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September 14, 2015

This is kind of embarrassing to admit, but it wasn’t until earlier this summer–after nine years of living in Sarasota–that I got a library card. And I have to say, it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made in recent memory: I’ve plowed through a bunch of books this summer. So I thought I’d share what I’ve been reading these days (I always love reading these lists on other blogs!).

Here’s the list, with some of my thoughts about each book, if you’d like to see…

The Royal Weby Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (aka the Fug Girls): I read the Go Fug Yourself blog for its smart, snarky writing just as much as I do for its fashion critiques, and enjoyed this book for the exact same reason. It’s about a young American who falls in love with a British prince–a sort of retelling of the William and Kate story–and it rests firmly in the “beach reads” category; I think I read it in one sitting. But it’s well-written and intelligent, and you really do get emotionally invested, even if you’re not into the British monarchy (which I’m not, really). Highly recommend.

Dept. of Speculation, by Jenny Offill: Oh, I loved this book. It’s so beautifully written, in bits and pieces in the voice of  woman as she makes her way through her adult life (note: the plot is not the point here). I kept telling myself to slow down and savor the writing (which is equal parts humorous and touching, but always very honest-feeling), because it would be so easy to speed through this, and you really shouldn’t. I thought about it for days after finishing it.

Yes Pleaseby Amy Poehler: Another quick, easy read that you’ll enjoy if you liked Tina Fey’s Bossypants or Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (which I did). Poehler writes like a best friend who is both highly empathetic and also not afraid to tell you how it is, and her humor and perspective are refreshing.

We Are Not Ourselvesby Matthew Thomas: I didn’t think this one resonated with me as much as it did until I found myself thinking about it for days after finishing it. It chronicles the life of Eileen Leary, a fiercely independent Irish woman, and all the joys and sorrows she endures–particularly her husband’s diagnosis with early onset Alzheimer’s, which is heartbreaking. It also provides some really interesting commentary about the American middle class in the mid- to late-20th century, and it’s beautifully written. Read it, but just know you’ll probably cry.

Among the Ten Thousand Thingsby Julia Pierpont: A novel about a cheating husband and his ex-ballet-dancer wife, Deb, who discovers he’s having an affair when a letter her husband’s mistress has addressed to Deb ends up in her daughter’s hands. The novel traces the family’s varying reactions in the aftermath of that discovery. I thought it was OK, not great.

All the Light We Cannot Seeby Anthony Doerr: I’ve mentioned this book a couple times, but it’s one of the best I’ve read this year–a sweeping, beautifully written, historical novel set in Europe during World War II. It’s told from the point of view of a blind French girl and a young German soldier whose paths ultimately collide in occupied France. For some reason this started out slow for me, but by the time I was a few chapters in I found myself itching to get home from work so I could finish it; I was so invested in the characters. Even thinking about it now gives me all the feels. Definitely a favorite.

In the Unlikely Eventby Judy Blume: I read Judy Blume as a child, of course, and her novel for adults, Summer Sisters, was really important to me–I read it in high school, during a time in my life when I was just beginning to figure out who I was. So I was excited to read this, which is based on a true story from the 1950s, when three planes crashed in small-town New Jersey within just a few months of each other. We’re all familiar with Blume’s conversational, easy-to-read writing, and it’s put to good use here–I polished off this book in 24 hours. And I really enjoyed it and felt for the characters, who are all affected by the crashes in wildly different ways.

Everything I Never Told Youby Celeste Ng: A mystery/thriller about a young Chinese-American girl who tragically dies (not a spoiler) and whose family tries to figure out what happened to her. Another fast read–mostly because you want to find out what happened–but also an interesting commentary on race relations and mental health in the 1970s.

Astonish Me, by Maggie Shipstead: I really didn’t like the main character of this book–an ex-ballerina named Joan–who is deeply unhappy with her life after she leaves the ballet corps and ends up in California with her husband and son, who turns out to be a ballet prodigy. That said, the plot and the other characters are really interesting (drugs, sex, international scandal, illegitimate children, famous ballet dancers, etc.), and Maggie Shipstead’s writing is great.

Seating Arrangementsby Maggie Shipstead: I liked Astonish Me enough to check out this, Shipstead’s first novel, and found another deeply unlikeable main character who guides us along an interesting plotline. Seating Arrangements is about a wealthy Connecticut family whose first daughter is getting married at their summer home, and the plot follows the patriarch, Winn Van Meter, as he deals with all that it entails (including a lot of drama with his second daughter, who is highly sympathetic). I think I liked this one a little better than Astonish Me, although that might be because my own upcoming nuptials are fast approaching.

I also recently picked up Donna Tartt’s The Secret History (because I loved The Goldfinch), but couldn’t get into it–planning on revisiting it, though. And next on my list are Mindy Kaling’s new book and Jonathan Franzen’s latest, Purity.

What are you reading these days? I’d love to know.

Photo from this post, which is worth checking out if you’re into books and old libraries.

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