I'm a big bibliophile and so working in a bookstore as the Events Coordinator is the ideal job for me. I love to read literary fiction, creative nonfiction, and graphic novels, and some of my favorite authors include Michael Chabon, Mary Gaitskill, Neil Gaiman, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, George Eliot, Kate Christensen, and Jeanette Winterson. I love beautiful writing and stories that reimagine fables and mythology. I also really enjoy talking about books, so stop in the store or post on my GoodReads page and tell me about your favorites!
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
We all need to eat in order to survive, but most of us prefer to make that an enjoyable experience, and homemade food can hit just the right spot. What if that were to change because of being able to taste emotions in the food prepared for you? That's exactly what happens to Rose in this whimsical but very serious novel. Her newfound gustatory ability allows her to discern that there is a problem in her parents marriage, and makes her face life in all of its complicated, particular, overpowering flavors. You can read a more in-depth review I wrote of this book for WETA's The Book Studio.
A Visit from the Goon Squad
I loved this novel so much that I want to read it for a second time, just to enjoy the way that the author structured the story. She covers a lot of territory by writing from the viewpoint of different characters, and even has a postmodern twist; there’s a chapter written in Powerpoint. Not a gimmick at all, I assure you. It’s fascinating. Jennifer Egan is SMART. Read this book and you’ll feel smart, too! She writes about strained relationships, music, and the changing world we live in with wit & sagacity.
One Hundred Demons
Every woman should read Lynda Barry! This collection of her quirky examination of adolescence and "demons" (or memories that stay with us) is witty, insightful, and remarkably endearing. She has her own unique style that embraces life in all it's wacky and zany colors.
Matilda was one of my absolute favorite books when I was a child, and it still holds up reading it as an adult. Matilda is a bookworm (surprise, surprise), trapped in a family of idiots (much like Harry Potter). What better way to have fun and escape the drudgery than to develop superpowers to deal with bullies at home and at school? Dahl is the master of wickedly playful narrative, and Matilda is his masterpiece.
If you're a fan of Adrian Tomine, you'll love this graphic novel. Wood explores a teenager transitioning into adulthood and finding her way in the world. Both women and men can find something to relate to in these pages.
Have I mentioned before that Neil Gaiman has one of the most extraordinary imaginations of any living writer? I just listened to the audiobook version (Gaiman reads it himself). I'm going to go ahead and say it right now: Stardust is a better fairy tale for adults than The Princess Bride! He creates a magical world filled with humor, darkness, and adventure. If you're looking to completely escape, this is the book for you.
The Great Perhaps
Calling all fans of Tom Perrotta and other masters of dysfunctional family stories! Meno is quirky and profound in the best way. He successfully captures the anxieties and tribulations of each member of the Casper family, and manages to say a lot about our failings and our successes as human beings.
The Great Perhaps is a great book! You can read my interview with the author at Identity Theory.
A deeply complex friendship between two very different yet similar women forms the backbone to this dark, but lushly provocative meditation on that ugly human quality—narcissism—and all of its ramifications.
I love how Gaitskill doesn’t steer away from those harder moments in life when our emotions are raw. She rubs salt into open wounds with relish, and does so with sharp language that chisels a masterpiece.
The Epicure's Lament
If you’ve never read one of the most remarkable contemporary writers out there, this is the place to start. PEN/Faulkner winner Kate Christensen is brilliant. She writes with a British novelist's mastery of character and humor, but with her own distinct American style. If you love “loser-lit” like A Confederacy of Dunces, enter Hugo, one of the most memorable characters in any novel I’ve ever read. He’s a misanthropic, chain-smoking man with refined tastes and epicurean leanings. If you’re a foodie, you’ll drool over the meals he creates. When his estranged wife and his gay uncle move into his dilapidated family home, things get complicated.
Absolutely laugh-out-loud funny, & well-written too!
The Invention of Everything Else
Pigeons, eccentric inventors, and curious chambermaids. What more could you want? Hunt examines the life of the inventor of AC electricity, Nikola Tesla, and also combines his story with a fictionalized account of a curious chambermaid at the Hotel New Yorker where he lived. There's time travel, a whimsical love story, and absolutely stunning sentences that will stay with you long after reading the book.
