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This book made me cry in a coffee shop three times in as many days. A deceptively deep tale of nostalgia and its effects on the human heart, The Gunners tells the story of five thirty-something friends who come back home to Buffalo for the funeral of the alienated sixth member of their group. We watch and revel as these characters dip into their pasts and uncover memories that have laid dormant for so many years. This book is full of lovely words, but it’s also full of silences: of things never said; loves never shared; all of the echoes of childhood and all of the spaces our little ghosts inhabit. I didn’t want to part with this book, but I had to, because we all have to eventually. Nevertheless, I will carry the heart of it with me.
“But what was life if not a long series of scary and outlandish things you did and said and asked of your heart, so you could carry the wild and unreasonable hope that someday someone would hold your face and say, You are perfect. You can rest now. You were always perfect to me. Not because you were even remotely close to perfect, or brave, or strong or even very good, but because you had been very dear friends for a very long time.”
There have been times in my life when I’ve thought that nothing could possibly make me feel any better, any less alone, any less like the world is caving in. As I write this, I am just coming out of one of those moments, or at least learning how to deal with it. I am full of grief, and full of rage, but I am also full of this book. This little book, this little companion of love and hurt and healing that feels like coming back to life. This is a memoir in raw, naked, necessary essays, but it is also a light, cutting through the dark. As Roxane Gay put it, “These essays are too intimate, too absorbing, too beautifully written, but never ever too much.” I hope this book finds you at just the right moment.
"My relationship with you felt integral. Many things were infinitesimal. Combined, there's a whole thing I can't bear. I needed you."
There is a point in this book in which a character ruminates on how we may go about viewing ourselves as we view spectacular city skylines. How do we zoom out? How do we separate ourselves from the avenues of our own lives; how do we see ourselves, as one beautiful whole? And how can we know another person if we don’t know ourselves? Hermione Hoby doesn’t answer these questions for us, but she does make us ponder them in a striking, shimmering voice that is all her own. This is no regular New York coming-of-age novel. It is weird and charming and full of that unnamable thing that is just so New York…that those strangers around you could--in an easily missed split-second encounter--change your life forever. This is an electric debut.
I am at a loss for how to accurately describe my love and admiration for this book. But here goes: I read this book in just a few breathless sittings, holding tight to every one of Hannah Tinti's electric and lovely sentences. Here is the storied history of Samuel Hawley: his triumphs and his wounds; the lost love of his life, Lily, and his beloved daughter, Loo. This is a grown-up adventure story full of an unforgettable cast of gritty, wonderful characters and is, at its core, a book about love and the many flawed and flawless ways in which it manifests.
I took my time with these essays, simply because they really and truly moved me. Olivia Laing meditates on pain, on loving, on cities, on loving and hating those cities, on the loneliness of being in a body. She does this through the eyes and themes of several different artists and does so with such expertise and empathy, I felt so much less alone just by reading. But I also started to feel a little better about the loneliness that is still forever embedded. It’s there, it’s a part of me, and it’s meant to be felt. This is a languorous and necessary read, one that I will revisit many times over.
“There is a gentrification that is happening to cities, and there is a gentrification that is happening to the emotions too, with a similarly homogenising, whitening, deadening effect. Amidst the glossiness, of late capitalism, we are fed the notion that all difficult feeling - depression, anxiety, loneliness, rage - are simply a consequence of unsettled chemistry, a problem to be fixed, rather than a response to structural injustice or, on the other hand, to the native texture of embodiment, of doing time, as David Wojnarowicz memorably put it, in a rented body, with all the attendant grief and frustration that entails.”
Everything Jennifer Egan writes is a gift, but this book is particularly transcendent. As we follow one Anna Kerrigan--young, smart, and unabashedly ambitious--through the streets of WWII-era New York, we are lured into the quietly dangerous world that surrounds her. After her disabled younger sister dies and her mother moves away, Anna is forced to re-examine the mystery of her beloved father's disappearance so many years ago. She becomes the first female diver at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, where she confronts both the dangerous task of repairing warships as well as the courage that's been waiting within her. This journey, made mesmerizing and haunting by the depth of Egan's prose, leads Anna on a collision course with a man that dominates memories of her father and, perhaps, to her father himself.
