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

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

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

Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist

I love Shauna, and, simultaneously, I acknowledge that everything she writes is basically the same thing. It’s always exactly what you need to hear, though, so we can’t fault her.

This is my favorite of her books, every chapter tells the story of a meal with the recipe at the end. She managed to teach me how to make salad dressing (and that it was even possible to make salad dressing) and how be less neurotic in a single swoop. Any time I host in any capacity I perform a Shauna Niequist Mental Wellness Check: am I letting the ‘performance’ cloud the event? Am I making food I can’t pronounce the name of? Have I yelled at Caleb simply for being a living being in my spotless home? She always lets me know when I’ve gone too far.

“I’m not talking about cooking as performance, or entertaining as a complicated choreography of competition and showing off. I’m talking about feeding someone with honesty and intimacy and love, about making your home a place where people are fiercely protected, even if just for a few hours, from the crush and cruelty of the day.”

 Rating: 8/10 (Actual sticky notes for actual meals I flip back to consistently)