1. The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath by Leslie Jamison I still remember when Ruby called to tell me I had to pick up The Empathy Exams. I take all her recommendations with extreme seriousness and purchased the book immediately. At the time, I wasn’t reading a lot of essays. The book was the perfect introduction to the genre/sort of ruined lots of other mediocre collections for me. It’s that good. So when Ruby brought me Jamison’s most recent book, I immediately dropped all my to be read titles and settled in with it one Saturday. It’s long, but worth lugging in a tote, of course. I can’t really say much other than Leslie Jamison is a master of nonfiction and this book is pitch perfect. It’s about addiction and recovery and history and I’m counting down the months until her new book comes out this fall.
2. By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart This book came via a recommendation on Instagram (yikes, what a sentence.) It’s a small book, one I opened unassumingly on a Tuesday afternoon. But half an hour later I was bent over, crying, and in shock. Published in 1945, the book documents the love affair between journalist Elizabeth Smart and poet George Barker. It’s as gut wrenching as it gets, filled with small devastating quips that feel impossibly romantic. It’s also one of those books that feels like it will stay with me forever, be revisited a hundred times. It’s so brilliant, but not for the romantically faint of heart.
3. Stag’s Leap by Sharon Olds Another read inspired by On Being—I can’t get enough. Sharon Old’s episode with Krista was funny and insightful. I finished it when I got home and was able to take notes. I had read some of her earlier work, but went to Greenlight with the intention of picking up her most famous collection. I found her writing on relationships to be some of the most honest ever. I’m a verifiable fan, now.
4. The Hours by Michael Cunningham This title was given to me as a thoughtful birthday gift. For some reason, I’d never heard of the book, despite its popularity and adoration from readers and critics. The story draws deeply from Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. It follows the lives of three women, incredibly different drawn unexpectedly close by the end of the book. It’s as much about death (following Woolf just days before her tragic suicide) as it is about friendship.
5. An Abbreviated Life by Ariel Leve I picked up this memoir during the madness that was a local book sale at a church. Tables of nonfiction buckled at the hinge with loads of books. The usual suspects—seven copies of Eat, Pray, Love and WW2 biographies—were present. But this cover caught my attention. It had many of the elements I adore in memoir: life in New York, complex parent-child relationships, and a fast pace. I read it in a few days, mostly on the train. The book was an exercise in empathy, as Leve speaks of being raised by a mother more akin to a child than a parent in the swirling art scene of Manhattan. In contrast to her slow paced, rural life now, her stories read somehow with ease and pain.