January Reads

January 2019BooksThis year, I’m writing shorter posts on books as I finish them rather than saving reading recs for the end of the year (expect a “Best Of 2019” list, though).

If January is any indication, 2019 will be a page-turner. Here are the 10 books to which I devoted my time, in the order I read them.

American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures by America Ferrera and others – A collection of essays from 32 first- and second-generation immigrants (all of whom are famous, but most of whom I did not know), these short tales illustrate America making good on her promise to “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” It’s a love story to, and celebration of, our country – a great start to the year!

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays by Alexander Chee – I was not familiar with Chee’s life or work before this book, another collection of essays that traverses a life of literature, writing, activism, tarot card reading, and surviving a father’s untimely death. I didn’t love it, but other writers might.

The Library Book by Susan Orlean – If you like reading, and/or buckling your seatbelt for a nonfiction ride that will take you to strange places you’re not sure connect to each other at first glance, then this is your book. I honestly had no interest based on the initial write-ups I read, but after it made so many “Best of 2018” lists, I caved. I am so very glad I did. The Library Book is my first rec of the year.

GMorning, GNight! Little Pep Talks for Me & You by Lin-Manuel Miranda – This illustrated book of Miranda’s inspirational twitter messages is cutesy and quick to read, but, ehhh. I don’t feel any better for having read it.

Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka – If you don’t like graphic novels, you won’t like this one, but if you are even a casual fan of the genre, this autobiography of a writer/artist finding his way despite a drug-addicted mom and an absentee dad is worth a read. Like with Spiegelman’s work, adults will get more out of this than the younger audiences graphic novels often target.

An American Marriage: A Novel by Tayari Jones – My first fiction read of the year gets my first fiction rec of the year. Told from multiple perspectives, this story dares you not to empathize with each of these characters. Loved it, loved it, loved it.

She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore – I seem to be pulled to stories involving magical realism (see The Vegetarian write up from 2016), and y’all know I love multiple narrators (see above and many of my former picks for confirmation). Moore’s novel about the formation of Liberia has both of these characteristics. While I can’t say I completely understood or followed how the three main characters were separated and reunited, I did enjoy it.

Waiting for Eden by Elliot Ackerman – If you want to get back to reading but can’t commit to a longer novel, this short, intense story ought to do it. Narrated by a dead man who intimately knows Eden, who is on death’s door himself, and his wife, Mary, this novella takes you to some dark, surprising places. I highly recommend!

My Ex-Life: A Novel by Stephen McCauley – Oh, you want something lighter? This novel about a private college counselor who gets sucked back into his ex-wife’s world via helping her daughter with her applications will do it. Readers of Richard Russo, Jonathan Tropper, and Tom Perrotta will surely like this one.

Sisu: The Finnish Art of Courage by Joanna Nylund – My name is Kirstin Pesola. It’s as Finnish as they come, and I am proud of my Finnish ancestry for many reasons, and the concept of “sisu,” for which there is no literal English translation, is one of them. While I liked the book’s application of this Finnish trait to different contexts, I thought many of the tips were self-explanatory.

So, to recap, here was the best of the month:

The Library Book for nonfiction
An American Marriage: A Novel for fiction
Waiting for Eden for short, intense fiction
My Ex-Life for light-hearted fiction