|"I am a truly omnivorous reader; fiction (all genres), memoir, and nonfiction are all appealing to me if the writing is good and I learn something or am transported in some way. I’ve gone through guilty pleasure periods (where I read every rock bio available, for example) or “comfort read” periods (procedurals, dark psychological suspense), but, ultimately, any good book is a siren song for me."|
Eerily prescient, Donoghue began writing this book during the hundredth anniversary of the Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and it was published in the middle of the current COVID crisis. Through the eyes of Nurse Julia Power, Donoghue takes us to the fever/maternity ward of a Dublin, Ireland hospital at the height of both WWI and the pandemic. The story unfolds over three intense days as the lives of several laboring women— Julia; a scrappy helper named Bridie Sweeney; and Dr. Kathleen Lynn, a Sinn Féin rebel wanted by police—become entwined in a race against time, disease, and the ravages of war. Unputdownable!
One of the most original psychological suspense novels I've ever read, the story (on the surface, at least) follows the lives of three characters haunted by a high school sexual assault. Beneath this through-line, however, there is a much deeper story about how we define ourselves by the stories others tell about us, and about how an objective truth—or even an agreed-upon reality—is impossible. The ending of this extremely well-written debut is a shocking and perfect final puzzle piece.
This book changed my life when I read it at nineteen. I did not realize until then that language could be used in this way—or was even capable of being shaped into the gorgeous form that Morrison gave it. Sula is a multi-sensory experience—a story, a song, a three-dimensional painting—so layered and full of meaning that it needs to be read multiple times. Honestly, it is breathtaking. Whole phrases and paragraphs stay with me, whispering in my ear, to this day.
I learned (almost) everything I know about Tudor times from this novel, a meticulously researched historical with a metaphysical heart. Anya Seton, who was known for the thoroughness and detail of her novels which almost always included actual historical figures, had an ongoing interest in reincarnation and she weaves it brilliantly into this story of characters who find each other across lifetimes. Anya Seton also wrote Katherine, set in the 14th century, which I highly recommend. Kings! Queens! Intrigue, plague, power, and castles! What’s not to love?
It’s easy to dismiss Levin’s books as pop culture “lite,” but his novels are brilliantly and economically written. They are scary because the monsters here are usually just…other people. There is terror in the mundane, darkness in the domestic. The Stepford Wives is a terrifying little book that presages, or perhaps anticipates, much of what led to #metoo. Stephen King said that Ira Levin was: "the Swiss watchmaker of suspense novels, he makes what the rest of us do look like cheap watchmakers in drugstores."
Hands down, the best and most useful book about writing I have ever read. This book holds up as well—it’s just as relevant and indispensable now as it was when it was first published almost twenty years ago. More than just an excellent primer, though, On Writing is an incredibly entertaining read. Only Stephen King can make a tirade about adverbs read like a thriller. I can’t recommend this book highly enough, whether you want to write a novel or just a coherent email. As an added bonus, the final third or so of the book is as close to a memoir as King has ever gotten and it is mesmerizing, darkly riotous, and deeply felt.
McCourt made memoir into the genre it is today with this book due to its sheer genius. I was given an advance reader’s copy of this book by a kind bookseller who saw me hanging around in the stacks nearly every day on my breaks from working as a waitress next door. I took it home, started it at dinner time and did not put it down again until I finished it at dawn. I laughed—hard—and cried—ugly cried, even. I absolutely fell in love with McCourt, his family, his words, his charm, even the miserable Ireland he describes. I had not realized that one could write about one’s own life this way—that it would even be allowed—and it gave me license, in a way, to write my own. A few years later, I published my own memoir, my first book. The lovely bookseller who had given me Angela’s Ashes hosted my very first book signing.
I’ve always been a fan of Joan Didion and recommend all her work. Nobody writes about California quite as beautifully and, in my opinion, accurately as she does. This slim memoir about the sudden death of her husband, however, is in a category all of its own. Didion’s famous control, her selection of words as an elegant and tensile structure is here wrapped around the chaotic maw of grief, which, by its nature, defies control or order. It is an incredibly well-written book and a remarkable study of loss.