The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone by Olivia Laing
(Picador, 2016, 315 pages)
I got so completely immersed in this book that I didn’t want it to end. Laing could have written hundreds more pages and I happily would have read them all.
Using the lens of loneliness Laing explores various artists whose work speaks to the feeling of being alone. She came to reflect on the connection between art and loneliness while she was living alone and lonely in New York City. Each chapter is essentially a biographic essay about a specific artist (Warhol, Wojnarowicz, Hopper…) that leaves you with an understanding of them and their work, but also has you poised to try and learn more. It’s no surprise this book was chosen as a 2016 best book of the year by a number of different publication, not to mention being a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist for criticism.
I’ll certainly be going back and reading Laing’s other pieces. I loved getting so wrapped up in her work.
Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say
by Kelly Corrigan
(Penguin Random House, 2018, 240 pages)
This was my first time reading Corrigan’s work and I really enjoyed her style. I’ll certainly be picking up her previous titles. The content of this book was just what I needed to read. It’s all about the power of language and reflecting to think of how to act in various situations. Corrigan is able to use humor throughout the book, but there are also some heavy and emotional moments as she lets the reader into her life and explains how it is she came to the realization of what needs to be said and why.
This was a heartfelt and valuable book. I’m glad it found its way into my reading rotation.
This Will Be My Undoing by Morgan Jerkins
(Harper Perennial, 2018, 272 pages)
I follow Morgan Jerkins on Twitter (@morganjerkins) and I don’t remember how I first was exposed to her work, but I’m glad for whatever it was that caught my attention. This collection of essays was so well-written and thought-provoking. In the spirit of not reinventing the wheel, below please find the review I posted on Goodreads:
“There are some books that you are content to read but don’t feel like you need to own. This Will Be My Undoing is a book that I’m so glad I read and that I will certainly be going out to buy so it has a permanent place on my shelves. The essays in this book are packed with so much that I know every time I revisit them I’ll come away having gleaned something new.
These essays talk about what it means to exist in this world as a black woman. There is no separating the two. Not only was I nodding along while reading I also found myself tearing up more often than I ever would have imagined I would. There’s so much depth here. It was a fabulous read.”
I definitely recommend (pub. date: January 2018).
Cardboard Gods: An All-American Tale Told Through Baseball Cards
by Josh Wilker
(Seven Footer Press, 2010, 208 pages)
Josh Wilker tells the story of his life growing up in the late 1970s in New England as a diehard Red Sox (and Carl Yastrzemski) fan. As many young baseball fans did in the 1970s, Wilker would often take $1 to the corner store to buy four packs of Topps baseball cards. He describes the feelings associated with opening a new pack and the taste of the hard, sugar-filled gum. Wilker begins each chapter with the year, card number, and player of a certain card from a year between 1975 and 1981. Not all the players he highlights were stars, but each had an interesting story to tell—sometimes a statistic or a life tragedy, and sometimes a story Wilker had made up himself as a child of what he thought that player’s story might be based on the photo on the card. He tells these stories as he tells his own story, making parallels between them. I imagine a small audience would pick up this book, but that audience would enjoy it. Recommended to baseball fans, especially those who grew up in the late 1970s collecting baseball cards.
We’re Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union
(Dey Street Books, 2017, 272 pages)
I’m a Gabrielle Union fan and while I knew I would read this book I was wary about the quality of the writing. Celebrity memoirs typically go one of two ways, and I was scared to have this be a letdown. Union actually exceeded my expectations. The essays in this book range from humorous to serious. I laughed out loud a few times and I found myself raging alongside her when she talked about having to teach her black stepsons how to protect their lives in this world we live in.
This book reads the way Union would talk if she actually was one of your girlfriends dishing over wine. I definitely recommend it. She talks about everything from claiming your sexuality and partying with Prince to dealing with personal trauma and facing what it’s like toe be black in America. This was an entertaining and well-written book that lands firmly on the side of quality celebrity memoirs. That being said, while she does discuss her marriage to Duane Wade, there’s not a ton of dish there so don’t expect too much on that front 😉
Jackie’s Girl: My Life with the Kennedy Family by Kathy McKeon
(Simon & Schuster, 2017, 321 pages)
As a teenager, author Kathy McKeon left Ireland for the U.S., and in 1964, landed a job as the personal assistant to Jacqueline Kennedy. Referred to as “Jackie’s Girl” by JFK’s mother Rose Kennedy—who couldn’t keep all of her children’s employee’s names straight—McKeon also often served as the caretaker of Mrs. Kennedy’s children, Caroline and John. This is an insightful and touching story of what it was like to be close to the most famous family in the world at the time. Mrs. Kennedy (called “Madam” by McKeon) expected loyalty of her employees—sometimes demanding overtime even if they had other plans, or requiring them to drop everything at the last minute to leave the country for 2 or 3 weeks—but she returned the loyalty “tenfold” with her generosity and otherwise caring nature. The stories of Caroline and John as children are also very endearing. McKeon takes the reader through all of the Kennedy main events—the untimely assassination of Robert Kennedy, the tragic death of a young woman in a car driven by Ted Kennedy, Jackie’s marriage to Aristotle Onassis, and, ultimately, the deaths of Jackie and John, Jr., to whom she had remained close over the years. The audio version of the book is read by Irish American actress Aedin Moloney, whose accent gives authenticity to McKeon’s words. She also does a great job with the sweet, high, sometimes breathy voice of Jacqueline Kennedy. The book made me chuckle and cry, and I would listen to it again. Highly recommended.
Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult
by Bruce Handy
(Simon & Schuster, 2017, 307 pages)
Wild Things is a book that’s right up my alley. You want to talk about children’s literature I’m all ears! Handy looks back at some classic children’s books and puts them in context. The breadth of children’s literature makes it impossible for Handy to touch on everything and he acknowledges that early on but he highlights the classics that will hit home for most people.
In addition to deconstructing each story Handy also offers up biographical information about the authors. You come away not only wanting to revisit classics and explore more children’s books, but also wanting to learn more about these authors who have had such an impact on our lives and the lives of our children. I’ve been looking forward to reading some of my favorites out loud to my daughter when she gets a little older but this book only got me more excited.
Wild Things encourages you to appreciate and really explore the children’s books that are in our lives. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone.