I am still learning.” 
-Michelangelo, age 87

Must Reads

George R.R. Martin said: “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies…The man who never reads lives only one."

We love to read. Reading provides a window into new ideas and new ways of looking at ourselves, our world, and our relationships with all of it. Reading inspires us, motivates us, and broadens our horizons. Here we will share what we've been reading–both fiction and nonfiction–including titles for the young people in your life.

Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” by Zora Neale Hurston, edited by Deborah G. Plant

barracoonIn Barracoon, author Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) brings the eye and gifts of a novelist, folklorist, and cultural anthropologist to the words and experiences of Cudjo Lewis. Lewis was one of the Africans brought from West Africa to the United States on the last covert slave ship, Clotilda, in 1859, fifty years after the slave trade was outlawed. 

Cudjo Lewis was his American name; he preferred his birth name of Oluale Kossola. Hurston interviewed him in 1927, when he was 86 years of age. He recounted in vivid detail the atrocities African peoples inflicted upon themselves, the greed and inhumanity of slavers, the barracoon huts in which the captured were held, the transatlantic journey, the life of a slave in Alabama, and life after emancipation. She honors Kossola’s storytelling sensibility–rooted as it is in Africa–and maintains his vernacular diction.  

These accounts were too raw for mid-twentieth century publishers, and the manuscript came to light long after Hurston’s death. As author and social activist Alice Walker wrote in her foreword, Zora Neale Hurston “gets the grisly story from one of the last people able to tell it.”


Learn more about Barracoon or order it from our Bookshop HERE.

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman

The Bookish Life of Nina HillThis book opens with two epigraphs that give us a picture of the protagonist: “Solitude is independence” (Hermann Hesse) and “Independence is happiness” (Susan B. Anthony). Nina Hill, the protagonist, is quite content with her life focused as it is on her cat, Phil; her job in an independent bookstore (Angelenos will recognize the beloved Chevalier’s); and her winning Trivia Contest team, Book ‘Em Danno. She is edged out of her comfortable shell by two concurrent events: the discovery of a family about which she had not known and an unexpected spark of interest in her trivia nemesis, Tom. The Bookish Life of Nina Hill is a quirky, funny, and deeply thoughtful read. Pure enjoyment.


Learn more about The Bookish Life of Nina Hill or order it from our Bookshop HERE.

The Well of Being: A Picture Book for Adults

The Well of Being: A Picture Book for Adults

This past Christmas, I gifted Jean-Pierre Weill’s The Well of Being: A Picture Book for Adults (Flatiron Books, 2016) to a number of friends. I stumbled upon it a couple of years ago when I was devouring hundreds of picture books for children as part of my MFA studies. With one or two lines of text per double-page spread, The Well of Being is indeed a picture book. Only rather than filling 32 pages, Weill’s masterpiece tops out at nearly 200. And every page is exquisite.

So I added it to my collection, where it sat untouched for many months. Then in 2020, it found its way back into my hands, filling my artists’ well and reminding me of what I know to be true: “Well-being is generated not from the outside but from the inside.”

As he puzzles and paints his way through an intimate, layered, and often humorous exploration of the nature of being, Weill’s spare, lyrical text and evocative watercolor illustrations provoke, inspire, and delight. Every time I open it, I discover something new on the page – a word, a phrase, a color, a texture – that touches and uplifts me in spite of the chaos and uncertainty.

As 2020 came to a close, I was compelled to put Weill’s magical exploration of being into new hands, and my friends immediately began gifting the book to others. The Well of Being is that kind of book.

“We appreciate the fleeting marginal things scattered everywhere. And when there’s drama about, we remain at home in the world,” Weill tells us.

Yes, we do.

Take that, 2020.


Learn more about The Well of Being or order it from our Bookshop HERE.

The New Rules of Aging Well - A Simple Program for Immune Resilienc, Strength, and Vitality

The New Rules of Aging Well - A Simple Program for Immune Resilienc, Strength, and Vitality

Opening the Door to Health and Longevity

From the renowned integrative doctor Frank Lipman comes a radically simple program to reverse the symptoms we reflexively call “normal aging,” including feeling achy, stiff, sluggish, weak, and vulnerable to chronic illness. This improves not only our life span but, more importantly, our health span—our quality of life and how we feel.

