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Book Recommendation

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the circle | the vacationers | the fever | tiny beautiful things

up until a few years ago, i was one of those semi snooty people who deemed kindles irrelevant and unnecessary. i’d see people reading them on the beach, or toting them around on the train, and i’d feel like a bit of a literary savant as i lifted my giant 500-page hardcover library book out of my bag.

now, i look back at that girl, and i think, GIRL, WERE YOU SMOKING CRACK i scold myself for being a snot, and for thinking i was above an e-reader, because let me tell you, e-readers are the SHIT. there is something incredibly magical about being able to carry around HUNDREDS of books in the palm of your hand. i mean really, that’s some harry potter style stuff right there, is it not?

do i miss the scent of real books? of course. my kindle smells nothing like a library book (i’ve sniffed it). but the whole i don’t have to carry a heavy hardcover version of the goldfinch around each day thing? it’s kind of wonderful. as a girl who participates in not one but two book clubs, i’m constantly reading – i go through a  book or two a week, depending on length – so i love that my kindle allows me to tote my reads wherever i go, whether it’s sitting on a bench on west broadway while the sun sets or crammed into some guy’s smelly armpit on the 1 train.

as a somewhat unpopular child, i spent many an hour reading by myself in my room (it’s what all the cool kids do, trust), but these days, i’m lucky if i get an hour in bed before lights out to catch up on whatever i’m currently obsessed with. part of the reason i love beach vacations so much is because they’re the perfect excuse to do what my mother calls “gorking out” – aka, sitting on your butt while drinking a cocktail and reading ’til the cows come home. while in nicaragua last december, i made it through three whole novels that had been on my list for far too long. this summer, i’ve already made a hefty dent in my list, and i’ve happily got a beach getaway planned for every single weekend of august. you know what that means: kindle here i come!

above are four of my favorites from what i’ve read over the past 6 months. each book is different, but all have one thing in common: you won’t be able to put them down.

the circle is dave eggers latest, and it caused a whole lot of conflict in my book club. some of us loved it, others hated it, but all of us agreed on one thing: it hit just a little too close to home, especially for those of us who check our instagram feed more often than we’d like to admit. it’s the story of a girl who gets swallowed by social media. say no more.

the vacationers is the perfect beach read. it’s not too lofty, not too fancy, not even too literary – but it’s well-written, funny, and interesting; the story of a somewhat broken family who takes a two week trip to mallorca (you know, as families do when the shit’s hitting the fan). i loved it.

the fever is my latest book; i just finished it the other day. i read megan abbott’s dare me – a darker look at the world of high school cheerleading – a few years ago (WHEN is someone going to pounce on that ish and make it a movie? the PLL crowd would be all up in that grill) and loved it, and was psyched to see that she was the one who’d be taking on the challenge of fictionalizing the tale of the girls of le roy.

tiny beautiful things deserves a special spot on this list, because it’s not just one of my favorite recent reads. it’s one of my favorite things i’ve read, well, ever. cheryl strayed is an emotional genius, an advice giving machine, the sort of woman that every woman should strive to be. i’m kind of obsessed with her, if you can’t tell. this collection of columns, curated from her time spent as advice columnist “sugar” at the rumpus will make you laugh, cry, scream, and smile – maybe all at once.

and, just for fun, a few of my favorite books from last summer:

the love affairs of nathaniel p

where’d you go, bernadette?

gone girl (DUH)

the yonahlossee riding camp for girls

the fault in our stars (double duh)

beautiful ruins

wild (triple duh)

tell the wolves i’m home

the interestings

the paris wife

i could go on and on…

b0616bee75419d571d68aa5d0e3bdd91can we talk about the weather this week? it was the worst, no? thank god for keratin treatments – without it, i would have grown a second head of hair based on frizz alone in the rain these past few days. thankfully, the sun is FINALLY coming out, ever to slightly, or at least, trying to (valiant effort, sun), and i couldn’t be happier. two friends and i are headed down the jersey shore to a tiny little beach known as wildwood, just north of cape may, and i can’t wait to spend a weekend in the sunshine (the weather has promised to behave) reading YA books on my kindle and eating lots of ice cream.

in other news, there have been lots of things i’ve loved on the internetz lately.

i’m a huge fan of lennon and maisy, the sister duo from nashville. their latest, a cover of edward sharpe’s “that’s what’s up” is oh so good. on repeat.

traditional jewish dishes are experiencing a renaissance. chosen people, chosen food. i couldn’t be happier. knishes FTW! 

not all men. a must read from slate. this is from a few weeks back, but it’s still a worthy read for today.

i can’t wait to attend a pop up shabbat dinner. jewish people!! maybe even SINGLE JEWISH PEOPLE. and good food. i’m sorry, what could be better?

when did we all get so busy? oh god, i am 100% guilty of overbooking, and for bad reasons. note to self: CHILL THE EFF OUT.

taking vacation might make you better at your job. second note to self: plan that tulum trip.

making flights better, one smart solution at a time. ahh, if only flying was a more enjoyable experience.

tavi forever. tavi gevinson, whose blog i started reading when she was thirteen, is EIGHTEEN years old. 18! this piece on her is wonderful, and so well-written.

cheryl strayed’s tiny beautiful things is one of the best books i’ve read this year. nay, one of the best books i’ve read, ever. i loved this piece about it on the cut.

what do you have planned for this weekend?

