Landline by Rainbow Rowell

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

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

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.

“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

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

I rushed to the library to pick up this book after reading How Finding A Fat YA Heroine Changed My Life on BuzzFeed. 

Here’s the thing: I’m not fat. But I’m not thin. I am short and I have a lot of boobs and a lot of hips, and sometimes (e.g. now) my body just likes to chill with an extra 20-30 lbs on it. I do not shop in plus-sized stores, but I almost can. I am not the kind of fat that gets you real discrimination. I’ve only suffered through a handful of nasty remarks about my weight, and I don’t think it’s ever kept me from getting a job or a promotion. I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a position where I thought someone would be embarrassed to be seen with me. I am an outlier in yoga class, but I am not a distraction. Those things are real for actual fat people, who can’t qualify it with “but not that kind of fat.” 

One of the real stand-out parts of this book for me was not just that Eleanor is fat but not demonized by the author – a seriously common trope that Kaye Toal so beautifully unpacks in her essay –  it’s that Eleanor’s weight is also not ignored, and the social impact of her weight is not ignored. Park is sometimes embarrassed by her, for her weight and her sense of style (did I mention that there is an underlying theme of poverty and abuse? Yeah, that matters, too) and sometimes her bright red, unstyled hair. But he likes her anyway, and he can’t deny it. He is not a bully, but he is not a saint. The struggle with his feelings is about genuinely and truly liking her, but being afraid of the social impact that will have for him. 

And I think that is so smart, so on-point. Many smart people are past the “fat is bad” stage, but too many of us went for the polar opposite and have tried to pretend that fat doesn’t matter. “Don’t care what other people think! They’re idiots!” And it’s true, but those idiots can make your life hell, they can limit your income, they can make it hard and expensive to find clothes that flatter your body, they can make it hard to let another person love you. That’s what I found so perfect about this book. The social currency of being fat is not invisible, even when somebody loves you. But you can get past it and it’s worth it. I don’t know if there’s a better message out there.

I think above all else it is freedom I search for in my work, in these far-flung places, to find a group of people who give each other the room to be in whatever way they need to be. And maybe I will never find it all in one culture but maybe I find parts of it in several cultures, maybe I can piece it together like a mosaic and unveil it to the world.

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.

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.

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.