Built on a series of lifestyle changes that energize the body and build and strengthen its immune system, The New Rules of Aging Well is based on ancient wisdom backed up by science: Eat less and practice intermittent fasting. Do 20 minutes a day of something meditative. Switch to gentler workouts, but move as much as possible. Unlock the incredible power of mushrooms. Grow your tribe. Walk barefoot when you can.

The result: a rejuvenated you that looks great and feels healthy, happy, sexy, agile, and strong.


Learn more about The New Rules of Aging Well or order the book at our Bookshop HERE.

The Book of Longings is a Masterpiece

The Book of Longings is a Masterpiece

Our Brain Candy Book Club has been reading Sue Monk Kidd’s The Book of Longings: A Novel. And it’s getting rave reviews from the whole group. 

The premise is what if Jesus had a wife? The Book of Longings is written in the first person from the main character Ana’s point of view. And yes, Ana is the wife of Jesus, but she is much more.

Longings is not a religious treatise; rather, it is an emotionally evocative work of fiction that explores the life of a woman, who longs to write, living in an age when very few women were literate and even fewer had the freedom to choose their own path.

As always, Kidd’s writing is fresh, sensual, and lyrical, and her deep historical research is evident. Ana is a beautifully drawn character – in turns willful, rebellious, kind, and passionate. Her voice drew me in from the very first sentence and kept me turning the page. 

In her author’s note, Kidd writes: “The day Ana appeared, I knew one thing about her besides her name. I knew that what she wanted most was a voice. If Jesus actually did have a wife, and history unfolded exactly the way it has, then she would be the most silenced woman in history and the woman most in need of a voice. I’ve tried to give her one.”

Kidd tried and succeeded.


Learn more about The Book of Longings or order it from our Bookshop HERE.

Books About Ruth Bader Ginsburg for Children of All Ages (including you!)

Books About Ruth Bader Ginsburg for Children of All Ages (including you!)

* From Baby Feminists by Libby Babbott-Klein and Jessica Walker.*

Looking for a book for introducing a young person to the Notorious RBG? Or maybe even a quick, entertaining read for yourself?  Here are some of my favorites in order by age group. Happy reading!  - Mo

BabyFem1Baby Feminists by Libby Babbott-Klein and Jessica Walker – a lift-the-flap board book for ages 0-3. Lift the flap to discover what femnist icons Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Mae Jemison, Frida Kahlo, Barack and Michelle Obama, Gloria Steinem, Dorothy Pitman Hughes, Billie Jean King, Yoko Ono, and Malala Yousafzai might have looked like as infants and toddlers. 

 I Look Up To…Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Anna Membrino and Fatti Burke – a board book for ages 2-4. Part of the “I Look Up To..” series that introduces babies, toddlers, and preschoolers to inspiring women.

I Dissent Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy and Elizabeth Baddeley – a picture book for ages 5-9. This was the first picture book about RBG, and it’s my favorite. It introduces children to the power of dissent and speaking up for justice while also showing that you can vehemently disagree with someone and remain friends.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Case of R.B.G. vs. Inequality

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Case of R.B.G. vs. Inequality by Jonah Winter and Stacy Innerst – a picture book for ages 6-9. "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury: During this trial, you will learn about a little girl who had no clue just how important she would become." Justice Ginsburg’s story is presented in the form of a court case. And it’s a page turner. 

NotorioNotorious RGBus RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg - Young Readers' Edition by Irin Carmen and Shana Knizhnik ­– a 200-page, full-color edition for ages 8-13. Cheeky, fun, full of pop culture references, photos, and illustrations.  

Becoming RGB

Becoming RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Journey to Justice by Debbie Levy and Whitney Gardner – a graphic novel biography for ages 10 and up. A compelling and empowering, cinematically rendered portrayal of the life of RGB from shy child to Supreme Court legend. If you enjoy graphic novels as much as I do, you’ll love this one.

Dissenter On the Bench

Dissenter on the Bench: Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Life and Work by Victoria Ortiz – a biography with black and white archival photos for ages 13 and up. Each of the ten chapters highlights one court case alongside one aspect of Ginsburg's life, from her childhood to the influence of her faith on her work to her judicial career. Readers also get a better picture of how America's legal system works, and how cases reach the Supreme Court. A 2020 Sydney Taylor Honor Book.


Learn more about these book or order them our Bookshop HERE.



