Thursday, October 20, 2016

Fall Book Favorites

It comes as a surprise to about, no one, that I love to read, and I read a lot. Sadly, though, fall is always my most insane time of year as a teacher, and now that I have added grad school to the mix, I have even less time to curl up with the simpler joys like these. Still, fall break is around the corner, and I plan to tear through my reading list like no one’s business. That, and write like fifty papers.

But, before I do that, I wanted to share with y’all some of my favorite books, in the hopes that you are carving out time to enjoy a glass of wine and an awesome book. Enjoy, and let me know what you think of them!

Classics Revisited
Fall is when all the great classics come back for the winter, and I always just want to sit near the fireplace with a PSL and an old friend of a book. If you somehow missed reading these two titles so far in life, take advantage of the cozy months and read them now!

You have either read The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald or at the very least slogged through a junior-year English project thanks to SparkNotes. No matter how you encountered Gatsby in your education, it is worth one or a million revisits as an adult. You will now be able to appreciate the desperation of prohibition life, unrequited love, and the desire to fit in. Characters you thought you loved will show their true colors, and you will ache for the hearts of others. And then you can re-watch the Baz Lurhmann movie, because sparkles.

Should I have a child at some point in my life, I want to name him Phineas, after one of the main characters in A Separate Peace. This is a book that somehow gets skipped throughout the years of high school for most classes, and it is just so so beautiful. The story follows Gene and Phineas as they are assigned as roommates at Devon, a New England prep school during WWII. We watch this unlikely duo grow together as teenagers, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Experience the confusing angst of teen life right alongside the characters. Author John Knowles perfectly conveys the pain of coming of age in any time, especially war time. It’s been 12 years since I first read it, and I feel it as deeply as I did the day I finished it the first time. It sticks.

Mystery is my favorite genre right now, hands down. The novel I am working on writing is a mystery, and I have been consuming these like they are Pop Tarts on a cheat day. For me, that’s like, really, really, really fast.

Dark Places is written by one of my personal queens, Gillian Flynn. She wrote Gone Girl. You have experienced Gone Girl in some capacity. I know you have. You may have read it for a book club like 90% of the female American population or just YouTubed the Ben Affleck shower scene from the movie adaptation (I see you. You can’t hide). I have read all of Flynn’s books, and Dark Places is my definite favorite. Libby Day somehow survived a horrific mysterious tragedy that killed most of her family when she was a child, leaving her only living relative, her brother, in prison for murder. She is now an adult, trying to put behind her a past that never lets itself be forgotten. When a strange club of sorts contacts her because they have been digging into her case, she is forced to return to the world that took everything from her. It’s also a movie starring Charlize Theron, but promise me you’ll read before you watch, mmkay?

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll is being touted at the new Girl on the Train, which two years ago was the new Gone Girl, so jump into this one before it gets made into a questionably cast movie as well (It’s in development, so seriously, go fast!). Ani is a publishing professional working for the hottest women’s magazine in the country and engaged to a member of New York’s elite ruling class. I know, right, you’ve NEVER heard this premise before. Stick with me though. She truly seems like The Luckiest Girl Alive. But she has not just a few, but an entire childhood of secrets and tragedies that unfold as you tear through the pages. The pace of the novel is quickened even further by the narration switching from current days to a flashback to her teen years at a prestigious high school on Philadelphia’s snooty Main Line. Be prepared to have a couple of late nights reading because you have. to. know. what. happens.

Beach Reads
I know, I know, summer is WAY over. But I feel like every fall I bust out at least one more low-emotion, high-drama, girl’s book to hang on to the lazy summer days just a LITTLE longer. These ones have all the fun combined with some real depth.

A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams takes place in Seaview, Rhode Island over the summer of 1938. Lily Dane has come here for the summer with her family, as she has every summer. However, her former friend Budgie and old flame Nick arrive and throw a curveball at her quiet summer plans. Follow pre-war New York socialites as they navigate a hot and stormy summer. This is a quick, fun, and emotional read. Perfect for a long weekend away!

The Vacationers by Emma Straub follows the extended arms of the Post family as they vacation on the island of Mallorca. Each member has come on the trip with a separate personal agenda, and shenanigans ensue. One great thing about Straub’s writing in this book is that she tells the story from each member's personal perspective. Think Modern Family with more repressed issues bubbling up like a hot spring in a tropical destination.

I could spend of my days lost in the clouds of beautiful prose fiction, but at some point I need something to talk to my friend’s dog about at parties. Non-fiction books bring us back into the world of real-life and give us a fresh perspective from the view of an expert.

We the People: The Modern-Day Figures Who Have Reshaped and Affirmed the Founding Fathers’ Vision of America is the history buff’s required 2016 reading, or at least it should be. Author Juan Williams explores the world our Founding Fathers helped to create and presents a new group of fathers that are shaping modern America right before our eyes. He profiles people like Thurgood Marshall, Ronald Reagan, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Also, it was released in only April of this year, so you’ll probably be the first of your friends to read it. You’re welcome.
Watch Juan Williams discussing the book on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah here:

Bird by Bird is basically the bible to writer types like me. And yes, it is technically about writing and written by a master writer and teacher, Anne Lamott. However, hear me out. There is a not single human heart on this planet that won’t be warmed by the poetry that is Lamott’s writing and not a soul who will not be fed  by her musings on life. If that doesn’t do it for you, it makes not one but TWO appearances in season 4 of Orange is the New Black. Re-watch the season (I know you’re already done) to see if you can catch them, and if you read one nonfiction thing this year, read Bird by Bird.

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