My taste in books has gone through many phases over the years, but it's narrowed to two kinds of specifiic and very different categories. My favorite type of fiction is character-driven. I'm drawn to books that are pretty solidly based in reality, but have tiny hints of surrealism that seem to capture the beauty and poetry of life in ways that straight realism seems incapable of doing completely on its own. I love authors who play with the laws of physics and language in ways that are unique and meaningful (and make me feel extremely unworthy and incompetent as a writer) --Jonathan Safran Foer, David Foster Wallace, Nicole Krauss, Kurt Vonnegut. The other type of books I'm drawn to are the autobiographies of people I find inspiring and look up to.
This book is a beautiful, moving, heavy, and incredibly eye-opening letter from a father to his 15 year old son about what it means to navigate the world as a black man living in America. He discusses the invention of race, the illusion of "the dream," police brutality, and what it means to grow up and find yourself while living in an "expendable body." Poetic and heartbreaking, It's the frank discussion on race that America is in desperate need of. Read this book, and then make other people read it, too!
I read this book in one day, I was so drawn into the world of this fictionalized Menonite Colony and this circle of women. It takes place in 2009 Bolivia, but the year is quickly forgotten, the place is quickly forgotten, it could be any circle of women anywhere. There is so much power in the simple act of women talking, sharing stories, encouraging and engaging with eachother, fighting for eachother, and becoming braver together, for eachother, than anyone would be on their own. An important book in an important time.
"This is one of my favorite books I've read in a very long time. Historical fiction based on the life of Madame Tussaud, who I knew next to nothing about beforehand and now am an obsessed fan of. Whimsy, revolution, wax body parts, a cast of memorable characters, beautiful sketches throughout-- told from the perspective of one tough and talented short statured orphan whose love of art saved her own life and created a long-lasting legacy. I fell in love with Little and will miss living in her brain."
1969 New York City, four siblings conspire to sneak out with their savings and meetthe “Woman on Hester Street.” --a fortune teller they’ve heard rumors about who can accurately predict the date a person will die. Although they eventually grow apart and move away, the family is bound together forever by this one life-defining event. The Immortalists follows the Gold siblings (Varya, Daniel, Klara, and Simon) as they navigate their diverging lives with the unsettling knowledge of how long they have to live them. Does knowing determine their choices, how quickly, fully, impulsively they live, or was it always going to be this way? This book was transcendent-- beautiful, fragile, funny, and heartbreaking in all of the wonderful and terrible ways that life can be. Like the woman on Hester Street, Chloe Benjamin will lure you in, work her magic, and forever alter how you see the world.
I'm not sure if I can put into words exactly how much I loved this book. Pavla, a girl in an unnamed european country in the early 1900's, is born a dwarf after her parents had sought fertility help from a local witch. They love her just the same and Pavla, whose nickname in school is "little nothing" comes to terms with her identity and learns to love herself. She is beautfiul, and people travel their village just to meet her. It isn't until her parents start worrying about who will marry her and take care of her when they are gone that they consult the witch again, as well as a series of doctors, in hopes of "curing" her dwarfism. Pavla goes through a series of transformations throughout the book--from dwarf, to a wolf-girl who ends up in a "freak show" at the carnival, to wolf, back to human--and we follow along with her story as well as the story of Danilo, the boy who loves her at every stage. The characters are quirky and beautfiul, the writing is flawless--I really can't recommend this book highly enough. One of my all-time favorites.
In this compelling, beautifully woven novel by Leni Zumas the United States government has recently passed “The Personhood Amendment,” which gives full citizenry (the rights to life, liberty, and property ownership) to every fertilized egg. This outlaws abortion as well as in vitro fertilization, and a soon to be enforced law entitled “Every Child needs Two” will prohibit single parents from adopting children. This puts the four women whose stories we follow in Red Clocks--A single teacher who wants a baby, a promising young student who finds herself pregnant, a mother of two who wants out of her marriage, and an outcasted town “mender” (known as the witch) who helps women seeking abortions despite the law-- in varying predicaments as they come to terms with how they define womanhood in this new world, and where they place themselves in it. Zumas masterfully explores national politics on a local level, exploring what such laws would mean in the lives of real women living in a small town in Oregon.
An absolutely gorgeous book that's almost a hybrid between a novel and a collection of short stories. This was the first time I've ever read Anthony Marra and it definitely won't be the last. Marra's border-line lyrical writing weaves a captivating story that travels through an oppressed, war-torn russia, through several decades of time, and ends all the way out at the edge of the galaxy-- following the heartbreaking story of a government censor who when assigned the task of erasing "traitors" from famous works of art, would paint the face of his late brother in their place. It is a story about family, loyalty, betrayal, love, war, and how beautifully complicated and flawed we all are. I could not put this book down, and was genuinely sad when it was over.
My very cheesy but also truthful review for the latest by Elizabeth Gilbert, is that the book itself is magic. I've honestly never felt so connected to a non-fiction book before. In Big Magic, Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) discusses the struggles and triumphs of trying to pursue a creative lifestyle. She talks about the difficulties, anxieties, and failures she's experienced while trying to write, and offers the methods she uses to overcome them. It's extraordinarily comforting and inspirational to know that someone who is so wildly successful feels the same fears as the rest of us, and works just as hard at it. She also discusses her philosophy on creativity, which is a universe full of ideas that are waiting and determined to be brought to fruition by a creatively receptive and committed person. This is the titular "big magic," the feeling you get when you are doing something creative and experience a sort of divine inspiration, create something that feels guided in part by something outside of yourself. Her writing is personal and funny, lighthearted and motivational. If you've ever been interested in doing anything creative and felt held back for whatever reason, you should definitely read this book, it might be just the pat on the back/kick in the pants you need.