I was incredibly inspired by a blog post a read not too long ago on the Gotham website written by our lovely Dean of Faculty, Kelly Caldwell. (Read that here) It was the NYPL’s reading list for the summer, and recommendations for the types of books that we should make an effort to read. Naturally, I was intrigued. As a bibliophile that gets easily overwhelmed by all of the literature out there, I am always looking for what to read next. So, I embarked on the challenge.
First up: A book about immigrants or refugees.
I knew this one was especially important, considering that we have a man in the White House whose attitudes towards those without an American passport as less than kind. For this one, I chose White Teeth by Zadie Smith, an author whom I absolutely adore. It’s a book following three generations of two different families around the world and around each other and the mastery of the storytelling is really incredible. It did get a little slow sometimes, and the ending wasn’t my favorite, but the prose was ingenious, and there are some gorgeous quotes.
“The wicked lie, that the past is always tense and the future, perfect.”
“They cannot escape their history any more than you yourself can lose your shadow.”
Next: A book about unlikely friendship.
Now, originally for this book, I chose A Man Called Ove, a book about an elderly Swedish man whose suicide plot continues to be foiled by his nosy neighbors and scrappy stray cat. It was good, heartwarming, a quick read, and very entertaining. Perfect reading for when you want to turn off the news and remind yourself that there is indeed, some good in the world. So, yes, I recommend it.
But, in truth, right after I finished A Man Called Ove, I read a book about unlikely friendship that I think blows Ove out of the water (no offense, Ove.) That book is The Cider House Rules by John Irving. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely adore John Irving, I think he’s brilliant. He could write about what he had for breakfast today and I would pay the $7.99 plus shipping and handling to get that in my hands. The Cider House Rules is a story of an orphan boy, Homer Wells, and his friendships and relationships that could certainly be called unlikely, including with abortionist Wilbur Larch. The plot is a trip in and of itself, everything ties together is some sort of unexpected and remarkable way, and the ending is just incredible. It’s a brick, clocking in at about 600 pages, but on a 6 hour plane ride to California, this was the perfect choice.
So, if you’re in the mood for something light, go spend an evening with Ove, but if you are ready to have your heart ripped out and stomped on, go for a ride in the Opportunity Knocks. (Read the book to pick up that reference)
“In Wally’s bedroom Homer marveled at how the world was simultaneously being invented and destroyed.”
“What is hardest to accept about the passage of time is that the people who once mattered the most to us wind up in parentheses.”
Last: A nonfiction book in a subject you’re passionate about.
This one was tricky for me, because I had no idea what to read. I had already read In Cold Blood, but I decided that since I wasn’t terribly passionate about the Midwest, brutal murder, or the 1950’s that that book didn’t count. I decided on Stacy Pershall’s Loud in the House of Myself: A Memoir of a Strange Girl. Now, I actually know Stacy, she’s a teacher here at Gotham, but I had never read her book, only her twitter. But, I thought, hey, I’m passionate about mental illness, Heck, I have a mental illness, so I guess this counts.
I’m so glad I did. I special ordered it from Word JC, and when it came in the mail, I tore through it. The story is beautiful and honest and heart wrenching, and so utterly human. There are lines in this book that I would legitimately get tattooed on my body, because they just speak to the human spirit and our quest to find meaning and love within a world that seems to be absent of both.
“I will make my skin a place in which I can live.”
“I will write this story on my body, anyone can read it. I will dance around the room.”
So, overall, it was a good summer for reading, and it’s not over yet.
Until next time,