This haunting, visceral thing of a book took my breath away. Within its pages, we follow an unnamed new mother through a dystopian London under flood waters, into a newly crowded English countryside, and onto a boat that whisks us away to an island off the coast of Scotland. This is a story of a mother and her new son and the lengths to which love can go, even in the depths of such catastrophic destruction. Hunter's prose is at once both quietly hopeful and powerfully beautiful. The End We Start From is a celebration of love and life, and of the world itself.
The best books have a way of tearing us apart and piecing us back together again. The very best books render us, after such piecing together, forever a bit changed. Little Fires Everywhere is one of those very best books. The setting: 1990s Shaker Heights, a picture-perfect suburbia that, with the help of its picture-perfect residents, adheres to the rules. Enter Mia and Pearl Warren, a mother-daughter duo with a mysterious past and personalities that spark the curiosities and obsessions of everyone they meet, especially those of the large, well-connected, wealthy Richardson clan. When Shaker Heights is met with a crisis involving the adoption of a Chinese baby, tensions arise and the town becomes split. Enter class conflict. Enter well-meaning white people with poor execution. Enter racial bias. Enter troubled teens. Enter art. Enter the complexities and terrors and wonders of motherhood. Enter running away and never looking back. In her intricate, sprawling, visceral prose, Celeste Ng has created here a book for the ages. This is a must-read.
I picked this up thinking it would be the perfect true crime read (it was) but it was also a surprising, captivating investigation into the depths of Japanese culture and nightlife and the bizzare and unsettling lengths to which a society will go to find one missing white girl. In glimmering, gripping, and well-researched prose, we follow Perry from England to Japan, down the streets of Tokyo's entertainment district, and across oceans and cities, as he encounters one strange character and experience after another. People Who Eat Darkness is gritty and fascinating and well worth a good read.
It may be hyperbolic to say that a book could leave one breathless, but in many ways, that's exactly what Stay With Me did. Yejide and Akin love each other dearly and in 1980s Nigeria, this love is a luxury. What follows is a decades-long story of what it takes to hold a bond like their's together. Yejide and Akin want nothing more than to start their family, but when it seems that wanting somethin gthat badly comes with many costs, the two struggle to define their own roles in a world that has seemingly already decided for them. Adebayo's debut is a spirited, big-hearted tale about the bounds of marriage, the ties that bind us to history, and the unforgiving love that is parenthood. This book is magnificent.
“If the burden is too much and stays too long, even love bends, cracks, comes close to breaking and sometimes does break. But when it's in a thousand pieces around your feet, that doesn't mean it's no longer love.”
I did not want to like this book. I read the first fifty pages and found myself so deeply and uncomfortably moved that I put it down and swore I could not finish it. Turtle Alveston—young girl, wanderer, viciously brave survivor—has a terrible secret, one that I worried the author would not be able to lend the kind of respect it deserves. But after hearing other booksellers and friends talk about the book with a whole lot of love, I decided to give it another chance. I was not disappointed. Gabriel Tallent, in writing so lush and vividly moving, has penned an empathetic and miraculous kind of ode to Turtle and to the rugged, beautiful, dangerous place she has made her own. My Absolute Darling is all at once disturbing, heartening, and unbelievably sad. But it is also--without reservations and with a great deal of beauty--worth it. Turtle’s story will stick with me forever.
Here is Catherine Lacey's sophomore success: a beautifully dark, bitingly observant, thoroughly haunting investigation into fraught relationships between science and love, technology and reality, and the ever-complicated notion that we could ever really know another person. It is nearly impossible to articulate the strange genius of this wholly original novel, so I'll just say that Catherine Lacey is that rare writer that sucks you in quickly and hits you with a kind of prose that startles and convinces, that whispers and punches. It was incredibly difficult to part with this book.
Durga Chew-Bose has a voice like a much-needed glass of ice water: biting, refreshing, entirely nourishing. In Too Much and Not the Mood, Chew-Bose ponders what it means to be a woman today, at once both engaging with and creating the world around her. She is without limits. This book is a beautiful and necessary little reminder of the wonders of what the love of language and life can do
If I could bottle the quintessential, terrible love that is girlhood friendship and spill it into book-form, it would contain the exact story that Buntin tells here. In Marlena, two very different girls struggle through their Northern Michigan comings-of-age in two very different ways. But they are both hungry for something greater, and that is where their story begins. This book is bitingly observant, beautifully dark, and viscerally real. You will root for these girls on every page, in every sentence, and in every thought.
This is, quite honestly, one of the most devastatingly beautiful books I’ve ever read. Hamid, writing with a voice that is at once staggering and loving, has crafted here a love story among ruins. We follow Nadia and Saeed — a young couple who meet in an unnamed hometown on the brink of violent chaos — as they fall in love in a world that has both lost its boundaries and taken the lives of their loved ones. When mysterious doors to other places start to open, and those that are desperate for better lives start to scramble through them, it seems that everyone in the world, including Nadia and Saeed, has become a refugee. Exit West holds a story that is not only entirely present, but also stands a lone as a magical little book that teaches us how to be better, how to empathize, and how to love without boundaries.
Ada Limon's voice is sweeping, addictive, a melancholic joy to behold. I fell in love with these poems and read them over and over again until they became like another limb on my body. They are powerful and sad and collect themselves into a kind of feminist manifesto for the poetically-minded. This book makes magic. (My favorite poem is on page 20) (Bring tissues)
"What the heart wants?
The heart wants her horses back."
Max Porter has manifested here the inexplicable: that twinkling, misty space in one's life where a beloved should still stand. At times impossible to keep reading without tears escaping, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, and always heartbreakingly honest, Grief is the Thing with Feathers brings to life that shapeless hope-after-loss feeling we might never think is possible. This book is a love note to humanity and to that feathery thing that comes after.
"Perhaps if Crow taught him anything it was a constant balancing. For want of a less dirty word: faith. A howling sorry which is yes which is thank you which is onward."
Eve Babitz—feminist, Hollywood bombshell, literary visionary of 1960s LA--hits us here with a collection of delicious little meditations and explorations into her exciting, visceral, erotic world. This book is basically an extension of what gave her such recognition: a photograph of an unapologetically naked Babitz playing chess with the artist Marcel Duchamp. This book is smart and sexy and pushes all the boundaries. It is novel, memoir, love letter, and ode to a city all in one. Slow Days and Babitz herself are my newest obsessions.
This is a beautiful and unflinchingly haunting debut by a writer of incredible intelligence and empathy. Idaho begins when tragedy strikes on an average camping trip. A family is destroyed in an instant and a man's life has changed forever. What follows is a heartwrenching tale of love, loss, and the terrible blessings and burdens of memory. This book is not to be missed.
A sensational debut by a writer of incredible quiet, beauty, and humanity, The Mothers captivated and engulfed. I immediately fell for Nadia Turner, a young girl struggling through first love, her mother's death, and a secret she must keep hidden from her overbearing religious community. The waves of this secret ripple against the shores of Nadia's life in ways she could have never predicted. As she grows up, the decisions she made that one fateful summer affect every facet of her life until she returns home to confront her childhood and the fraught relationships she left behind. Brit Bennett has flawlessly executed a beautiful novel of girlhood, race, young and unending love, and that constant what-if we call life.
Kitamura has masterfully, and with a haunting kind of precision, crafted a whip-smart and beautifully atmospheric novel of the secrets we all carry and the questions we are constantly asking. The book revolves around our unnamed narrator and protagonist and her search for husband who has gone missing on a Grecian coast that, like her marriage, has quietly burned to the ground. I was blown away by this novel and its constant, delicate simmering, every character calculating and visceral. Kitamura's story didn't take long to boil over and when it did, it was a fast and satisfying burn. A Separation is not to be missed.
