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March Book

The SAG awards, the Golden Globes, and the Academy Awards. It’s awards season! So much talk of the year’s best television series, movies, actors, screenplays, etc. And so many of the best movies started as books. Or at least we think so.

So for March, we’re trying to get ahead of the game and read a new book that’s soon to be a new movie favorite. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas was published just last February. This is Thomas’s debut novel, and a huge success. It opened at number one the NYT young-adult bestseller list. Thomas was inspired to write this story after the shooting of Oscar Grant in 2009. What started as a short story quickly evolved into her first novel, and soon a major motion picture coming out this year or early next (directed by George Tillman Jr., written by Audrey Wells, starring Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Anthony Mackie, Russell Hornsby, Algee Smith, Sabrina Carpenter, Issa Rae, Lamar Johnson, and Common).

The Hate U Give tells the story of 16-year-old black student Starr Carter who witnesses the police shooting of her unarmed friend. She lives a life between two worlds; the privileged prep school she attends, and the impoverished black neighborhood where she lives. And now her life is turned upside down by what she witnesses. She faces risks and dangers no one her age should have to face. But Thomas tells a story that faces us with some of the cruel realities in our country.

Critics have widely praised this book as a must-read for everyone, no matter your age. The fantastic buzz around this book makes us eager to dig in! And we hope you’ll read along with us! Share on social media using #booklymark, or comment below ↓

Twisty Romance

It Ends With Us caught my eye when it won the 2016 Goodreads Choice Award for best in romance. I’ve never read a book you’d categorize as a “romance novel” (unless you count Twilight), but I figured the best of 2016 was a good place to start. And it was an interesting experience.

If you know anything about this book, you know it’s not your typical romance novel. But it’s pretty close to exactly what I’d expected (mostly because I’d done a lot of research when voting for our Bookly picks). The relationships were hot and heavy, with lots of steamy romance, a fairly predictable female protagonist with just enough baggage to make her interesting, some lack-luster writing, and some terribly romance novel-y names for the romantic interests (Ryle and Atlas). However, the unusual twist made it much more than just a predictable romance novel. Lily’s story made this a likeable read.

I knew before reading it that Ryle was not who he seemed. But I wish I hadn’t! I think it would have made it an even more interesting read. But still, that being said, I really liked how Hoover told Lily’s story. Or that she chose to tell a story like this. She made me consider Lily’s situation in a new way, and all situations of domestic violence. Granted, as Hoover herself says, every situation is very different. But I think this book is an important link between love, romance, relationships, and violence. I think it’s hard for those who haven’t experienced it to see how a relationship can go from love/lust to abuse. And why do some of those relationships continue, or even escalate? I know I’ve had a hard time with it. Meaning, it’s hard for me to relate, NOT that it’s hard to support or trust those who survive these types relationships. I’m thankful that this book humanized a story like Lily’s. It’s definitely worth a read!

book on lap

A Worldwide Tour of Health Care

“On September 11, 2001, some three thousand Americans were killed by terrorists; our country has spent hundreds of billions of dollars to make sure it doesn’t happen again. But that same year, and every year since then, some twenty thousand Americans died because they couldn’t get health care. That doesn’t happen in any other developed country. Hundreds of thousands of Americans go bankrupt every year because of medical bills. That doesn’t happen in any other developed country either.”

As someone with a chronic illness, health care is a necessity. My life depends on medications that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars each and every year, not to mention doctors appointments, hospital stays, lab tests, bloodwork, etc. The issue of access to affordable health care has been on my mind for years, particularly during the past 12 months as the current administration tried to repeal the Affordable Car Act.

It’s a fraught issue that has become entrenched in politics. But, in my opinion, being able to get the care one needs isn’t political, it’s personal. And it’s complicated. Our current health care system isn’t perfect, but neither is denying people with pre-existing conditions access to health insurance, or enforcing annual and lifetime caps. As this book shows, the United States has the worst health care of any developed country, despite how much money we spend on it.

I was eager to read this book because if I’m going to have strong opinions about our health care, I want to make sure I’m educated on the subject. I felt like Reid did a great job of that — giving us a “tour” of what other developed countries do and whether or not it’s working. While I wish he had a magic fix, I wasn’t naive enough to actually think that’s what I’d get out of this book.

In all honesty, this book was somewhat hard for me to read, seeing as the state of our nation’s health care has a direct impact on my quality of life — and really, whether I live at all. But it was informative and made me feel better equipped to engage in conversations about the future of health care.

But don’t read this book expecting to come away feeling hopeful. America has a long way to go before we heal ourselves.

February Book

Hello February, love is in the air! Or not. But either way, there’s some love in our next book.

This month we’re reading Colleen Hoover‘s romance novel It Ends With Us. Until now Hoover hasn’t really been on our radar. But this seemed like a great February pick considering it won Best Romance in the 2016 Goodreads Choice Awards. Not to mention the reviews on Goodreads and Amazon are crazy good. But if you’re still not sold, here’s some more info…

Hoover is an interesting story herself. She started writing in 2012 when she self-published her debut novel Slammed. From there everything  fell into place with all of her full-length novels since ending up on the NYT Bestseller List. It Ends With Us came out in 2016 and it’s been one of her most successful novels yet. Although Hoover describes it as, “the hardest book I’ve ever written.” And we can see why.

