What Are You Reading?

Best Books

Here’s a party trick: If you ask someone what their favorite book is, they’ll probably blank. It’s a paralyzing question, right? But if you ask people what a few of their top ten books are, they’ll start rattling off a list. So! On that note, here are three great books I’ve read recently (and I’d love to hear yours)…

My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
I finished this book a few days ago, and now I’m craving someone to discuss it with. (It makes me want to start a book club.) Lucy, a married mother of two, is recovering from surgery complications in the hospital, when her own mother comes to sit at the foot of her bed and keep her company. Her mother tells lively, gossipy stories about neighbors in her hometown of Amgash, Illinois, and everything seems to be ticking along well, until Lucy reveals to us in small ways the extreme poverty of her upbringing, her hunger for her mother’s love and their difficult relationship. Strout’s writing is so spare and restrained, it sneaks up on you. You’re reading, not expecting anything major from this or that chapter, when BOOM, Lucy tells a quick story as an aside, and your heart breaks into a million pieces. It took my breath away.

Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget by Sarah Hepola
“Be kind to drunk people, for every one of them is fighting an enormous battle,” writes Hepola, who would drink at bars or parties until she blacked out. Meaning: She could still tell stories and dance and sing karaoke, but in the morning, she wouldn’t remember a thing. She’d use clues (a cab receipt in her pocket, a casual joke from a friend, a corn dog in her bed) to piece together what had happened. “Close your eyes and open them again. That’s what a blackout feels like,” she writes. Although her journalism career blossomed (and the overall tone of the book is frank, funny and warm), she worried more and more about her extreme drinking — and waking up next to strange men. “I drank myself to a place where I didn’t care,” she says, “but I woke up a person who cared enormously. Many yeses on Friday nights would have been noes on Saturday morning. My consent battle was in me.” Hepola’s fascinating memoir is a wild ride until she hits rock bottom — more than once.

Epilogue: A Memoir by Anne Roiphe
This may be the only book I’ve ever re-read, I loved it so much. When her husband of nearly 40 years dies unexpectedly, 70-year-old Anne Roiphe strives to figure out a new day-to-day routine in her Upper West Side apartment. “Grief is in two parts,” she writes. “The first is loss. The second is the remaking of life.” Her adult daughter places a personal ad for her in a literary journal, and when Roiphe meets men for coffee and lunches, the results are both poignant and hilarious. The funny thing is, when I read this memoir years ago — while Alex and I were first dating — I found it heartbreaking and terrifying, while now I find it resilient and strong and full of hope. Funny how much a book can change when your own life changes.

Disclaimer: These books sound depressing written out, but they are so, so wonderful.

Are you reading anything good right now? What are a few of your favorite books? Do you have a book “type”? While writing this, I realized that I must be drawn to first-person books about women. (I also loved Dept. of Speculation and Persepolis.)

P.S. The scariest book, and five big fall books.

(Photo by Romain Pivétal, via Sycamore Street.)

  1. Alyson Richman’s newest book “The Secret of Clouds” is a wonderfully deep book, yet still light and a quick read. I really enjoyed it – there were moments when I laughed, others when I cried. I couldn’t put it down…

  2. jeannie says...

    Just finished “The Great Believers.” It was so moving and wonderful.

    • Matthew says...

      Agreed x 1, 009

  3. Trish says...

    I loved ‘A Man called Ove’ by Fredrik Backman – a Swedish writer.
    It is the MOST heartwarming story filled with humour and pathos.

  4. Katie says...

    Post college, I never made the time to read throughout my twenties. But last year I challenged myself to read 10 books in the year. I ended up exceeding 10 and read 14! This year 3 months in, I’ve already read 8 books. The best tip is to mix between heavy and light! Two of my favorites last year were on opposite ends of the spectrum but both provided much needed escapism. Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer (such a creepy, beautifully written sci-fi novel), and Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? by Alyssa Mastromonaco. She was the White House deputy chief of staff for Obama. The book is a fun read, and will make you miss the days of Obama even more. She has a great anecdote about when Obama called her after the death of her beloved cat. This year my favorite by far was Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. I saw Black Panther right after I read Homegoing, and the parallels between the two were beautiful in so many ways. Highly recommend!

  5. Deana says...

    I’ve read Blackout which I liked. Now I’m trying to get through “A Visit from The Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan for book club, but find that I prefer reading “My (Not So) Perfect Life” by Sophie Kinsella, because the characters and situations are so relatable – who hasn’t had a hellacious commute or horrible boss?

  6. Anna says...

    I just finished reading “Tell the Wolves I’m Home” based on the reviews here and quite literally could not put it down. I don’t often find a novel I really really love, but this one completely surpassed any expectation I had. It was perfect and beautiful and one of the best books I think I’ve ever read, and I know I’ll be thinking about it for a long time to come. Thank you to everyone who recommended it here!

    • Becky says...

      I just finished that one about a week ago and loved it as well. I am a bit younger than the protagonist but I loved the references to Amadeus and A Room with a View… which were both favorites of mine on VHS in middle school and High School.

  7. Lucy says...

    I love these book posts! I’ve got a few favourites that I rant about to anyone I meet…
    Fate & Furies by Lauren Groff – the most interesting story about marriage that I have ever read, unputdownable.
    A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
    The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
    The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson (and also his collection of shorter stories, Lost at Sea) – he is the written equivalent of Louis Theroux
    Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

    • make sure you watch the film adaptation of The Glass Castle!

  8. k.s. says...

    late to the game but just had to say thank you for this post! I checked out from the library and have since devoured over the weekend both Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget & Epilogue – couldn’t put either of them down. I love the recommendations you share in these book posts! xx
    ps. I discovered through NPR @TinyBookReviews (instagram). Her suggestions and feedback about what she has read has been spot on – Dept. of Speculation being one of my new favorite books because of her. Highly recommend following her!