Friday, April 5, 2013

Recommended reads

I love to read, and have been doing it less each year, until recently. I've found over the last few years that the amount of pleasure reading I'm doing see-saws with blogging. Blogging nonstop? Not reading. Blogging break? Nose firmly implanted in a book. In a perfect world I could do both, but I suspect that world does not involve earning a paycheck.

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.

Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel
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!

The Casual Vacancy, by J. K. Rowling
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?

Just Kids, by Patti Smith
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?


  1. I've "rediscovered" my love of reading as of late and have been devouring books. I'll have to add these to my ever growing list of must-reads (Wolf Hall has been there are at least a year...I need to bite the bullet on that one!)

    Happy weekend!

  2. I'm in the middle of Arcadia right now, and couldn't agree more about the beauty of the prose. So lovely. Things are beginning to unravel and my heart aches for Bit. If you haven't read her first novel, The Monsters of Templeton, I highly recommend it!

  3. I have been reading to read Telegraph Ave for ages, as I adore Michael Chabon. My current tome? A Jackie COllins masterpiece from 1982 entitled Prime Time. It is obviously a masterpiece.

    I need to give Wolf Hall another chance, as I adore the subject matter. I got about a quarter in, put it down, then life got in the way.

  4. @Amy: I'll definitely check out The Monsters of Templeton - thanks!

    @Samma: Read TA! I'd love to know your thoughts. I've only previously recommended it to a music-obsessed 60-something man, so your opinion is just slightly more my demographic.

  5. This post is perfectly timed for me. Thank you, Maggie! I am in need of some great reads. Nothing on my goodreads list is jumping out at me but a few of these have. I think The Middlesteins is next on my list, as soon as I finish Deconstructing Amelia. It's billed as the next Gone Girl and so far it's good. I'll let you know.

  6. Nice blog thanks for postinng


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