I ate up every bit of this book (pun intended). Every sentence of Stephanie Danler's debut is a treasure, packed tight with notions of the unforgiving magic of New York and the ever-terrifying journey towards adulthood. Tess is an unforgettable protagonist: I loved her voice and I was entranced by the characters surrounding her: their love, their lust, their efforts in becoming the people they are hungry to become. Sweetbitter is a coming-of-age novel like no other. Inventive, curious, compelling, and postively edible.
The Girls seduced me. I mean to say that the girls of this novel are seductive. I was immediately pulled into their world that beckons in the lost ones, the wanderers, the loners looking for an idol. I was fascinated by the ways in which the quiet battle of girlhood is illustrated here. Emma Cline describes it perfectly: the search for a sister; the lingering fear of the man who has just walked past you; the daily submission. This is an impressive debut, one that glimmers with a beautiful kind of dread and a very true kind of desperate humanity.
In a world that frequently seems as if it couldn't get much sadder, it is so refreshing to dive into a book that is at once both incredibly touching and laugh-out-loud funny. I found this in Losing It, a poignant tale of a young woman looking to lose the thing she feels has come to define her life. I was immediately drawn to our protagonist Julia's voice--scathing, smart, and deadpan hilarious--and the ways in which this novel says so much about both the ridiculous concept of virginity and that heart-wrenching fear in the back of our minds that we might just never find what we're looking for. Feminist, funny, and fresh, Losing It quickly topped my list of girl-power anthems.
It's been a long time since I've read anything as beautiful as the melody of Jacqueline Woodson's Another Brooklyn. As I walked along the streets of a Brooklyn suffocating in racial tension and poverty with a dreamy, lost, beautiful black girl named August growing up without her mother, I was halted, over and over again, by the beauty of Woodson's prose. Filled with words that spread over me like warm summer sun, Another Brooklyn deals with race, memory, and that quiet, rolling ache we call girlhood in the most powerful and enlightening ways. This book manifests the strongest truths: that life powers forward with or without the people we hold dearest; that the present never really exists; and that maybe where we come from has everything to do with where we're going. This quickly became one of my very favorite books.
"Next I tried to imagine everyone I had ever loved, and everyone who had ever loved me, wrapped around me. I tried to feel that I was the composite of all these people, instead of alone in a shitty motel room with a broken heater somewhere outside of Detroit, a few miles from where Jane's body was dumped thirty-six years ago on a March night just like this one.
'Need each other as much as you can bear,' writes Eileen Myles. 'Everywhere you go in the world.'
I felt the wild need for any or all of these people that night. Lying there alone, I began to feel - perhaps even to know - that I did not exist apart from their love and need of me.
Of this latter I felt less sure, but it seemed possible, if the equation worked both ways.
Falling asleep I thought, 'Maybe this, for me, is the hand of God.”
If I could read the work of only one writer for the rest of my life, I think I would be happy to spend the rest of my days in the staggering beauty of Nelson’s prose. In The Red Parts, what could have merely been a relatively interesting true crime narrative becomes, instead, a wholly original memoir of pain, history, family, and those bright moments of clarity in a world that, for Nelson, had become so dark. This book asks us to wonder, to be angry, and ultimately to become more human. This is an inescapable, utterly compelling read.
“If you're short on time, that would be the two-word version of our story: we fell.”
This book devastated me. I fell in love with the Bigtree clan immediately, along with their wild, bighearted, dangerous world. Ava Bigtree's story is a magical one: full of maybe-ghosts, 500 pound alligators, otherworldly birds, and curling, swampy rivers. Hers is a coming of age story you've never before encountered, one throughout which I cried, laughed, cringed, and cheered. A tale of feminine strength, the afterlife and the underworld, and what it means to be a grieving, but strong, family. This just became one of my favorite books.
