Sometimes an author has an ability to mash two unrelated things together. Just when you think you are reading about one subject, you realize you are actually exploring something entirely different. The result is that the reader receives knowledge about both subjects and, sometimes, a deeper understanding of self. In his poignant and moving work “Levels of Life” Julian Barnes does this beautifully, enticing those who check it out to devour its 144 pages in one sitting.

Levels of Life masterfully intertwines the history of ballooning (something most of us know nothing about) and grief (something all of us will at some point certainly know something about) in this poignant memoir. This book pulls at the heart strings and stretches our capacity to understand how we elevate ourselves through life, love, and letting go.

Through his words, Barnes unveils how man consistently attempts to rise up to gain perspective. Whether you’re an aspiring “balloonatic” interested in the human obsession of flight or a person struggling in the depths of understanding loss, this book is a must read. Before you turn on your burner and start turning pages, be prepared. The last chapters of this emotional aerostation will land you hard and make you bounce a few times before you reach the end.

Levels of Life was chosen as National Public Radio’s Best Book of the Year in 2013 and has received multiple British literary awards. It is available at the Yankton Community Library.