I'm slightly obsessed with Tinkers because it's just so darn good. If you value writing over plot, you'll love Paul Harding's first work of fiction. I can’t speak highly enough about this slim, powerful work of fiction that encompasses so much in an astonishingly short amount of time. The book is set in New England, and tells the tale of a dying clock repairman, his father, and his grandfather. Memory flows seamlessly as three generations in a family are examined with the precision of thread through a needle. I picked up the book because there was a blurb on the front from Marilynne Robinson. Now I can't stop talking about it.
A Confederacy of Dunces
Hands down the funniest book I have ever read, filled with larger-than-life characters who seem to really exist rather than just be font on a page. Ignatius Reilly is one of the most unique and memorable fictional curmudgeons ever created. I have never laughed out loud more while reading before. The only thing I regret is that the book ends. It's that good.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Without a doubt, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is close to my heart, and one of my favorite reads ever. Oskar's precocious but innocent voice kept me turning the pages, and I loved the interweaving of visual images in the style of Mark Haddon's Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. It's a hearbreaking story of a boy who sets off on a metaphorical but real journey to find out what a key belonging to his father (killed in the 9/11 attacks) will unlock for him. I read this on the subway rides to work while commuting to NYC and was annoyed when I'd have to get off at my stop and be interrupted reading!
Dancing After Hours
Dubus is a master of writing about love's trap doors and hidden tricks; about the beauty and despair it can simultaneously cause, and the mysterious ways love works either to our benefit or downfall.
Death With Interruptions
Saramago's slim novel packs a lot into the narrative/fable of death (a woman) deciding to pause her normal duties and let people in an unnamed country live. It's part social commentary and part love story, and Saramago's long, sweeping sentences serve the story well. It reminds me a little bit of Meet Joe Black.
Ms. Hempel Chronicles
I was swept away by the wonderful prose and the character of Ms. Hempel herself. It's as if she is stuck in adulthood with the heart and imagination still of a child. Bynum perfectly captures the tween years and parallels them with the equally tumultuous twenties, as she focuses on one popular but unsure of herself teacher. There's not much plot but there's a lot of heart to the well-written book.
The Graveyard Book
I started out listening to the audio book, which is a real treat since it's read by Gaiman himself. Then I found myself so engrossed in the story that I picked up the actual book and read it really quickly. I haven't been this excited about a kid's book since Harry Potter! It's truly imaginative, and so much fun. Nobody Owens is raised in a graveyard by the ghosts, witches, and other creatures who inhabit it. His adventures are made all the more entertaining because of the lively (pun intended) dead characters in the book. Don't just take my word for it. The Graveyard Book won the 2009 Newbery Medal!
Out Stealing Horses
Landscape is as much a character as Trond in this spare-prose meditation on memory & dealing with the sorrows of parental abandonment. I truly felt like I was deep within the Norwegian woods as the narration moves fluidly, like the river that is so central to the story, back and forth between time; at once examining Trond's life as an adolescent spending a couple of summers with his father in the woods, and then returning to the forested geography when he is in his late sixties. The prose is so grounded yet capable of transporting the reader that it feels like you're in the woods with Trond, experiencing the overpowering displays of nature both through sound and touch and smell.
Comic Book Tattoo
A must for any Tori Amos fan! A bunch of talented artists created their own stories in comic book form based on Tori's original and captivating lyrics. Some are better than others, but overall, the book is a gorgeous one for your coffee table and a beautiful example of bridging music, storytelling, and art together into one medium.
The House of the Spirits
A book written by a Latin American writer and featuring an epic tale of several generations of a family (using a magical realism style) of course can only be compared to Garcia Marquez, and rightly so. Allende brings her own twist to the genre, however, and focuses on political upheaval as both the conservatives, socialists, and a dictatorship cause political strife and tragic consequences. I adored the clandestine romance between Blanca and Pedro Tercero Garcia, as well as between Alba and Miguel. The writing is dreamy and passionate, and full of a mixture of hot-headed tempers and despicable violence, but it's also about the perseverance of humans in the darkest hours. I loved it.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog
By far one of the best books I have ever read. A whimsical modern fairy tale with a heartbreaking, but life-affirming ending. I wanted to underline whole passages in this book to go back and re-read. The characters are wise beyond their years, passionate, and very giving, and each chapter reads like a tiny philosophical essay on the nature of beauty, art, and life. I cried at the end of the novel, which hasn't happened since I read Foer's Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. I'll be recommending Burbery's masterpiece to a lot of people.