There are many things I am aware I can’t do, and book critic is easily at the top of the list somewhere between lawyer and doctor. But I’m not going to let the difficulty of describing the most eloquent of the word stringers stop me from sharing what I’ve enjoyed reading so far this year.
My sister bought me the graphic novel Make Me a Woman by Vanessa Davis for Christmas, and I finished it in two days. Its elevator pitch would be, “A book about growing up and trying to figure it out,” and it was exactly what I needed to read at the start of a new year. Her honesty is admirable. And her collection of watercolor drawings are eclectic and sometimes awkward. Aren’t we all?
Which I followed with The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry – a Christmas gift (thanks, mom!). It’s a Target Club Pick that’s described as, “A book about book-lovers for book-lovers.” It was a fun read, but also one I couldn’t help but think was targeted to the types of readers who paint their walls beige and then cover them with inspirational quotes about family and living in the moment. Those people are nice to have around. And so are those kinds of books.
I can’t recommend Amy Poehler’s Yes Please enough. But before diving in, lower your expectations. If the best writers make storytelling look easy, then some of the worst don’t stop telling you just how hard it is. Amy is no Tina, sure, but George Clooney is no Matthew McConaughey, yet no one was saying that when he accepted his Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s Golden Globes. Read it for the one-liners and contemplate teaching yourself cross-stitch so you can gift phrases like, “The only way we will survive is by being kind. The only way we can get by in this world is through the help we receive from others. No one can do it alone, no matter how great the machines are.” Ooh – and how about, “You have to be where you are to get where you need to go.” Sing it, Amy! Sing. It.
And this past weekend, I finished Middlesex. I’m almost a decade and a half behind, but this was one of the best books I’ve ever read, and I’m disappointed by only two things 1. It’s over. 2. It took me this long to read it. Middlesex is a Pulitzer Prize-winning tale about a hermaphrodite who reaches deep into his family’s archives in order to explain how he has become the person he is today (or at least the one he’s figuring out how to be). “The essential matrimonial facts: that to be happy you have to find variety in repetition; that to go forward, you have to go back to where you begin.” It’s the type of book you want to highlight so you can remember phrases and take them with you forever, but if you did, the book would become a soggy block of yellow. It’s also the kind of book you set down and accept whatever you read next won’t be Middlesex. But not reading might be the biggest mistake of all.
I believe we read to feel less alone, to learn something new, and to look to others who have been there before. As someone who once told her mom, “I’m just not into reading,” I’m unhealthily proud that I’m about to start my fifth book of 2015. And I’ll be the first to echo Amy’s sentiments that writing is hard. But not writing and not sharing are sometimes the worst mistakes of all.