When I write, I keep reading - even if it's a few paragraphs each day. Having just finished a writing project, I plan to devour a few books on my "next up" list.
Here's what I'm reading, have recently read, or will soon read.
THE NIGHTINGALE. Hands down, this is not only one of my favorite reads of the year, it is one of my favorite reads ever. If you enjoy historical fiction as much as I do, you will immediately be caught up in wartime France in 1939, as sisters Vianne and Isabel are at odds with each other as they choose very different paths for coping with and riding out the war. I couldn't put it down. It is suspenseful and heart-wrenching and a most beautiful story emerging from an ugly time. I liked that the ending surprised me.
CURRENTLY READING! THE YEAR OF LIVING DANISHLY. What a lively, light read Helen Russell has written. Her writing style is so unique, infused with such humor and honesty. I feel quite sure that if Helen and I were to sit down and enjoy a coffee, I would find her exactly as she is in the book. I'm enjoying reading a few chapters before I go to sleep each night. Only sweet dreams follow.
HILLBILLY ELEGY. I've always been intrigued with the people of Appalachia. This book was a particularly fascinating memoir of a young man raised in Appalachia who, even as a lawyer with a Harvard degree, still refers to himself as a hillbilly with deeply rooted hillbilly tendencies. This is his story of survival despite the bleakest circumstances and the most brazen and irreverent role models. His final commentary on what he sees as the only hope for children in Appalachia struck a chord with me. You'll have to give it a read to see for yourself. The book isn't a flashy read full of beautiful, colorful words. It is straightforward and stripped down and honest.
BOYS IN THE TREES. I couldn't resist this memoir because I'm a child of the 70's and all my teenage angst was soothed by the voices and lyrics of Carly Simon and James Taylor. It is honest and graphic all the way through--full of sex, drugs and music as you might expect, but against a lovely backdrop of New England, New York City and Martha's Vineyard. I read this just prior to attending a James Taylor concert. It was, without a doubt, my favorite concert. It was good to see that James survived the details of the book.
THE MAGIC STRINGS OF FRANKIE PRESTO. As much as I enjoyed this story of fiction that weaves into the tale real-life musicians we all know and love--as much as I enjoyed that, I enjoyed even more the imagination and creativity Mitch Albom used. The narrator is music, and the story is as magical as one might think--the story of a baby boy in Spain who is gifted a lion's share of musical ability. He miraculously survives wildly unbelievable things and eventually lands in America. This was a welcomed change-of-pace read for me. Not a quick read and quite lengthy, I read a few chapters every other night for quite a while. I appreciated the craftsmanship of the story and it made me look at the gift of musical ability as something fluid and finite.
A LONG WAY HOME. Once I got past the cover, I very much enjoyed the story. This cover did not move my heartstrings toward the story waiting inside---the unbelievable story of a lost child. It is heartbreaking and miraculous. It is a memoir written by a boy, not a "writer", which made me feel like I was sitting across the table from a young man recounting his amazing journey. So I enjoyed it on that level--not as a great piece of writing, but as a really amazing story.
ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE. Historical fiction at its best. The Nazi invasion of Paris, a blind Jewish girl and a German orphan boy and the eventual intersection of their lives. Anthony Doerr has woven a tale that is beautiful, courageous and tragic all at once. Though fiction, it makes me wonder about all the true stories that took place during this time in history that will never be written. This is a certain page-turner.
DON'T LET'S GO TO THE DOGS TONIGHT. This book (which had me at the title) was recommended by a friend because she wanted to have someone with whom to discuss the book. I am relatively the age of the author, and by comparison, I have had little adventure in my life it seems. Alexandra Fuller's memoir follows her as a British child growing up in Africa during the Rhodesian Civil War. It was a lesson in history for me, as I knew little of the place or the people or the struggle. With the most minimal and disconnected parenting, Alexandra was free to navigate her way through the dangers and treacheries of life on farms in a war-torn place, even as a very young child. It was a sad way to grow up (which had as much to do with her parents as it did to do with the chaotic country) and at the same time, it was an upbringing of great and unimaginable adventure. Loved it.