We asked Friends Council member and the Babe behind @BookBabesCLT what she’s been reading while she stays home:
Ever since I learned how, I’ve read almost constantly – new books, old books, poems, articles, the backs of cereal boxes and shampoo bottles when there was nothing else. Lately, though, in this weird time we’re in (unprecedented, as all the emails in my inbox say), my focus has fallen off a bit.
It doesn’t seem like I’m alone in this – in conversations with other book-loving friends, they say the same thing. With everything going on, it’s felt harder to decide what to read, get engrossed in something new, or focus for more than a few minutes without checking my phone or accidentally dozing off.
Even so, I’ve been leaning on books more than ever to keep me occupied, transport me away from the Charlotte living room where I’ve spent most of the past two months, and distract me from my anxious thoughts – and I’ve grown to appreciate this forced slowdown for the chance to get back to things I really love, like reading. And I’m extra thankful for the armful of books I picked up at the Morrison Library before it temporarily closed – not to mention the virtual stacks of books I’ve downloaded over the past few weeks using the library app.
Here’s what I’ve been reading:
City of Girls, by Elizabeth Gilbert
I was a little late to the party on this one and was surprised to find it in the stacks at Morrison Library! It was so good, and somehow the perfect book to meet this strange moment. It’s a fun, fizzy piece of historical fiction that follows its young female protagonist, Vivian, through a lot of glamorous misadventures in New York in the early 1940s, then into World War II and the post-war era. It’s full of a ton of interesting historical detail but not short on drama, and manages to cover some serious themes – women’s sexuality, independence, convention – while not taking itself too seriously. It reminded me a lot of another historical novel I loved, The Age of Light.
Three Junes, by Julia Glass
This wins the award for “most random selection that I ended up loving.” Picked it out of the stacks at the library at random, took it home, and it turned out to be one of my favorite books in recent memory. My favorite genre is “quiet multigenerational family drama where very little happens,” and this is a perfect expression of that. Told from three different points of view over the course of (as the title implies) three Junes, it tells the story of a husband, his deceased wife and their adult children, spanning the Atlantic from Scotland to New York and including a lot of delightful characters that wander in and out of their lives. If you love literary family novels, you’ll love this, trust me.
Ask Again, Yes, by Mary Beth Keane
Snagged this via ebook on the library app after seeing a friend recommend it on Instagram – and I flew through it in one night. (I think this book is singlehandedly responsible for lifting me out of a reading slump). Incredibly well-written, it follows two neighboring families and a tragedy that impacts both of them, driving them apart before ultimately allowing them to come back together. It covers lots of big themes like family, forgiveness, mental health, addiction and independence, but centers on beautiful character development and relationships.
High Fidelity, Nick Hornby
I had read this years ago, but revisited it after watching the new High Fidelity series on Hulu, starring Zoe Kravitz (which is another must-consume, if you haven’t seen it already). I liked this novel and its sharp portrayal of Rob, the insufferably immature music store owner, the first time, but had a new appreciation for it the second time, close-reading it for connections to the TV show.
The Most Fun We Ever Had, by Claire Lombardo
At some point in our self-imposed quarantine, I found myself craving the easy comfort of books I had already read, so I picked up The Most Fun We Ever Had – one of my absolute favorite books of the past year. Yet another star in the “multigenerational family drama” category (are you sensing a theme?), it tells the sweet-yet-sharp story of the Sorenson family – a matriarch and patriarch who are over-the-top in love, and their four adult daughters who each have their own not-insignificant issues to deal with. It’s a really beautiful, poignant read with thoughtful musings on families, secrets, sisterhood and marriage.
Trick Mirror, by Jia Tolentino
Another reread, this time nonficton. Jia Tolentino has long been one of my favorite writers (first at Jezebel, now at the New Yorker) and she published this phenomenal collection of essays last year. Covering everything from the advent of the internet to childhood literature tropes to reality TV to the rise of athleisure, it looks at what drives sense of self (and self-delusion), particularly for people who grew up in the current era. In my opinion, required reading.
And, next on my list:
What if This Were Enough? by Heather Havrilesky
An essay collection on our cultural obsession with self-improvement and perfection, from another one of my favorite writers, Heather Havrilesky (she’s the Ask Polly advice columnist at The Cut). I’ve been avoiding starting it because I’m not sure I’m ready for this level of self-reflection yet, but – soon.
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murakami
Another book on my should-read list that I haven’t gotten around to yet – Murakami’s look at running, writing and how they influence each other. I run (more than I write) and thought this would be interesting/inspiring.
Bio: Abby is a digital marketer, lifelong reader and huge library fan. She loves attending Final Draught events and wandering around the stacks on Saturday mornings. You can follow her reading recommendations at @BookBabesCLT.