Ageless Women, Timeless Wisdom; Witty, Wicked, and Wise Reflections on Well-Lived Lives

Ageless Women, Timeless Wisdom; Witty, Wicked, and Wise Reflections on Well-Lived Lives

Review by: Leslie Nordby

Ageless Women, Timeless Wisdom; Witty, Wicked, and Wise Reflections on Well-Lived Lives by Dr. Lois Frankel. 

Dr. Frankel is a psychotherapist, executive coach and now a documenter of women’s unique lives. The women included were septuagenarian to nonagenarian, with a few centenarians; some are from an earlier time and are deceased; others very much alive. The book opens with the Hasidic Proverb, “For the unlearned, old age is winter. For the learned, it is the season of the harvest.”

This is a treasure trove of wisdom from women who revel in their season of harvest. Full of life stories, memorable quotes, gentle advice, insights and inspiration, the book’s text is complemented throughout by the artwork of Lisa Graves- photos of contributors, photos of nature, and charming drawings.

Perhaps the best way to introduce this book is to share some of what the women interviewed said:

  • “Do a good deed and throw it in the flowing river, never expecting anything in return” – ZN, Republic of Georgia
  • “If life gives you lemons…look for the vodka”- JM, California
  • “Change is the one constant. Don’t waste your time looking for stability. Stay open to whatever happens” – EM, Pennsylvania
  • “Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many.” – EL, Scotland
  • “Chi ha tempo non aspetti tempo… simple Italian phrase that means ‘lost time is never found again; do not postpone what you can do now’.” – ND, France

A beautiful homage to the wisdom and ongoing relevance and vitality of elders.


Learn more about Ageless Women, Timeless Wisdom or order it at our Bookshop HERE.

Better with age: The Psychology of Successful Aging

Successful Aging Demystified

Better With AgeAlan Castel’s book on successful aging is a boon for seniors curious about how to age better and live longer. Castel is a professor of psychology at UCLA and a forward thinker in the field of aging. Better with age is a very readable book that provides an abundance of information on a variety of different aspects of aging. There is some brief information on brain function and cognition as well as memory issues that we confront as we age. His discussion on how to stay sharp as we age is worth the price of admission for this book. You can also rely on Castel to dispel some of the rumors and false narratives around brain training that has become such a big commercial success directed at seniors. This well written, well researched, and very readable book is worth reading and having in your library.


Learn more about Better With Age: The Pyschology of Successful Aging or order it from our Bookshop HERE.

Books for Babies

10LittleFingersPeople are always asking me what books they should gift to the young people in their lives. So I am going to use my book review space to recommend books for children and teens. I will create lists of fiction and nonfiction, spanning a variety of genres and interests, for all ages. 

Let's start with babies. Most of us are aware that reading to newborns is integral to their development, but many of us don't know of a single title published after Good Night Moon. 

What books could you take to a baby shower or suggest a pregnant couple add to their gift registry? 

Here's a list of beautifully written and illustrated read alouds crafted with the kinds of words, rhythms, concepts, and illustrations that delight and engage wee ones.

First, I recommend any and all books written by Mem Fox. She is masterful. My favorites include:

 Other titles, authors, and illustrators I love:

 For more information or to order any of these books, go to our Bookshop HERE.

Time to Fly: Life and Love After Loss

Time To FlyThis is a compelling book about loss, love, and one woman's courageous journey of discovering one's life purpose in the face of a world enexpectedly turned upside down. 

I had the good fortune to meet and spend two weeks with Eileen Robertson Hamra at a small, intimate retreat in Hawaii designed to create clarity and structure for adults looking for freedom and purpose in thier lives. At that time, Eileen had been widowed for less than a year. She was at the retreat to create a future for herself and her three small children that honored her husband Brian Robertson but also allowed Eileen to move forward in becoming the inspirational leader she was meant to be. 

This is a story that will move and inspire, no matter where you are in life. We have all experienced loss in one form or another; loss of a spouse, a parent, a loved one, or maybe a reversal of fortune that shakes us to the core.  A Time to Fly: Life and Love After Loss is a book you can't put down. You are pulled into Eileen's journey in such an intimate way you feel as though you are part of her story. Eileen shows us all that it is possible to move forward and create a life larger and more inclusive than we have imagined, one that is filled with meaning and happiness.


Learn more about Time to Fly or order it from our Bookshop HERE.

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