What I’ve Been Reading

Oct 19, 2016

It’s time for a reading post!

These are the books I’ve read recently that stood out for me and a tiny bit of why. I hope it adds to your reading life! (All quotes are from the book’s blurbs.)

Novels

The Nix by Nathan Hill
I’m jumping on the train with all the other cheerleaders for this book. I copied pages of sentences, marveled at the two story line back and forth in time structure, and the way he reflects on U.S. culture, both in the late-60’s and now.

Pax by Sara Pennypacker
If you love animal stories that break your heart open, you must read this. Written for young adults but totally written at a level that will engage you. Yes, it’s a bit heavy handed at times (war, humans ruin everything), but it’s kind of the truth too.

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
To miss such a stunning book and then have my friend Suzy press it on me during a bad book slump is a gift indeed. Sublime exploration of the Indian U.S. immigrant experience, of love, and of ties of family.

The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin
Fantasy that is so original, it takes chapters before you work out how Jemisin’s world building works – and then you start working on what she’s saying about race! The Fifth Season is the first novel by a black woman to win a Hugo. The second volume, The Obelisk Gate, isn’t as strong, but still I devoured it.

The Fountain Overflows by Rebecca West
An odd, intriguing read. Rich language, great for building your lexicon. I found the tension between how the two sisters and the mother saw the talent of the other sister gripping and maddening; it mirrored so brilliantly the tension all artists feel about their own work.

The Past by Tessa Hadley
Such language, such minute character insights, such great descriptive prose, but where is something I can care about?? And yet, I devoured the book. A great choice if you love very character driven English contemporary fiction.

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
I love Ann Patchett along with the rest of the world. I did not love this book. I liked it but I got confused over the various children’s characters, and I did not believe the key plot device.

The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith
Starts slow, builds into a truly wonderful read. You’ve got your art, your forgery, your love, 17th Century in Amsterdam, late 1950’s in New York City, and 2000 in Sydney. I couldn’t get enough of the characters.

Memoir

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.”

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
A letter to his son, the story of what it means to inhabit a black male body in this time in history. Breathtaking writing, “personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.”

Non-Fiction

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Another “why did I wait so long to read this?” Read for the story, read for the writing, read for the structure. Read this!

On Being Stuck by Laraine Herring
“Writer’s block is not a mysterious force that has aligned with your writing to stop you in your tracks. Writer’s block occurs when hope meets fear—when our expectations for a project or ourselves as writers run head first into the fear(s) that are uniquely tied to that hope.” Wise, gentle, embodied,

Minding the Muse by Priscilla Long
Anyone who participates in a writing retreat with me knows Priscilla is my favorite writing teacher, and this is her first new book in ages. This is a “practical handbook for the artist or writer—highly experienced, aspiring, or somewhere in between.”

Abstract Art Painting by Debora Stewart
I make art messes and I am at the stage where I want to make more satisfying art, but I haven’t found a way in – probably because I have so much trouble drawing. Something about the way Stewart described creating abstract art really connected with me and helped me start to “get” composition and color in a new way.

Running with the Mind of Meditation by Sakyong Mipham
Bob and I went on a running meditation retreat a few months ago that was founded by Sakyong about 11 years ago. We loved it. This book has some great jewels and you can download meditations to use while running as well.

Pivot by Jenny Blake
Jenny Blake is a lovely soul and this book is a super smart, well-researched guidebook for what to do when you need to pivot, change directions, figure out something new. Destined to be a classic.

American Gospel by Jon Meacham
How did the Fouding Fathers write a constitution and bill of rights in which belief in God is a matter of choice vs. law? We bandy about “separation of church and state” and this book explores how the founders grappled with this dilemma, and how we must continue to do so as well.

Shut Your Monkey by Danny Gregory
An illustrated, informative, playful look at how to manage your inner critic. Loved!

Love,

Jen

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