Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag

Read this whole book last night to procrastinate reading for book club (lol) & I LOVED it. The New York Times wrote a great piece on it last year that is worth the read, but basically, it’s redefined what The Great Indian Novel means, and it’s one of the first books in its language (bhasha) to be translated into English. It’s written very tightly, the story of an entire family in just 117 pages. And it is captivating.

“Language communicates in terms of what is already known; it chokes up when asked to deal with entirely unprecedented.”

Rating: 10/10

The Woman Destroyed by Simone de Beauvoir

Hands down the most beautiful characters I’ve ever read, but also one of the hardest-to-read books I’ve ever encountered. Simone de Beauvoir nails female emotion so perfectly I couldn’t bare to look at it head-on. The woman she describes are everything we’ve been taught to avoid and to scorn, but they’ve been given the microphone. Very incredible.
“What nonsense, this intoxicating notion of progress, of upward movement, that I had cherished; for now the moment of collapse was at hand! It had already begun. And now it would be very fast and very slow: we were going to turn into really old people.”

Rating: 10/10

Look Alive Out There by Sloane Crosley

I know I’ve already talked a little on here about the ways I Was Told There’d Be Cake (Crosley’s first book) changed my life, but it really did. I read the whole thing in an afternoon, looking up and around after each one, shocked that you could write like this and actually publish it. Was Sloane Crosley pulling the wool over our collective eyes? Alas, she wasn’t. She’d just served to crack the door a little wider to a genre that is now fully saturated, the humorous and relatable, poignant but winking, personal essay.

I liked these. A few of them were really incredible, and one I got halfway through and skipped to the end. This collection is written more confidently, less set-ups for jokes, more authentic story-telling.

“Anything for a change of scenery, anything for no distractions. Anything for the ideal conditions. We become increasingly particular about our conditions until part of us can’t help but think of all the work we’d get done if only we were buried alive.”

Rating: 8/10

All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews

Would you like your heart to be stepped upon? Would you like to laugh while it happens? Would you like to gain access to another world that will stay with you forever, but you’ll never be able to articulate to another human being? Welcome.

“But whatever, we descendants of the Girl Line may not have wealth and proper windows in our drafty homes but at least we have rage and we will build empires with that, gentlemen.”

“Dan wanted me to stay. I wanted Elf to stay. Everyone in the whole world was fighting with somebody to stay. When Richard Bach wrote “If you love someone, set them free” he can’t have been directing his advice at human beings.”

Rating: 10/10

Heating & Cooling by Beth Ann Fennelly

The best books, to me, are genre-benders. Too autobiographical to be considered straight fiction, too poetic to be completely factual. Pushing into essay, memoir, and poetry all at once. On those counts, this book is pretty much perfect. It’s charming and funny but barbed, likely to get caught in your brain for the foreseeable future. I very much recommend.

Rating: 10/10

Back Talk by Danielle Lazarin

Short stories about women they don’t hate themselves. It’s sort of reminiscent of Barbara the Slut, if you’ve read that, but I think she does an even better job creating redeemable characters and situations almost instantly. Very fun to read.

“The way the women are together is its own foreign country; they move around each other like extensions of a single body, their voices and laughter entangled.”

Rating: 8/10