It’s been a wonky, exhausting month or so of leading and working and parenting and all the other “ings.” That said, I’m tired of taking myself so seriously and just want to talk about books, okay?
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
This charming story about a curmudgeon named Ove (ooo-veh) was originally published in Swedish, so I knew it could be trusted because…IKEA. It’s a story about the sadness that lies behind Ove’s cranky exterior and the people who help him see that life truly is for the living. You can get through it in a day or two. Really lovely. I hear the audio version is fabulous if you are in the market for something for your ears.
“People said Ove saw the world in black and white. But she was color. All the color he had.”
The Lake House by Kate Morton
This book is not at all related to the horrible Sandra Bullock movie by the same name. So put that out of your mind at once! I cannot remember the last time I enjoyed a novel this much. This engrossing mystery is split between 1930s Cromwell, England where a young child disappears without a trace and 2004 London, where young detective stumbles upon the cold case and discovers its ties to one of England’s most celebrated mystery writers. At the heart of it sits a stunning/eerie English mansion that is a character in and of itself. The Lake House is the kind of book that makes me want to take a star away from any other novel I’ve given five stars to. My only complaint is that after spending more than 500 pages with Kate’s characters, I could not bring myself to start another novel for a full 48 hours. I was that invested.
“We are all victims of our human experience, apt to view the present through the lens of our own past.”
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
This is breezy chick lit to be sure, but so what! Alice is a 39-year-old mother of 3 in the middle of divorcing the man she’s come to hate, only she thinks she’s 29, crazy in love with her husband and expecting their first child. She has a concussion to thank for the memory loss but not for the ugliness that has crept into her marriage during the decade she’s forgotten. An easy, enjoyable read.
“She said that sometimes you had to be brave enough to point your life in a new direction.”
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
This swift YA read about two broken teenagers has been described as Eleanor & Park meets The Fault in Our Stars and, while I wouldn’t disagree, I found it more endearing and tragic than both of those. Thumbs up.
“You have to live your life like you’ll never be sorry. It’s easier just to do the right thing from the start so there’s nothing to apologize for.”
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
This tenderly rendered debut novel lives up to the hype. It begins, “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet. . .” So perfect. Ng’s omniscient narrator reveals what’s going on in her characters’ hearts and minds, allowing the reader to learn the truth of the tragedy, even if the family never does. It’s absorbing, well-written and replete with racial, gender and parenting issues. My biggest takeaway: It’s a fool’s errand to try bending our children to be the people we wish we had become.
“She understands. There is nowhere to go but on. Still, part of her longs to go back.”
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Now here’s a book I normally wouldn’t read (post-apocolyptic) that ended up nudging me to think about all the time and “taken-for-granted miracles” that persist all around us. It’s melancholy, mesmerizing and everything in between. It was beautifully, beautifully written and I’m so glad I stepped out of my comfort zone to read it.
“First we only want to be seen, but once we’re seen, that’s not enough anymore. After that, we want to be remembered.”
Finders Keepers by Stephen King
I haven’t read anything by Stephen King since I was in high school, so I have no idea what possessed me to check this out (around Christmas of all times). I expected it to be a page turner, which it is, but not until the VERY end. I really wish he hadn’t stalled so much, or been so violet just to be violent.
“Books were escape. Books were freedom.”
Hatching Twitter by Nick Bolton
Think you have drama in your life? Think again. I can’t even believe this story of Twitter’s founders is real. It’s crazy and sad with a side of, “Oh, no he didn’t!” Highly recommended (so long as you can overlook a couple of typos the editor didn’t catch).
“Some people are destined for greatness; others fall up a hill to get there.”
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
If you need someone to drill sergeant you into actually doing something with your creativity this year, give the job to Gilbert. I underlined more sound advice in this book than any other in recent memory. It was the first book I read in 2016, and it did not disappoint. If you know going into it that it’s part”whoo-whoo,” part light-a-fire-under-your-rear, you’ll love it.
“Creativity is sacred, and it is not sacred. What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all. We toil alone, and we are accompanied by spirits. We are terrified, and we are brave. Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege.”
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan
Another “You’ve got to be kidding me!” kind of memoir. New York Post reporter Susannah Cahalan literally loses her mind, but the doctors can’t figure out what’s wrong with her. $1 million dollars worth of tests later, someone finally makes diagnosis. Cahalan remembers nothing when she recovers, so this book is what she discovers about her “month of madness” by reviewing her medical records, watching hospital security videotapes of herself, and interviewing friends, family, and her medical team. Crazy, I tell you. And such a good read.
“Sometimes, just when we need them, life wraps metaphors up in little bows for us. When you think all is lost, the things you need the most return unexpectedly.”
Girl Meets Change by Kristen Strong
If you are are going through change currently or can see it out there on the horizon, bring this book with you as a companion. Kristen is so wise and helpful.
“Change isn’t something to jump away from or fear. It’s something we can walk toward with an assurance of safety. We can look it in the eyes, uncross our arms, and acknowledge it by calling it what it is: God’s next best thing for us.”
Still Writing by Dani Shapiro
Simply put: The best, most relatable book on writing I’ve read in YEARS. This is on my shelf next to Bird by Bird and On Writing because it can certainly keep that kind of company. It helped me understand so much about myself and the things I struggle with as a creative (and as an introvert).
“Act as if. Act as if you’re a writer. Sit down and begin. Act as if you might just create something beautiful, and by beautiful I mean something authentic and universal. Don’t wait for anybody to tell you it’s OK. Take that shimmer and show us our humanity. That’s your job.”