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April 11, 2021
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KSL.com Book Club: 4 books that got us through November

SALT LAKE CITY — Unless you’re skier or a snowboarder, you might be dreading that first big snowstorm of the winter season. I’m talking roads covered with several inches of snow and closures that cancel your plans for the day.

Between pandemic closures and anticipated weather closures, books are going to be great company this winter (and beyond).

Welcome back to the KSL.com Book Club. It’s a book club with a twist where some of the KSL.com team members read a different book and then recap our picks at the end of each month. The goal here is to simply read more and escape real-world distractions, if only for a few pages a day.

This month’s KSL.com Book Club features book picks from social media manager Yvette Cruz, reporter Carter Williams, breaking news reporter Jacob Klopfenstein and copy editor Jordan Ormond. If you think of a book one of us might like based on our book choices and reviews, feel free to let us know!

Yvette’s pick: “Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar” by Cheryl Strayed

“Tiny Beautiful Things” has been on my bookshelf for years now. I kept saving it for a rainy day but it ended up being a better read for a rainy year — aka 2020.

The book is a series of advice columns. You get the letters and then the responses from “Sugar” (Cheryl Strayed), who was once an anonymous online columnist at The Rumpus. While it may seem like a strange read (it did to me at first), it ended up being a beautiful lesson in empathy.

These aren’t the cheesy advice column submissions you might picture. Some of the letters were extremely personal and relatable, while others may upset you or break your heart, but the best part was how Strayed responds to them. She’s honest and kind and has the ability to understand the complex emotions of others. Strayed is also a fantastic writer and shares some of her own life experiences — good and bad — as she offers simple, yet beautiful, advice and different perspectives to her readers and the situations they find themselves in.

Some of these letters and responses will give you a lot to think about when it comes to the human experience and I think that’s something many of us could use this year especially.

Genre: Nonfiction

Who would like this book? Anyone interested in understanding people or the human experience. Also, short story lovers or people who may like to read small chunks of a book in their free time.

“Tiny Beautiful Things” contains profanity, sexual content and abuse that some may find distressing.

My next read: Probably another unread book on my bookshelf.

Carter’s pick: “99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design” By Roman Mars and Kurt Kohlstedt

Have you ever wondered how the little things around a city came to be? The concept of this book is very much the same as Mars’ popular 10-year-old podcast “99% Invisible.” If you haven’t listened, it’s a program that covers the stories — many times odd and interesting — behind things we see daily but don’t dwell on for much time.

For example, a popular version of how roadway centerlines came to be involves a man driving behind a leaking milk truck in 1911 Michigan. As the story goes, Edward Hines followed the truck when he noticed how the leak looked on the road and it inspired him to come up with the concept.

There’s a high degree of detail about everyday life that Mars and Kohlstedt continue to enlighten on as the book continues, from how the biohazard design came together to traffic light colors — and the order they are found in. There is a humorous and fascinating story about a bridge in North Carolina that rose in infamy for the number of trucks that ran into it, and how city leaders and engineers tried to fix the problem. The authors also explain why the sizes of bricks in England grew during the late 1700s as residents tried to bypass a tax issued by the monarchy.

The hundreds of little tidbits scattered throughout the book will change how you view the tiny things around you. In short, it’s everything the podcast is with words and drawings replacing the art of mental imagery.

Genre: Nonfiction, Design, History

Who would like this book? History buffs, fans of trivia or anyone curious about the world around them.

My next read: TBD

Jacob’s pick: “Borne” by Jeff VanderMeer

The world of “Borne” is weird, terrifying and beautiful.

Strange biotech creatures, altered by a mysterious corporation to serve various everyday functions, roam a post-apocalyptic earth that fell apart following some unknown catastrophic event. Scavengers scour a nameless city in search of anything that will help keep them alive for another week.

Oh, and there’s a giant, flying bear that terrorizes the city’s inhabitants.

Protagonist Rachel, a scavenger, one day encounters a shape-shifting creature of unknown origin and names it “Borne.” Her discovery prompts a series of events that unfolds the secrets of the bizarre and fascinating world VanderMeer created in this novel.

It’s truly one of the most inventive and captivating settings I’ve encountered in a book. VanderMeer’s descriptions are vivid and his world-building thorough, but he withholds just enough detail to keep you guessing and wanting more.

Genre: Science Fiction

Who would like this book? It’s bleak and occasionally very violent, but science-fiction lovers and weird fiction aficionados will love “Borne.”

What I’m reading next: I picked up VanderMeer’s “Dead Astronauts,” a standalone novel set in the same world as “Borne,” from the library this week, but first I’m reading “Sisters” by Daisy Johnson.

Jordan’s pick: “What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism” by Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner

Right before the election, I began seeing posts pop up on my social media feeds that highlighted quotes from “What Unites Us.” Some of them really resonated with me, so I picked up the book from the library and thought I’d give it a try. I’m so glad I did.

The book turned out to be a healing balm for all the negative, scary, worrisome feelings I’ve been having as a result of all that’s gone on in the world over the past year. Its message: America has been through bad times before; and when Americans work together, we can defeat our foes and come out better and stronger for having worked together to do so.

Sectioned out into chapters about subjects Americans hold in high esteem — freedom, community, exploration, etc. — the book is a series of essays told through Dan Rather’s eyes, with co-writer Elliot Kirschner serving in a ghostwriter-esque role. Rather shares experiences from his childhood and his decades as a TV news reporter with a front-row seat to history — and what those experiences have taught him about America.

“I would … go onto a career that forced me to confront the often simmering and sometimes explosive injustices of the United States: its bigotry, exploitation, callousness, and corruption. It may seem counterintuitive, but these flaws made me love my country all the more,” Rather says. “For I have seen how a nation can pick itself up and make progress, even at divisive and dysfunctional political moments like the present, when we seem to be spinning backward.”

And later he adds, “It is true that the news headlines often paint a dark and dispiriting picture. But in every community, on every day there are so many who choose to do the right thing.”

This is just a very small sample of the excellent words of wisdom Rather shares. If you’re looking for something to lift your spirits and inspire you to be a better person and a better American, this is your book.

Genre: Nonfiction, History, Politics, Inspirational

Who would like this book? Those who love to learn about America, politics and history … and those who need a little pick-me-up for life.

My next read: I’m still working to finish “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain.

Which book are you most interested in?

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