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Wide Awake: A Few Good Reads 
Favorite books from a (not-really) book lover
By Marianne Aleardi

I’ve never considered myself an avid reader, which is something I don’t usually tell people because it’s an odd thing for a writer to say. But some books – the ones where I keep telling myself it’s going to get better in the next chapter – are so disappointing that it makes me hesitant to pick up another.  

But a good book, well you know, a good book can change your mood and give you something to talk about for days. And there are books I consider so wonderful, I sometimes read them a second time and end up liking them even more.  

So here’s my list. It isn’t a list I had difficulty creating, because I didn’t have hundreds of books to choose from. But it is a list of books that are worth the time to read, that you’ll think about for days after you’ve read them and you’ll want to discuss with other people who have also read them. It’s a list of books I love, and I don’t give book love away easily.  

First is my favorite of all time: “The Red Tent” by Anita Diamant. It’s historical fiction, set in Biblical times. It’s not an easy read. In fact, there is a family tree in the beginning of the book that I often referenced to keep the characters straight. Some people might not like that, but I didn’t mind because the story was so captivating. The title refers to a tent that women were exiled to while they were menstruating. But the story is about Dinah, a minor character in the Bible, and it’s riveting. 

Second recommendation: “What Remains” by Carole Radziwell. Confession here: Radziwell is one of the Housewives of New York, but she wrote this in 2005, when she was a producer for ABC News and a recent widower – long before she appeared on reality television. She tells two stories simultaneously: one of her time at ABC, working closely with Peter Jennings and traveling to Cambodia and Tel Aviv to cover refugees and corruption. That alone is fascinating. 

But she also talks in depth about her husband’s battle with cancer, and the death of their best-friends, John F. Kennedy Jr. and his wife Carolyn. The night the famous couple crashed their plane, they were flying to meet Radziwell and her husband in Cape Cod. She opens with the plane missing and describes how her investigative reporter skills kicked in as she desperately tried to find where they might have landed. Her husband died a few weeks later. 

The story is interesting and heartbreaking and incredibly well-written. 

(A tip for reading: A few chapters in, Radziwell describes her childhood; just get through it. It’s not as interesting as the rest of the book, but it does have merit. This is one case where the chapters to come really are when the book gets great.) 

A few quick reads: “The Mermaid Chair” by Sue Monk Kidd (you can probably read this in one beach day); “The Good Journey” by Micaela Gilchrist, another historical fiction book based on the letters of the wife of a U.S. general during our country’s pioneer days; and “All I Did Was Ask,” by Terry Gross. Each chapter of Gross’s book is an edited transcript from one of her “Fresh Air” interviews on NPR.  

Right now, I’m reading Sal Paolantonio’s “Philly Special.” The title refers to the Eagles’ incredible season last year, not the remarkable Super Bowl play. SalPal wrote for SJ Magazine several times last year, so we know the access he had to players and Doug Pederson. This is his take on the entire year and the championship win. When Sal first told me he was writing a book and how important it was to him, I said, “Well, yeah, you waited your whole career for this.”  

You don’t have to be a sports fan to enjoy a story about passion and success. That’s what Sal’s book is. (The book will be available on Aug. 14, but you can read an excerpt on p. 30.) 

I’d love to hear what book you’ve read that is definitely worth the time. Email me your fav at maleardi@sjmagazine.net, or tweet me @sjmageditor. And for the true book lovers, I’ll post the list I receive on my Facebook page. Maybe we’ll all find a new book to love. 

August 2018
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