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"You are your best thing, Sethe. You are."
Through her beautiful prose, Toni Morrison spins a story about race, womanhood, love, trauma, and recovery in her novel "Beloved." This work changes perspectives from past to present telling the tale of Sethe, a former slave, and her journey to freedom both in the sense of abolition and from the past. "Beloved" is ideal for those interested in multi-faceted stories with descriptive telling.
Fall into the rhythm of the Beat Poets. Half memoir, half examination of the world around him, Allen Ginsberg gives us the poem "Howl." The pace of this book is almost like a roller coaster, becoming faster and faster racing towards the conclusion. Let this poem into your life.
"Things will go as they will; and there is no need to hurry to meet them."
Although written in the shadow of World War I, nuances from these stories can still be seen in 2020. Good versus evil, the power of temptation, and the bonds that tie humans together shine from these pages time and time again. Yes, the movies are great, but the trilogy is very special in its written form. I was lucky enough to visit Oxford, England in 2018 and was able to stop by J.R.R Tolkien and his wife's grave. On their tombstone is inscribed a small dragon and the terms "Beren" and "Luthien" are carved under both names. Stories from Tolkien's world were powerful enough to be marked on his resting place, this is why we continue to read them.
This novel has been rotating within my top three favorite pieces since I read it. I remember checking it out from the library, reading it, and being so intrigued I went and renewed so I could read it again right away. Donna Tartt tells her story with such density and almost gothic suspense. "The Secret History" follows a group of classics students who tread the line between good and unspeakable evil. I recommend reading "The Secret History" before venturing to read Donna Tartt's Pulitzer Prize winning, and now movie, "The Goldfinch." For readers who enjoy suspense, a discussion of ethics, and dense prose, add "The Secret History" to your bookshelf.
I chose "The Golden Notebook" by Doris Lessing as my 2019 notable book of the year. The story is written via four notebooks: black, red, yellow, and blue. All work together to form this complex, thought provoking, and at times disturbing novel. Doris Lessing explores early feminism, class relations, race, and sexuality throughout this tale. In the conclusion, she and her romantic partner slide into madness and a "golden notebook." For readers who enjoy examining real life issues through fiction, give this a read. For readers who feel that their own stories are complex and confusing, reading this will give you solace and representation.
When reading "Double Teenage" by Joni Murphy, one comes upon details so casually mentioned, it feels as though the reader remembered them from within themselves. These repeated, minute ideas build and build until the end of the story, which does not offer a resolution. Following the lives of two girls, Celine and Julie, "Double Teenage" is a coming of age novel written with truth. The awkwardness, shame, guilt, love, and heartbreak that is learning and growing. This story is about transformation and from beginning to end, it flies by.
In Just Kids, we are able to peer into Patti Smith's fascinating life. Full of art, love, adventure, and loss, this memoir takes the reader into the alternative scene of New York during the 60's and 70's. Patti's relationship and life experiences with late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe is a central theme to this story. This novel gives a voice to Patti Smith's journey to finding her own voice. Her writing talent is as capturing as her singing voice.
This story is meaningful to me on a very personal level. Jeannette Walls was/ is able to overcome truly challenging personal and familial obstacles. Her resilience and abilities to adapt and conquer her hindrances is explored through this memoir. This novel follows her family's vagabond existence. From barren deserts to coal mining country and from abuse to recovery, readers follow Jeannette Walls from childhood to adulthood. This memoir offers hope to those who have felt their childhood circumstances lie outside of what is talked about in public. Walls gives representation to those whose stories are often swept under the rug.
If Simone de Beauvoir and Jack Kerouac had a literature baby, it would be this collection of stories. One aspect of this book that I admire is that de Beauvoir did not originally have the intention of writing a book about her four month journey across the United States. This collection was compiled after her adventures via diary entries, letters, and other informal notes. To see de Beauvoir's grand intellect experience American culture, in all its kitschy glory, keeps the reader hooked. Imagine one of the greatest early feminists and existentialist philosophers sitting in a cafe, examining the Americans around her. A personal account of de Beauvoir is nothing like any of her other written works and it is wonderful. In these pages, step back in time to the perspective of a French philosopher experiencing Post-War America.
An elegy to the limits of humankind. Through class and race exploration, Carson McCullers weaves this masterpiece between narrators. Each with a unique narrative, readers grow and learn and suffer alongside these characters. Their troubles find their way to the ears of a deaf man, who serves as a receptor for the trials of their lives. As many in this novel are able to change and move forward, many others are not. For an in-depth inspection of the complexity of humanity, consider this novel.
"You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves."
One of Mary Oliver's most famous poems "Wild Geese" made its debut via this collection. Said poem truly never fails to reach into my body and rip out my soul, in the most beautiful way possible. Please, please consider allowing the poem to also rip out your soul, or at least inspire it.
I read this book of poetry in one sitting. Darwish blends the visceral landscape of his homeland to the memories and associations with it. Later in his life, Mahmoud Darwish lived in exile from his homeland of Palestine and survived each day with heart-breaking longing for his home. Speaking as a voice for the silenced, Darwish reminds us the horrors and realities of war and violence. Reading this collection, however, can also bring the reader a sense of peace. Allow yourself to step into the perspective of others, surrounded by the nature of a home that was taken away.
During these turbulent times, I have found relief in these pages. Its dense prose transports us out of our reality and into the story’s. You can tell right away that this author is a poet because of the vignettes he spins within the story with language. “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” is a coming of age novel that carries the weight of the past, present, and future. Please consider reading this novel as a way to find peace during these times, as well as to open a dialogue between the yesterday and today.