1. Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living by Krista Tippett After you've downloaded every OnBeing episode, pick up this book. It reads as a series of conversations, between the imitable Krista Tippett and her host of guests. I was really into the format that encouraged reading segments and then returning. I'm excited to read more of Tippett's work. She's a woman I admire greatly.
2. Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit This is kind of required reading, but only after Men Explain Things to Me. This book is the perfect book to take when you might have a minute or few to read while you wait. Or, in my case, an hour in the car before the kid you babysit is finished with baseball practice. Solnit is concise and clear, something admirable when writing on topics like violence, gender, and masculinity.
3. Plainsong by Kent Haruf Vying for my favorite novel of 2017 is Plainsong written in 1999. I feel late to the Kent Haruf party but I am thrilled to be here. Reading this during my time in Iowa felt stupidly perfect. It's the kind of novel only enriched by the experience of living in a small town in the middle of the country. Haruf interlaces narratives with ease, creates an entirely fictional town in less than a chapter, and reminds me that sometimes fiction can be simply magical.
4. Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage by Dani Shapiro I've been enjoying reading about marriage recently. With little introduction to Shapiro, I ordered Hourglass. Teetering on the edge of poetry and memoir, Hourglass unfolds and then refolds the marriage of Shapiro and her aging husband. Her language is graceful and then suddenly striking. If you like Mary Karr or Annie DIllard, this book is a safe choice. My advice would be to resist reading it quickly, but instead to allow it to sit and then revisit.
5. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood I might be the last person to have finally read this book. Finishing it before watching the Hulu series was really my inspiration. New to Atwood's work, it's safe to say I'm hooked. It's the kind of book I dread finishing, that kind of good. I also recently read The Heart Goes Last and really enjoyed that too. It's dystopian fiction that sits with you; Unlike others I find myself glossing over to get to the ending.
6. By the Iowa Sea: A Memoir by Joe Blair I'm a little shocked I made it this far in life without this book. I read it at my cousin's cabin in Minnesota, thanks to stretching lake afternoons. It reminds me of Hourglass in a grittier, more visceral way. Books with the Iowa as the backdrop will always be special, but this doesn't lean on place too strongly. Simply put, it's the story of a marriage. Less simply put, it's a deeply personal, sometimes devastating about memoir on the things that change us and the things that never could change.