As more states and countries are issuing stay-at-home orders, more of us are finding ourselves spending a lot of time in our homes. And while this is an incredibly stressful time globally, we find we have a little more time to read. For me, this is a bit of light during a dark time. In books, I can get lost and explore and maybe for a short amount of time to forget about everything that is happening. So I am choosing to read as much as I can during this time and that includes picking up some big books that have been living unread on my bookshelves for far too long. The five books below are the ones that are at the top of a VERY long list.
My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent
This book has been on a bookcase in my studio for almost two years. There have been several times that I almost picked it up to read but to be honest the size made me hesitate each time. It’s not that I don’t like to read big books. I just knew that I wouldn’t have as much time to dedicate to it as I would like to. Now that I have all the time in the world at home it seems like the perfect opportunity to dig into it. My Absolute Darling is about a teenage girl named Turtle Alveston which is pretty much the best character name. She lives in Northern California with the father, her mother having passed. Her life is confined to her home with her father and her middle school. When she meets a high school boy named Jacob, her world suddenly becomes larger. She starts to come into her own and starts to realize that maybe her life isn’t all there is and that she can change that. I love a good coming-of-age book led by a strong-willed female character and this sounds like just exactly that.
432 Pages. Buy here.
The Idiot by Elif Batuman
Most people will know about this book just from a glance at the cover. It’s been prominently featured on many sites and Instagram feeds since its publication. I am definitely late to the party with this one. This has been sitting in my studio for about a year and it’s another one that I kept wanting to pick up but didn’t. I’ve seen so many others talk about this book and I have to admit, I am suffering from a bit of FOMO. The Idiot takes place in 1995 and centers around a college freshman named Selin who is attending Harvard. She befriends another young immigrant student Svetlana and because email is a new platform to communicate with others, Selin starts to correspond with Ivan, another student at Harvard. The book explores Selin’s experience during the summer as a college student trying to find her way in the world and navigate adulthood.
432 Pages. Buy it here.
The Street by Ann Petry
The Street is a fairly new addition to my library. The novel takes place in Harlem in the 1940s, a time during which the neighborhood was plagued with violence, poverty, and racial dissonance. Amidst all of this, a young African American mother named Lutie Johnson is attempting to raise her young son. Which is hard in and of itself, but add to that being African American during the 1940s and it has all of the ingredients for a book that will have you feeling a lot of different emotions. Whenever I read books like this (i.e. anything by James Baldwin) I not only learn so much, but I find myself full of both anger and hope. Although there is a lot of tough subjects that are confronted in these novels, there are instances of family and love and loyalty. I hadn’t heard much about this book before I bought it so I am excited to read it and share it with others.
400 Pages. Buy it here.
A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin
This is another book that does not need an introduction. This and pretty much any other Lucia Berlin work has been all over blogs and Instagram feeds. I’m excited to read this as it will be my first time reading Berlin and it’s a collection of short stories so I can fit in a short story or two while making my way through some of my other reads. This book focuses on stories about everyday people and their lives. They seem like stories that are relatable and real.
432 Pages. Buy it here.
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Okay, so this one has been in my collection for about 6 years. I picked it up at a local bookstore when I lived in Maine in 2014. I am embarrassed to even admit that I’ve owned it for that long but have yet to read it. Especially given the fact that Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides is my favorite and most-read book. And maybe that’s why I’ve oftentimes overlooked this novel. But this is the time to finally tackle this one. Middlesex is centered on three generations of a Greek-American family as they navigate several moves that begin in Mount Olympus and finally end in Grosse Pointe. Eugenides takes the reader through different eras in history including the Prohibition Era in Detroit and the race riots of 1967. From what I’ve gathered from the blurb on the back, the narrator uncovers a family secret that has the answer to why she isn’t like other girls. And that to me, sounds like a mystery that spans multiple generations and like a novel that will have me reading late into the night.
529 Pages. Buy it here.