Despite the madness of 2016, this year has been one of my best years for reading in a really long time. Lately, I’ve been reading a ton of fiction, which has been so good for the soul and also gave me the little kick I needed to start writing some fiction of my own once again.
I’ve been writing about books for a long time on my blog. Earlier this year, I wrote two previous posts on what I’d been reading that you can catch up with here and here. I have to say though, the list you’re about to see puts those other two lists to shame. The books are just damn good. I blame it on my foray back into the literary world and my recent subscription to The New Yorker … You’re welcome.
I’m going to skip any major plot summary this time around because you guys know how to use the Internet and you’re all probably on Goodreads and what not. Instead, I’m just going to give you a few quick thoughts on my experience and hopefully convince you to pick up a book this winter, whether it’s one of these titles or not. It’s the holidays, people! Time to curl up with a blanket and a book and a bottle of wine, don’t you think?
As always, the books linked up below are Amazon affiliate links, meaning if you purchase a book you’ll be giving a portion of the sale to this here blog. Basically, you’re awesome.
What I Read
Here’s what I’ve read over the past few months…
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett: Why did it take me so long to pick up an Ann Patchett novel? I read this when I was in L.A. earlier this summer and couldn’t put it down. The book explores love, death, science, religion, sex, and enchantment, all wrapped up into one complicated, magical, Amazonian rescue mission.
The Girls by Emma Cline: This was another one I read in L.A. this summer. And given the Charles Manson family inspiration for the plot, it felt very fitting to read this book poolside in California. The Girls made a lot of headlines this year, thanks to Emma Cline’s seven-figure, three-book deal as a debut, 27-year-old, novelist (insert what-am-I-doing-with-my-life panic attack here). It’s also on quite a few “Best Books of the Year” lists (like this one and this one). Despite a slow start due to language that, for me, felt like it was simply trying too hard, the novel eventually became a page turner and left me feeling haunted and disturbed in the best way possible.
Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler: I guess I had a thing for debut novelists this year (The Mothers, below, also falls into this category). After hearing Stephanie Danler interviewed on several podcasts earlier this fall, namely Lit Up and Writer’s Who Don’t Write, I was persuaded to order a copy of Sweetbitter: a coming-of-age story about a young woman who leaves home to start a new life in New York. She finds work, friendship, romance, and more in a Greenwich Village restaurant. Danler’s affinity for poetry is wildly evident in her language, and the way she writes about the perils of a woman’s early twenties, though problematic at times, has just enough moments of authenticity to keep you interested, intrigued, and introspective.
Thirteen Ways of Looking by Colum McCann: There’s nothing better than a good short story. In this collection by Colum McCann, you get three short stories and a novella — a pretty good deal, if you ask me. This was my first experience with McCann’s writing, other than his Letter to a Young Writer series which he posts weekly on his website … highly recommend. Once I work through my overflowing stack of recently published novels I can’t to read, I’m eager to dive into another one of his books, Let the Great World Spin, which is already waiting for me on the shelf.
The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht: A gorgeously written novel by another young author, this was a book that I was honestly surprised I finished. Not because it was bad — it just doesn’t fit into the category of fiction I typically read. The Tiger’s Wife gracefully toes the line between reality and fantasy in a way that never distracts. Within the novel, Obreht shows us the unwavering power stories might have over our lives, but not until she’s finished telling us a really good one.
The Mothers by Brit Bennett: As of writing this, The Mothers is the book I’ve most recently finished. I loved every page of it. It was fast-paced, beautifully woven, and most of all, important. Bennett’s characters deal with tough topics — suicide, infidelity, religion, abortion — without making an overt political or moral statement. Isn’t that why we read fiction? And while we should know not to judge a book by its cover even more than usual, as of late, who wouldn’t love to have this gorgeous piece of artwork on display as their coffee table centerpiece?
On My Shelf:
Here’s what’s next on my list…
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead: This book really needs no introduction. The Underground Railroad just won the National Book Award, has been named the best book of the year by more than one source, and comes to us at a time when we desperately need it. As we move into 2017, this book is required reading.
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett: You know I can’t get enough of Ann Patchett. My aunt, who loves Ann Patchett maybe even more than I do, gifted me her latest novel for my birthday and it sounds like the perfect book to escape with over the holidays. How Patchett packs in five decades’ worth of story in only a little over 300 pages, I have no idea, but I’m excited to find out.
Swing Time by Zadie Smith: I’m ashamed to admit that I haven’t yet read anything by the wonderful, unstoppable Zadie Smith. My plan is to tackle this latest novel first, then work my way back through her canon, starting with White Teeth. To get a taste of what’s to come, I’ve been enjoying Smith’s interviews with Lenny Letter and Slate, as well as this review of Swing Time by Alexandra Schwartz in The New Yorker.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates: Again, required reading. I don’t think I’m alone in that one of my goals this coming year is to better educate myself on racism and its many facets. Reading this book is part of that journey and from what I’ve heard, digesting Coates’ memoir is both eye-opening and transformative.
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff: This has been on my list for a long time, especially when I heard it was President Obama’s favorite book of 2015. Fates and Furies presents a complex portrait of marriage that unfolds in classic tragicomedy fashion–another one I’m hoping to indulge over the holidays.
The Wangs vs. The World by Jade Chang: One of my favorite birthday gifts this year was a 12-month subscription to Book of the Month Club (thanks, Mom!). This novel, another debut, is one I’ll be getting as a freebie from the service in next month’s box. It tells the story of a Chinese-American family as they road trip cross-country and cope with fallout from the 2008 financial crisis. Bonus: gorgeous, gorgeous cover art … I can’t help it!
What have you been reading lately? Any epic holiday reading plans? Let me know in the comments or send me a tweet! Let’s get nerdy!
Also, I know you’re probably used to seeing this same email newsletter sign-up box in the bottom of all my blog posts, paired with some sort of vague, shallow reason why you should give me your info. I really can’t blame you for not signing up (unless you’re like, the three people who have, and if you’re reading this THANK YOU), because up until this point, it’s been a very unintentional, empty ask on my part. As a marketer, collecting email addresses is something that just sort of becomes engrained in you, and if you’re not careful, you starting doing it for no reason at all and then without realizing it, turn into a digital robot that survives only on likes and follows and retweets. Consider yourself warned…
Anyway, this time around, I’m genuinely and graciously asking you to give me your email address. Why? Because I’m starting a newsletter and it’s going to super fun for both of us. Really, I mean it!
Full transparency — I’m still toying around with what this looks like, but as a general rule, if you sign up you can probably expect some sprinkling of the following: book lists (obvi), links to articles I’ve read and found thoughtful that week, podcasts I’m loving, products I endorse, writing by yours truly, funny memes, lots of feminism/girl power-goodness, what I’m binge watching, and more. The possibilities of where this could go are endless, but mostly I just want to get started and see what happens. And hopefully you do, too!
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And as always, thanks for reading, fine humans!