On the eve of the release of Barack Obama’s memoir (part 1), I want to take a few moments to reflect on Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming. If you have not had the opportunity to read it yet, I highly recommend doing so. It would also be a wonderful Christmas gift for any woman in your life.
Ms. Obama’s story is captivating in its relatable nature for all women who struggle with work life balance and in her telling of the life of an extremely exclusive group—First Ladies of the United States of America. I found it to be a story of resilience, hope, and courage. I keep it on my bookshelf for inspiration, and believe it belongs on every woman’s bookshelf for the same reason.
She describes growing up in a working-class family in Chicago and how she managed to climb the socioeconomic ladder through the determined efforts of loving, hard-working parents combined with her own intelligence, work ethic, and drive to succeed. Ms. Obama talks about achieving her definition of success, only to have to redefine it according to evolving values that included a family of her own. Seeing Barack Obama through her eyes prior to his political rise and in his roles as husband and father was both insightful and intriguing as was her perspective on their road to the White House and her experience as First Lady. Her story concludes with her description of their transition from the People’s house that had been their home for eight years.
So many women can relate to Ms. Obama’s struggle to retain her own identity separate from her husband and family and to maintain some semblance of work-life balance. In a nod to her courage and sparkle, I recommend Valor Cava—a Spanish sparkling wine—to join you and Ms. Obama as you share her journey. It can be a bit bumpy at times, but overall, it’s a true joy ride.
As a huge Harry Dresden fan, I’ve looked forward to the next books in the Dresden Files series for years, and author Jim Butcher did not disappoint, giving fans not just one, but two new books within three months.
The duology of Peace Talks and Battleground not only continue the Dresden series, but take the conflict to a new level, as the supernatural and human worlds collide in wizard Harry Dresden’s Chicago. I recommend reading them together because Peace Talks lays the groundwork that leads you straight into Battleground.
Peace Talks sets the stage with a convergence of the supernatural world’s most powerful in Chicago to negotiate peace between factions. The wizards of the White Council are tasked with security, but it becomes clear that unknown forces are working not only against the negotiations, but to set the powers that be on a collision course. Unfortunately for Harry, they use his brother as a pawn to set their plans in motion, complicating his already precarious position as a member of the White Council and requiring Harry to somehow protect his brother and the negotiations simultaneously. When an ancient power rises to crash the party and threatens to destroy Chicago with an indestructible magical artifact, the situation becomes dire, leading us to Battleground.
In Battleground, we watch Chicago burn when a Titan advances on the city, bringing her hatred to bear against humanity and causing Chicago’s human inhabitants to struggle for survival against supernatural forces that come out openly into the night to claim Chicago as their war zone. To protect the city and people he loves, Harry calls upon all of his powers as wizard, Winter Knight, and as the keeper of Merlin’s supernatural island prison. Unable to end the existence of a deity with such power, Harry and his allies seek to imprison her instead, but to accomplish that feat, they must first wage a strategic and costly battle against the Titan and her armies.
The Arsonist Red Blend is the perfect wine to drink while you enjoy Harry’s latest adventures. A dry and full-bodied wine that blends Petit Verdot with Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, it’s well-balanced with a deep red color and just a hint of fruit. It also has a price point (find it here) that supports buying two bottles–one to go with each installment of Butcher’s Dresden duology.
Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens, is a beautiful, lyrical read. Her descriptions of the North Carolina marsh and its inhabitants bring them to life, which makes sense considering she’s a wildlife scientist with a B.S. in Zoology.
Though the story is heart wrenching at times, the quiet independent strength of its young heroine, Kya, draws the reader in. The need to know how she survives sweeps you along with her like the tides she rides in her Pa’s old and battered boat.
A survivor of abuse and abandonment, Kya becomes a creature of the land that feeds, protects, and sustains her even as most of humanity turns its back, or worse, judges and shames her. Despite her independence and love for the marsh and its creatures, Kya longs for human interaction, touch, and acceptance. Kya’s story takes you to a beautiful and dangerous world where she must learn who she can trust as she fights for her life and her freedom.
I recommend Seaside Cellars Pinot Noir to join you as you immerse yourself in Kya’s world. This light red wine is fruity with a hint of a spicy finish, which is a perfect accompaniment to this coming-of-age story. Plus, it has a good price point at around $12/bottle.
My book club recently readLittle Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng. The friend who suggested it loved it so much that she also watched the series starring Reese Witherspoon and listened to it on Audible.
I enjoyed the book and found its story to be compelling and timely. Ms. Ng does an incredible job of illustrating the subtle inherent attitudes and perspectives that are so often embedded in lives and people of privilege–even those who believe themselves to be self-aware, or in modern terminology, “woke”.
In this well-crafted and character-driven work, Ms. Ng tells the story of a family of privilege with mostly good intent, and the impact that a single mother and her daughter, who have grown up far from the family’s privileged and ordered lives, has on the way each family member views the world and the people who live in it. For certain family members, that impact is profound and life changing, while for others, the doors to their minds are opened a just bit wider, allowing them to consider realities other than what they have experienced in their lives thus far.
Ms. Ng makes these characters real through their complexity and the cross-patterns of their daily lives, which will be familiar to most who have lived in American suburban communities. The actions of privilege and the reasoning behind them is expertly demonstrated in the ways that the Richardsons, especially Elena (Reese Witherspoon) interact with the artistic and empathetic Mia Warren (Kerry Washington) and her intelligent and introspective daughter, Pearl (Lexi Underwood). To the Richardson children, the Warrens’ lifestyle is appealing in its differentiation from their own. To Ms. Richardson, that differentiation–the freedom and unstructured nature of it–is not only disquieting but poses a threat to all that she believes in, to the very fabric of her life and the choices she’s made in weaving it.
Matchbook Chardonnay is the perfect pairing for Little Fires Everywhere. Golden and buttery, it has a smooth finish that makes it difficult to follow Ms. Richardson’s example and have just one glass. Happy reading!