1. The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kelk This is one of those books that I've toted from Iowa, to New York, and back at least twice. Getting into it was no easy task. After listening to an OnBeing episode featuring Dr. Van Der Kelk, I was more determined than ever. Plenty of stories and case studies make this dense book bearable, along with helpful graphics. Coupled with more abstract literature on grief, this book helps to explore the topic in a tangible sense.
2. Not Here by Hieu Minh Nguyen Another Beaverdale Books find, Not Here was given to me with no prior knowledge of the poet or the subject matter. Reading living poets has been an intention of mine for over a year now, so reading Nguyen was perfectly aligned. I find there is an unmistakable freshness in young artists whose work is influenced by the constantly shifting social norms. This book felt overwhelming in its exploration of love and grief. But this never read as overbearing, rather as tender and quiet in a strong way.
3. Home: A Novel by Marilynne Robinson An Iowa icon, Robinson and her writing had always been a bit intimidating to me. Sometimes reading about where you're from can feel intrusive and other times it can be really illuminating. In the case of Home, I felt myself settling into the Midwest rituals that defined my grandparents and their parents. Summers on the farm blended into the warm, dizzyingly realistic scenes that Robinson paints so expertly. What Are We Doing Here? is on my bedside table, begging to be revisited this summer.
4. Saturday by Ian McEwan Flying to and from Iowa can get tedious, especially when direct flights aren't in the cards. On my last trip back to the homeland, I tucked this book in my backpack before running out the door to catch my flight. I started it at the gate, hardly made eye contact with the lady checking my ticket, and neglected coffee from the stewardess. I was sucked into the narrative entirely. Still trying to sort out how I feel about this book, but I think it's a wonderful book club option for friends, since it explores a lot of themes and reads effortlessly. It also would make a lovely step back into reading if it's something you've put off for a while. Sometimes a gripping, short novel is all it takes to reawaken a passion for books.
5. Book of Longing by Leonard Cohen I went through a bit of a Leonard Cohen obsessive phase after Montreal. Reading Cohen's book of poems seemed like a good place to start. His music made more sense and felt more intimate after reading. Drawings are scattered throughout which might not be my number one favorite artistic choice, but it works. Cohen was a mastermind, constantly in pursuit of new manifestations of his art. I love that about him and can't wait to read more of his writing. Bonus: Dance Me to the End of Love remains my favorite of his songs.
6. The Futures by Anna Pitoniak Novels set in the summer after the lead character graduates from college and decides to move to New York are a favorite of mine. Seems niche, but there are a shocking amount of books that fit the bill. The premise is exciting; The Futures is no exception. The book sits somewhere between The Big Short and Sweetbitter. It's not life changing, but served as a lovely subway read. Think of it as a literary palette cleanser.