What have I been up to, aside from becoming obsessed with Billions, cooking with Antoni Porowski, wondering what Mary Berry would make of the various baked goods I eat on any given week, buying too many Uniqlo loungewear culottes (they’re floral and perfect).
I’ve been reading! Penelope weaves, I read, same way of making people think I’m not paying attention but I am. The number of times I have pretended to be reading but really just was listening in on conversations is…well, it’s staggering.
Here are some of the best books I’ve read since we last spoke. Which is a while. Perhaps I will write more regularly. I had a lot of thoughts (Thoughts with a capital T) about the vast terribleness of the Amazon brick and mortar bookstore which are certainly enough for its own post but for now, let me get in a word: It’s entirely organized by algorithm. Displays based on which books Kindle readers rush through the quickest, shelves composed of books with Amazon ratings of 4.8 or higher. There is no human touch in this bookstore. No staff picks display. No almost out-of-print gem that a staff member had loved as a kid and now was putting front and center. No books that I hadn’t heard of because all the books were already best-sellers.
So baby, I’m bringing back the human touch! I made a shelf of Books I Liked In The Last Few Months. Lately, I’ve almost only been reading fiction by women for work — but there are quite a few books on my TBR list that are more eclectic.
Annihilation and Authority by Jeff VanderMeer: READ THESE BOOKS. Just please read them so I can stop squawking about “what innovative and amazing sci-fi they are seriously they’re like nothing you read just prepare to have your mind be somersaulting! is annihilation by way of area x really the worst thing?! etc etc”
The Power by Naomi Alderman: Goddamn, this book was good. In The Power, women suddenly unlock the ability to shoot lightning out of their collarbone. Instead of being like, “ok! that’s kind of cool,” their power compels some women to want to topple the patriarchy. A thrilling thought experiment, and a damning indictment of power’s corrupting influence across all gender lines.
Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday: This is Halliday’s first novel. HOW is it Halliday’s first novel. If this were my first novel I’d take myself out for an ice cream sundae every afternoon and get extra whipped cream. The book is divided up into three sections — a surprisingly sweet romance between a youngish book editor and a brilliant writer in 2001, an Iraqi man detained in the London airport trying to visit his brother in 2008, and an interview with an author. I’ll keep it short: The book made me consider the repercussions of our family & our circumstances in shaping the body of our lives.
Wonder by R.J. Palacios: Hey adults. I don’t care if you know kids or not. READ this middle grade book. It’ll make you cry and then after it’ll make you kind!
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones: Of course this made Oprah’s book club. It’s awesome. Only a year into Celestial and Roy’s marriage, Roy is falsely accused of rape and sentenced to jail. When he’s away, Celestial’s life moves forward. Their marriage, which was so new, struggles under the weight of Roy’s sentence. Since An American Marriage has three narrators, your sympathies will be pulled in every direction. Expect to argue with yourself and your book club friends.
Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney: Goddamn, I wish the conversations I had with my friends were this smart. Like Assymetry this book featured a compelling relationship between a young woman and an older creative type. This is such a trope, but Rooney and Halliday write it so it’s fresh and doesn’t really feel tropey but rather just another human pairing. I wonder why men in books (and life) always date younger women. I won’t hold this against the books.
Out of Egypt by Andre Aciman: If you liked Call Me By Your Name, read Aciman’s ridiculously wonderful memoir. His family is something out of a tall tale. He captures Alexandria at the last of its days as a multicultural, multilingual city.
There have been a bunch more — Girls Burn Brighter, The Gunners, Emergency Contact, Children of Blood and Bone, The Merry Spinster.
I’ll write more about them soon!