In case you’re new to my blog, I usually post a list of the books of I’ve read every couple of months or so. As a reader, it’s hard to put a specific label on what I like. I do tend to favor a good family drama, but I also love memoirs (both heart-wrenching and the juicy celebrity variety) and occasionally some historical fiction. Basically, I love to read other people’s life stories–real or imaginary. These are my latest recommendations. (If you’re looking for more, I try to keep a running list here.)
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus If you like a feisty female who is ahead of her time, you’ll love this book about chemist Elizabeth Zott who works in a male-dominated field and isn’t afraid to call it likes she sees it. I’ll admit, I almost didn’t read it for the sheer fact that the word “chemistry” is in the title, but it’s light on the science and a funny/sad story of a woman in the 1960s who is determined to have a career, romance and motherhood, surviving plenty of setbacks with a lot of spunk. Elizabeth is one of my favorite characters I’ve read in a long time.
Marrying the Ketchups by Jennifer Close This is a heart-warming family story that centers around their Chicago restaurant and the changes that come when different generations take on different roles. I liked that it was written from different family members’ perspectives, going back to one night when the Chicago Cubs won the World Series and the family patriarch dies of a heart attack at the same time. (Not a spoiler!)
Dilettante by Dana Brown This is one of those juicy celebrity memoirs I was talking about. What makes it even better is that it takes you into the world of high fashion magazine publishing when they were at their peek in the 90s. The story of how the author landed a coveted job at Vanity Fair while he was a young bartender is fascinating, and I loved reading about the celebrity encounters over the span of his long career there. It’s also an interesting commentary on how the internet–and especially social media–changed everything in that industry.
The Second Mrs. Astor: A Heartbreaking Historical Novel of the Titanic by Shana Abe I haven’t read a ton of books about the Titanic (the movie was enough for me) but I loved this one. It details the scandalous romance between a 17-year-old socialite and the older, super wealthy and recently divorced John Jacob Astor. The book takes you through their courtship and how they eventually ended up on the doomed voyage. One of my favorite historical fiction novels in a long time–and I always love being able to Google image the people as I’m reading. (Bonus: it’s free right now on Kindle for Amazon Prime members.)
The People We Keep by Allison Larkin This story follows a young woman’s life from the time she’s living in a dilapidated trailer by herself in high school through her years on the road trying to find her place in the world while she works as a musician. I liked how it spanned different stages and relationships throughout her life and how her upbringing (or lack of one) led her to make the decisions she did as an adult. It was sad and sweet and I really rooted for this character.
Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley Although I’m recommending this, it’s definitely not for everyone. It’s a tough read, with a lot of rough content, so research before you pick it up. However, I do appreciate learning about why people make some of the life decisions they do. (There’s always a story.) I think it can give us a lot of empathy for real-life situations that seem so far removed from our own small worlds. It’s the story of Kiara, a 17-year-old girl, who has little family support and is just trying to survive while on the brink of being evicted from the apartment she shares with her brother. Her decisions–and the consequences that come with them–are heartbreaking but it’s also a story of resilience in the worst of situations. (Go the to the end and read the author’s note first. She wrote this based loosely on a news story in her city.)
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