2014 Books :: Book 4
From the New York Times best-selling author of Commencement and Maine comes a gorgeous, sprawling novel about marriage—about those who marry in a white heat of passion, those who marry for partnership and comfort, and those who live together, love each other, and have absolutely no intention of ruining it all with a wedding.
So I was kinda meh about this book. I didn’t like the fact that there appeared to be a bunch of completely unrelated story lines. The constant chopping and changing between them was annoying. I did like learning about the marketing that was behind the booming diamond engagement ring industry.
I give it 3 out of 5 and probably wouldn’t recommend it.
2014 Books :: Book 3
Jen have me this book as a Christmas present.
I loved it.
It’s about a young woman who moves from Nigeria to the U.S. for college. It talks a lot about race (which is very interestingly told from the perspective of a “Non American Black”) but at its core is a love story. However in no way is it a romance novel! It is so fantastically well written alternating perspectives between the two main characters.
It is highly rated on amazon and was on the New York Times Book Review’s Ten Best Books of the Year. But perhaps more telling for me - Jen and I both loved it and we don’t always have the same taste in books!
2014 Books :: Book 2
I started reading Americanah and then realized my Book Club is meeting next week so i had to switch over to The Lost Wife and attempt reading it in less than a week. Done and Done. It was so good that I wanted to do nothing but read.
Description from Amazon:
In pre-war Prague, the dreams of two young lovers are shattered when they are separated by the Nazi invasion. Then, decades later, thousands of miles away in New York, there’s an inescapable glance of recognition between two strangers…
Sounds so cheesey, right? And some of the the love story part is painful to read but overall I loved it.
I give it 5 stars.
2014 Books :: Book 1
I LOVED THIS BOOK!
It’s an amalgamation of emails, faxes and notes cobbled together to explain the disappearance of the main character Bernadette. Normally I would hate this format but it works so well in this book.
It’s creative and fun and funny (like, laugh out loud funny) and I raced to finish it but at the same time I didn’t want to end.
I give it 5/5.
My FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2013
2013 was a time of great binge-watching and great binge-reading. Here are some of the books I couldn’t put down this year. All are highly recommended.
THE ONE THAT DESTROYED ME (IN A GOOD WAY)
Meet Reno, the most intriguing heroine of the year: she’s a motorcycle thrill seeker, an interloper in the downtown New York art scene of the mid-1970s, part-time model, a naive American who gets embroiled in radical Italian politics. She also has terrible taste in men. The Flamethrowers weaves together these interconnecting threads of Reno’s life, the excitement and glamour, but also Reno’s vulnerability, her abject unworldliness. Page by page, sentence by sentence, word by word, the best book of 2013.
TWO SHORT STORY COLLECTIONS YOU SHOULDN’T MISS
With all respect to George Saunders, Tenth of December doesn’t need a plug from me. Here are two collections from 2013 that didn’t get as much love as they should have. Let’s change that.
I’m gonna use the word “experimental” now. Shhh. Don’t be scared. Trust that I’m using the word to describe a style of writing that feels exciting and new and different, not pretentious or unnecessarily complicated. The linked stories in Spectacle feel like they’re breaking new ground even as they zero in on universal emotions.
I would like to live inside the title story in this collection, in which a dinner party gets all kinds of awkward. All of the stories in Bobcat contain worlds that feel perfectly self-contained and satisfying, and yet each and every one could be expanded into a novel that I would hungrily read.
MOST ANTI-YOLO NOVEL
Life After Life explores the biggest of Big Questions: What would you do if you could live your life over and over again until you get it right? What does “right” even mean? Does it mean avoiding heartache, defying death, meeting a soulmate, having a family? Maybe not! Probably not! It takes a writer of great vision and discipline to create a story that has so many disparate threads, but feels so compact and elegant. Get through the first 50 pages and you’ll be hooked—I promise.
MOST LITERARY TAKE ON DATING JERKS, BROOKLYN-STYLE
AKA The One That Hits Too Close To Home. Adelle Waldman’s title character is a nice, smart, sensitive writer-type who happens to have no emotional intelligence whatsoever. What happens when the kinda-nerdy guy your parents would positively adore turns out to be kinda a dick? The fact that Waldman can make Nate P.’s personal life both so relatable and so deplorable is a testament to her critical eye.
My resolution for 2013 was to savor more of what I read, rather than racing through in a panic to get to the next one. Necessary Errors was a novel that forced me to take it slow—to get caught up in all of the wonderfully imagined details of Caleb Crain’s debut about a recent college grad who travels to Prague in 1990, just as Czechoslovakia bid adieu to socialism. Hard not to see parallels between the nation’s attempt to find itself and a young man’s attempt to find himself, but the novel is so much bigger—world-expanding—than that.
From the very first pages of At Night We Walk in Circles, we know that something terrible is going to happen. We learn about a young, ambitious actor who tours through a nameless Latin American country with an experimental theater group, and we know that he meets some sort of tragic end. Despite the outcome, it’s a joy to take the journey with him, to ponder what it means to be a performer and what kinds of roles we play even when we aren’t on stage.
THE LITERARY THRILLER YOU SHOULD BE TALKING ABOUT
I argued that Cartwheel should be the new Gone Girl (I even used GIFs!) and I stand by it—if you’re looking for a totally addictive and thought-provoking thriller that’s both masterfully written and fun to read, look no further.
Read the first few pages of The Woman Upstairs and revel in the anger of Claire Messud’s protagonist, an elementary school teacher in her late 30s who is still waiting for her life to begin. Love her or think she’s lacking in likability, the woman upstairs vents a level of frustration with daily life with which I couldn’t help but sympathize, even as she grapples with the distinction between how much of life is real, as opposed to the stories we tell ourselves.
Most of the time when I read a mystery, I don’t really care too much about descriptions of where it’s set—I just want a fast-paced plot to push the narrative along. The Facades is the exception, a novel in which a decrepit Midwestern city is as much a moody, complicated character as it is the setting. When a beloved opera singer goes missing, her hapless husband attempts to track her down through the crumbling streets of Trude, a city that feels bizarre and surreal and also more than a little familiar.
BOOK I WISH I’D READ WHEN I WAS 20
OK, so the Literary Review’s Bad Sex Award of 2013 will be awarded within hours, and I happened to have fallen in love with one of the shortlist contestants. I am not ashamed. Don’t let the dubious nomination fool you—My Education is hot as hell 99% of the time. Susan Choi’s novel about the complicated love life of a graduate student details all the shit we have to learn about in life that doesn’t take place in a classroom or lecture hall.
Note: If you haven’t yet read The Secret History, you should probably do that before you read The Goldfinch. But if you already have, then call in sick to work and prepare to get swept away in a narrative that more than one critic has called “Dickensian.”
Thanks to Meaty I was the deranged lady on the subway who couldn’t stop giggling. Samantha Irby, of Bitches Gotta Eat fame, just keeps on telling it like it is, essay by essay, rapid-fire blogger-style. A joyous mixture of bad language, bad behavior, and bad relationships.
MOST HORRIFYING (AND FUNNY!) NONFICTION
I had to stop underlining the sentences in Going Clear that made me gasp in horror because I would’ve ended up underlining the whole book. Lawrence Wright’s clear-eyed, phenomenally researched takedown of Scientology is straight-up terrifying. And also undeniably funny. I made a list of some of the most astounding/awful/hilarious quotes from the book, presented by Wright with very little editorializing. The bat-shitness of the whole enterprise speaks for itself.
Adding every single one to my ‘must-read’ list!
December 1st was a sneaky devil this year. It snuck up on me out of nowhere while I was still enjoying the last of the Thanksgiving holiday. So I found myself an hour before the children’s bedtime madly wrapping the 24 Christmas books that will be our Book Advent Calendar (it was such a hit with Charlotte last year).
I had grand plans to do a blog post listing out all the books but nope….I was just happy to get them all up on the mantel and one pic snapped before the first book was unwrapped.
I used the same 24 books from last year (I had hidden all of them away shortly after Christmas).
Morgan just asked me to send her a list of books I’ve recently read and would recommend, so I thought I’d share it for those of you looking for something to curl up with by the fireplace.
- The Good House, by Ann Leary: About an alcoholic real-estate agent, written by Denis Leary’s wife Ann Leary and one of my favorite books I’ve read in years.
- The Age Of Miracles, by Karen Thompson Walker: About what happens when the earth stops spinning; heartbreaking and wonderful and unforgettable.
- Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, by Maria Semple: A beautifully crafted story about a daughter’s relationship with her eccentric and extraordinary mother; funny and compelling and lovely.
- Wild, by Cheryl Strayed: One of the most beautiful books I’ve read in my life, and I went into it thinking “a book about hiking? Ehhhhhhhgh.”
- Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson: I have no idea how to describe this one other than that it can be a little tough to get through (it’s about an English woman who dies time after time – and then comes back to life – as the country marches towards war), but is very much worth the effort. I didn’t want it to ever end.
- Seating Arrangements, by Maggie Shipstead: Sort of Great Gatsby-esque, about a family’s misbehaviors at a ritzy weekend wedding.
At the moment, I’m re-reading Russell Brand’s My Booky-Wook(not nearly as silly as it sounds; he’s an incredible writer and it’s worth a second read) and am wading through The Returned (the subject matter – long-dead people suddenly come back to life and reconnect with the families they left behind – is just a little too upsetting for me to get into at night, which is when I do most of my reading).
But I’m almost done with those…so anyone have more suggestions? I need an excuse to not come out from under the covers next weekend.
Looks like some solid book recommendations here!
So I’ve been reading voraciously recently. It helps that I have quiet train time a few days a week. I really make a concerted effort to put the phone down and pick up the Kindle.
Beautiful Day by Elin Hilderbrand - this is what I would call a beach read. A family gathers on Nantucket for a wedding. Drama ensues….obviously. I loved it and couldn’t put it down. It was a fluffy but not overly so.
The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty - Set in the 20s, a woman acts as the chaperone for a wild teenager who spends the Summer in NYC at a dance school. BOOM. Enough said. I loved this book. (Get ready to read that over and over again because I’ve read a lot of good books recently). Don’t believe me? How about the 555 reviews on Amazon that average 4.5 stars!
Night Film by Marisha Pessl - So I picked up this book and started reading without knowing what it was about. Not a clue. Just dove in based on a recommendation. And I literally could. not. stop. turning. the. page. Or you know, clicking on the side of my Kindle. It’s about an investigative journalist who becomes obsessed with investigating the death of the daughter of a legendary filmmaker who by all accounts is super weird. This book is creepy. Read it with the light on. But read it.
In My Skin by Kate Holden - a memoir about a middle class Australian girl who becomes heavily addicted to heroin. After I finished reading this book (which….spoiler alert…..I loved!) I was poking around on the internet reading various websites about the author. I forget where I read it but I saw a comment by someone who desperately wanted to try heroin after reading all about the author’s experience, tried it and became addicted. The author responded to the comment absolutely horrified that her book had resulted in another addiction. All I could think is that after reading this memoir I wouldn’t touch heroin with a 10 foot pole. I have no idea who in their right mind would want to try it. But anyway….good book.
Parisan Chic: A Style Guide by Ines de La Fressange - I know, I know, a style book by yet another super stylish French person because the French do everything better. Insert eye roll. But I thought it was chock full of good tips about how to build out your closet with key good quality chic pieces. I borrowed it from the library but might actually invest in my own copy.
Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler - Did you love The Paris Wife? Then you’ll love this too.
The Supreme’s at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore - I wasn’t sure about this one when I started reading it but I persevered and ending up falling in love with all the characters. Click on the link above to read about it.
I normally summarize a whole bunch of books into one post but this recommendation can’t wait. A House in the Sky is excellent - a solid 5 stars from me.
It’s a memoir about a Canadian (wannabe) journalist who gets kidnapped in Somalia. I won’t say anything else but it is gripping. I had to get up at 5am today for SoulCycle and I still found myself reading at 11pm last night well past my bedtime. I just couldn’t put it down.