It feels like each time I sit down to review a stack of books, I’m watching an awards show. In this case, it was the Emmys. I’ll try not to let them influence me and severely depress you.
Where’d You Go Bernadette, Maria Semple
This book had my heart the moment it started. The narrator had the perfect quirky voice — think Paula Poundstone or Joan Cusack — to lead me on this weird, wonderful journey. I always find it refreshing when a book takes place in our actual, current universe, and this one references so many things that actually exist: Ted Talks, Microsoft, etc.
“I’m going to let you in on a little secret about life. You think it’s boring now? Well, it only gets more boring. The sooner you learn it’s on you to make life interesting, the better off you’ll be.”
Best memoir in essay form
Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls, David Sedaris
Sorry, Aisha Tyler. You just can’t compete with David Sedaris. (Also, Aisha, real talk: I just couldn’t finish your book.)
“Their house had real hard-cover books in it, and you often saw them lying open on the sofa, the words still warm from being read.”
Revenge Wears Prada, Lauren Weisberger
I thought Revenge Wears Prada would be a quick palate cleanser and I would roll my eyes through most of it. Well… yeah, it was silly. And yeah, it was probably only written to revive a cash cow. And yeah, there’s a character named Clem. But, it made me smile. DEAL WITH IT. (Also, Meryl Streep was acting out the story in my head. Never a bad thing.)
Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953
I found out later that this glimpse into Sylvia Plath’s year as a guest editor at Mademoiselle Magazine was written by a poet. THIS MAKES SO MUCH SENSE. Because, nothing in this book made sense. It was basically a biography written in poetry. It was mildly interesting. And made me want to work at a magazine and re-read The Bell Jar. So there’s that.
Best love story
Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell.
A chubby redhead and a Korean kid who loves The Smiths fall in love. Hearts melt.
“Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.”
Worth the slow beginning
The Engagements, J. Courtney Sullivan
For some reason, it took me a week and a half to get past page 7 of The Engagements. But I didn’t give up, and by the end I was delighted and satisfied and slapping myself on the forehead for not figuring out how all the stories tied together (this book tells the story of several relationships and their corresponding diamond rings in, for lack of a better term, Love Actually style). The desire to slap yourself on the forehead is the sign of a fun read.
Also, I appreciated the based-in-fact story arc about the “A Diamond is Forever” campaign. J. Courtney Sullivan (Dear J. Courtney, can I just call you Courtney?) is good at weaving in a bonus historical trivia lesson; in her last book, Maine, it was the Cocoanut Grove fire.
Open, Andre Agassi
YOU GUYS. I have never been quite so persistent about a book before, but ask my co-workers — I could not stop talking about Open, Andre Agassi’s autobiography. I’m not sure why it captivated me so much, but I have three theories.
One: Hearing the behind the scenes of inspiring people — even when you already know the ending — is equal parts inspiring and infuriating (infuriating because I’m already past my prime to be a professional tennis player)
Two: the constant, repetitive narrations of tennis matches was as soothing and pleasant as actually watching a tennis match. If you passed me in traffic while I was listening to this book, you may have seen me idly moving my head from side to side.
Three: I hit the climax of the book the week I saw Hanson, so that may have activated the weird teenage obsessive part of my brain. There were about two days where I was completely swooning over vintage Andre.
“Big dreams are so damn tiring.”
Other notable positives:
Sisterland, Curtis Sittenfeld
You Are One of Them, Elliot Holt
Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Orphan Master’s Son, Adam Johnson
Girl With a Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier
Freud’s Mistress, Karen Mack/Jennifer Kaufman
The Execution of Noa P. Singleton, Elizabeth Silver
The Next Best Thing, Jennifer Weiner
Another Piece of My Heart, Jane Green
The Smart One, Jennifer Close