One of the best ways to feel inspired by the energy of the new year--to feel inspired by change, growing older, growing wiser--is to plan the books you want to read. Here are a few of our current favorites. Think witty, contemporary, classic, emulative of the human condition, conducive to learning.
This fiction novel follows Selin, an undergraduate student at Harvard. She’s an exceptionally intelligent and observant narrator, and through her, Batuman expertly articulates the experiences of young adulthood, connection-forging, and college living. It’s an erudite read teeming with scholarship and speculation. Batuman has nailed the stream of consciousness.
A fiction novel based in Ireland: Connell and Marianne embark on a complicated relationship fraught with the alienation of modern-day romance. Estrangement, different partners, lost connection, the ebbs and flows of college and post grad life. The book is effortlessly relatable, tragic, alluring, sensual, and smart. Sally Rooney is a quintessential contemporary author.
Sam and Elizabeth become friends despite Elizabeth hiring Sam to be her son’s babysitter. Themes of coincidence and comparison texturize their relationship, and especially shade the differences in their lifestyles, ages, and decisions. Sullivan has crafted an impossible-to-put-down cadence, and her prose is tidy and interesting.
An interesting how-to on reigniting (or finding) creativity. Cameron affirms that art--and artists--are quasi-religious, and that honing creativity requires a spiritual and holistic overhaul. This book provides a 12-week routine for artists of all mediums, and is an important read even for people who do not consider themselves “artists.” Cameron breathes an invigorating new definition into the word “artist,” and flips our expectation of “The Artist” on its head. In a smart way, this book convinces us that we are all artists.
For the young women that feel trapped by circumstantial life and the service industry: may we suggest Writers and Lovers. The protagonist, Casey, is thirty-one and working at a restaurant while trying to complete her first novel. Although this trope--“the struggling artist”--has the potential to slip into cliche, King expertly navigates us through all of Casey’s life: her romances, her deceased mother, her living situation, her medical issues. King’s mastery of narrative, though, makes Casey exceptionally realistic and appealing. (We’ve all had Casey friends.) This is a fantastic read for those searching for inspiration to push against expectations of traditional adulthood; the book celebrates adversity in the name of art.
Written in 2005, Didion recounts the instances of grief and insularity after the sudden death of her husband, John. Her narrative cadence is candied with rich life experience and a seemingly effortless wisdom. She is witty, vulnerable, realistic, tired, and enlightened. An enchanting read for all, especially those who have yet to encounter such a monumental grief.
This book details the importance of intersectionality in the contemporary feminist movement. It is a productive critique of third-wave feminism, and is especially pertinent for those looking to expand their perspective of the functions and applicability of feminism. Kendall is engaging, intelligent, relevant, and articulate.
Solnit is a classic, well-loved novelist. A Field Guide to Getting Lost is a genre-shattering, meandering, essay-adjacent exploration on “self”--how to find it yourself, how she discovered it, and how, importantly, she got lost in the process. There are both academic and narrative-based tones. This read is important for those searching for identity and self, especially in the wake of life’s inevitable fluxes and crests.
Wohlleben has an environmental science background, and this book is reflective of that. His narrative is seasoned with objective, quantitative fact. Trees are communicative, community-based, alive, dancing, singing, yelling. We leave the book feeling a more profound connection to the nature that we intentionally partition off from our daily lives.
In a masterfully crafted fiction/nonfiction fusion, Hegi explores both her own life as a mother and writer and the life of her fictional protagonist. Hegi explores desire, the constraints of motherhood and womanhood, and the creative process through personal recollection and fiction. The line between imagination and reality is blurred, which speaks volumes about the creative process (and life and womanhood and desire and speculation) itself.