Something else I’ve wanted to do for the longest time on the blog: start a little book discussion of sorts. You wouldn’t know it because I’ve largely been talking about dresses and shoes on this site for the last five years, but I love reading. I was an English major in college, had a couple of brief stints in journalism and editing, and then taught English Language Arts for seven years. And now… here I am. 😂 I’m kidding; this is honestly perfect for my current life phase, and I’m having a lot of fun with it! But I’m really excited about this series.
Not sure how it’s going to look yet. Today, though, I thought I’d chat about five books (four I’m done with and one that I’m in the middle of), and then next time, do the same but also include some of my favorite “reader suggestions.” Other thoughts on how I can make this more engaging? Let me know! And definitely leave a comment in the comment section with those book suggestions. What are you currently reading? Or what have you recently read that was fabulous? Or what’s one of your favorite books of all time? Very open-ended. ;)
Here we go!
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Dave Eggers might be my favorite author of all time. I LOVE his writing, and this book knocked me off my feet because it intertwines the memoir (my favorite genre of writing) with fantasy and fiction: something called “creative non-fiction.” If that sounds confusing, it’s basically the telling of events that actually happened, but structuring everything to make it more interesting and more like a work of fiction. (It’s late and I’m on my second glass of wine. I’m probably not explaining this well, but it’s very cool.)
Most of it tells the very true story of how Dave loses both his parents to cancer when he’s around 21 and is left to raise his kid brother while somehow maintaining a “normal” adult life and preserving whatever’s left of his brother’s childhood. Yet other parts of the story are wildly fictionalized, and it’s almost like stepping into the confused brain and heart of someone trying to do so many impossible things at once. Again, it’s based on truth, but time is compressed, occurrences are sometimes exaggerated or completely imagined, and Dave really leaves the reservation time and time again. Let’s just say he’s not the typical memoirist.
As the title of the book suggests, it’s a heartbreaking story. But it’s also hilarious, sensitive, smart, fun and relatable. Read.
Why I’m Like This: True Stories
I don’t think very many people know about Cynthia Kaplan, but she’s fantastic. (Her books are a little hard to find, but I found this one on Amazon! Linked above.) She’s one of the funniest authors I’ve ever read. She’s uncensored, to say the least, but I love how honest she is in the depictions of her life, finding the hilarity in the moments I know I’d prefer to forget. ;) This is her memoir in the collection of short essays/stories, and while reading it before bed, I constantly found myself laughing out loud and saying, “Okay. Just one more ‘chapter’ and then I’ll go to sleep.” A bit like David Sedaris, Cynthia Kaplan is phenomenal, and I need another book from her. (Though she’s really busy.)
Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood
I’ll start by saying that you do not need to be a parent in order to read this. I actually read it long before I was pregnant, and loved it… and then I re-read it again this past year because I kept thinking about it. It was hysterical sad and amazingly honest and upsetting all at the same time, and it dives deep into the reality of what it’s actually like to have three kids and a marriage and a job and family and friends–and everything else that’s on a guy’s plate. Of course, I definitely re-read it wondering whether these are secret thoughts floating around Mitch’s brain, haha, and I also felt pretty badly for his wife.
(By now, nearly everyone she knows has read this, right?!) But I ripped through the book, and it said so many things that we’re all thinking but don’t say. (And then some other things that we’re not thinking. 😜)
Autobiography of a Face
I’m now realizing that four out of the five books I’m talking about today are memoirs. Oops. I’ll try to branch out a little next time. ;) But this is such a good one.
I won’t tell you everything, but when she’s in elementary school, Lucy is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer (sarcoma, which is actually what my cousin had), and part of her jaw is removed. You see this little girl’s world come crashing down… and your heart breaks as she navigates a new life of cancer treatment centers with a face that neither she nor her cruel classmates recognize anymore. Lucy allows us to step inside her mind as she thinks her way through the unimaginable and tries to reconstruct both her face and her identity.
I won’t lie: reading Autobiography of a Face was a harrowing experience, and I know it’ll stay with me forever.
Currently reading: Alternate Side
For some reason, whenever I sit down to read this book, some sort of disasters occurs. 😂 Emma throws up on me on the plane; the dinner burns; the doorbell rings and someone opens the door and Noodle escapes. It’s been very stop-and-go, and I’m often going back to re-read because I didn’t internalize much the last time I picked it up. But I swear that sometimes, we’re just cursed–for lack of a better word–when it comes to reading certain books!
That’s okay, though. I’ve absolutely loved it so far, and I think that’s why I keep going back to it. Mitch and I are actually flying to New York tomorrow, and it’s in my bag. I can’t wait to settle in on the plane with a nice cup of coffee (or a glass of wine 😜) and read more than two pages at a time. I might, dare I say, even FINISH it!
And guess what? It’s not a memoir!
Alternate Side follows the story of Nora Nolan, a passive woman who lives with her husband (and their children, when they’re home from college) in a beautiful house on a cul-de-sac on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. When I first started reading it, I have to admit that I was consumed by jealously, as that is pretty much my dream life, haha. But as I continued reading, my suspicion–that a permanent home in NYC does not a happy life make–was confirmed. I mean, I’ve always known that. But I suppose it just brought to light the idea that one “world” is not necessarily better than another. Each comes with its own shortcomings and challenges.
Quindlen, one of my favorite authors, does an amazing job at making this particular world–a world of single-family townhouses, marriages fizzling out, neighborhood gossip, and obsessing over the few coveted parking spaces in a weirdly undeveloped plot of land–come alive. It’s not like “Gossip Girl,” in case you’re mind is going there. It’s far more real.
Anyway, an accident happens on the cul-de-sac, and everything starts to fall apart. Where I am in the novel right now, it’s clear that Nora, who’s normally submissive, is starting to realize that she needs to stop letting life happen and consider taking charge. But then Emma dumped a cup of milk onto the book, so I had to let it dry for the better part of last week.
Whether I finish it almost doesn’t matter, though. Because it’s not like I’m going to tell you the rest of the story. But yes: I recommend it.