Landline by Rainbow Rowell

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Landline by Rainbow Rowell

I’m really loving Rowell’s books. This had all the readability of a great YA lit book but was about an adult relationship on the brink. It was smart and the characters were real, and I closed it feeling super-satisfied (and a little homesick for my husband.)

Read this when you want something quick and delightful that will grip your heart.

Dietland by Sarai Walker

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Dietland by Sarai Walker

Dietland was recommended to me by a colleague, Eve Vawter (she ended up doing an amaaazing interview with Walker, too.) “You are going to love this book,” she said. I’ve been pickier than usual with my reading lately, opting for fast-paced plot-driven books over the meandering literary stuff I sometimes enjoy.

“Is it a pretty easy read?” I asked

“Uh. I read it in one sitting.”

Well, that makes two of us. Sarai Walker has managed to blend fat positivity, anti-diet manifesto with a fun (radical?) feminist adventure.

Read this if you want a page turner that isn’t light on subject matter, if you’re over the diet industry machine, or if sometimes you fantasize about justice served with explosions. 

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

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So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

I like Ronson’s writing style and previously really enjoyed The Psychopath Test. Shame – how we process it, how we use it on each other – has been on my mind a lot, and it was interesting to see a handful of public shamings explored in-depth.

There have been some really brilliant critiques of the book, too – namely that Ronson failed to recognize that women got a disproportionate amount of punishment to even the most shamed men and generally that he’s examining, and choosing, the selected shamings from a place of incredible privilege.

I thought the book was a good read. It got me thinking, as did the conversation supporting and critiquing it. Pick it up if you’re equally interested in what internet and other public shamings do to a person personally and professionally. It won’t tell you the magic solution to global harmony, but it will give you some food for thought.

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“She is undeniably a funny lady, and her humor translates beautifully — even more powerfully, I’d argue — to the page. Her jokes have more time to build, her punchlines land harder. She’s created an entirely hilarious read that will delight her current fans by giving them a pitcher-sized serving of her normally shot-sized jokes (she is clearly better at booze analogies than I am) and entice new readers who have enjoyed recent books by other humor heavy-hitters (Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling — you know the drill).”

I wrote a book review for SheKnows:

Mamrie Hart’s new memoir is a hilarious lesson in radical self-acceptance

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Euphoria by Lily King

This book was such a pleasure to read. Equal parts travel exploration and love story. It’s the kind of book you get lost in, the descriptions of New Guinea, the intrigue of anthropological studies and theory, the intensity of the relationships between the three main characters. It’s also probably the smartest love triangle – although in some ways I hesitate to call it that – that I’ve ever read.

Nell and Fen are a newly married couple who have just come away from an exhausting study of a cruel tribe. They are about to leave the country when they meet thoughtful, empathic Bankson who is desperate for their company and decide to stay and study another group in Bankson’s territory.

Read this when you want to disappear into a book for a while. I didn’t want to put it down.

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The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

Well, this book just about tore my heart open. Most of the book is a very balanced, paced exploration of one family’s life after moving to the U.S. so their daughter, who is suffering from a brain injury, can get better education, as well as the lives of the other immigrants living in their apartment complex. But as the book gets to it’s apex, it really sucker punches you with it’s sweetness and sadness.

Read this if you need something that is easy to read in small sections, if you want to meet a family making the best of a bad situation, if you need a story that gives you a little hope in love.

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Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

I read this at the recommendation of one of my coworkers. A boy’s body is found – it has been mutilated and changed, and the horror of the crime sets a police department, and all of Detroit, on edge.

But what’s particularly interesting about this book is it is not just a crime thriller. Just as you get to the point where you think, “Yeah, got it, he definitely did it…” the world the book has put you in breaks from reality and you’re thrown into a decidedly fantastical horror novel.

The book reminded me a bit of House of Leaves, but that may be because it’s one of the few books that even comes close to a similar genre that I’ve read.

Pick this up if you want to really get into character’s head and you’re in the mood for something a little strange.

Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle

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Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle

This book was an awesome read. It was smart, sensitive, female-empowering and real. Also I have a very real soft spot for dystopia (and dystopia-esque) fiction.

Premise: The U.S., by a wide margin, believes the end is coming. Vivian Apple wakes up the morning after the expected Rapture to two absent parents and two holes in the roof of their bedroom – and 3,000 other missing people. In the chaos that follows, Vivian goes from a meek and well-behaved teenage girl to a brave traveler seeking the truth.

Read this if you want a smart, easy to read girl-power book about the end of the world.

Ruby by Cynthia Brown

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Ruby by Cynthia Bond

I picked this book up after both Oprah and Ann Friedman highly recommended it. 

The book tells the story of Ruby Bell, a young girl who experiences horrific acts – physical abuse, rape, human trafficking – and it drives her to madness, and the love story/redemption story between her and a man name Ephram Jennings.

It was really rather difficult to read some of the descriptions of the cruelty against Ruby, and generally against the women in Liberty, the town she’s from. I also found myself interested in the magical realism in the book, which primarily focuses on an evil spirit that inhabits the powerful men in Liberty and seeks to destroy Ruby. Everything else seems secondary to that – the friend-turned-crow would not need to exist were it not for that evil, the dead child spirits Ruby seeks to protect would need no protection in the absence of the Dybou, the man who subjected Ruby to human trafficking was a man-incarnate of the evil spirit. I wonder what the broader implication of that is – are we dismissing the evil actions of individuals by blaming it on the Dybou? Is the Dybou in all of us?

The book is an illuminating work. Read if you’re looking for a challenging read, magical realism, or a love story that looks a lot like a redemption story.

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown

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Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown

You might not know the name Brené Brown, but you are probably familiar with her TED talk on vulnerability and shame. Brown is a researcher. If you are like any number of the people I have mentioned that talk to, you probably remember it well. It may have even changed the way you see the world. I know there are all kinds of criticisms of TED talks, but if you have to give one a pass… it’s probably this one.

Brown’s premise of that TED talk, and of this book, is that many of us live our lives trying to find ways to avoid shame by shutting down vulnerability. And we do this in a lot of ways, many which she talks about, but the story that resonated with me most deeply was avoiding vulnerability by chasing perfection. This is something I recognized in myself but not on those terms. I caught myself thinking, If I do this perfectly, and it fails, well at least you can’t blame me.

It has also shut down almost every creative aspect of my life and I didn’t realize it. Why don’t you write? Because writing makes me vulnerable, and what if someone says something, and I know that it wasn’t perfect, so it’s my fault that they criticized it, and then I have to face knowing that I didn’t do it well enough?

I was so caught up in doing what I was Supposed to Do (in order to avoid being blamed for not coming through in any aspect of my life) that I couldn’t even hear myself over the loudness of don’t forget to do this, you’ll regret it if you don’t do that, you’ll let everyone down if…

So to make a long, mostly puzzled story short, this book taught me four things that I am trying to work into my consciousness:

1) Life is not as good when you spend it with your guard up

2) Doing things perfectly will not save you from shame

3) Fear is the enemy of creativity. It won’t let you write. It won’t let you push boundaries. It won’t let you innovate. 

4) Everyone else you care about probably feels almost exactly as bad as you do.

Critic

criticism is not the truth

it will not make you invulnerable

or perfect

it will not make you reach higher

and rising to each demand

will not make you whole

it is okay to just be

to be there and alive and struggling

imagine if inside your head

each time you hear not good enough

instead your heard silence

what if instead of do better you heard

you are okay

it will all be okay