Here are some of the grown-up books I’ve read in the past few weeks. If you want to know what YA I’ve been reading, head on over to Teen Librarian Toolbox to keep up with what I’m loving. Or find me on Twitter, where sometimes I stop tweeting pictures of my dogs or talking about what sugary product I am currently ingesting/wanting to ingest and tweet about books. This link will take you to other recent grown-up books I’ve read. I’ve read more adult stuff than usual lately. I’m deep into the novel I’m writing and have told myself (and my agent) that this draft will be done by the end of summer, which has become a further necessity because I start my new job, in an elementary library, when summer ends, too. I find that when I’m writing a lot, it’s harder for me to read YA. Too much distraction both as a reader and a writer.
I want to know what you’ve been reading, too. Tell me on Facebook or Twitter. Maybe someday I’ll tell you why comments are disabled here.
Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002) by David Sedaris
As I told Matthew, the idea of reading 1000 pages of most writers’ diaries does not appeal to me, but when it comes to Sedaris, it’s an obvious YES. Theft by Finding is the first of two volumes of his diaries. Given that all of his books are personal essays, you wouldn’t necessarily think his actual diaries would be so fascinating, but they were. His early life was far more drug-filled and randomly employed than I had understood it to be. I got a lot of good laughs reading his book (no surprise). My favorite part is him talking about learning French and trying to tell the teacher that it’s like the pot calling the kettle black, only he says, “That is like a pan saying to a dark pan, ‘You are a pan.'” We have repeated that line about one billion times already. A few years back we saw Sedaris read, and I’ve listened to all of his books on audio. I love his unique voice. Hoping the diaries come out on audio, too. A great read for Sedaris superfans.
Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan
Abandoned it 50 pages in. I’ve read all of Sullivan’s books and really enjoyed them, but this one wasn’t grabbing me. I may give it another try after summer. Summer is when I read the bulk of my grown-up books and I just want to burn through titles quickly. I’ve put it back in my library queue to attempt again this fall.
Complicated Fun: The Birth of Minneapolis Punk and Indie Rock, 1974-1984 — An Oral History by Cyn Collins
I devoured this book. This is an indispensable collection of stories about the early years of Minneapolis punk. Punk was my entire life when I was a teenager. My life revolved around going to shows and scouring record stores for whatever bands I grew to love thanks to my weekly master classes in punk, the brilliant radio program Beautiful Music for Ugly Children (on KMSU). I would sit next to my stereo when that was on, recording each show so I could listen to it again and write down what bands I wanted to check out. All these years later, I still love the music, especially the great, early bands that came out of the years this book covers. The end of the book makes it sound like maybe there’s a second volume, of the years 1984 and on, in the works. I desperately hope so.
The People We Hate at the Wedding by Grant Ginder
The whole book could be summed up by this passage, near the end:
“Love disappoints. It can’t help itself. That’s why… I don’t know, that’s why Ingrid Bergman gets on the plane and leaves Casablanca, or Maude takes all those sleeping pills at the end of Harold and Maude. But what are we supposed to do? Stop trying? Preemptively say fuck it because we know everything invariably ends? That’s bullshit. You hear me? Bullshit. Love may disappoint, but that doesn’t absolve us from the duty of loving. Of trying to love.”
I always like a good story about other families’ messes. This was a quick and relatively absorbing read (though I cop to having skimmed slow parts) about various kinds of love and the many ways we are disappointed, broken, and repaired by love.
Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay
If you haven’t read Roxane Gay’s writing (especially the brilliant Bad Feminist), you need to fix that. She is a masterful writer. This memoir was just as smart and incisive as I figured it would be, but it was also absolutely heartbreaking. Here, she is raw. She pours it all out on the page, leaving nothing out, no matter how complicated or hard to accept. She says this book was the hardest thing she has ever written. At 12, Gay was gang raped. She didn’t tell anyone (for a very, very long time). The horrific crime changed her (of course it did). She detached from people, turning to food for comfort, turning her body into a fortress. She writes, “I ate and ate and ate in the hopes that if I made myself big, my body would be safe. I buried the girl I was because she ran into all kinds of trouble. I tried to erase every memory of her, but she is still there, somewhere. . . . I was trapped in my body, one that I barely recognized or understood, but at least I was safe.” A powerful look at violence, trauma, and healing.
Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny
I like eavesdropping on people. I like observing people. I think those things are part of why I like reading so much, too—I like seeing into people’s lives. I had this book with me at Callum’s therapy appointment. His doctor always asks what I’m reading. I told her this one was about a marriage, and while it’s of course about more than just that, it’s pretty accurate to just say, “This book is about a marriage.” Graham and Audra have been together a number of years. They’re very different people, and Audra is very different from Elspeth, Graham’s first wife. When the three start getting together as friends, Graham reflects on how one person could love two such different people. Watching the trials and joys of someone else’s marriage unfold could be rather dull, but Heiny is a great writer and I was left wanting to know more.
The Spitboy Rule: Tales of a Xicana in a Female Punk Band by Michelle Cruz Gonzales
Once upon a time in the early 90s, there was this great hardcore band, made up of women, called Spitboy. If I needed to put on something really loud and angry and feminist and screamy, I put on Spitboy. This was an interesting, quick read filled with lots of black and white pictures of the band and their shows as well as flyers from shows. A great blast from the past to read this memoir about punk, race, class, and gender.
I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales From a Happy Life Without Kids
by Jen Kirkman
I enjoy the heck out of comedian Jen Kirkman. This memoir revolves around her choice to not have children. I laughed out loud repeatedly while reading this. I also read most of this while sitting by an extremely busy public pool, where my own child would disappear into the water for vast hours at a time, making me look like some kind of weird lady who comes alone to a childrific place to pointedly read a book about being happily childless. I have Kirkman’s other book in my TBR pile and am trying to save it for our trip to CA (I don’t mind planes as long as I have my head buried in a good book) , but suspect I’ll read it sooner.
Also, for research for my work in progress, I read these books, all of which are probably rather self-explanatory: