BOOKS. I like them. I really hope you do, too. I ain’t really a “blanket statement” kinda gal, but here’s one for you: If everyone picked up a few more books throughout the year, I wholeheartedly believe the world would be a more empathetic, peaceful place.
Even works of fiction can teach us about the human condition, place us in a person’s shoes that are so very different than ours, remind us of history, and teach us about topics we may never have breached otherwise. A few years after I started working, I remember feeling like I was literally getting dumber. It dawned on me that because I hadn’t been forced to read anything for school, I hadn’t read anything in forever. It probably also had to do with my ever-increasing phone addiction. Reading helps mitigate that in ways that are unmatched by consuming other media, even podcasts and long-form journalism.
I’m always hesitant when people ask me for book recommendations, because what people like varies greatly, so read the following reviews with this frame of reference: I am always looking for new authors who write beautiful, elegant prose. I really like historical fiction. Right now I’m gravitating toward books on spirituality and books written by people of color. Murder mysteries, fantasy, or dystopian stories don’t usually appeal to me unless they get at some larger, unique themes. And above all, I love a good coming-of-age story. Bring all of those to me.
Here are the books I’ve finished since April-ish:
Although The Book Thief took me months to get through (it’s heartbreaking at times and has very, very short chapters, making it easy to put down), it was one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. If you like creative, gorgeous prose that will stick with you, this one’s for you. It’s World War II through the eyes of a child. 5/5 stars.
“She was the book thief without the words.
Trust me, though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived, Liesel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like rain.”
Trevor Noah, fairly new host of the Daily Show on Comedy Central, is someone I didn’t know much about before I bought his book on audible, but I’ve always loved his lilty South African accent, so when I read that he narrated Born A Crime, I thought – why not? I was hoping his book would talk a little more about his career and how he got started in comedy, but the book is exactly what it says it will be: Stories from a South African Childhood. It’s an incredible look into South African culture during and after apartheid. 3.5/5 stars.
“If you’re Native American and you pray to the wolves, you’re a savage. If you’re African and you pray to your ancestors, you’re a primitive. But when white people pray to a guy who turns water into wine, well, that’s just common sense.”
I bought Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine after Reese Witherspoon endorsed it via instagram. I am equally ashamed of this as I am sure that Reese Witherspoon can do no wrong so of course that was all the prior research this book needed. WOWOWOWOWOW this book was good. At first you hate the narrator, Eleanor. She seems self-righteous and rude and she’s clearly lonely. Something’s off about her, too. The more you learn about her story, the more you root for her. I don’t want to give too much away, but this book almost brought me to tears. No easy feat these days. 4.5/5 stars.
“There are days when I feel so lightly connected to the earth that the threads that tether me to the planet are gossamer thin, spun sugar. A strong gust of wind could dislodge me completely, and I’d lift off and blow away, like one of those seeds in a dandelion clock. The threads tighten slightly from Monday to Friday.
Through several short stories, author Junot Diaz tells the story of Yunior, a serial cheater who immigrates to New Jersey from the Dominican as a boy. I devoured this book so quickly on the plane rides to and from Mexico City that I feel like the whole thing was a fever dream, and that’s a little bit how it reads. Each story of Yunior’s failed romances are so raw and quick and the subject matter – the complexities of love and relationships – is my absolute fave, so naturally I really liked this one. I’d do anything to be able to write as colloquially and as precise as Junot Diaz. He gets at the heart of the human condition in such a casual, pointed way. I’m not explaining it well, but just read it, ok? 4.5/5 stars
“That night you lay in bed, awake, and listened to the ambulances tear down our street. The heat of your face could have kept my room warm for days. I didn’t know how you stood the heat of yourself, of your breasts, of your face. I almost couldn’t touch you. Out of nowhere you said, I love you. For whatever it’s worth.”
Written as a letter to the author’s son, this book confronts the topic of race in America as he perceives it stands today. This book made me feel uncomfortable in the most necessary way. It’s beautifully written. It should probably be required reading for high school seniors. It is brave and does not shy away from somewhat controversial assertions. I listened to it and should probably buy a paper edition, as I imagine it will end up being classified as classic literature. 4.5/5 stars.
“But all our phrasing—race relations, racial chasm, racial justice, racial profiling, white privilege, even white supremacy—serves to obscure that racism is a visceral experience, that it dislodges brains, blocks airways, rips muscle, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth. You must never look away from this. You must always remember that the sociology, the history, the economics, the graphs, the charts, the regressions all land, with great violence, upon the body.”
Anne Lamott is basically my spirit animal. She’s funny, wise, and irreverent, but earnest where it counts. Is there a better combination? This is a quick read, and I could have highlighted a quote on every page. I believe it was C.S. Lewis who said that “I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God- it changes me.” That’s what Lamott is getting at here. When we say Help, it’s acknowledging that we can’t do whatever “it” is by ourselves, which is sort of freeing in a way. Thanks helps us see the bright side in every situation and circumstance. And Wow acknowledges the miracles of life, both big and small. I love Anne, and I love this book. 4/5 stars.
“You’ve heard it said that when all else fails, follow instructions. So we breathe, try to slow down and pay attention, try to love and help God’s other children, and – hardest of all, at least to me – learn to love our depressing, hilarious, mostly decent selves. We get thirsty people water, read to the very young and old, and listen to the sad. We pick up litter and try to leave the world a slightly better place for our stay here. Those are the basic instructions, to which I can add only: Amen.”
This one’s for the girls. Jen Hatmaker is the friend every non-pearl clutching Christian woman wished they had. I mean, I wish she was my friend, that’s for sure. Women of all ages and classifications (single, married, young, old, Christian, not, etc.) will be encouraged by her stories of failure – none of us have it all together, but we all have the moxie in us to come out OK on the other side. She talks parenting, writing, sibling relationships, marriage, and Jesus. This one was fun to listen to and brought me to tears in the very first chapter. Give it a listen, ladies. 4/5 stars.
That’s all for now. Got any recs for me based on the stuff above? Come at me. Also let me know if you’ve read any of these so we can discuss and bond over our great taste in literature. (Insert nerdy glasses emoji here).