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Issue of April 16, 2014

A hope note
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A hope note
Dr. Wayne Willis reflects on life and hope.

Reading lessons

September 26, 2012 | 09:26 AM

"There is no frigate like a book/To take us lands away." —Emily Dickinson

A friend e-mailed: "Please recommend a good book. I don't have time to waste on anything short of a great read."

Reading is one of my healthier addictions. I've read some 150 books during the past decade. Most have been dreadfully forgettable.

Two that I've read this year have become all-time favorites. One is fiction; the other non-fiction. Both, to my little mind, are masterpieces. My only criticism — because I'm a slow reader — is that both are long.

My non-fiction favorite is "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand. The author of "Seabiscuit," Hillenbrand spent seven years researching and writing "Unbroken." I couldn't put it down. When I had to, I couldn't wait to get back to it. It's about one man, Louis Zamperini, who couldn't be broken, who overcame more obstacles than you think is humanly possible. Most of the book is set in the World War II Pacific theater. Louis, incidentally, after all he endured, is still alive at 95.

My favorite piece of fiction is "Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese. It's of epic proportions, spanning generations, moving mainly between Ethiopia and America. It's a benchmark work of character development, about twins who both become physicians. I've never read a novel where so many strands and twists and turns get so brilliantly, enthrallingly woven together. I promise you'll not forget it.

Why read either, or both? James Baldwin expresses my sentiments: "You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who had ever been alive."

Dr. Wayne Willis


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