“Did you ever want to be a writer?” “No,” she said, and she would have told him. “I only wanted to be a reader.”
― Ann Patchett, Commonwealth
Commonwealth, Ann Patchett: The most gorgeously-written story of two dysfunctional families, and how their lives intersect through affairs, death, and heartbreak for over fifty years. I couldn't put it down - devoured it in a day. Highly, highly recommend.
A Manual for Cleaning Women, Lucia Berlin: I picked up this collection of short stories at one of my new favorite places in the Bay Area, Dog Eared Books in the Mission. The staff at Dog Eared slip handwritten notes into the inside covers of the books - jokes, reviews, recommendations and commentary - and I find that utterly enchanting. This was a fairly new foray into the world of short stories for me! I prefer to sink my teeth into a lengthy novel, but taking these bit by bit and reading one or two a day was a really fun way to experience the sparse, vernacular-driven writing. A book to nibble, rather than devour (unlike "Commonwealth!")
The Opposite of Loneliness, Marina Keegan: "A Manual for Cleaning Women" got me on a short story kick, and I finally visited this collection, which was all the rage a couple years ago. The backstory is tragic: Keegan, a 2012 Yale creative writing graduate, was killed in a car accident just five days after her college graduation. Her parents, along with her Yale mentor, compiled her writing into this mesmerizing collection. I laughed out loud, cried, and at certain points had to reread sentences/paragraphs multiple times because they were just so evocative and gut-wrenching. If you haven't read this, do yourself a favor and read it, as soon as possible.
Rich People Problems, Kevin Kwan: The third book in the "Crazy Rich Asians" series, it made me laugh and was a perfect light beachy read for evenings with a glass of wine on the deck. The title kind of says it all - it was incredibly amusing and I really enjoy Kwan's bizarrely textured, totally foreign world.
Nothing this month! How nice!
The Shadow Queen, Margaret Pemberton: I owned this book when I moved to California, but weirdly, I have no memory of actually reading it. I find Wallis Simpson (the woman for whom King Edward VII abdicated the throne back in the 30s) fascinating in a really weird way, but this novel left me kind of lukewarm. It's an easy read about a super interesting historical figure, but I think it could have been better.