it’s a book everyone should read.

Fiction
I read a wide variety of fiction books. What appeals to me depends on my mood, so I love the free ebooks because I’ve discovered so many new authors to fit all of my reading moods.

Suspense
Freefall and The Edge of Recall by Kristen Heitzman—if you love edge-of-your-seat suspense with characters who have questions about faith, you’ll love Kristen’s books. She also has a great historical series.
The Blood of Innocents by Amanda Holland (Beta)—this one isn’t out yet, but I predict that it will be within a few years.  It won the ACFW First Impressions contest for 2015 for the suspense/thriller category.  It’s a great detective story—you can find more about Amanda on her Facebook page.

Literary
Sycamore Row by John Grisham—I love a good John Grisham story, and this is one of his best.
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee—you can read the full review here.

Contemporary
Juliette and the Monday ManDates and Renata and the Fall From Grace by Becky Doughty—I got the first one free through Book Bub, and ended up buying the second one. Funny, thought provoking and honest with real characters that struggle with real problems of faith and living out their convictions.

Historical/Inspirational
The Princess Spy, The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest and The Golden Braid by Melanie Dickerson—I love Melanie’s books. They are listed as YA (young adult) inspirational fantasy—code words for fairy tales retold from a Christian perspective for an audience of historical fiction lovers from nine to 99. These are great gifts for the young ladies on your gift list.
After a Fashion by Jen Turano—the author does a great job of blending historical fact, hilarious scenes, well-developed characters and a touch of romance. I’ve loved all of the books of hers that I’ve read.
Fair Play by DeeAnn Gist—I’ve loved DeeAnn’s books since I first started reading them when I moonlighted in a Christian bookstore. They always make me think about my relationships with God and with other people but are never heavy-handed. The historical details and well-rounded characters show her talent for research and understanding of the human condition.

Oldies but Goodies—These books don’t cost a penny (wait, I may have paid a couple of dollars for Crimson Roses because I’ve read it before and wanted to read it again), and I just love them. I’m a sucker for old-fashioned anything, and I love Grace Livingston Hill’s books (her print books always make my moving cut).
Crimson Roses and The Obsession of Victoria Holt by Grace Livingston Hill—I read this book every couple of years because it inspires me to treat my male students as if they are rational human beings who just need a sympathetic champion to encourage them to do what they already know is right.

I’ve read and enjoyed Louis L’Amour books for the last 27 years (Pedro introduced me to them), but I had never read a western by Zane Grey. Once again, I can blame Pedro. He read a few last year and he told me that I’d enjoy them. He was right. They were all free and I ended up downloading five or six of them.  My favorites include, Riders of the Purple Sage, The Rainbow Trail (these two are a series) and Betty Zane (a biography of his grandmother or great grandmother) by Zane Grey.

As a teacher, I’m always on the lookout for awesome books for my students. The two books that really stood out this year were Blink & Caution by Tim Wynne Jones and Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen. Both books are on the gritty side—don’t give them to your teenager to read until you read them first. Blink & Caution took a few chapters to get used to, because one of the characters speaks in second person (eg “You walk into a hotel and you make it to the elevation without anyone seeing you”). Tim Wynne Jones writes from Canada, where he has earned numerous awards. This book will make you rethink homeless kids. They all have a story. All too often we look down on them or pity them but don’t really do anything to understand them.

Touching Spirit Bear deals with anger and what happens when the justice system takes a different approach to dealing with angry kids. Once again, you’ll rethink how we deal with justice and wish we could change things in our system.

I’m always on the lookout for new books to feed my reading addiction! What do you recommend?

Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a ‘recovering cancer caregiver’ who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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  • Really excellent advice, Anita, and a good list.

    On the other side of caregiving, I find reading vital to maintain both morale and a sense of connection with the wider world…especially nonfiction.

    Movies don’t really do it for me, possibly because all cinematic stories (with very few exceptions) are fictionalized, and I suspect that as illness progresses, I need a sense of engagement rather than escape.

    I hope that 2016 has begun well for you and yours, and that the year brings both healing and blessings.
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser recently posted…Your Dying Spouse 100 – Real FearMy Profile

    • I agree completely on the movies, Andrew! I watch very few movies. I’ve sort of fallen in love with audiobooks, though. I can ‘read’ while I drive or run or ride a stationary bike. May the peace of knowing God hold you close in 2016, my friend!
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…You Won’t Regret Going Deeper: Even if it isn’t EasyMy Profile

  • Reading has always been vital to me.I just feel…stagnant without reading. Unbroken is one of my all time favorites. I enjoy Melanie Dickerson’s but nee to get to those two books. I’ve come to love audiobooks as well, first to make driving times more durable, but now I listen while I am getting ready for the day, sometimes while cooking, as well as driving. My #1 book this year was Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest by Edward T. Welch.
    Barbara H. recently posted…Favorite Books of 2015My Profile

  • Don

    Just about anything be Jean Craighead George, but “Vulpes, the Red Fox” and “My Side of the Mountain” tops my list.

  • This is a great list. Loved Unbroken. I will be sharing this with multiple caregivers that I know. I will also share with my mom – who though no longer a caregiver after my grandmother has moved on to Heaven, suffers from the toll the years took. Thank you for your honesty about your journies.

  • Donne

    Estelle Ryan has a great series of books featuring Genevieve Lenard – an autist who works for an insurance agency. Each book has a mystery to be solved and the characters are very well developed. The first one is even free for Kindle readers! http://www.amazon.com/Gauguin-Connection-Book-Genevieve-Lenard-ebook/dp/B008X3NCRE

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