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If you're looking for a feel-good book or a book with a wholly likable protagonist, this isn't the book for you; if, however, you're looking for a book to make you question how you treat others, how you treat yourself, and why we behave the ways we do, this is definitely the book for you. Samantha is a middle-aged professor of poetry who faces a cancer diagnosis with panic, play, recklessness, and reminiscing, analyzing and challenging herself and her life. Her behaviors lead to tumultuous times for her marriage, family, and professional life, but Sam is smart, sharp, earnest, and trying in ways that make you appreciate her in all her complicated humanity and practice patience with her less savory behavior. This book will make you think, particularly about gender and how it affects our behavior, and it will make your heart hurt with life-affirming melancholy.
"We are fragile creatures, and it is from this weakness, not despite it, that we discover the possibility of true joy." -Desmond Tutu // This book presents a week of conversations between two of the world's foremost spiritual leaders, weaving together the threads of human experience to question how we might pull joy out of all of it. I love how Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama draw from their personal experiences, from scientific studies, and from ancient traditions to get at the eternal question of how to cultivate joy. This book encourages practices and ways of thought that cultivate this joy not in spite of weakness or sorrow or suffering, but in the midst of it and sometimes because of it. I read this book for the first time in high school and return to it every year, and I love how different parts and practices jump out to me at different points in my life.
This might be an obvious statement, but you read a lot when you work in a bookstore. I try to keep up with books people are raving about right now, try to read across genres, and try to read books that might inspire my own writing. With all this intentionality and with outside forces picking my next read for me, I often feel that I'm not surprised by the books that come my way or enthralled with what I'm encountering. I discovered this book in a bookstore in Chicago, and it retaught me that you as the reader have to approach a book with your heart wide open and your attention fully given. This book dug right into my heart, opening it up even wider as it shared the life of a teenage girl, Nao, experiencing bullying, cultural transition, her father's suicide attempts, and her great grandmother's teachings as a monk. Nao's diary is discovered by a couple living on a remote island across the ocean, and the profound intersection of nature, heartbreak, and time and space between the characters reminded me of the ways we connect and the ways we open ourselves over and over to better receive what the world has to offer.
This is a graphic novel, but it's also a memoir, a coming of age story, a history of a revolution, and a story of how family lives on through severe loss. I've seen the movie, read it in English, read it in French, written papers and part of my thesis on it--and I still come back to this book and its narrative. With simple and stark black and white images of her own drawing, Marjane Satrapi tells the story of her childhood growing up during the Iranian Revolution and her struggles as a teenager and young adult when she moves to Europe and back. From talking to people about this book, I've realized how little many people in the United States know about Iran and its culture. While historical accounts of the revolution and Iran can provide context, this book nuances that history with texture and complexity; and it demonstrates how humans survive conflict and grapple with identity in the process.
If you’re a writer and you write anywhere close to the way I write, the writing process doesn’t feel very zen—or those zen moments of pure inspiration where the pen seems to move itself are few and far between. So often, many words feel clunky, I keep a timer going to clock my writing time, and I feel a sense of relief when I stop and get to go make some coffee. On the more difficult days, this book of essays by the author of Fahrenheit 451 brings me back to why I’m writing in the first place. All of the essays are short enough to read in a small period of time, and they all feel like a conversation with a friend about this whole writing thing and all the joys and frustrations that come with it.
Read this after or with Adichie's We Should All Be Feminists! This collection features the voices of women often out of mainstream feminism, including the superb author Brit Bennett. The introduction by activist June Eric-Udorie blew me away; she skillfully presents the challenges (internal and external) that feminism faces today, and she's only twenty! Required reading for anyone who considers themselves a feminist or is interested in what feminism really means today.
Edna St. Vincent Millay writes a killer sonnet, but don't be deterred by her lyrical poetry style! Even though she wrote in the twentieth century, her poems feel refreshingly modern and every day. I appreciate the emotional control in these poems; she doesn't go for high dramatics, but lets the emotions simmer in smaller ways. Check out "Grown-Up" in this collection in particular.
As an adult, I spend a good amount of time reminding myself to be more present and to live in the moment. This book encourages kids to do the same by loving and appreciating what's in front of them. Simple, but joyful and powerful!
My mom gave me this collection of poems some time around my thirteenth birthday, I suspect as a means to share some of the trials and joys of womanhood with me in a different way than she could in conversation at that time. The book covers a wide range of the female experience–falling in love, motherhood, aging, sex–through the work of celebrated poets. This really makes a lovely gift for those somewhat new to poetry (like I was at the time).
The title says it all! I haven't seen or listened to Hamilton, but I follow Lin-Manuel Miranda on Twitter and always loved his morning and evening inspirational tweets. This little book takes those passing tweets and makes them into quiet moments of reflection and encouragement. I keep this book on my nightstand and open it at random when I need a boost in the morning or need to recenter after a busy day.
More eloquent people than me have already lauded the technical virtues of Alice Munro, and there's no denying her skill at her craft. What made me love these stories, though, is how they reopened my eyes to all the depth present in the breadth of daily experiences that we all have. Buying a dress, eating a meal, visiting a nursing home, going to a coffee shop—all become profound actions under Munro's keen eye. These stories changed how I view the world, and I hope they do the same for you.
This book is a must-read for Jane Austen fans! It's not just an informative book; Kelly is a scholar of literature and classics at Oxford, and she's making a compelling and scholarly argument regarding the nature of Austen's writing. Through Austen's letters, close readings of her novels, and historical context, Kelly argues that the political aspects of Austen's works are essential to their themes. This book shows that Austen's work is about more than romance and balls. Rather, Austen is a political author commenting and working within the issues of her time.
As the title says, this is a book without shame and a book about countering shame. Bolz-Weber has a very active social media presence as a Lutheran pastor, preaching a gospel of inclusion and embrace of all and ministering to those that might be left unheard or untended to. This book takes that same approach, weaving her own anecdotes and experiences with theology and passages from the Bible to consider how Christianity might promote healthy sexuality and engage in it. I give kudos to anyone that's willing to talk about the hard or uncomfortable topics; and even when I didn't entirely agree with her, I wish more people would talk about religion in such genuine, raw, pragmatic, and honest terms.