Since I can remember, I’ve loved books. It was one of three characteristics people used to describe me as a child: 1. I cried a lot. 2. I had Urkel glasses. 3. I was a bookworm. (Bonus trait: I was really cool.) Remember Pizza Hut’s Book It? Yeah, I won every month in the third grade, and ended the school year with over 10,000 minutes read — NO BIG DEAL.
So I guess it wasn’t a surprise to anyone that I ended up in a career where I get to read 40+ hours a week. It’s not for everyone, but to me, it’s better than 99% of the jobs out there. (The 1% would be a singer/actress/dolphin trainer, if you’re curious.) Unfortunately, this really cuts into my reading-for-pleasure time — especially since I’m also in a writing-intensive graduate program right now. However, I managed to read six books on my three-week trip to Asia, all of which I’d recommend (to other chicks):
1. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson. Once upon a time, bloggers were getting book deals every single week. And I — the judgmental, lazy, wannabe author — wanted to punch myself in the face. Then “The Bloggess” got one. And I was OK with it. Why? Read the excerpt I linked to. She’s hilarious, and she’s honest, and she’s articulate even when she’s cursing like a sailor.
(Actually, Grandma. Maybe don’t read that excerpt.)
She’s also made living in Texas with a bunch of raccoons as pets sound awesome. Not an easy feat.
2. Man of My Dreams by Curtis Sittenfeld. I’m weirdly obsessed with Ms. Sittenfeld. Her books haunt me after I’m done reading them, even when they aren’t particularly profound. I think it’s because her characters never lack conviction. Sometimes I truly hate them, but they get under my skin with their deep beliefs and passionate ideals. I may not relate with the heroine (who’s not even a heroine so much as a narrator lurking in the shadows of her own depressing life), but I completely empathize with believing someone is your soulmate even when he probably isn’t.
3. Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt. This only ended up on my list because my fairy bookmother, Beth, had it available for sharing on her Nook. I had never heard of it, but I have a thing for books about dead girls (not creepy, I promise), so into my Nook Library it went. I loved that this complicated story was told from multiple perspectives, and I loved the ending.
4. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling. I was never not going to like this one. Yes, it’s reminiscent of Tina Fey’s Bossypants, but in a good way. Comedy writers fascinate me — particularly strong, female, sitcom writers. The type of writing we watch on TV leaves me awestruck. It takes a lot of freaking work to pump out something watchable — and that dialogue might sound like it rolled off the tongue, but I guarantee it did not just roll off the pen. These women are fearless goddesses and deserve every good fortune that has come their way.
Mindy is funny. Mindy is smart. But no matter what she wants you to believe in this book, Mindy is not fat.
5. Happily Ever After by Harriet Evans. My affair with this author began after a burnout of Shopaholic and other formulaic chick-lit-type novels. A friend lent me her stack of Harriet Evans, and I devoured them. Yes, it’s still chick lit. But no, it’s not predictable. And the characters don’t always end up happy. And if you’re sensing a pattern, I like that in a story. Please never, ever let me guess the ending — even if the lead character works in the publishing/PR/fashion industry and is beautiful but chubby and has a dependable male sidekick who is clearly in love with her yet she doesn’t know it. If you surprise me with an out-of-left-field ending, then I’ll read your entire library in one sitting.
6. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. I’ve had this book on my Nook for over a year, thanks to this blogger, but haven’t had enough interest to open it. Then I went and read five books in three weeks and had nothing else to do. And ohmygah, I’ve been missing out. This piece of historical fiction is an imagining of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, and it is so painfully, eloquently written. It left me wanting to know more about her, more about him, more about his writings, more about other writers of his time — everything. If I had read this book in high school, Hadley Hemingway would have been my Scarlett O’Hara.
* Title inspired by Abraham Lincoln, as well as another Curtis Sittenfeld book I recently read called “American Wife,” loosely based on the life of Laura Bush. (Oddly, another historical fiction. My new favorite genre?) I’d say this post exemplifies why I’m such a good word nerd.