5 books for the introspective soul

Sometimes the best way to get to know yourself is through someone else’s story. Here are five soul-searching summer reads.
Sometimes the best way to get to know yourself is through someone else's story. Here are five books, either memoirs or deep personal reflections, that were special for their authors. 

Perhaps their lives will shed some light on your own.

1) Mary Louise ParkerDear Mr. You

Mary-Louise Parker has penned an inventive and beautifully written collection of letters to men, real and imagined. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)
 Do you remember the last time you handwrote a letter?

Award-winning actress Mary Louise Parker, of Weeds and West Wing fame, penned dozens of them for her book, Dear Mr. You.

It may seem strange for a high-profile celebrity like Parker to write a book of letters addressed to other people. But Parker wanted to focus on her strong feelings, largely gratitude, for the men in her life.

Men like her father, who fought in three wars, suffered from severe PTSD, yet had "an uncommon sense of loyalty to his children and wife," according to Parker.

Many of us forget the value of writing an honest letter to our loved ones. But perhaps after reading Dear Mr. You, you'll pick up that pen and pad, and start writing away.
2) Buck Martinez, Change Up: How to Make the Great Game of Baseball Even Better

Are you a lapsed baseball fan? Can Buck Martinez win you back? (Kathy Willens/Associated Press)
 Former Blue Jays pitcher turned play-by-play commentator, Buck Martinez, believes money has taken over baseball. For the worse.

In Change Up: How to Make the Great Game of Baseball Even Better, he tells the story of the old days of baseball and the incredible changes the sport has been through. 

Back in 1969, a player like Martinez was lucky if he earned $10,000 a year ($66,000 in 2016). Now the average Major League Baseball salary is over 3 million dollars!

But what Martinez really laments about contemporary baseball, is the lack of camaraderie. Change Up recalls a time when teammates would live together while on the road, car-pool to practices, and hang out together with each other's families. This was an era that emphasized team chemistry over salaries.

As Martinez says, "Winning is always great, but it's really special when you win with your friends."

3) Todd Babiak, Son of France
Author Todd Babiak has a complicated relationship with the dark side. (toddbabiak.com)
 As a crime fiction writer, Todd Babiak is used to writing about violence. But after the murder of his brother's wife, he decided to change the way he writes his novels.

Son of France is a sequel to Babiak's earlier novel Come Barbarians, which features security expert (and hitman) Christopher Kruse as its protagonist. Living through the horror of losing his sister in-law spurred Babiak to revise Son of France.

"I just wanted to go back to scenes where there was violence, where there was murder. I just wanted to make sure that Christopher Kruse's character understands the implications of what's happening" Babiak tells Shad.

Babiak's work has been compared with the legendary spy novelist John le Carré and HBO's crime drama The Wire. If you want gritty crime fiction that is as psychologically real as it is thrilling, Son of France is a solid bet.

4) Padma Lakshmi, Love, Loss, and What We Ate

Top Chef's Padma Lakshmi chronicles a life behind the memoir in Love, Loss and What We Ate. (Charles Sykes/Invision/The Associated Press)
 ​Padma Lakshmi has lived a fulfilling life by almost anyone's standards. She is the host of Top Chef, author of several bestselling books, as well as an accomplished actress and model.

Lakshmi's latest memoir, Love, Loss, and What We Ate tells the story of her life through her memories of food. It is an intimate reveal of her own struggles, from travelling to New York as an unaccompanied four year-old to suffering from endometriosis.

In her conversation with Shad, Lakshmi describes how she felt like an outsider growing up

"When we moved to California I felt like a brown girl in a white environment...It's just like going into a place where you're not aware of the plot yet. It's like coming into a movie a little bit later than everyone else," she says.

A word of warning: don't read this on an empty stomach.

5) Carmen Aguirre, Mexican Hooker #1: And My Other Roles Since The Revolution
"Mexican Hooker #1: And My Other Roles Since The Revolution" picks up where Carmen Aguirre's celebrated memoir "Something Fierce" left off. Loaded with hard lessons and painful memories, the book revisits everything from broken oaths of silence to a face-to-face conversation with the man who raped her. Aguirre joins Shad to discuss her powerful account of past traumas, how she's reclaimed them to tell her own story, and why she didn't grow up thinking that breaking down was an option. 22:50

Carmen Aguirre
doesn't pull any punches. The Canada Reads winning author of Something Fierce (which Shad successfully defended in 2012) shares some of her hardest lessons and most painful memories in her new memoir, Mexican Hooker #1: And My Other Roles Since The Revolution.

The book delves into traumatic moments in Aguirre's life. A particularly powerful moment is a face to face encounter with the man who raped her.

Despite the tragedies that beset her, this memoir is a story of resiliency. Aguirre describes what it's like to be raised by people who don't have the privilege to lay down and sob. Mexican Hooker #1 is an intense read, but you may come out of it a stronger person.


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