What have you guys been up to in our long period apart? I went to the Bellville World’s Fair and ate apple rings. I went to my 10 year high school reunion (uneventful, but I did have chicken wings). I went to IKEA for the first time with my family and I didn’t even eat meatballs even though clearly I should have. I’ve been listening to a lot of Judge John Hodgman and Bullseye and eating approximately a ton of apples because, you know, fall. I’ve been sort of trying to unpack some boxes but mostly I’ve just been working. But also, I’ve been reading! Here are some of the books I’ve read recently.
An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
There’s a reason everyone’s been talking about this book–it really is that good. It’s about a kidnapping, which is already something that stresses me out so I probably shouldn’t even have read it. But good luck putting this one down once you start it! It’s extraordinarily violent and disturbing, and it features by far the most upsetting, graphic depiction of sexual violence that I’ve ever read, so keep that in mind. But nothing’s gratuitous; the book is all about trauma and living through things, about how people get through the worst possible stuff and what happens when it’s over. Nothing about this book is cheesy or simple. It features some truly complex people, and I don’t mean the type of characters that people say are complex because, like, sometimes they’re gruff but actually they have a heart of gold! These are people who are racist but also save your life, or people who love you but still make the worst choices. This book just knocked me out.
Landline by Rainbow Rowell.
Okay, let’s get a little bit lighter. This is a book about a magic, time-traveling phone. Well, the phone itself isn’t time traveling, but it lets the main character talk to a past version of her husband. I just try not to think about time travel too much because I’ve never understood it. I liked that this book was about marriage and the importance of committing to your relationship. Does that sound boring? Don’t get me wrong, I love a book about people falling in love, but I also like a book that is upfront about how marriage can be a lot of work, not all of it fun work, and how that relationship is ultimately more important than anything else. Sure, this one was pretty cute and funny, but clearly I took some additional meaning from it. Which reminds me that An Untamed State also featured a complicated marriage!
The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes
I read this one for review and was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. I love books that are set in all-female environments (convents, homes for unwed mothers, all-female boarding schools, the house in Little Women) and while this wasn’t technically an all-female environment, it was all about the ladies. I feel like this book would make a great movie, definitely one that I would watch when I was sick. This is one of those books that will make you be all, “Women used to have so few choices!” and then you realize that things are still sort of the same.
The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner
Working in television sounds terrible. That’s probably not the moral of this story, but that’s one of the lessons I learned. Jennifer Weiner books are always compulsively readable and they will always make you feel pretty good. This one features a disabled object of affection, which is so rare that I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever read it. Apparently this book was inspired by Jennifer Weiner’s time working on that ABC Family sitcom starring Raven, of “That’s So” fame. If that’s not enough to make you read this book, then I don’t know what to tell you.
What have you guys been reading lately? I’m currently trying to work my way through the National Book Awards longlist, although I’ll probably give up once I hit a boring one. I’m on An Unnecessary Woman right now, and so far so good. The narrator loves books and hates America. If you have any suggestions, let me know in the comments!