“The Underground Railroad” a novel by Colson Whitehead
The first time Caesar approached Cora about running north, she said no.
Well, Oprah was right to choose this for her book club. In this brilliant novel, the underground railroad is not a mere metaphor. It is a literal train that runs underground, helping to free slaves, specifically Cora and Caesar. Their story is mesmerizing while shining a light on a brutal history we all share. It’s not only the journey of Cora as she encounters different worlds at each stop along the way, but it’s the journey of an entire people and we are given a glimpse into the terrifying life they were forced into.
A sentence I love: George sawed with his fiddle, the notes swirling up into night like sparks gusted from a fire.
“Hungry Heart- Adventures in Life, Love, and Writing” by Jennifer Weiner
The other day, I was walking home from the hair salon to pick up my eight-year-old after school.
If you have followed me at all, you know that I am incredibly curious about other writers’ lives. So, when I saw this book I just had to read it. She covers her life from childhood through adulthood and everything along the way that made her a writer from a father who left her, to being a journalist. It was great to get an inside look at a life that partially has been played out in her books. The sister from “In her Shoes” has got to be modeled after her own sister. She doesn’t shy away from issues of weight and body image, in fact, she embraces them. Her storytelling keeps you hooked, her humor is quick and a sharp (her tweets about “The Bachelor” make we want to watch it just so I can be in on the jokes!) and I closed the book feeling I knew more about her as both a woman and a writer.
A sentence I love: Remember the way you lived in your body before you learned to see only the wrong in it.
“The Alchemist” a novel by Paulo Coehlo
The boy’s name was Santiago.
I read this enchanting story years ago but after rereading it, this time after becoming a yoga teacher and living my yoga on and off the mat, it had a whole new, deeper resonance. It really spoke to my heart, this whole idea of following your heart, following your intuition, which is what led me to become a yoga teacher, which has led me to create a class that combines the alchemy of both yoga and writing. In a world that often feels hopeless, this book shines a light on the very hope we need.
2 sentences I love:
“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”
“Commonwealth” a novel by Ann Patchett
The christening party took a turn when Albert Cousins arrived with gin.
Indeed it did, and that turn sets the stage for a chance encounter that reverberates through two families over five decades.
When Franny begins an affair with a literary hero of hers, Leon Posen, she tells him intimate details of her childhood that become the basis for a best-selling book and eventually, movie. She has no idea that she has set in motion a ripple that will force both families to deal with issues they have kept buried for many, many years. It’s a rich novel full of love and loss, guilt and loyalty, life and death.
Ann Patchett is masterful at creating complex characters with complex stories and I am just happy to be along for the ride.
Several sentences I love:
Life, Theresa knew by now, was a series of losses. It was other things too, better things, but the losses were as solid and dependable as the earth itself.
“There’s no protecting anyone,” Fix said, and reached over from his wheelchair to put his hand on hers. “Keeping people safe is a story we tell ourselves.”
“Ongoingness- The End of a Diary” by Sarah Manguso
I started keeping a diary twenty-five years ago. It’s eight hundred thousand words long.
I literally just finished this book. Part of me thinks I should wait to reflect until I’ve had time to process it, perhaps after I’ve allowed myself the luxury of reading it again all through in one sitting. But another part of me wants to get my thoughts down before they evaporate. Which feels perfect for this book which is all about memory and time and trying not to forget and learning to remember and just being in the experience rather than chronicling it for a later date.
Each page had a sentence that just blew me away. The prose is sparse and powerful. Each page takes on an almost skeletal beauty, getting to the bare bones of who we are, who we think we are. It’s an elegant meditation on the brutal beauty of time and memory.
2 sentences I love (hard to pick just 2 but here you go):
The essential problem of ongoingness is that one must contemplate time as that very time, that very subject of one’s contemplation, disappears.
Perhaps all anxiety might derive from a fixation on moments—an inability to accept life as ongoing.
“We Should All Be Feminists” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Okoloma was one of my greatest childhood friends.
This is a modified version of a TEDTalk she gave in December of 2012. I read it and immediately bought two more to put in my daughters’ stocking this Christmas. It’s a book we all should read because we should all be feminists. It’s a book that reminds us that though we are all human beings “…there are particular things that happen to me in the world because I am a woman.” And those particular things need to be acknowledged, seen and heard so they can be changed.
A sentence I love: Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general—but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problems of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded.
“Mr. Ives’ Christmas” a novel by Oscar Hijuelos
Years ago, in the 1950s, as a young man working for a Madison Avenue advertising agency, Ives always looked forward to the holiday season and would head out during his lunch hours, visiting churches, to think and meditate, and, if he was lucky, to hear the choirs as they practiced their hymns and sacred songs.
A friend recommended this book years and years ago. I bought it back then and it has sat on my bookshelves until this holiday season when I found it and felt compelled to finally read it.
It was the perfect antidote to the stress I’ve been feeling over the state of the world. I was able to drop into another world each time I picked it up. Not that it was a thoroughly happy world. No, it was not at all. It is about life and death and loss and grief. But something about the writing, the story, the characters was a much needed balm to my battered soul. I found myself tearing up and feeling a particular reverence for the beauty of the world, no matter what state it is in.
A sentence I love: Then there were the swirls of green wire and Christmas lights, those that tipped over and bubbled, those whose glowing filaments pirouetted like ballerinas, those whose collars resembled cherry necklaces—those lights entangled or cleverly strung, adorning store windows, twinkling with benevolence, and, it seemed to Ives, nearly breathing, like everything else in the world.
“Love Warrior” a memoir by Glennon Doyle Melton
It’s almost time. My father and I stand at the edge of a long white carpet, laid just this morning over the freshly cut grass.
Maybe it was the holidays or end of the year emotions but these last two books I read this year, though totally different in tone and subject, really touched my heart. I felt incredibly moved by both stories, feeling more connected to the world that I had been hovering over since the election, distancing myself from it. Both of these stories show people who faced the unthinkable and came out the other side.
Melton’s memoir dives deep into the shadows of what it means to be human and flawed. She bravely peels back the layers of herself and her marriage. She is honest and raw and vulnerable and in doing so, she gives the reader lucky enough to read her words to believe it’s okay if they allow themselves to be honest, raw and vulnerable, too.
A sentence I love: At our cores, we are our tender selves peeking out at a world of shiny representatives, so shame has been layered on top of our pain. We’re suffocating beneath all the layers.