In January, I left my beloved library behind in the States, which was very sad. But I also returned to twelve new books that I bought at a Christmas bazaar before leaving Athens last year, so it all balanced out (not really, twelve books does not equal infinite library access).
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This tiny book is adapted from a TedX Talk, and boy is it effective. I mean, I guess she was preaching to the choir, but I found her balance of personal anecdotes and academic research very persuasive. I would love to know if someone who is not a feminist could read this and come away unmoved.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
Everyone already knows how awesome this book is, but do you know how amazing the illustrated edition is? It has the full text printed like a children’s fairy tale book, and just holding the heavy thing in my hands made the whole story feel important and magical in an really evocative way. The artwork is stunning, both familiar and unique. I was especially impressed with how the kids looked like actual 11-year-olds. I cannot wait to see what they do once they publish the fourth book in this format – will it come in two pieces or require a forklift?
The Geography of Genius by Eric Weiner
This book combines three of my favorite things: travel, history, and sociology. Weiner visits several cities that were the birthplace of geniuses. Some are obvious, like ancient Athens or Florence during the Renaissance. Others I was unaware of, like Edinburgh and Hangzhou. The whole journey is in pursuit of what creates genius, abolishing myths (the lone genius) and positing new theories (genius requires diversity, disorder, and discernment).
Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick
The simplest recommendation is this: if you like Anna Kendrick, you will like this book. It sounds like her (especially if, like me, you listen to her read the audiobook version), both very funny and often insightful. It is vaguely interesting as a child actor story, but that’s not its real purpose. Instead, she’s doing what she does best: entertaining us with stories.
It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover
WOW. This book was recommended to me by a librarian friend, and it completely blew me away. It’s all about breaking the cycle of abuse, but instead of being maudlin or overly dramatic, Hoover gives us the “best” case scenario and challenges us to empathize with people on all sides of the situation. It felt incredibly weird to occasionally root for the abuser, but that’s the power of her storytelling capabilities. And the ending was just beautiful.
Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham
Once again, if you like Lorelai Gilmore – I mean Lauren Graham – then you will like this book. And once again, I recommend you listen to the audiobook, which Graham reads herself. I really admired that she knows her audience; she spent a little time on her childhood, but the bulk of the material lies in describing her experiences working on Gilmore Girls (and to a lesser extent Parenthood). Her joy and gratitude are so evident, and it makes the book a delightful thing to experience.
The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell
I’m a full-fledged socialist now! Russell’s description of being a British ex-pat in Denmark for one year totally converted me to the benefits of paying 50% taxes. But seriously, her memoir/non-fiction story is really fun to read…just start saving for that plane ticket, because she’s hella convincing.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Although this is a great book written from the perspective of a teenager with Asperger’s, I never quite connected with it because it was not what I expected. I thought I was reading a mystery, but that ends quite quickly, and I found the true story far less interesting. Still, it’s a great piece for those who want a glimpse into inner workings of someone with Asperger’s, especially in making obvious just how much WORK every action and reaction is.