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Library Notes: Reflecting on challenging times

By P.L. Stiles
Rowan Public Library

During dark and challenging times, stories illuminate shared humanity. Stories of frightened courage, of the anguish of facing mortality, or stories of triumphantly overcoming adversity allow the reader to experience a range of emotions about what it means to be human. Images from stories float through the mind’s eye as one navigates unfamiliar terrain, and remembering these stories comforts, inspires, sometimes delights with humor.  Good stories light the way along uncertain paths, offering moments for reflection and insight.

Here are several stories excellent for reflecting on during these challenging times:

“Union: A Democrat, a Republican, and a search for common ground,” a new book by Jordan Blasheck and Christopher Haugh. Blasheck, a former Marine who served two combat tours overseas, and Haugh, a University of California at Berkeley graduate and former staff member at the U.S. Department of State’s Policy Planning, strike up an unlikely friendship. The two travel the country together to try to better understand one another and the country they both love. The result is the diary of a uniquely American road trip — intriguing, savage and heartbreaking in turns, with funny moments that offer fellow travelers insight, compassion, and encouragement about this beleaguered nation.

“When Plague Strikes: The Black Death, Small Pox, and Aids,” by James Cross Giblin, David Frampton. The book may seem like an odd choice, but the true fascinating stories of other humans in other times coping with previously unimaginable viruses shows life on earth is made of such events. The authors address the research of Louis Pasteur while chronicling the all-too-human actions and reactions to these plagues. They explore how the people learn to make sense of a plague, and how these plagues transformed the sociological, economic, and scientific landscape.

“The Last Lecture,” by Randy Pausch is the true story of the computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, who upon being diagnosed with terminal cancer, gives his last lecture. Entitled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” his lecture talked about the important aspects of living such as overcoming adversity, enabling the dreams of others, and seizing every moment for the precious thing it is. In a time of uncertain change, Pausch helps one remember that change is the only certainty and the value of life in the moment.

“Five People You Meet in Heaven,” by Mitch Albom offers an astonishing narrative of life’s peril, pain and redemption. Albom offers images of joy and redemption from the wounds of emotional and physical war with rare tenderness. The book explores what heaven means when faced with one’s own mortality.

“Love in the Time of Cholera,” by Gabriel García-Márquez offers unforgettable imagery of a timeless love derailed by social divide, rolling years of plague, and tropical Colombian heat. The book reminds the reader that, even through times when death stalks the living, life and love and passion nurture the soul.

All books are available from Rowan Public Library and some are available in ebook and e-audiobook for your reading or listening pleasure.

P.L. Stiles is adult services librarian at the Rowan Public Library.

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