I used to never be without a book to read, but that hasn’t been the case in a very long time. Having a baby put an end to it. Although my daughter is now seven years old (!), I’ve never managed to quite get back into the reading habit. When she was 15 months old, I started the tremendous volume of writing projects that continue to this day.
That said, I have been trying harder to make time for reading and have put together some thoughts on my recent (or semi-recent) reads. As a writer of fiction, I find it a challenge to read other people’s novels without picking them apart. I started writing Cambridge and Pedigree so the novels I wanted to read would exist! Being part of a book club is a) fun and b) gets me to read fiction I otherwise wouldn’t. Despite my brain being constantly in edit mode, it’s enjoyable to see how other authors approach a subject and flesh out a storyline. But due to my insane nitpicking habit, most of my leisure reading is nonfiction. I’m always on the lookout for great nonfiction, so please comment with any recommendations!
A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum – This was our book club’s inaugural book. It’s not an easy read, as the plot deals mostly with domestic violence. It was a really interesting look at people trying to hold onto their traditional culture vs. letting their children become Americanized, but I didn’t think it was executed entirely successfully in the end. I thought the language was evocative, but the character motivations didn’t always make a lot of sense. I doubt I would read it again, but thought it was worth the time I spent reading it.
Mary Jane: A Novel by Jessica Anya Blau – Our second book club book, and one I picked after seeing it on Beach Reads & Bubbly’s Instagram. I really enjoyed this one, and so did the rest of the group. It’s a coming-of-age story, but the author mostly avoids falling into cliche traps. We all agreed the ending was a little strange or maybe unsatisfying, but overall, I enjoyed it more than our first pick.
WASPs: The Splendors and Miseries of an American Aristocracy by Michael Knox Beran – This had been on my to-read list for a long time after seeing Habitually Chic post about it when it came out. Ultimately, I didn’t end up finishing it. I had expected more of a traditional history book laying out the decline and fall of the culture. This reads more like a tabloid piece full of random anecdotes. It was fun seeing some of the aesthetic that’s lasted for eighty years, but otherwise I didn’t feel like the book was very informative.
Black Ivy: A Revolt in Style by Graham Marsh and Jason Jules – I absolutely loved this book! I checked it out of the library, but am planning to buy it very soon. The full-page photographs and essays are incredible. It was fascinating to learn more about how the Black community viewed and wore Ivy style during the mid-twentieth century. Racial equity and colonialism are topics I consider daily, in part because my book series focuses on white characters and because ‘preppy’ clothes are so strongly associated with the white elite. I would highly recommend this book if you’re even remotely interested in this topic.
The Gardens of Bunny Mellon by Linda Jane Holden- I am super late to this party. This coffee table book has circulated the grandmillennial Internet for maybe two years. I was excited to get this book for Christmas from my in-laws this year and have enjoyed browsing the beautiful photos and text, especially during the freezing cold months.
The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff – Book 13 of the Pedigree series takes place in Salem, MA, a totally intentional move on my part, and involves a diary from the Salem Witch Trials. To prepare for writing the book, I checked this out of the library and really enjoyed it. The author gives an in-depth, historical and feminist-based look at the trials and the circumstances surrounding them. It’s a lengthy tome, but I got through it fairly quickly. I also checked out a novel about the same subject matter. I got sixty pages into the novel before taking it back, but devoured this nonfiction book.
A Season with the Witch by J.W. Ocker – This was another Book 13 research text. Although I’ve been to Salem several times, including at Halloween, this was such a helpful and entertaining book. The author and his family live in Salem during the month of October to experience the Halloween craziness. They’re technically tourists, but also somewhat live as locals. The book is more about the way Salem has capitalized on its history to become a Halloween destination rather than a history of the trials. To contextualize, I read The Witches prior to reading this book. My Book 13 is finished, but I might read Ocker’s book again at Halloween!