This book tells the story of Lily Bloom, Ryle Kincaid and Atlas Corrigan; the owner of a flower shop, a neurosurgeon (Lily’s new love) and a chef (Lily’s first love). It’s more than just your typical girl meets guy story. Lily has come a long way from the small town and abusive household she grew up in. She works hard for the life she wants, and that seems to include the gorgeous Dr. Kincaid. But slowly the relationship brings back the demons she faced as a young girl.

“The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read. Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.” – Kirkus Review

As we hear it, It Ends With Us tells a complex story of the pain some relationships can cause, and the strength it takes to survive them. We think it’s a perfect time to be reading a story like this . . .  #timesup #metoo

We hope you’ll read along with us! Share on social media using #booklymark, or comment below ↓

Everything I Didn’t Know

I’ve never read a book like this before. Historically, the non-fiction books I’ve read have been about a person, places, a period of time. But this is the first time I’ve read such an in depth study of a particular policy. In case you missed it, “The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care” by T.R. Reid is a examination of our health care system in contrast to others around the world. And it was fascinating.

“Economic growth is not the sole aim of out society… The value of a human life must be decided without regard to… economic considerations. We must take into account the human and spiritual aspects involved.” The Hall Report, 1964

There are a few things I know for certain: our health care system is broken, there are too many Americans without access to health care, our country’s approach to health care is far too politically leaning when it should be a moral issue. But besides that, my knowledge was fairly limited. This book put context and statistics behind the facts. Although we can agree that our system is broken, I feel like the general public has limited exposure to the ideas of what a “fixed” system could look like. But this book changes the game. Starting with all the ways in which our system is broken. Here are just a few of the things that I learned:

  1. We’re the only developed country in the world that doesn’t guarantee all our citizens access to health care.
  2. We spend the MOST in the developed world on our health care system (17% of our GDP).
  3. We’re ranked 37th by the World Health Organization in health care quality and access.
  4. We’re the only developed nation that would limit, or revoke, access to health care based on the fact that you actually need care (ahem, pre-existing conditions).
  5. We run the truest form of socialized medicine in our Veterans Affairs, Medicare, and Indian Health Service health care systems.
  6. 45 million Americans are uninsured.
  7. Our physicians pay upwards of ten times what physicians in other countries pay in malpractice insurance.
  8. While our physicians can come into the workforce with somewhere around $200,000 in debt, the physicians in most other developed countries have their education paid for.
  9. Because of how efficient the health insurance programs are in other countries—they spend a lot less time coming up with reasons to deny claims—their administrative costs are somewhere around 3-5% whereas the U.S. agencies spend around 20%. So for every $100 you spend on health insurance $20 goes to administrative efforts.
  10. I could go on (and on) but I’ll stop here.

All of the flaws listed above have been fixed in ALL other developed countries. Sure, the cost of the health care systems in these countries is high, but they still spend less that the United States. And sure they save a lot of money by regulating the compensation of doctors and nurses (which is a problem yet to be solved). However, those men and women are debt free, spend a TON less in administrative costs (in France they don’t even need filing cabinets because all patient information is accessed via an encoded chip on the patient’s “Carte Vitale”), and spend barely anything on malpractice insurance. So, when you think about it, it’s kind of like a cost of living difference. So even though there are some kinks, I still think cost of universal health care is WELL worth the risks.

“The Beveridge Model of health care has been adopted, with variations, by nations around the world, democracies and dictatorships alike. A system in which government owns the hospitals, pays the doctors, buys the medicine, and covers all the bills would probably come pretty close to what American politicians have in mind when they deplore ‘socialized medicine.’ But American, too, has copied the NHS model—to provide treatment for tens of millions of Native Americans, military personnel, dependents, and veterans. With government doctors in government clinics dispensing government drugs (and no bills for the patients to pay), the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is one of the purest examples anywhere of the Beveridge Model at work. If this is un-American, why did we choose it for America’s military veterans?”

But back to the book. I think you’ve already gathered that the amount of information it holds is staggering, useful, and fascinating. But beyond that, Reid writes from very personal experiences. He’s lived, worked, and used the health care services in all the countries he studies (UK, Germany, Japan, India, Canada, US, France). He shares his stories and conversations with real doctors, and real patients. In these real world scenarios it becomes even more astounding how the United States, with its claims of liberty and justice for all, can still be a country that limits its peoples access to health care. To me it all comes back to issues of racism, sexism, and ageism, but that’s another issue for another day.

You should read this book. Sure, it’s a little repetitive at times. But even if it’s just a chapter every once in awhile. Even if it’s just chapters 2, 3, and 13 (good summaries / big picture chapters). Even if you totally disagree with everything I’ve said up to now, read it. “The Healing of America” is a fascinating study of the modern system that is health care. But if you do nothing else, just ask yourself this question: is health care a human right?