Suspense, romance, deception. Art and antiques. Small town America, New York, the outskirsts and flea markets of Paris. This is the stuff of Rebecca Scherm's grand slam of a debut, a story with which I immediately fell in love and one which readers would be wrong to miss. The characters of Unbecoming, while not always likeable, are some of the most compelling I've ever encountered. As readers embark on a journey with Grace across the Atlantic, back and forth in memory and emotion, she seeks to both keep herself hidden and find a way back to the people she left behind in an artfully executed mess of lies, love, and fraud. I could not tear myself away from this book.
Fates & Furies is a sweeping, atmospheric heartbreak of a novel. Every sentence feels like a treasure. Lotto and Mathilde are addictive characters, their stories so hard and real. This is not one of my favorite books of the year just because it's beautiful, but also because it tackles the almost impossible to tackle. Lauren Groff is a miracle.
"They had been married for seventeen years; she lived in the deepest room in his heart. And someimes that meant that wife occurred to him before Mathilde, helpmeet before herself. Abstraction of her before the visceral being. But not now. when she came across the veranda, he saw Mathilde all of a sudden. The dark whip at the center of her. How, so gently, she flicked it and kept him spinning."
This is one of the best scary books I've ever read. Shirley Jackson is truly a master of the written word and her skill shines and echoes throughout this haunting psychological thriller. As our main character, Eleanor, slowly becomes less and less reliable, our interest in the story of the haunted Hill House only gets stronger. A wonderful book, best read under the covers with a flashlight and the floors creaking outside your door. This book also wins the award for best first paragraph of all time:
"No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone."
This is a beautiful little book of whimsical essays about the joys of being in a world as alive as you are. This book made me smile over and over again as I read it in the hammock in my backyard-the leaves singing, the flowers growing, the sun doing the thing that it does-and I felt, quite suddenly, how important it is to feel happy to be alive, even as it seems that the whole world is struggling. What a wonderful thing it is to be one of the things that are.
“There are some things you can do forever. Given a deep enough shaft, you can fall forever. You can forget forever, and disintegrate forever, and you can laugh for a very long time. But you cannot bleed for long—not you, not citruses, not twites or treepies, not orangequits or plushcaps or jewel-babblers, nor any creature whose vessels flutter with warm, swirling, cell-bearing plasma. Either your leak will mend or you will become void.
Only love can bleed forever; only love has endless blood. Only love's slender drooping tassels can bleed yet grow stronger, bleed yet grow brighter; redder, redder, never spent, never phantasmal-gray. Maybe, if it only gets kicked, then love is love-lies-dented, and in a few days it replumps. But when it suffers a terrible wound, love seems able neither to heal—to grow substitute tissue over its damage—nor to run dry.”
In case you missed it!
I read Donna Tartt's the Goldfinch a few months back and it quickly became one of my favorite books of all time. I knew I had to read Tartt's other work as well. It was such a joy for me to pick up my mom's copy of the Secret History that she read 20 years ago (yes, 20 years ago!) and find it just as entertaining and delicious as she did. Donna Tartt is a literary genius. Her language is flawless, characters complex (although not always likeable), and settings as clear in your mind as what's right in front of you. The mystery and highly original subject matter kept me completely mesmerized through to the very end. P.S. Don't be intimidated by the size of her books: you will speed through them!
You should read this book, if only to devour, page by page, paragraph by paragraph, Offill's use of diction through the narrator's subtly beautiful and equally heartbreaking memories and emotions. I finished this book, sad that it was over, but more aware than ever of the things that make me human, and that these things are okay.
"It is important if someone asks you to remember one of your happiest times to consider not only the question but also the questioner. If the question is asked by someone you love, it is fair to assume that this person hopes to feature in this recollection he has called forth. But you could, if you were wrong and if you had a crooked heart, forget this most obvious and endearing thing and instead speak of a time you were all alone, in the country, with no one wanting a thing from you, not even love. You could say that was your happiest time. And if you did this then telling about this happiest of times would cause the person you most want to be happy to be unhappy." -pg. 95
This book probably doesn't need any more praised-filled reviews but I'll write one anyway. This is one the "big" books, literally and figuratively. Donna Tartt writes with such hauntingly beautiful prose that I found myself relishing and in awe of even the most melancholy of passages. At once both heartbreaking and hopeful, the Goldfinch is a book to which I know I will always come home. I am positive this book will be read a hundred years from now and I am confident the reader's heart will break and sich itself together again by the end, just as mine did.
