Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism by Barry M. Prizant (nonfiction). I learned a great deal from this excellent book. Prizant encourages us not to focus on eliminating autistic people's "behaviours," but to go deeper and see what these behaviours are trying to communicate. He sees "dysregulation" (inability to maintain a well-regulated emotional state) as a key feature of autism. If we can understand the source of the person's anxiety or distress and help them feel more secure, we can then find strategies that will help them regulate their emotions so that they can communicate and learn in productive ways. I confess I had mixed feelings after reading this book. On one hand, it was discouraging to realize how many times and ways I've failed to do any of the things Prizant talks about, but instead responded out of exhaustion and frustration (I guess I have some dysregulation problems of my own). But I felt hopeful, too, because the book holds parents in such high esteem and gives encouragement to those looking for practical strategies to improve the lives of autistic children they love.
Never Go Back: 10 Things You'll Never Do Again by Dr. Henry Cloud (nonfiction). I've read several of Cloud's previous books (Changes That Heal, God Will Make a Way, Boundaries, etc.) and always appreciate his accessible, practical style. In this book he encourages readers to recognize destructive patterns in their lives and urges them to "never again" do what hasn't worked in the past, "never again" try to change another person, "never again" take their eyes off the big picture, etc. As in prior books, Cloud emphasizes that we need two things to truly change: connection to God and connection to other people. Some Christian readers may find the Christian aspect of his book superficial (little if any reference to Jesus' death/resurrection or the Holy Spirit, for instance) -- yet it's clear that Cloud is trying to reach a broad audience who may be skeptical about him even mentioning God, but who can benefit from the general principles he's discussing here.
The Wild Truth by Carine McCandless (memoir). Like many others, I read and was intrigued by Jon Krakauer's fascinating book Into the Wild (published 1996, also made into a movie), about a young American man named Chris McCandless who died in Alaska while on a solo hiking excursion. The book never explicitly conveyed the reasons Chris abruptly left his family behind, and many readers sympathized with the portrayal of his bewildered, grieving parents. Chris's younger sister Carine (whom Krakauer consulted extensively when writing Into the Wild) now fills in the gaps of their family's home life and opens up about the abuse and deception that occurred there. Not a great piece of literature -- Carine McCandless is not a writer anywhere near Krakauer's calibre -- but well worth reading for anyone interested in learning some background to the McCandless story. Krakauer himself supplies the foreword.
Columbine by Dave Cullen (nonfiction). I recently read the memoir A Mother's Reckoning by Sue Klebold, mother of one of the Columbine killers, so I decided also to read Cullen's seminal book about the massacre. It debunks many of the myths around the event and shows that the killers were not the stereotypical bullied loners, but a deadly mix of a psychopath who wanted to kill and a depressive who wanted to die. Very tough, gripping book.
I Am David by Anne Holm (fiction). Danish writer Holm wrote this small novel in 1963. David is a 12-year-old boy imprisoned in a concentration camp; a brusque commandant helps him escape and gives him instructions to head north to Denmark, where he will be free and safe. The book details David's arduous journey, the people he meets, and the lessons he learns about God and humanity. I read this book for an upcoming book club meeting. It's fairly simplistic, and it mostly tells rather than shows; it's probably better suited to a youth/teen audience than an adult one. Still, it's a somewhat interesting story about an innocent's journey.
Sweetland by Michael Crummey (fiction). When the inhabitants of a remote Newfoundland island are offered a government payout to resettle elsewhere, the one condition of the deal is that every resident must go. Retired fisherman and lighthouse-keeper Moses Sweetland refuses. The novel details his resistance to the government, his relationship with his community (especially his eccentric, and likely autistic, great-nephew), and his increasingly lonely struggle with the ghosts of his past. Crummey's depiction of place and people -- particularly the crusty, enigmatic Sweetland himself -- is masterful from start to finish. It's not a tidy or upbeat novel, but every word rings true.
I'd love to hear what you think of any of these that you've read, or about your own current reading; please comment below!