ON THE SHELF: Large print finds to live your best life

Published 8:00 am Sunday, July 24, 2022

This column was submitted by Evangeline Cessna, Local History Librarian at the Warren County-Vicksburg Public Library.

This week’s column features nonfiction titles from our New Large Print collection.

Arthur C. Brooks has written a book about his study of happiness and purpose in “From Strength to Strength.” Most of us assume that if we are successful, then we are less susceptible to feelings of professional and social irrelevance that often come with aging. However, the greater our achievements and our attachment to them, the more we notice our decline and the more pain we feel at that decline. Is there anything we can do, starting right now, to fill our older years with happiness, purpose and success? The author embarked on a journey at the age of 50 to discover how to transform his future from one of disappointment over his waning abilities into one of opportunity. This book comes from the realizations he made during his seven-year journey. Brooks draws on social science, philosophy, biography, theology and eastern wisdom, as well as dozens of interviews with everyday men and women. He demonstrates that true life success is well within our reach. We can do this by refocusing on certain priorities and habits that anyone can learn, such as deep wisdom, detachment from empty rewards, connection and service to others and spiritual progress. These can help us to set ourselves up for increased happiness.

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Mary Laura Philpott delivers a poignant and powerful memoir with “Bomb Shelter: Love, Time, and Other Explosives.” As a lifelong worrier, Philpott kept a closer eye out for danger after becoming a parent. She tried to look on the bright side, too, though and believed that if she cared enough, she could keep her loved ones safe. In the dark of one quiet morning, she woke to an unknown sound and found her teenage son unconscious on the floor. The aftermath of this crisis had Philpott questioning her life and causing her distress: If this happened, what else could happen? How do any of us keep going when we can’t know for sure what’s coming next? Filled with both laughter and tears, this book seeks to spotlight what it means to move through life with a soul made of equal parts anxiety and optimism.

Ninety-five percent of the millions of Americans who go to prison eventually get out. Author Lauren Kessler explores what happens to them after prison in her book “Free: Two Years, Six Lives, and the Long Journey Home.” Arnoldo came of age inside a maximum-security prison and is now free after nineteen years. Trevor and Catherine spent half of their young lives behind bars for terrible crimes committed when they were kids. Dave was inside for 34 years and now has to re-enter a world he doesn’t recognize. Vicki cycled in and out of prison for more than a third of her life — five times in all. They are all simultaneously joyful and overwhelmed at the prospect of freedom. Anxious, confused, sometimes terrified and quite often ill-prepared to face the challenges of life on the outside, they are all intent on reclaiming and remaking their lives. What is the road they have to travel from prison to freedom? How do they navigate their way home? The answers to these questions are both troubling and triumphant.

Amy Bloom gives readers a loving and heartbreaking look at the decline of her husband Brian Ameche in her latest “In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss.” Amy began to notice changes in her husband, Brian: He retired early from a job he loved; he withdrew from close friendships; he talked mostly about the past. There suddenly seemed to be a wall between them and their long walks and talks together stopped. Then came the MRI and the diagnosis: Alzheimer’s disease. They were forced to confront the truth of the diagnosis and its impact on the future Brian had envisioned. Brian became determined to live on his feet, not die on his knees. Brian and Amy made the unimaginable and painful decision to go to Dignitas, an organization based in Switzerland that empowers a person to end their own life with dignity and peace. By sharing their story, Bloom sheds light on a part of life we quite often shy away from discussing — its ending.

Actress and author Sharon Gless delivers her memoir with Apparently “There Were Complaints.” Anyone who has seen her act in “Cagney & Lacey,” “Queer As Folk,” “Burn Notice,” or any of her other appearances knows that Sharon Gless gives everything she has to her roles. In this hilarious and deeply personal memoir, she holds nothing back and tells it all about her five decades in Hollywood. A 5th-generation Californian, Gless couldn’t see herself as anything other than an actress. After her parents’ divorce and some minor (and not-so-minor) rebellion in her teenage years, she landed a coveted spot as an exclusive contract player for Universal Studios. Arguably, her big break came in 1982 when she stepped into the role of New York Police Detective Christine Cagney for the series “Cagney & Lacey.” Eventually, the show reached 30 million weekly viewers, Gless garnered two Emmy Awards, and the show made history as the first hour-long drama to feature two women in leading roles. In 2000, she took on the role of the flamboyant Debbie Novotny in “Queer as Folk.” Her portrayal of a devoted mother to a gay son and confidant to his gay friends touched many hearts and changed the definition of family for many. Gless also discusses her complicated personal life including her family struggles, her alcoholism and her fear of romantic commitment, but she also dishes on the encounters she has had with some of Hollywood’s big names. Brutally honest and relatable, Gless doesn’t hold anything back and her life is better for it.