For Love of Books and Story

Meditations on death, survivalist Mormons, and the book that’s ripping my heart out.

Meditations on death, survivalist Mormons, and the book that’s ripping my heart out.

Hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date

I’m coming to the realization that this might be the first year that I “read” more audio books than Kindle books (let’s not even mention actual paper books, that ship sailed long ago). I’m just so busy! I can get so much reading done through my ears! Also, lately non of my podcasts have really been able to hold my interest, so I’ve been all about the audio books. I do tend to go through phases, though, so I’m sure I’ll binge a few podcasts sometime in the future. I think I’m still sad that I finished listening to Ear Hustle. =(

So this week I was only able to get one actual book read (which also was my first ever ARC, yay!) and one audio book, plus I’m over halfway done with another big honkin’ audio book. Let’s introduce these beauties short and sweet style:

What I Read

Synopsis from Goodreads

Death. It happens to everyone, yet most of us don’t want to talk about this final chapter of existence. Sixth-generation funeral director Caleb Wilde intimately understands this reticence and fear. The son of an undertaker, he hesitated to embrace the legacy of running his family’s business. Yet he discovered that caring for the deceased and their loved ones profoundly changed his faith and his perspective on death—and life itself. “Yes, death can be bad. Yes, death can be negative,” he acknowledges, “but it can also be beautiful. And that alternate narrative needs to be discussed.”

In Confessions of a Funeral Director, he talks about his experiences and pushes back against the death-negative ethos of our culture, opening a thoughtful, poignant conversation to help us see the end of life in a positive and liberating way. In the wry, compassionate, and honest voice that has charmed his growing legions of blog readers, Wilde offers an intimate look inside his business, offering information on unspoken practices around death such as the embalming process, beautiful and memorable stories about families in the wake of death, and, most importantly, a fresh and wise perspective on how embracing death can allow us to embrace life.

Confessions of a Funeral Director is the story of one man learning how death illuminates and deepens the meaning of existence—insights that can help us all pursue and cherish full, rich lives.

Thoughts and Feelings

I listened to this on audio. It was not what I thought it would be, but still good. Obviously I didn’t really read the reviews before I started this or I would have known better, but I thought it would be a funeral director telling us of his adventures with the various funny and zany characters he came across in the business of undertaking. Why did I think a book about death would be like that? Blame it on my black sense of humor I guess. Instead this was a very thoughtful meditation on death. Caleb Wilde (who apparently has a popular blog that I knew nothing about), does tell some wonderful stories and introduces us to the people they involve, but they’re very poignant and lead to some big questions and pondering about death. The whole point of the book is Caleb’s journey (he’s a 5th generation undertaker) from holding a death-negative view to a death-positive view. Some have said that there are similarities to When Breath Becomes Air, which I did not like and DNF. However, the fact that all the thoughts and meditations were mixed in with some great stories about the people Caleb served made the book worthwhile to me. I recommend this if you’re looking for a serious meditative book, not something where the guy who everybody thought was dead was actually just drunk and jumped up and scared everyone.

Rating: 4/5 stars


Synopsis from Goodreads

Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag.” In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father’s junkyard.

Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent.

Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty, and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes, and the will to change it.

Thoughts and Feelings

This was my first ARC, and I’m so glad it was COMPLETELY AWESOME or I might have been turned off from them forever. This is about a girl who was raised in rural Idaho by a family of extremely conservative survivalist Mormons. I’m not going to say too much about it right now because I’m posting my full review tomorrow, but let me just say it was great and if you liked The Glass Castle you’ll love this!

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

What I’m Reading Now


This is the book that’s ripping my heart out! I really need to be careful of these books now that I have kids. It’s making me feel the same way I felt when I read The Light Between Oceans. What’s really giving me a lot to think about are all the issues involving immigration and how that affects families. So relevant now. I’m over halfway through and I think I have an idea how it might end. I hope I’m wrong because I don’t want it to be that predictable. I’m listening to this on audio for the Mom Advice Book Club on Facebook and I’m loving it. I will probably write about this one when I’m done.

What I’m Reading Next

I have no idea! Here are some of the ones on deck I have to choose from:

  • Have you read any of the books I’ve mentioned?
  • What should I read next??


American expat in Taiwan, book lover, wannabe writer and Mandarin language learner, homeschooling mom to two boys.

11 thoughts on “Meditations on death, survivalist Mormons, and the book that’s ripping my heart out.”

  • I don’t do audiobooks because I keep finding myself zoning out and missing chunks of the story. These books sound interesting. I wonder if you are correct about the end of Lucky Boy. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

    • I find that certain books are better for audio than others. It’s true that I can’t focus quite as much when I’m not seeing the text with my eyes, plus not being able to highlight things (which I do with my Kindle) is a strike against audio. That’s why I don’t usually listen to really heavy fiction or mysteries where every detail is super important on audio. My favorite audio books are memoirs read by the author.

      We’ll see if I’m right about Lucky Boy! I probably have no idea what I’m talking about ha ha. Thanks for stopping by!

  • I’m so glad I stumbled onto your blog, we have lots in common. 1. I love Audiobooks and always have one going (no thanks podcasts). 2. I just won Educated from a Goodreads Giveaway, and now you have me extra excited to read it. 3. Little Fires Everywhere was a wonderful book and I listened to it as an audiobook and it was fabulous! Happy reading!

    • Hi Cori! Thanks for stopping by. Do you like memoirs like the Glass Castle? If so then I think you’ll really like Educated. I never would have even picked it up if someone in a Facebook book group I’m part of hadn’t mentioned it. I have Little Fires on deck as an ebook from the library, but you’re inspiring me to request it as an audio. I like short audios, so this sounds perfect. Yay for us audiobook lovers!

    • You know, I’ve been putting off reading it and I don’t exactly know why. I think it’s because I don’t even really know what it’s about. It hasn’t really hooked me yet because I don’t know what the main conflict is. I just know that it’s the latest Celeste Ng so I have to read it! ha ha. I keep having to request it again from the library. I think I’ll finally read it so I can talk about it! =)

  • I am a huge fan of audio now! In the past I never was, but between my symptoms and work, I find they help me get my fix 😉 And well, with a great narrator, they are really fun! I will be waiting to see what you think of Little Fires. It has sat on my TBR forever. Happy reading 🙂

    • Audios are so much fun, especially when it’s a memoir being narrated by the author. Those are always my favorite. One really good one I listened to recently was Rabbit: The Autobiography of Ms. Pat. I had never even heard of Ms. Pat before I saw her book on Hoopla, but man, what a story.

      I think I should just read Little Fires already as my next book. I don’t know why I’ve let it languish on my TBR for so long.

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