Perhaps, with the new year approaching, you’ve found yourself in an introspective mood. Consider these three nonfiction titles to frame the year ahead as 2020 draws to a close.
Slow down and invite solace into your life by turning to Katherine May’s new memoir, “Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times” (Riverhead Books). This intimate personal journey, set during the wintry months of October through March, opens with May’s impending 40th birthday celebration. It is marred by the sudden illness of her husband, “H.” Although he recovers, May’s life is altered. Prior to this, she has taken a leave from her teaching job, without examining her financial situation. Now she’s worried. Casually, she adds that during childhood she had been diagnosed as autistic. Alone at home — “H” is mentioned only a few more times in this tale — and entrusted with the care of her young son, she must find a way to survive.
“But here it is,” May writes, “my winter. It’s an open invitation to transition into a more sustainable life and to wrest back control over the chaos I’ve created … I’ve learned the skill set of wintering the hard way.”
The core ingredients of her healing are traveling, exploring other cultures, spending time in nature and maintaining a healthy, balanced life. A failed attempt at baking offers a few lighthearted moments. The reader will also find comfort in May’s poetic vision, gorgeous prose and wealth of insights. She provides ample food for thought: “Life goes on abundantly in winter. Changes made here will usher us into future glories.”
The calm assurance you thus gain dissipates when you pick up a copy of “Rude: Stop Being Nice and Start Being Bold” (Simon & Schuster). Penned by Rebecca Reid, a columnist, novelist and digital editor, it is a guide for women to stand up for themselves, with an emphasis on how much of a need there is to do so. Reid had noticed in herself and others that women are often people-pleasers; they don’t speak up when they should. “We share nicely, instead of grabbing the space we need.” As a result, women get less than they deserve. This causes Reid to introduce the term “positive rudeness.” “Positive rudeness is about judging that your wants and needs are at least as important as everyone else’s and then acting accordingly.”
In chapters titled Rude to Your Friends, Rude to Your Family, Rude about Sex and so on, Reid offers tools to enable women to be more assertive. She leads us through sex, dating, female friendships, even customer service situations, picking and choosing circumstances when to be impertinent, and illustrating via examples. At the end of each chapter, she profiles a celebrity who has been perceived to be rude by the society but who, nonetheless, has gloriously “made it.” Examples are Meghan Markle, Rosa Parks and Tallulah Bankhead. Some of Reid’s tactics might not appeal to everyone. However, the reader is likely to be assured by her remarks: “You are not obligated to view rudeness like a religion. Rudeness is more like a superpower; it is something that you deploy as and when you see fit.”
Putting this winning strategy aside for a moment, let’s consider our health and longevity. Who doesn’t worry about such matters? The question, however, remains: Can you live a long life without getting old, i.e., remain youthful and vigorous till the end? This paradox — the contradictory nature of this statement — is the subject of “The Longevity Paradox: How to Die Young at a Ripe Old Age” by Steven R. Gundry, M.D. (Harper Wave), a former cardiac surgeon and author of “The Plant Paradox,” whose latest, “The Energy Paradox,” is coming March 2021.
Gundry posits that your health is synonymous with your gut health, supported by beneficial bacteria in your intestinal tract — what he calls gut buddies. “You are not what you eat; you are what your gut buddies digest. And they can digest only the specific food they have evolved to process and recognize for you.”
Packed with scientific information but readable in its approach, this book includes meal planning and recipes. Some of Gundry’s strategies — consuming huge quantities of nutritional supplements, adding extra doses of olive oil, eliminating common food items, notably cereal grains, and embracing lesser-known ones (okra or hemp tofu, for example) — may not tempt everyone. The same applies to his suggestion of reducing the consumption of such popular go-to items as apples, grapes and bananas. Yet his other suggestions, like fasting, exercising, eliminating blue light, sitting down to an earlier dinner, and going easy on simple sugars, may serve as reminders we all need.