Stories are powerful. They teach us new things, show us different perspectives, help us to see the world in a new light. Reading has become a big part of my life over the past year, more so than ever before, and it has been a positive influence on me. That’s why I felt a momentary sense of loss when I had an epiphany:
I’ll never have enough time in this life to read all of the books that I want. It’s a never-ending list with which I’ll never be able to keep up.
Thus, I realized I have to be wiser about my book choices. Being forced to whittle down my list of books and focus more on what I really want to read the most is helping me learn more about the types of stories I truly like, and I’m learning more about myself in the process. I even deleted some titles off my list (gasp!), knowing deep down that they aren’t stories that are meant for me, and that’s okay.
That said, I am happy to say I’ve read some amazing books so far this year! Here are my five favorites, all of which I highly recommend:
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
“Each beginning is the end of a waiting. We are each given exactly one chance to be. Each of us is both impossible and inevitable. Every replete tree was first a seed that waited.”
I didn’t know what to expect from this memoir/autobiography, but I definitely didn’t expect to fall in love with it. Jahren’s whimsical telling of the lives of plants corresponds beautifully with the stories of her own life as a scientist, a woman, a friend, and a mother. The deep connection she has with her life-long friend and lab partner is one that is rare and truly special. Her writing is poetic and emotionally charged. This book was so much more that I hoped for and won my heart completely. It is wondrous and captivating.
The Girls by Emma Cline
“I waited to be told what was good about me. […] All that time I had spent readying myself, the articles that taught me life was really just a waiting room until someone noticed you- the boys had spent that time becoming themselves.”
It’s the late 1960’s, and a lonely 14-year old girl becomes mesmerized by an older girl and her free lifestyle that turns out to be a dangerous path in disguise. The cult and thriller aspects of this book are captivating, but what makes this book worth reading is the author’s exploration of the complex web of both female and male relationships and early interactions that shape who we are and who we become. It is dark and candid interpretation of the female coming-of-age experience that I found insightful and led me to reflect on some of my own experiences and interpretations of them.
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
“If only there could be an invention that bottled up a memory, like scent. And it never faded, and it never got stale. And then, when one wanted it, the bottle could be uncorked, and it would be like living the moment all over again.”
Originally published in 1938, this is a classic and a gothic thriller. A young woman (whose first name we never learn) marries an older widower and moves with him to his enormous estate where she is haunted by the memory of her husband’s first wife as she struggles to live up to her new role under the watchful eyes of her husband, servants, and socialites. But things aren’t always what they seem. This is an eerie tale from the first sentence to the last and a satisfying read as the heroine overcomes the challenges of her new life.
Paris for One and Other Stories by Jojo Moyes
“You don’t ever do something just because it makes you feel good?” The assistant shrugs. “Mademoiselle, you need to spend more time in Paris.”
Stood up by her flaky boyfriend, Nell ends up on a weekend trip in Paris alone. She is fraught with fear and anxiety from being in an unfamiliar city by herself until a chance encounter pushes her to live a little, to be a little adventurous, to try new things. It’s a story about both finding yourself and falling in love. This is a well-written, fun, humorous, and lovely novella plus eight additional women-centric and love focused short stories to follow. It’s great for a mood boost and a little extra reflection on relationships.
Behold the Dreamers – Imbolo Mbue
“Who is it not easy for?” “For you, for your father, for every child, every parent, for everybody. It’s just not easy, this life here in this world.”
This is the story of an immigrant family from Cameroon living in Harlem and struggling to achieve the American dream. Jende is ecstatic when he lands a job as a driver an executive at Lehman Brothers. The lives of their wives and children also intertwine, but when the financial crash happens in 2008, things begin to fall apart fast. This book gave me a new perspective of what it might be like to struggle as an immigrant in the U.S. I really loved the parts in which Jende talks about his home country and culture. It made me feel grateful for all that I have. Also, the audiobook is amazing.
What have you read this year so far that you’ve really liked and recommend?