On the train home and something got me thinking about a book I recently read. And then I realized, it’s been a while since I jotted down thoughts on recent reads. 2016 hasn’t been a banner year of reading, but there’s been a few gems. Here’s some of what I remember:
US, David Nichols: Weird thing, I didn’t particularly love his other book, One Day, but I actually kind of enjoyed this. It’s actually a pretty depressing premise-a husband and wife, after 20+ years together, split up, but before they do, they take a family vacation around Europe. Not uplifting, but I love books that take deep dives and explore people’s relationships over decades (ahem, Fates and Furies), and I found it a fun read.
Apartment Therapy: Complete and Happy Home: When we were in the thick of the house decisions, I remember walking to the library one afternoon thinking, I just need a book. Not Pinterest, not magazines, but a clear, easy to follow book to help me figure this whole design thing out. This did the trick. I can’t actually remember anything I read, but the photos are gorgeous. I do remember it had checklists, and to-dos to help stay organized, and I’m kind of wanting to re-check out and review now that we’re in the house.
When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi: I read Dr. Kalanithi’s NYT article, How Long Have I Got Left?, when Joanna Goddard shared it on Cup of Jo. I remember being haunted-by the wrenching thought of a talented young doctor facing death, and also by his incredible writing. When he passed away, I read his article, Before I Go, and was emotionally moved in a way that surprised me, as I don’t know him. His book is beautiful, and is as much about life and living life, as about curiosity and asking hard questions. I still think of it often.
The Most of Nora Ephron: People often talk about committing to morning bible readings, or meditation readings, as a soothing start to the day. This winter, I started doing morning Nora Ephron readings. The book is an anthology of articles and blog posts from throughout her career, and daily readings made a a nice morning ritual. I didn’t make it through the whole book (totally gave up on Heartburn), but I loved reading the When Harry Met Sally script on Valentine’s Day, and reading about her love of cooking, and butter, in particular. Also, I had no idea she was in the room when Steve Wynn accidentally poked his elbow through his Picasso! Nora and Joan-they know all the cool people.
The Folded Clock, Heidi Julavits: Not a terribly memorable book (had to look it up t0 remember more) but think the review linked above kind of nails it. Julavits is an author who likes herself and has a pretty nice life, and her book is a diary about the thoughts she has, living her nice, mostly-happy, sometimes not so happy, life. Not blockbuster material, but she’s a good writer, and it’s a fun peak into her world.
Eligible, Curtis Sittenfeld: This book is SO MUCH FUN. It made me laugh and smile, and was a totally perfect vacation-y escape from reality. If I had not already read it, I would want to book a beach vacation just to enjoy it all over again. A total delight.
A Window Opens, Elizabeth Egan: Another fun, thoroughly enjoyable read. She’s a highly perceptive writer and peppers the book with familiar cultural references that make you feel like you’re talking to a friend. I laughed with the Amazon satire; the glamour of working for a tech marketplace behemoth clashing with the reality behind all that gloss. Of course, there were times that I thought, come ON Alice (the main character), how out of touch with most of working America are you? But, once I got past that, Alice is a pretty level-headed observer of work and life, and I found Egan’s writing a delightful read.
Dinner: A Love Story, Jenny Rosenstrach: Right, this why I started thinking about recent reads on the train! I read A Window Opens and DALS back to back, and train commutes feature prominently in both. I’ve read Rosenstrach’s blog occasionally (her hummus hack is genius) and after reading a guest post from Egan on her blog, decided to check out her book. If you’re having trouble sleeping due to anxiety about the world, this book is a perfect antidote. It’s thoughtful, sentimental, and in the way it soothes your soul, it is basically the literary equivalent of a leisurely, Sunday bolognese dinner with red wine and your favorite people. Since we moved, I’m cooking a lot more. After reading her book, I’ve found myself more aware and appreciative of the dinner ritual the calming effect it has on transitioning from the work day to home.
Lift, Kelly Corrigan: KC! More of a meditation than a novel, I didn’t know what this was about when I picked it up. As always with her incredible writing, with one sentence you’re laughing at her wit and candor, and in the next, she’s assessed a familiar thought, memory or fear, and you find yourself tearing up with emotion. She is one of my all-time favorites, and I just can’t wait for her to write another book.
Unfinished Business, Anne-Marie Slaughter: In 2012, after reading her terribly titled Atlantic article, I remember thinking, nope, nope, nope, this is not the message to send to women, and really, what does this college dean/State department exec know about most working women? Turns out, truly exploring work, women, feminism, care value, and competition–ALL OF IT–can’t be distilled down to a catchy title, or even a column. It needs a book. This is that book, and I’m about halfway through and feeling immensely grateful for her writing, her research and her HONESTY.
Always look for more suggestions to add to the to-read list!