Books have always felt like bread and water to me. Necessary. Daily. Delicious.

I am finding that to be even more true as I round the final bend of book writing. There seems to be an almost exact correlation between words in and words out.

These days, I am reading in order to keep the sounds and rhythms of good writing foremost in my mind. I am reading to jolt new ideas. I am reading to learn. I am reading to rest. It usually takes a book to shut my own book out of my head for a while.

Here is a little bit of what I’ve been reading.

You can find all the book recommendations in my occasional Saturday series right here. These posts contain affiliate links.

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I never, ever recommend books I haven’t actually finished, but I’m making an exception for Jean Hersey’s The shape of a year. This book is a vintage gem, and I think I bought my copy for one dollar plus shipping. It’s worth fifty times that.

Hersey was a garden writer, and this book observes the four seasons on her rural Connecticut property with curiosity and joy. This is a book all about the simple pleasures of the seasons. It begins in January, and I have only allowed myself to read through March (because I want to walk through all of this year with this book nearby).

Some might complain that nothing much happens. It’s true that this isn’t a book full of human dramas. But Hersey knows what everyone with eyes to really see the world around them has discovered. There is always something happening.

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I am afraid that the lady doth protest too much because I find myself recommending one more book I haven’t quite finished. Perhaps that is the true theme of this post: Books I’ve Partly Read! But the new nonfiction book by the novelist Ann Patchett is another one for savoring. I could sit down and read it in one gulp, but it’s January. Self-control and discipline are in the air this time of year.

This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage is a collection of essays and magazine pieces. Together they explore everything from how and why Patchett became a writer to what it’s like to try out for the Los Angeles police department. There’s a great bit about an RV road trip.

Patchett’s book is funny and fun. It hits all the buttons for me right now. Good writing that prompts new thinking in a collection that makes a restful, distracting escape.

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This third book I not only finished but finished quickly. It is that mythical beast known as a page-turner. Fortunately, it is also well written and gives you a great deal to think about. It is Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey.

This is a psychological mystery with a dose of historical fiction, but, mostly, it is a powerful portrait of growing older and of care-giving. I dare anyone to read this book without growing in empathy and compassion for the elderly.

What are you reading these days? And, perhaps more importantly, why?

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