1. Cherry by Mary Karr Cherry was the last book of Mary Karr’s I’d yet to read. I idolize her work, especially her poetry, and this was the work of hers I was least familiar with. It’s a funny, in that dark, sharp humor Mary Karr invented way. She recounts her sexual coming of age with unflinching detail. The women she writes on later in life is seen in flashes in this stubborn, yet tender Texas girl. Her relationship to her mother is explored in great vulnerability, allowing the reader greater insight into the ways they grew alike over time.
2. Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney This is the sort of novel I would feel excited about recommending to almost any reader. That’s not because it’s simple or pedestrian—it’s just that good. Sharp, effortless to read, and complex at all the right turns, Sally Rooney perfectly paints portraits of relationships. It’s a coming of age story, but even more so a story about the people we come of age alongside. I can’t wait to pick up Rooney’s new book this spring. Until then, this podcast will do.
3. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt A modern classic and a true brick of a book, I think I’ve moved The Goldfinch into every apartment I’ve lived in without opening it. It’s divisive--a friend found it too intense to read and another begged me to start that very night. I love Donna Tartt, a Bennington grad, and finally committed last week. My reading experience was much like The Secret History or A Little Life. I would stuff the book into my tote bag at the start of the day, reading at any chance I found and looking up bleary eyed, totally immersed in the atmosphere of the novel. This podcast by the BBC on Donna Tartt was fascinating to listen to before starting. Novels this transporting are a gift; And always worth the time/carrying around.
4. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg When it comes to books on writing, I’m willing to take just about recommendation. The result? A pile of writing books I read once and forget about. While Bird by Bird remains my all time favorite, this book is definitely up there. The structure is very conducive to revisitation—lots of essays on the craft, some with prompts, others a mere half page long. The book is honest, just the right amount of woo woo, and at points, downright practical.
5. Bad Behavior by Mary Gaitskill My year of short stories continues with a book recommended to me by at least three authors I adore. Turns out it’s a sort of pillar of the genre, published in 1988. Lots of the stories are about neurotic New Yorkers, in love or something close to that. It’s an honest look at our expectations and disappointments in relationships. Each story is propelled by perfectly rounded characters, muddling through.
6. The Latest Winter by Maggie Nelson You can imagine my surprise when I met Arielle for breakfast and saw an unfamiliar Maggie Nelson cover on the table. “What is that?” I asked almost accusingly. She laughed and graciously told me she got it at Greenlight. All roads lead to Greenlight, especially for me and Arielle. I immediately picked up a copy. It was a delight to read a work of Maggie Nelson’s for the first time, again. This book, her second anthology of poetry, is playful, testing out forms of poetry, traversing with ease from light hearted topics to an incredibly heartbreaking account of 9/11. It’s electrifying, inspiring, and so very Maggie Nelson.