I’ve had a couple of people ask me (now that I’ve started mainlining books in the same way I do cupcakes) for some recommendations on what to read.
You mean, you haven’t been religiously following me on here and taking copious notes? FOR SHAME!
But seriously, yeah, I don’t even remember some of the books that I thought were awesome. But I went back to some of my reviews from the past couple of years to pull together a few books I think folks should read.
Usually, at least in the past, I haven’t been huge on novels or literature. Once I got out of high school (I didn’t take any literature courses in college), I picked books where I thought I would learn something. Which sort of implies I didn’t think I could learn anything from literature, which, yikes. But not because of deficiencies of the genre; because I didn’t trust that I could really find the deeper meanings in things without a readers guide or a teacher to direct me to it. Solid reasoning, right? Anyway, I’ve started to move past that a bit, so here are my favorites:
Blindness by Jose Saramago – This was an anniversary present from my college boyfriend (who I found out years later hadn’t actually read it). It quickly became my favorite novel, and possibly retains that title, although I haven’t re-read it in a couple of years. It takes awhile to get used to the writing style (lots of seemingly-endless paragraphs), but it is good. The premise: a contagious epidemic of white blindness starts to spread throughout society.
Atonement by Ian McEwan – You might have heard of this one, assuming you had access to any form of media when Kiera Knightly starred in the movie adaptation. The book is fantastic. Told from a young woman’s perspective as she grows up during WWII, facing the consequences of a lie she told when she was younger. It is brutal, it will knock you on your ass, and it is good.
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo – It might sound silly, but go with the unabridged version. Yes, all 1,500 pages of it. Yes, you might find yourself humming songs as you read it. Yes, you will realize that Javert deserved so much more than Russel Crowe.
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult – Get the audio version. I mentioned this in my review earlier this year, but as a reminder – the book is written from different character perspectives, with chapters dedicated to the point of view of that one character. The audio version has different actors for each of those characters, which means you can really feel the shift. The issues this book raises are numerous and complex, and I’m still chewing it over. Just please, for the love of all that is good in this world, DO NOT WATCH THE MOVIE. Cripes is it a giant turd.
Many of the non-fiction books I’ve read I’ve picked because they might teach me something clever – think Mary Roach, or even the A.J. Jacobs-style of “I’ll do this for a year” trivia tomes. But many of my favorite reads are from feminist authors as well. This year I’m working on branching out beyond Mainstream White Feminism, because it’s rife with problems.
However, I still think Jessica Valenti nails a lot of the problems facing women today, and so I recommend three of her books: Full Frontal Feminism, The Purity Myth and (to a lesser degree) Why Have Kids? The first two should be recommended reading for all young women (and their parents); the latter is good for parents, would-be parents and never-going-to-be parents alike.
If you’re a lover of science and are tired of hearing the same horrible conversations about things like not vaccinating children, I think you’ll like Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science. And if you want to jump further into the issues of science and ethics, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot is a great one to pick up.
Finally, if you’re at all like me, you sometimes want a little humor with your reading. Although not a memoir, a favorite go-to nightstand book (for when I only want to read for a few minutes but need to start winding down my mind) is Brain Droppings by George Carlin. It’s bizarre, and I’ve read it probably dozens of times over the past decade, but even now, when I pick it up and open it to any random page, I know I’ll at least chuckle, if not burst out laughing.
As for proper humor / political / other types of memoirs, there’s only really one must read, and that’ Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson, a.k.a the Bloggess. It’s absurd. It’s sweet. It’s relatable (I mean, I’ve never had my arm up a cow’s vagina, but the lesson there is universal). And it’s fucking FUNNY.
I also recently really enjoyed Dan Savage’s American Savage. This too was an audio book selection, which my husband and I listened to while driving around Ireland on our honeymoon. I’ve disagreed with Mr. Savage on things in the past, and continue to disagree with him on things now, but most of what’s in this book is, to me, pure gold.
I could recommend more, and if you’re interested in one of the many genres I haven’t captured on here (I’m finally delving into fantasy and steam punk a bit), drop me a line, as according to Good Reads I’ve read and rated a couple hundred books. At the very least, if you’re thinking of dropping $20 and a a dozen hours of your time on a book I’ve read, I can let you know whether I thought it was a good choice or not.