This year, some of my favorite books will be released as movies. I’m excited as I am skeptical (please don’t ruin my books!), but still can’t wait to see these:
This is Where I Leave You
Well, since my last post I found that book. The book I’m going to obsess over and recommend to anyone who will listen:
It’s not new, and it’s not a secret — the book came out last fall, won the Pulitzer in April, and has been on the bestseller list for months. I guess it also got slammed by literary critics. But I’m completely in it. A third of the way through and in that torturous place where I want to slow down so it doesn’t end, but can’t because it’s so damn good.
Fun fact: Hillary Clinton is also reading it right now.
Do you remember Room? How amazing it was? It was the book I was obsessed with in 2011. I usually have one book a year that I tell everyone to read. Room was that book. Last year it was The Interestings. 2012, Where’d You Go Bernadette. What will in be in 2014?
I actually don’t think it will be Donoghue’s new book, Frog Music, although that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it. It was highly entertaining. Just so different from Room! I felt like I was reading a different author. Which, props to Donoghue for her versatility.
This one is set in San Francisco in 1876. I usually avoid historical fiction. I’m not sure why. I have this immature sense that it’s going to be boring. Turns out, it was fascinating to read about San Francisco in the 1870s. Donoghue did her research and painted a realistic picture of the time — horse drawn carriages, clashes between Chinese and French immigrants, the small pox epidemic, and an oppressive heat wave that smothered San Francisco that August and September. It was fun to imagine how our city used to be.
The main characters, Jenny Bonnet and Blanche Beunon, were real people of the time. Donoghue crafted the story around newspaper articles and public records. The book starts out with Jenny’s murder (that’s not a spoiler; it happens right away). The rest of the story jumps between the day of the murder and a few weeks later, time Blanche spends desperately trying to figure out who killed her friend. You can feel Blanche’s stress, the sticky heat, the dust of the streets, the looming fear of disease, and the inescapable, crushing oppression of women back then.
Plus, there are some steamy sex scenes.
P.S. I have a pact with my friend Sky to blog once a week. Here we go!
Two new books on my wishlist for summer reading:
I loved Ferris’s first book, Then We Came to the End, a darkly funny workplace comedy. I’m excited to read this new one, which I’m sure will be as entertaining as the first. From the publisher’s description:
“Paul O’Rourke is a man made of contradictions: he loves the world, but doesn’t know how to live in it. He’s a Luddite addicted to his iPhone, a dentist with a nicotine habit, a rabid Red Sox fan devastated by their victories, and an atheist not quite willing to let go of God.”
Fun story about Then We Came to the End: I actually read it in manuscript form back in the mid-2000s because I was interviewing for an editorial assistant job at Little, Brown with the inimitable editor Reagan Arthur. After the interview, she handed me the manuscript and asked me to to draft flap copy as an assignment. I labored for hours and hours. I decided to take another job before hearing back from Reagan on whether or not I got it (a decision I still occasionally question). It was fun seeing this book come out and become a major bestseller. (I checked: they didn’t use any of my flap copy.)
Ahhh, Michael Cunningham. The Hours is one of my all-time favorite books. I’ve read it twice and am now thinking of reading it again. My love for The Hours and Mrs. Dalloway are intertwined; both books take me back to my last year of college and the study-abroad trip to London that got me hooked on Virginia Woolf . The beautifully-titled Snow Queen sounds like the kind of book I could get lost in. From the description:
“In subtle, lucid prose, [Cunningham] demonstrates a profound empathy for his conflicted characters and a singular understanding of what lies at the core of the human soul.”
I just got back from Popoyo, Nicaragua. I spent many (many) hours in this hammock:
It’s a portrait of a town. Russo’s characters are richly developed, distinctive, and very much human. The book touches on themes of ambition, lost opportunity, unfulfilling marriages, unlikely friendships, and the scrappy bond of family that somehow outlasts all. I breezed through it. I realized when I finished the book that not all that much happened in the story, but it felt like it did. More than plot twists, I was held by the subtle transformations of the characters and the unexpected connections between them.
When I wasn’t reading, I was enjoying this place. A dream.
“There comes a point when, tired of losing, you decide to stop failing yourself, or at least to try, or to send up the final flare, one last chance.” –Colum McCann, Let the Great World Spin
The New York Times released their list of “100 Notable Books of 2013.” The list reminded me that it was a very good year for books, and that I still need to read these:
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I loved The Secret History and can’t wait to read her next book — her first in 11 years! (Also: that cover.)
And the best title on the NYT’s list goes to A Guide to Being Born by Ramona Asubel.
For the record, I’m a fan of Elizabeth Gilbert.
I loved Eat, Pray, Love and do not think it is in the realm of chick lit (or “chick nonfic,” as I’ve heard people in publishing say . . . groan).
Gilbert’s next book Committed helped me form a point of view on marriage and commitment when I was in my late 20s and unsure about what those things meant to me. My copy is underlined and dog-eared.
I just read this feature on her in the New York Times and like her even more. Did you know she published her first short story in Esquire? That she was on staff at GQ? That she published three critically-acclaimed literary books before Eat, Pray, Love completely exploded? She’s the real deal.
I look forward to reading her new novel, The Signature of All Things.