Here are some of my favorites from the last few months, and I think it's fair to say that these books are not for everyone. No chick lit (obvs). I like my books a little bitter, a little bruised, and a lot of beautiful. See below:
The Middlesteins, by Jami Attenberg
What a heartbreak, this book. But not in an emotionally wrought, painful-to-read kind of way. Heartbreak arrives here through wryness, through observations, through humanity. I keep wanting to describe The Middlesteins as "The Corrections with a heart," but it's more than that. Food addiction has never been so... tender.
Arcadia, by Lauren Groff Oh goodness, the beauty in this prose. We begin in an idyllic commune, watch the commune's growth and eventual (inevitable) destruction, then follow the trail of that destruction through the lives of its former members. This novel is its own world, one that for most of us is just a brief visit. It would be easy to tell this story in a more contrived, condescending way, but Groff treats her characters with reality and respect.
Telegraph Avenue, by Michael Chabon
If Arcadia is its own world, Telegraph Avenue is its own universe. Chabon takes us to a subset of Oakland obsessing over obscure vinyl, battling gentrification, stressing out midwives, breaking up and making up, dredging up old memories, and complicating the lives of adolescents. This is probably the hardest book for some people to enjoy in this grouping, but I personally couldn't get enough of this crew.
I'm totally on board the Thomas Cromwell train. If you love historical fiction that's more textbook than bodice-ripper, these novels are for you. I'm fascinated by this period of time all over again, and terrified to read #3 for our hero's sake. Protect your neck, TC!
I think many Potter fans were disappointed by Rowling's first non-Potter novel, but this is exactly the sort of plot that I adore. Small-town politics, private lives open for public consumption, human weakness in all forms. Some of the best themes there are, running rampant here amidst City Council meetings, quaint storefronts, and dinner tables. How could I not love this one?
Let's end on a gorgeous note. Patti Smith's memoir of discovering herself in New York City with Robert Mapplethorpe is the literary equipvalent of a gorgeous, seeping scar, one we should be so thankful made it onto print and into our worlds. Their youth, their passion, their dedication, their love... It's the most tender thing I've ever read. What a marvel, this one.
There are many more I could have added, so jump onto Goodreads for a thorough round-up. Tell me... what should I read next?