Caroline’s Five Favorite Books

Cup of Jo editor Caroline was a book editor for years and still reads a book a week. Bottom line: She knows her stuff. I love her recommendations, so here, she shares five of her favorite books (and please share yours!)…

Let me begin by saying, I could NEVER choose just five favorite books. That is like asking me to pick my favorite child. But of the many books I’ve loved, here are five titles that are worthy of favorite status. (Bonus: They’re all written by women!)

SELF-HELP by Lorrie Moore
Despite the title, this is not a self-help book, but a collection of nine brilliant short stories. I’ve loved everything Moore has written, but this is the one that first got me hooked. It didn’t matter that I was going through a horrible breakup at the time, that my job was miserable, that I was totally broke…you get the point. I stayed up too late reading these sharp, vulnerable, tragic-yet-hilarious tales and hoped it would never end.

I love smart, funny books written by smart, funny women (Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling, Lena Dunham…) But for me, no one compares to the acerbic wit of Fran Lebowitz. This volume combines the two bestselling essay collections Metropolitan Life and Social Studies, in which Fran shares her hilarious insights on everything from polite conversation to baggage claim to people who are overly tan. It’s like listening to a curmudgeonly person complain in a really funny way. Not to be missed. (Bonus: Scorsese did a documentary about her a few years ago, and it’s amazing.)

In a nutshell, Anna Quindlen makes life seem more good and less scary. I’ve read this memoir a few times now, and it’s become a tradition to look through it every year around my birthday. Anna, like Oprah, seems to know ALL OF THE THINGS and has an incredible gift for presenting them eloquently and wisely. This book reads like a wonderful conversation with a friend, that will soothe and inspire you time and time again.

WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This essay, based on the TED talk Beyoncé famously sampled, should be required reading for all human beings. The books is tiny—only 64 pages—but packs more humor, wisdom and good common sense in those pages than any other in recent memory. Read it for yourself, then give it to everyone you know.

This book was a big deal when it published back in 1999. It took me years to actually pick it up, largely because I took the “hunting” and “fishing” parts too literally. (What can I say? I was young then.) But when I finally did read it, I fell in love. The novel’s narrator, Jane, explores life as a teenager, dating in your 20s, career, heartbreak…She is alternately the person you’ve been, the person you are, and the person you’re glad you don’t have to be anymore. A wry and wonderful read.

What are some of your favorite books? Have you read anything good recently? Please share!

P.S. The best scary book, and a graphic novel I loved.

(Photo via Caroline’s instagram)

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  2. Linda says...

    A GIFT FROM THE SEA by Anne Morrow Lindberg
    I give this book to the special women who come into my life, and to the ones who’ve been here all along but the time is finally right..

  3. Love this! What a great article idea. And excellent choices.

    My five all time fav reads – – that’s a hard one when you’ve been reading since 1968/69. :-) The first book I truly loved was Anne of Green Gables. My much older sister gave me the entire series when I was in sixth grade. Reading was ok before that, but after reading about Anne and her adventures I was hooked on stories!

    Gift from the Sea is a special book that really spoke to me the first time I read it a very long time ago as a young wife and brand-new mother. It now sits on my bedside table.

    I remember vividly reading The Glass Castle years ago when I was a young mother and recently remarried. During the few days I read it, I would make a mental picture of each place and scene described and think about it while on my daily run. It was hard to put down.

    Another read that made an impact on me was not a novel, but a play – Long Day’s Journey into Night. It was assigned to me my first year at prep school. I was in 11th grade. I’ll never forget the experience of reading that.

    And finally, I’d have to list The Year of Magical Thinking. This book was published within a year of my second marriage and shortly before my husband became terminally ill, but I did not read it until he died. He was actually the one who gave me the book as a gift our last Christmas together. He was 53. I was 45. He was dead less than two months later and his funeral was on my 46th birthday. Oddly enough, while most of the year or two that followed are a massive blur, I can remember almost every single word of that book. It spoke directly to me. So many of the things she described were happening to me. There were times when I felt as if I were reading my own words. Recalling it now, I am transported back to that time when I lived in my bed, surrounded by books and magazines so it would not seem empty. I hardly remember getting up and making sure my children were fed and off to school, but I remember reading that book. It’s probably strange, but I felt grateful that my husband and I had only known each other seven years, to the day, and had been married only just over four, because her grief was so overwhelming and all encompassing. It overpowered me. I could allow myself to imagine the loss after nearly a lifetime together. But it also helped me in ways I am just unable to describe. I will always be thankful for that book.