The 8 Books I’m Recommending the Most Right Now
Almost every day I get a message of some sort asking for book recommendations. Most of them use at least one of the following words to describe what they want to read: uplifting, distracting, engrossing, and funny.
Sometimes I sit down and do research to find book recommendations that feel right for that particular requestor. Other times the suggestions come to me immediately. As I worked on a short list for my friend Melissa today, I realized that there are a few books that have shown up multiple times in these recent weeks as I’ve been giving reading recommendations that will hopefully give comfort.
The 8 Books I’m Recommending the Most Right Now
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
I have recommended this novel to so many people I’ve lost count, and everyone loves it! This was my favorite read of last year. It’s a beautiful story told with great skill and grace. Evelyn’s story (of her her life) is a lesson in how things are not always as they appear. This is the story of one woman’s rise to fame as a starlet. That alone is interesting enough. Underneath are themes of societal expectations of sexuality and gender norms, domestic violence, and the effects of wealth. This is a story within a story, and I appreciate how the tales being told of the past affect the characters in the present.
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
This novel has a similar vibe to Evelyn Hugo, yet it’s quite different. Our protagonist Vivian is 95, recounting the story of her life in a letter. She is candid, sometimes crass, funny, and honest. On the surface, this is the story of 1940’s New York, of Vivian’s young adulthood, her introduction to sex and showgirls and theater life in the city. But there’s a lot more to this novel. Through one woman’s story, we learn how WWII affected the lives of Americans across the country, and those who served. There’s also a great deal of commentary on societal norms and judgements regarding sexuality in the 1940s-50s, even within a so-called liberal minded theater world. Vivian is bold with her sexuality, a rarity for women in those days and even still now somewhat. It’s a juicy novel, easy to get lost in, and at the same time is written beautifully with many thought provoking themes.
Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman
This one puts a unique spin on the traditional thriller. A newlywed couple goes on their honeymoon and make a bizarre discovery. They then make a series of choices that can alter the course of their lives dramatically. It made me consider what I would do in the same situation, and about human nature. It’s a fantastic glimpse into a new marriage, and mostly inside the mind of our narrator Erin, who wants to do what is best for her family, yet isn’t sure exactly what that would mean. The story is twisty and dark, and I wasn’t able to figure out what was going on. It’s definitely an all consuming read.
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
This is a beautiful written work of literary fiction that’s also an epic adventure. Marina is a scientist who is sent on a journey into the Amazon with two goals: to look into the death of a colleague there a few weeks prior, and to find her former mentor Dr. Swenson who has been working in the depths of the jungle on efforts to create a potentially revolutionary drug for women. While attempting to do her work, Marina faces not only the dangers of the jungle, but also memories of her own loss and tragedy. It’s a powerful story from start to finish, with vivid scenery, and unexpected turns.
Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center
This is an all around wonderful reading experience. When Cassie’s estranged mother calls out of the blue asking her to move home, Cassie’s immediate answer is no. But then circumstances change at Cassie’s current job and she leaps at the opportunity for a change of scenery. I won’t reveal any more of the plot because it was a joy to discover it all as it unfolded. This is ultimately a novel about courage, in many forms. It’s about love, forgiveness, and acceptance.
These three memoirs have a lot in common. They’re funny, honest, thought-provoking and uplifting. They’re also great for re-reading. I highly recommend them all as audio books as well, as they’re each read by the author and absolutely hilarious.
Bossypants by Tina Fey
Fey’s memoir is laugh out loud funny and brutally honest. Woven into her personal anecdotes of her life growing up, pursuing comedy, and becoming successful are threads of the sexism and other obstacles she faced along the way. It’s not a terribly deep book, but if you’re a fan of hers you’ll love it and laugh your butt off.
Yes, Please by Amy Poehler
This is one of the best celebrity memoirs I have ever read. It is beautifully worded and well written. Amy is brutally honest and raw yet remains graceful and humble. She comes across as genuinely human and flawed yet positive and well intentioned. I love that the underlying message is the importance of maintaining friendships and being kind. The book itself is gorgeous to look at, it has glossy pages filled with colorful images, lists and quotes.
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
Far from a traditional celebrity memoir, in this collection of personal essays Trevor Noah gives us a personal account of his childhood in South Africa. Starting before he was even conceived, Trevor paints vivid portraits of his mother and grandmother with superb writing and rich imagery of apartheid. South Africa is a major character Trevor’s stories, and he describes apartheid with great factual detail and emotional commentary. At times heartbreaking and other times laugh out loud hilarious, Trevor’s storytelling and narration left me in awe, and I was sad when it was over – I wanted to know more.
I hope these recommendations keep you busy reading through these uncertain times. If you pick one up because of this post, I’d love to hear what you think!