How are you all holding up? What a strange time this is — I feel like we are all in limbo and waiting, without a clear timeline for the return to normal life. While I’ve been trying to enjoy the benefits of being at home with family (cooking, playing Legos on the floor, long chats about imaginary scenarios, brownie-making (it’s own category of cooking), I also have been craving an escape from the low-level worry that this situation carries with it, even for families lucky enough to be at home and feeling well. While I always love launching myself into a new show or novel, over these past few weeks journeying into someone else’s life and time has felt even more pleasurable. I also just got a Kindle, which makes it so easy to read new books by borrowing from the library, reading samples through Amazon and then buying from there (a little too easy, haha). Here’s what I’ve been reading lately!
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
I’d heard about Olive Kitteridge for a long time, but the description didn’t make me want to pick it up. I finally read a kindle sample and was hooked, and read it all in just a few nights. This book is almost like a collection of short stories, little glimpses into people’s lives, all connected by a link to Olive Kitteridge, a strong personality living in a small coastal Maine town. A lot of the stories had an edge of sadness to them, but the overall feeling was one of humanity revealed, and a glimpse into the interior lives of a whole collection of people. The writing was just beautiful.
The Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center
I really love Katherine Center books — they are easy and enjoyable reads that pull you right in, and there is always a big challenge the protagonist is facing which they are able to do while learning about themselves. So many “easier to get into” reads are a little silly, but her books are smart; and while they have happy-ish endings things are not tied up in a bow either. In short, I really feel they are perfect reading for the current moment, and I can’t wait until her next book comes out this summer! Things You Save in a Fire profiles a strong and courageous woman fire fighter as she reconnects with her estranged mother (kind of against her will), and has to prove herself to a new group of macho firefighters who don’t want a ‘lady’ colleague in a small New England town.
Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner
I often really enjoy books by Jennifer Weiner, and this brand new one was a fun adventure involving a murder to be solved and an old friendship to be examined. Weiner’s books are fast and fun reads, and this was a great escapist pleasure, even if it wasn’t too memorable.
Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner
Mrs. Everything is another more recent Jennifer Weiner book, but I have to say I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. It followed two sisters through the course of their lives and was actually pretty depressing. I found it hard to really relate to the characters, and so many bad things happened to them in a way that felt over the top. Not a favorite of mine.
All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner
Another Jennifer Weiner book! All Fall Down is about addiction, and follows a fairly privileged mother who is overwhelmed with work, motherhood, and keeping up appearances and falls into opioid addiction. It was an interesting look into how easy it can be to lie to yourself and push off taking action until a problem has grown too big to manage. Not my favorite book by her, but it was an interesting window into addiction.
Normal People by Sally Rooney
I couldn’t put Normal People down and literally read it in one night (which made it a bit hard to wake up in the morning, haha). You may have heard of this novel by wonderkin Irish author Sally Rooney, which has now been made into a miniseries. The writing was sparse and evocative, and this story of two young people who are so different but both deeply uncomfortable in their own skins, felt so honest and unsparing. I can’t stop thinking about this book actually — these characters were so real and flawed and damaged, and the book plumbed the depths of their minds, including their most disturbing thoughts. This is more of a character study than a plot-driven book, but it was so intriguing.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
A Wrinkle in Time is a classic I have read many times, so at the beginning of our time at home I reached for it as a comfort read. A young adult story of the triumph of free thought over evil and conformity, this is an inspiring story no matter your age. I love Madeleine L’Engle and have read all her young adult books several times over — some show their datedness in certain social situations, but her descriptions of being young and thrust into challenging situations feel timeless to me.
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
You may have heard of Pachinko since it made quite a splash when it was released. The author is of Korean heritage herself and was long fascinated by the situation of people of Korean descent in Japan, where they have faced discrimination for generations. She then was able to move to Japan for several years, and gained more insight into how these individuals defined themselves and were able to manage their difficult circumstances. This book was so engaging and really taught me a lot about the experience of this subset of people. It also made me feel so much gratitude for the bounty I have — for example at one point one of the characters struggles to buy a small amount of white rice for a celebration, and I made white basmati rice a few times that week and really appreciated how delicious it is, and how lucky I am to be able to afford the groceries we need. Definitely a perspective-shifting story.
Happy & You Know It by Laura Hankin
Natalie has been reading Happy & You Know It and she recommended it to me (she found it through this awesome book club that has you choose a book a month from their curated selections), and I flew through it. This begins as a well-written but light book about a stuck musician and the wealthy mom’s playgroup she performs at, but then turned into something else, with secret affairs and dark twists. This is absolutely an escapist pleasure.
See more Reading and Watching posts here. Do you have a favorite show or book that you’ve enjoyed lately? We would love to hear!
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