Bookshelf: Late Winter Reads

While my ideal reading situation is in a hammock on a summer day with a bowl of popcorn and a cold drink within reach, snuggled up by the wood stove in the winter isn’t half bad either. Here’s what I’ve been reading there lately:

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Future Perfect: a Skeptic’s Search for an Honest Mystic by Victoria Loustalot. Modern psychics. Horoscopes. Trump. I snuck down to NYC for the launch of this one because it’s written by my pal Victoria and ate it up in basically one sitting on the bus ride home.

My Sister The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Brath Waite. First off, PERFECT TITLE, right? Moving on: Like most Americans, I read embarrassingly little by non-American authors so I was extra happy to realize that this book I’d been hearing about was written by a Nigerian woman and takes place there. Yes, it’s a super dark murder story on one level, but it’s also just a great window into daily life as a young working woman in Lagos and this one very particular family. Super quick chapters, totally binge-able voice.

Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood. Her dad’s a Catholic priest, she’s a (frequently lewd) poet, she met her husband in a chat room at nineteen. She’s not really like anyone I’ve ever personally met or read before and I just LOVED THIS FREAKING BOOK SO MUCH. It’s a memoir mostly about the year or so she and her husband move back home to St. Louis with her family as they try to claw their way out of some medical debt. But it’s not one of those books you read for the plot. Rather, it’s her keen eye for humanizing detail, her sense of humor, and her (unsurprisingly) poetic turns of phrase. One of the only modern memoirs both Steven and I enjoyed equally.

Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney. This one kept popping up in my media and was recommended by several friends. There’s some wonderful writing in there, but in all honesty I have a hard time getting excited about a book that at the end of the day is about an affair between a married actor and a much younger university student.

Bluets by Maggie Nelson. It’s been almost two years since I read The Argonauts and this book came up in conversation at the bar with one of our Inn’s Artist Residents Aditi Natasha Kini who is SUCH a hoot and a talent I had to abide by any and every recommendation of hers immediately. It’s short, it’s dreamy, it’s supposedly about the color blue but about many, many other things at the same time. I also enjoyed it in mostly one sitting.

Eileen by Ottessa Mosfegh. Intrigued by the interview where she confessed that this book started out as a “joke” or mostly an exercise in attempting something mainstream that could make her money and a name, I first read My Year of Rest and Relaxation which both fascinated and bored me, then her novella Mr McGlue which generally speaking I liked more. Both were incredibly dark and full of characters you’d never want anything to do with in real life but Mosfegh has something going on that just keeps compelling me despite also alienating me. Eileen fit right in. A strange little window into one very particular woman in very particular circumstances.

The Friend by Sigrid Nunez. SO MANY good lines about writing and writers and writing students. You could only pen something this spiteful and loving of that community with decades of experience. Such clear prose, such insight about everything from city life to dog owning to suicide. I’m excited to read more by her.

A Tale for The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. I’ve been picking this one up and setting it down at bookstores for a few years now. I love a novel that weaves together two different stories, but I was intimidated by its length and subject matter (post-Tsunami Japan, teenage bullying). I brought it with me for my trip to Austin and really enjoyed having all that travel time to dig deep into it.

Like a Mother: a Feminist Journey through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy by Angela Garbes. Finally! A book that goes beyond, “Your baby is the size of an eggplant and has eyelashes now!” The chapter on the placenta is worth it alone. Lots of great science and cultural critique in here. It could also be called We Know So Much More About Viagra Than We Do About Any Part of Labor Because the Medical Industry Worships Men. It’s the only pregnancy-centered book I find myself recommending left and right.