1. American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld Prone to nonfiction, sometimes weary of a page count over 400, it’s no surprise I put off reading American Wife. What I don’t put off is a recommendation from Ruby. She suggested Prep for Jim and You Think It I’ll Say It for me when we visited her at work this summer. Of course, she was spot on. When she put a copy of this book in my hands on a recent trip to DC, I trusted her fully. The novel tells the story of Alive Lindgren, a quiet only child growing up in suburban WIsconsin. A tragic accident changes her at age 17. Her life shifts dramatically again in her late 20s when she meets the charismatic, charming son of a famed Republican family. In a blur, he becomes governor and then president. Alice is confronted with the reality of her conflicting beliefs and increasingly public persona.
2. Glass, Irony & God by Anne Carson It’s not that I dislike Anne Carson’s writing. She’s one of my favorite authors. I’ve read probably six of her books. But I’ll be the first to admit that I have a hard time connecting to the level of intellect some of it boasts. Once, I was reading Eros on the subway and the man next to me asked what I was about. I looked at him and shrugged. “Your guess is as good as mine,” I said. This book, though by no means a quick read, felt more digestible. “The Book of Isaiah” was my favorite essay.
3. How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays by Alexander Chee With Roxane Gay’s stamp of approval, what more do you need? I picked up this book after seeing it on a list of books that inspire good writing that aren’t necessarily “writing books.” It’s a collection of essays on writing, yes, but also on politics, on place, and on the way all these intersect. His writing is wry, funny but loaded. Highly recommend reading after Heavy , as I did, in the lobby of BAM before a film.
4. Silence, Joy by Thomas Merton I can still remember reading my first Merton (No Man is an Island) about three years ago. Alone, in my bedroom, I felt his perspective crack open all I thought I knew about Christianity. He’s pretty much everyone’s favorite monk. This beautiful copy of his fifty-year-old classic caught my eye at Greenlight. It’s been a delight to carry in my bag for in-between moments. And I think that’s how Merton would have wanted it to be read. Reflections on solitude, tangents on ecstacy, and notes on stillness meet in this perfect collection.
5. She Wants It by Jill Soloway My good friend, Arielle, gave me this book at a party I was hosting a month ago. Prior to reading, I was embarrassingly unfamiliar with Jill Soloway, except for I Love Dick. Cut to present day and I’m a bonafide super fan. I watched all of Transparent in two weeks (record time) and listened to every podcast I could find with Jill in it. Oh and of course, loved Afternoon Delight (on Netflix.) Reading the book with limited familiarity with her work was interesting, although I think I would enjoy it even more now. Not to say I didn’t the first time around! Soloway writes brilliantly on gender, love, her craft, on how it all changes and that’s ok.
6. 300 Arguments by Sarah Manguso Ongoingness was my first introduction to Manguso, thanks to Ruby’s direction. I loved the book, but it somehow fell off my radar. This book was part of the reading list supplied for the memoir class I’m taking. I ordered it, read it in one afternoon, then ordered a copy for Lydia. I joked it was our new Bluets, a book we both adore and connects us deeply. Leslie Jamison describes it as “distilled.” And in the book, Manguso writes that she hopes it reads like the best parts of a longer work. Mission accomplished. She writes about power, love, aging, really so many topics, with the precision of a surgeon. I also find books like this or Silence, Joy are so fun to give as random gifts because of their size.