Although this might be the creepiest book I've ever read, it also might be one of the best. Gillian Flynn is awesome. Seriously, no one writes crime fiction better than she does. Sharp Objects is incredibly original and I wish that I could be whomever is reading this review and hasn't read the book, so I could read it for the first time all over again. When I closed the book for the last time, I literally cringed and said "eughhh" out loud, while smiling creepily. It was great, and then I read Flynn's other two books, Dark Places and Gone Girl, which are also phenomenal. This book is a must-read for lovers of crime fiction and mystery.
How do you even bein to recommend a book such as this? I recently read an article from a fellow bookseller out of Nashville in which she writes of Bluets: "(surgeon's warning: take with a glass of whiskey late at night, read in one sitting)." I agree. She writes of Bluets that it demands a kind of shared sadness and beauty. I guess all I can add to that would be that this is the most beautiful and most necessary of any book I've ever read. It has stayed with me and stays with me and will stay with me. I thank Maggie Nelson every day for this little masterpiece.
"To wish to forget how much you loved something--and then, to actually forget--can feel, at times, like the slaughter of a beautiful bird who chose, by nothing short of grace, to make a habitat of your heart."
“Most women fight wars on two fronts, one for whatever the putative topic is and one simply for the right to speak, to have ideas, to be acknowledged to be in possession of facts and truths, to have value, to be a human being.”
This is the book that inspired the Literati Feminist Book Club, if only because Rebecca Solnit is all kinds of important. She is feminist, environmental activist, unyielding ally to the oppressed. She is an incredible person, and this is an incredible book. Our activism and action is demanded now more than ever, and if you're looking for a jumping off point into becoming enraged and engaged, this collection is for you. Read this, and then read Hope in the Dark, and then read the Mother of all Questions, and then keep reading and keep acting. And to the men reading this: stop explaining shit to me.
I think this is one of those books you hate to love, because this is me confessing that I loved a book full of pedophilia by an author who couldn't go a page without making me cringe and have the overwhelming urge to take a shower to wash off all of the grotesque and disturbing images forced upon my brain. But this is an amazing book. Tampa is superbly written and riveting: I read it cover to cover in less than 24 hours. Yes, the story is most obviously about Celeste's (the main character and narrator) obsession with young boys, but Nutting's observations about the objectivity of female beauty and the socially unacceptable longings that present themselves in the most brutal of ways are the themes that really got to me. I won't be recommending this book to my mom anytime in the near future, but I will recommend it to anyone who wants to be thrown from their comfort zone into a world that is very much disturbingly real, although most of us go through our lives blissfully unaware of its atrocities.
If there is one poet alive who is able to make even the most mundane things exquistely beautiful, it is Mary Ruefle. While reading this wonderful little book, I was continuously surprised and delighted at Ruefle's words and meditations. I read many of these poems curled up in bed listening to the rain hitting my window and everything felt very right. I recommend the book and the setting highly.
"All day I look at the grass. A woman in a big hat walks by. I sneeze. Occasionally I feel I am being born. At such moments of birth I am seized by a feeling of frightening abundance. There are too many trees in the world. There are too many trees and too many people, far too many people; there is too much shampoo and too much toothpaste, too much pollution, dirt, rocks, and grass--far too much grass. The birds--too many of them fly."
This is a whirlwind of a book. Catherine Lacey's debut novel reads like a force of nature: her language becomes its own character, her characters become so real and visceral, I felt as if the main one, Elyria, was somehow right in front of me. As the novel moves along the narrator's stream of consciousness, we see Elyria falling deeper and deeper into herself and into what pushed her to leave behind her life for the New Zealand wilderness. i loved this book the way you love a good cry: heart-wrenching, wild, a testament to the power of loneliness and emotion.