1. Our Little Racket by Angelica Baker The art of the perfect plane novel remains the most calculated component of any trip I take. A notoriously awful packer, it’s typical for me to neglect practical items in attempt to make more room for something like, let’s say, a cape. But I take the books I pack incredibly seriously. I love novels on flights, preferably paperback, and usually a central mother/daughter relationship. Feels specific, but that’s only after enough flights with bad books! In my mind, Our Little Racket, is the perfect fit. The story unfolds in Greenwich, CT during the 2008 financial crisis. The main character, Madison, faces public ridicule for her father’s role in the shuttering of a famed investment bank. Female relationships bolster up the swarming pool of accusations and secrets-Madison’s grandmas, her best friend, nanny, and mother all feature prominently. The book is tight, graceful, and captivating.
2. Tonight I’m Someone Else by Chelsea Hodson When Maggie Nelson calls a debut “bracingly good…refreshing and welcome,” you take note. And take note I did, finishing this book in one sunny afternoon-moving from my roof, to my sofa, and finally on the train before meeting a friend for dinner. The book tackles topics that can feel stilted or gimmick-y in other contexts-technology, social media, and intimacy just being a few. It felt like the “Strong back, soft front” mentality penned by Brene Brown come to life. Highly recommend Hodson if you’re a fan of Chloe Caldwell, Melissa Febos, or Mary Ruefle.
3. My Soul Looks Back by Jessica B. Harris As fall comes ever so gingerly, I find myself drawn to memoirs. I’ve had this book for a few months and started it in Kansas City. Jessica Harris paints a swirling portrait of New York in the early seventies. Friends like James Baldwin, Maya Angelou, and Toni Morrison help set the incredibly specific feeling of the art scene in Greenwich Village then. Recipes fit naturally at the end of each chapter. Dinner parties and read alouds and funerals, alike, remind the reader of the intimate moments that make up a life are usually gathered around some sort of table, together.
4. Motherhood by Sheila Heti Talking about Sheila Heti’s writing is nearly impossible. I blubbered through a debrief with my best friend who recommended the book to me, realizing I had just been saying, “I mean, I MEAN…” for five minutes. And I think reading books that are impossible to talk about is a great practice. A novel, Motherhood, reads a bit more like the inside of every woman’s honest dialogue surrounding the question of whether or not to have children. I sent my mom lots of frantic emails on the subject while reading and found myself engaging in really candid conversations with friends about it in a new way. This book pairs brilliantly with this piece by Zadie Smith on the passage of time in a woman’s body.
5. Lit by Mary Karr In my mind, Mary Karr is the perfect memoirist. Funny, honest (usually painfully so), and willing to go there every time, she’s redefined the whole genre for me. Her poetry is excellent and her book on memoir was a delight to read, but Lit is my favorite of the bunch. It’s equally comforting and uncomfortable, making the perfect read for long train rides or early nights in.