jpegthis past weekend, i went home to see my family, and as jewish families do (see: trailer for the film below), we got into it at dinner one night. you know, guilt tripping, a little bit of crying, a little bit of yelling. we love each other dearly, but sometimes (again, see: trailer for the film below), we work through our issues by shouting at each other, or taking little digs at one another, or just plain crying at the dinner table. what can i say? it’s how i grew up, and it’s all i know. during our little session of somewhat-shouting-somewhat-crying-everyone-annoyed-and-a-little-bit-sad, my mother offered up this little gem of wisdom about my somewhat miserable childhood: sarah never had a lot of friends growing up! so she got lost in books instead.

and rather than defend myself, i just nodded, and agreed. because, well, it was true. i was an overly sensitive child prone to calling up my friends in first grade and telling them that they’d hurt my feelings by not sitting with me at the lunch table. and you know what? first graders don’t give two shits about hurting anyone’s feelings. they barely know what feelings are. and you know what else? if they wouldn’t sit with me at the lunch table, then they weren’t really my friends – but it took me a long time to figure that one out.

but i digress. the main point here is that as a child (and really, up until now, or, okay, still now, even as a grown woman), books were my escape. they gave me the friends i couldn’t find in the real world. they gave me the courage i didn’t have as a shy child who might as well have had doormat stamped across her forehead. they gave me the vocabulary that won me the third grade spelling bee, much to my male opponent’s chagrin. they gave me adventures i couldn’t very well take on my own in my bedroom. they gave me an imagination bigger than the one i was given, and most importantly, they taught me how to write.

they taught me that i wanted to write. it took me a long time to figure out who i was in the world (and if we’re being honest, i’m still figuring it out), but i have always, always, known that i wanted to write. one might think that as i grew more confident, and figured out how to pick up on social cues, and how not to get my heart stomped on, and how to go out and have fun, i would have left my books and my voracious reading habit behind. but one would be wrong. if anything, i read more now than i did as a kid. even in college, while everyone else complained that they had so much required reading they couldn’t bear to pick up a novel, i read. and now that i live in new york, and commute each and every day, i read even more. i read on my way to bar method in the mornings. i read while i walk down the street (annoying, i know). i read in the elevator, on the subway, on the bus. i read while i wait for the dentist to call me into the exam room. i read everywhere. generally, depending on what i’m reading, i go through about a book a week.

right now, though, i’m reading donna tartt’s the goldfinch and man, is it slow going.

one of my absolute favorite books i’ve read in the past few years is jonathan tropper’s this is where i leave youit’s the story of a group of adult siblings, each one with their own baggage and bullshit, who come home to sit shiva for 7 days following their father’s death. i won’t give away more than that, partially because the trailer below will do the story justice (as the best book to movie transformations do), and partially because i am telling you, you should read this book. this book made me laugh. it made me cry. it made me feel like my family wasn’t so crazy after all. after finishing it, i went on to read each and every one of tropper’s books (plan b is another favorite). when i heard they were turning this is where i leave you into a movie, i immediately called my friend sara (also known as my literary bff) and reported that we would be getting our asses to the theater on opening night. then the movie was delayed for a year or two, and i heard no word of it.

and all of a sudden, the film is made, and there’s a trailer to watch. and it’s as wonderfully funny and heartwarming and smart as i remember the novel being. see for yourself.

 

i’ve been an avid reader for as long as i can remember, so i thought it might be fun to start a feature about the books i read, just in case you, as my lovely readers, feel like picking up a copy for yourself. it’s no surprise that as a writer, i devour books the way some people devour chocolate (or, okay, the way i devour chocolate…). others drink to get away, i read. since i was little, i’ve been inventing stories in my head, and i think my ability to do so comes mostly from the fact that i was a voracious reader as a child. you can’t write unless you read. a lot.

since i still hold tight to the dream of writing a real book someday, one that people pick up in the bookstore and hold to their noses, taking in the scent of the newly printed pages, i continue to read. a lot.

my ability to fly through books is in part due to the fact that i spend a good deal of time on public transportation each day. i recently invested in a kindle, and it’s the best $79 i ever spent. i’m partial to real books, but i have to say, when you’re lugging your life onto a crowded subway car each day, it makes a huge difference to read from an ultra-light kindle instead of a heavy hardcover. i recently discovered you can get kindle books from the library. this has changed my life. NYPL, i love you. now, for my recco.

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the paris wife by paula mclain

i should start this by telling you i have never been a fan of hemingway. i find his writing too bare, too simple, too stripped of emotion (i know he liked it that way and this writing style was intentional, but that’s never appealed to me). but now that i’ve read this (admittedly fictional, but based on history and his writings) novel about his early days, before he was ernest hemingway, the writer, i’m inclined to pick the sun also rises back up again. anywho, i won’t give any details away, but suffice it to say i loved this book (though the nytimes hated it), and while its (likely accurate) portrayal of women made me furious at times, it’s neat to see the man behind the mask.

Ernest Hemingway with his wife, Hadley

hemingway treated his wife like shit, for the most part, and she sat back and took it. he seems like quite a macho asshole to me – a guy who, deep down, was incredibly insecure and entirely selfish, with a singular focus on his career. little else mattered to him in the end. he thought he was entitled to the best the world had to offer, and took all that came his way, whether it belonged to him or not, whether it was right or wrong. if nothing else, the paris wife is an interesting look at what it used to mean to be a woman. i have to say, i’m not sure i could have lived in the twenties. sure, the glitz and the glam of the flapper era would have dazzled my senses, but quite frankly, it positively stunk to be a woman in that age. i’m oversimplifying, of course – but i just can’t imagine living in an era where women had no voice, no job prospects, and were simply meant to satiate their husband’s every desire. my, how the times have changed.