Books are a uniquely portable magic.
I am a voracious consumer of books, both fiction and nonfiction. My parents taught me to read at an early age, before I even started school. I was the kid in fourth grade that got in trouble for reading a book in her lap instead of listening to the teacher’s lecture.
Many readers indulge as a form of escapism, but the primary reason for my indulgence is different. Reading broadens my horizon in regards to lives of other people, varying perspectives, and worlds different from my own. I think about them in comparison to my own reality, and it helps me to make sense out of the chaos of life. Books lead me to think about my own story and the story of those around me.
There have been phases of my life where I have been less of a reader than others, but since finishing graduate school last year, I have revived reading as a regular indulgence. This left me with an overwhelming thirst for a connection with others who share in the love of books, and thus, I joined a local book club.
It was terrifying showing up at the house of a complete stranger to converse with other complete strangers, but it was the book that fueled me forward. I knew the small talk would end once the book discussion began, and that’s when my nervousness disappeared. The conversation was stimulating and thought provoking, and I was hooked. It feels so satisfying to connect with people over this common interest, and now I am beginning to connect with them on a level that extends beyond our readership.
Not only has this love of books brought me together with new people with different ideas and perspectives, it has expanded my exposure to literature. Each month we read a book in a different genre, which is opening to me different reading experiences and thus different way of seeing the world and harnessing my imagination. It also recently introduced me to Book Riot, which is a source of all things bookish including news of the publishing world, new releases, and book reviews and recommendations. I anxiously await every new podcast episode.
In celebration of my revived love of books and reading, here are some of my favorite reads so far this year:
The Secret Wisdom of the Earth – After tragedy strikes, a boy moves with his mom to live with his grandfather in the Kentucky Appalachians. The boy finds solace in his relationship with his wise and rugged grandfather and with his new best friend as they explore the woods. When the town becomes divided over mountain blasting, a camping trip into to the wilderness becomes a fight for survival. It’s gritty and poignant. It’s also the author’s debut, and I can’t wait to read his next book!
Luckiest Girl Alive – A young woman determined to have it all and close to making it happen is forced to take a hard look at her life when she agrees to participate in a documentary about tragic events that took place when she was in high school. I agree with comparisons to the eerie, dark tone of Gone Girl. It is very well written and kept me deeply engaged to the end.
Of Mice and Men (Classic) – Two drifters find work at a California ranch with dreams of one day having their own piece of land, but difficult situations arrive that force them to face the harshness of reality. It’s a short, simple story but it hit me hard. I had to take some time to absorb the ending before I could start another book. It’s not a fun-filled happy book, but it’s an important one and is an example of one that is perfectly written.
Girl at War – A young girl and her family in Croatia are struck by tragedy at the start of the Yugoslavian civil war in the early 90s. Ten years later the girl decides to return to her homeland and face her past. This book taught me a lot about the war of which I was very unfamiliar. It’s a smart book that shows you it’s possible to bridge the gap between all the lives we have lived to remind us of who we are.
All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation (Nonfiction) – A well written and researched book that explores gender roles of women in America and how they have shifted through the decades to now. She incorporates everything from census and statistical data to interviews of every-day women. It’s a thorough and interesting commentary.
We Were Liars (Young Adult) – A group of four friends spend carefree summers together on a family island until one of them has an accident and loses part of her memory. This is a story about friendship, loss, and facing your demons. The bad ratings on Goodreads describe the book as tedious and pretentious, but I found something honest and beautiful in this coming-of-age story. I did listen to the audiobook and loved the narrator, so that likely improved my experience. I cried twice.
What are your favorite books so far this year? What are you reading next?