Posts Tagged: books

What I’ve Been Reading

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!

This Week on HelloGiggles

belzhar meg wolitzer
This week on HelloGiggles I wrote about Belzhar, Meg Wolitzer’s new novel that marks her foray into YA. I really loved it, and not just because I always love books about boarding school (although that’s true). It was a dreamy feeling book that really puts you in a different world for awhile. Meg Wolitzer herself favorited one of my tweets about the article, which made me remember that she is a real person. For some reason I tend to think of “adult” authors as people who live in a different universe, one in which they are unable to read my tweets.

In conclusion, Meg Wolitzer is a real person and you should read Belzhar, especially if you are a Sylvia Plath fangirl (but even if you’re not).

My Interview With Stephanie Perkins

Stephanie Perkins_Credit Destinee Blau_large
If you’re a YA fan (or a fan of contemporary romantic YA especially), then you know Stephanie Perkins. She’s pretty much the gold standard when it comes to romance. The first time I read Anna and the French Kiss, it was like a lightbulb moment for me–like, Oh, you can do this? Just make a book about romance and kissing and love and make it smart and funny and awesome? Well, Stephanie Perkins can. Her books are the YA equivalent of your favorite romcoms, and her newest book, Isla and the Happily Ever After, is superb.

So of course I was honored and thrilled to get the chance to interview her for HelloGiggles. She said so many smart things, like:

“I like to remind aspiring writers that people like Jane Austen and Charles Dickens didn’t take any creative writing classes. They learned how to write by studying those who came before them. Books are incredible teachers.”

So great, right? You can read the whole interview on HelloGiggles.

Ladyville Book Club: ‘Friendship’ by Emily Gould

friendship emily gould

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been reading Emily Gould’s writing since I was in college. I’ve always loved her voice and sense of humor, even though I live in Ohio and she writes a lot about very New York specific things. So of course I was super excited to read her new novel Friendship, and guess what, guys? I was not disappointed!

One of my least favorite things that people say about books (even though I’m guilty of saying this, even in this week’s HelloGiggles column) is “I really related to the characters!” I mean, yes, sometimes it’s really great to read a character’s thoughts and think, “Whoa, that’s me!” But, at the same time, I don’t really think that whether or not you relate to a character has anything to do with the quality of the book. This is all my way of saying that, although lots of the reviews I’ve read have praised the relatability of the friendship between Gould’s characters Amy and Bev, they didn’t seem like any friends I have. This is probably due to the fact that I’m a boring person living in the Midwest, not a hip person living in New York. All of my friendships are very Midwestern.

So I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to relate to these characters to really love this book. I didn’t agree with basically anything Amy said and I still loved reading every single thing she thought. I really loved Bev. This was a pretty short book, but honestly, it could’ve been twice as long and I still would’ve enjoyed reading it. It’s so funny and compulsively readable. Emily Gould is very good at writing dialogue that flows naturally and at making you care about flawed characters.

It just felt good to read a book that was primarily concerned with the relationship between two female friends. There isn’t really a romance in this book (I know, it’s not like me to read a book without a driving romance, but whatever)..it’s just about, as the title implies, friendship.

If you’re still on the fence, first of all, get off that fence. That’s dangerous. Then listen to this great interview with Emily Gould on Julie Klausner’s How Was Your Week. It starts off with a lot of cat talk, so you know it’s good.

Happy Lorrie Moore Day!

lorrie moore

This is truly the most wonderful time of the year (or the most wonderful time of the past many years). The absolutely flawless Lorrie Moore’s new short story collection releases today! If you’re reading this during the day, I’m at work wishing I was home reading it. And if you’re reading this in the evening, I’m reading it. I cleared my work schedule for the evening specifically for this book.

I think there’s a law that all female creative writing majors have to love Lorrie Moore. In college, I read a lot of boring short stories. I mean, there were a lot of good ones, too, but so many of them were the same “old white dude” story told over and over again. Lorrie Moore stood out. Her characters were weird and unique. Her sentences were hilarious in a quiet way. And she created these crazy images and scenes that still stick in my head now. I read all of her books and then sat around thinking about how I would never be the writer she was (I’ve now come to terms with it).

After I graduated, she released her first novel, which I still remember walking to the library to pick up from the hold shelf. I won’t say it wasn’t good, because it was great! But it was one of the only things I’ve ever read that made me so upset that I almost had to stop reading it. It dealt with a very specific fear/paranoia of mine, which is that one little action you unthinkingly take can have catastrophic actions and/or result in death. Which is sort of a “Lorrie Moore theme,” honestly, but I can’t stop reading her.

Are you guys going to be reading Bark today? If not, what is even wrong with you? Never mind, I don’t want to know. Let’s close this out with some of my favorite Lorrie Moore quotes.

“She was not good on the phone. She needed the face, the pattern of eyes, nose, trembling mouth… People talking were meant to look at a face, the disastrous cupcake of it, the hide-and-seek of the heart dashing across. With a phone, you said words, but you never watched them go in. You saw them off at the airport but never knew whether there was anyone there to greet them when they got off the plane.”

“It was like the classic scene in the movies where one lover is on the train and one is on the platform and the train starts to pull away, and the lover on the platform begins to trot along and then jog and then sprint and then gives up altogether as the train speeds irrevocably off. Except in this case I was all the parts: I was the lover on the platform, I was the lover on the train. And I was also the train.”

“I feared Sarah was one of those women who instead of laughing said, ‘That’s funny,’ or instead of smiling said, ‘That’s interesting,”‘or instead of saying, ‘You are a stupid blithering idiot,’ said, ‘Well I think it’s a little more complicated than that.’”

Lorrie Moore image via Vanderbilt;