Recent reads

You know the drill by now. I read a lot. I write about what I read. I wrote about 111 books for Teen Librarian Toolbox this year (Callum tells me I can do better than that, so watch out, 2018!). I blab about books on Twitter. Here are the grown-up books I’ve read recently.


Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches by John Hodgman

I am a John Hodgman superfan. His podcast, Judge John Hodgman, is one of my very favorite things in life. When he came to St. Paul on his book tour in November, we went, excited to share in his weird brand of humor (and got exactly what we expected: some poignantly funny stories mixed with recommendations on the best pans for cooking eggs and a good New England whaling museum battle). This book is about middle age, about aging, about families, homes, anxieties, privilege, death, and the everyday burdens of being a person. Hodgman fans will not be disappointed. New readers will hopefully go see out the podcast, where they can get weekly doses of humorous observations about life’s inanities.


Insomniac City: New York, Oliver Sacks, and Me by Bill Hayes
I enjoyed the heck out of this book. I read most of it on a quiet Sunday afternoon, unable to put it down. It’s a beautiful and poignant look at life, love, and loss shown through photographs of people on the streets of New York, diary entries, and narrative peeks into the life of Hayes and his partner, the brilliant Oliver Sacks. I almost took this back to the library unread, thinking I didn’t have the time to get to it, but I’m so glad I sat down with it and lost all those hours to this lovely, moving book. Nonfiction/memoir fans, get on this one.


One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul
I am, once again, on a memoir and essays kick. This happens a lot when I’m actually really writing (as opposed to only kinda sorta writing, but mostly staring at my computer and sighing and erasing things). I need to read less YA to keep that space in my brain open for writing YA. ANYWAY. Koul, who’s the daughter of Indian immigrants, writes about Indian culture, anxieties, phobias, interracial dating, and so much more. She easily goes from writing about getting stuck in a skirt in a fitting room to discussing India’s caste system, rape culture, and family issues. Often darkly humorous, this was a quick read that was a little uneven (some essays were less engaging and I only skimmed). I look forward to more from Koul.


Home is Burning by Dan Marshall

Looking for a swear word-laden, depressing, darkly humorous look at upending your life and caring for two dying parents? Then do I have the book for you! Admittedly, this maybe wasn’t the best choice to spend the anniversary of my dad’s death reading, but I’d somehow brought home from the library FOUR books about death, so what could I do. In his early 20s, Marshall’s mom had already been dealing with cancer for years when his father was diagnosed with ALS. Dan and his brother, both out of college, moved home to help care for their parents. The thing that keeps this from being a total sobfest (and from being boring–the care can be rather repetitive) is Marshall’s love of swearing and his totally dark sense of humor. And his family, especially his foul-mouthed mother, is a lot like him, too. It makes for a read that is extremely moving and compassionate but also so darkly funny. Touching, honest, and vulgar… my favorite things.


It’s Not Yet Dark by Simon Fitzmaurice

Read this memoir about ALS on the heels of the above book. Totally different experience. Fitzmaurice’s writing is tight, measured, spare, eloquent. This slim book explores life post-ALS diagnosis and wanders back repeatedly to his younger life. It’s a beautiful, powerful, and unflinching look at living a full life even in the face of impending death. Heartfelt, full of love for his family, friends, and film, and full of determination. Fitzmaurice died in October of this year.