What You Should Be Reading

My to-read book pileLike Louise, I have a towering stack of to-be-read books. The pile is threatening my bed and I’ve had to stack up the overflow on the shelves. I keep the TBR books faced out so I can always grab them. Of course these piles are deceptive because it doesn’t show the twenty or so unread books I also have on my Kindle. You can see by these piles that I have research books, books written by friends, books for fun, and books that are supposed to make me healthy (ha!).

books2But the secret these piles don’t betray is how many books I *have* read. Whether to be motivated to work on my own novel (books about Prohibition and gangsters), to be able to talk intelligently amongst my book reading friends (the latest “it” book), or to enjoy a guilty pleasure (any book I read that isn’t one I should be reading for work), I’ve actually read quite a few books in 2016. In fact, I challenged myself on Goodreads to read 35 books this year, and I hit that number yesterday. I am a lean-mean-reading machine! (Or rather a zaftig-cranky-reading machine. But that doesn’t sound quite as good.)

So in the interest of being a Jewish mother who always knows what’s best for you, I’m going to tell you what I’ve read that I’ve loved, which therefore means you should read and love them as well. Nu? What are you waiting for?

First off, it goes without saying that you should be reading the books by my fellow Debs. UPTOWN THIEF, THE LOST GIRLS, and THE CITY BAKER’S GUIDE TO COUNTRY LIVING are all excellent, but as I’ve already written about each of these books, I’ll trust you to go back to those posts and allow me to share new titles with you. Second, while I have read some truly amazing books as research, my hunch is they won’t appeal broadly, so I shall skip mentioning those. If anyone is curious, let me know and I’ll give you those titles (or you can find them on my Goodreads page). So these are books I’ve read since January that I’ve adored (and that you should adore too), with tidbits of my Goodreads reviews.

GIRL THROUGH GLASS by Sari Wilson

girlthroughglass Once I started this book, I could barely put it down. This book alternates between Mira as a child ballet dancer in the 1970s at Balanchine’s School of American Ballet and as an adult. The story is beautifully wrought and the writing as lyrical as the dance, and it swept me into the motion. The story was completely gripping.

FURIOUSLY HAPPY by Jenny Lawson

furiouslyhappyThis memoir details Lawson’s struggles with depression, but in a completely funny way. Yes, she takes it quite seriously, and I have a new respect and understanding of what people go through when they suffer from depression. Yet you will be laughing out loud at some of Lawson’s antics. You’ll finish this book convinced that Lawson is your new best friend.

JAZZ PALACE by Mary Morris

jazzpalaceThis writing in this book is so lush and melodic that I wanted to simply swim in the sentences. Never have I read anyone who so successfully wrote about music in a way that I could absolutely hear it. The story of jazz and Chicago and tragedy and Jewish families in the beginning of the twentieth century is downright magical. I can’t stop thinking about this book.

AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE by Helen Ellis

AmericanHousewifeIf I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand time: Helen Ellis is a modern-day Dorothy Parker. These short stories skewering everyday life is so clever and funny that when you finish, you’ll want to start reading it again from the beginning.

DEPT. OF SPECULATION by Jenny Offill

deptofspeculationWhat a strange, charming little book. I read this in one night. The little tidbits–the glances into a marriage and motherhood–were seductive and so spot-on. Offill articulates often what I’m thinking but in a seriously more eloquent way than I would put it. This book delighted me.

WHITE WALLS by Judy Batalion

whitewallsI love a memoir that can be both poignant and funny. Batalion’s story is a serious one–the daughter of a severe hoarder, Batalion grew up wanting to create space for herself. Her mother was the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, and she spent her life as a refugee. In many ways, as Batalion travels the world trying to find a place that feels like home, she mimics the life of a refugee. Yet as difficult as her childhood was Batalion finds humor in it, so while we have a clear picture of the trauma of her youth, the book is easy to read.

As a bonus, I’m going to recommend two books that aren’t even out yet. I was lucky enough to read advanced copies (or ARCs, as they’re known in the writerly world) of these books, and I think you should keep your eye out for them when they are released:

FOLLY COVE by Holly Robinson

follycoveRarely do I read a book in a single day, but FOLLY COVE absolutely captivated me. Maybe it was because I saw my own relatives in these characters (Sarah reminded me of my own grandmother), but this story about three sisters and their mother gripped me and the descriptions in this book are spot-on. This is a great fall read (out in October).

I LIKED MY LIFE by Abby Fabaschi

i liked my life Yes! I got my hands on a copy of my fellow Deb Abby’s book. How can a book that begins with a death be so uplifting? The novel opens with Maddy meddling in the lives of her daughter and husband from the great beyond. But she does it in a way that’s not only engaging, but often touching and humorous. Her daughter, Eve, and her husband, Brady, must navigate the depths of their loss, while they try to stitch together why Maddy committed suicide. In bits and pieces the story of Maddy’s life (as well as those of the rest of the family) come out. Even though this book is all about a death, it was absolutely heartening.

So that’s my list to date. More books are added to my Goodreads on a regular basis, so feel free to friend me over there.

Now that I’ve told you what I think you should read, feel free to go ahead and tell me what you think I should read. Fair play! So, what’s on your book list?

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Jennifer S. Brown is the author of MODERN GIRLS (NAL/Penguin). The novel, set in 1935 in the Lower East Side of New York, is about a Russian-born Jewish mother and her American-born unmarried daughter. Each discovers that she is expecting, although the pregnancies are unplanned and unwanted, in this story about women’s roles, standards, and choices, set against the backdrop of the impending war. Learn more at www.jennifersbrown.com.

This article has 6 Comments

  1. Jennifer, love your stacks and lists of books read and TBR. I feel better about my stacks every time I see another person’s pile of books! I love the sound of Girl Through Glass and Furiously Happy (what a clever cover)! I am finishing up Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarity and can’t wait to delve into Folly Cove by Holly Robinson, love both of their books. And your book Modern Girls is one I hope to read soon!

  2. I just added most of these to my goodreads list! Thanks.

    I just read and really enjoyed Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance. I’m a sucker for a memoir. And I absolutely loved The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, despite what I thought was my total lack of interest in war stories.

      1. It was so beautiful, despite the subject matter. And included sentences like “A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth” that really spoke to me. And lines that I imagine writers of fiction would appreciate: “That’s what fiction is for. It’s for getting at the truth when the truth isn’t sufficient for the truth.”

      2. I had heard about this book forever. Tim O’ Brien is from MN & went to college in S. Paul. I finally read this book last year & it is fantastic. Really captures the idiocy of the Vietnam War. He also has a book that is not fiction,”If I Die in a Combat Zone”.Also excellent. He is a brilliant writer.

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