Not long ago, high on the excitement of Rhi’s approaching arrival (2 more days!!) and knowledge that she would have time to do fun summer things – like read! – I compiled a list of book recs for her. Once that list was finished, I did the only logical thing I could think of – I started a new list of books my sister Kim should read. (I was curious how they would compare.)
So here you go, Kim – let me know which ones I should smuggle into Rhi’s return luggage.
1) Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys. I don’t know why it took me so long to read this imagined prequel to Jane Eyre; it was stunningly and gorgeously written, with a wordscape so lush you’ll want to sink right into it. Want to know why the crazy lady in the attic goes round the bend? Read this.
2) Constellation of Vital Phenomena, by Anthony Marra. Easily one of my favorite books of the year. A story set in eastern Russia about love and loss and the ties (and stories) that bind us all. I borrowed the ebook from the library the Tuesday it came out, and had finished it by Thursday. It was that good.
3) Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell. It was a tough, crazy read filled with far more sci-fi-centered short stories than I would have preferred. But Kim loves sci-fi and she loves fantastically brilliant writing and she has a bit of a crush on David Mitchell. So…
4) The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet, by Reif Larsen. Because Kim is going to love. so. hard. the brilliant little marginalia and the quirkiness of one T.S. Spivet. He’s kind of like if Sheldon from Big Bang Theory and Jake from Stephen King’s Dark Tower series had a kid.
5) Boy21, by Matthew Quick. A book about belonging, community, race relations, basketball and what it means to be a high school boy growing up and learning stuff the hard way. (Is there an easy way?) Because Kim is always looking out for books to recommend to tween/teenaged boys and because this was long-listed for the Tournament of Books for several brilliant reasons. Oh, and because it’s not just for teenaged boys.
6) Twelve Tribes of Hattie, by Ayana Mathis. This wasn’t as good as The Girl Who Fell from the Sky, but almost. And I know how much Kim loved Girl.
7) and 8) The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and This is How You Lose Her, by Junot Diaz. Because Junot is one of my three favorite living authors, and Kim really needs to read why. Betcha she’ll fall for Oscar just as hard.
9) The Round House, by Louise Erdrich. This won all the awards for soooo many reasons. I avoided it for so long because the blurb just didn’t call to me and the cover art bugged (hey – sometimes shallow is deeper than me). But I read the coming-of-age story of the boy who tries to solve his mother’s attempted murder on lands where his tribal lands meet the “real” world and slapped myself for not reading it sooner.
10) A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving. I slogged through this book for what seemed like forever – and I still loved it. It’s one of those classics that you know as you’re reading it that you’ll think about it for the rest of your reading life. It’s a powerful book, and I think Kim is going to have a slightly different reaction and I’m very curious to talk it out.
11) Tell the Wolves I’m Home, by Carol Rifka Brunt. A book about a teenaged girl who loses her uncle, the only person who understood her, to a terrible new disease called AIDS. I loved reading about Junie and her uncle’s relationship; the narrator’s voice was just perfect. In fact, I think I read this book in a single sitting.
12) Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher. Kim and I have a thing for well-executed YA novels, and this is one of the best I’ve come across in years. It’s the story of a girl who’s committed suicide, but left behind 13 audio tapes she’s narrated explaining why she did what she did. It’s a sucker punch to your gut all the way through without being overdone for a single second.
13) Open City, by Teju Cole. A Nigerian med student (doctor?) wanders the streets of New York City, thinking about both his past and where his current life jumped tracks. It’s the kind of philosophical thinking-too-much and not-much-happening-otherwise kind of story that Kim loves and I mostly do not. Since I liked it in spite of itself, I betcha Kim adores it.
14) The Tiger’s Wife, by Tea Obreht. Combine Eastern-Europe life post USSR break-up with some death-myths and a woman piecing together the life of her grandfather and you have one of my favorite kind of stories. Gorgeously written, too.
15) The True Story of Hansel and Gretel, by Louise Murphy. I know Kim isn’t big into history, but I want to hear her take on this completely believable way of explaining how the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale was taken from fictionally-true accounts. Very original and yet believably written.
16) The Song Is You, by Arthur Phillips. If you took Harriet the Spy and made her a grown-up obsessed with music, this is kind of what you’d get.
17) The Gathering, by Anne Enright. Very, very lyrical story of a huge Irish family called back to their childhood home for the death of a sibling. Enright makes dysfunction sound so pretty and spun her tale in a way that didn’t weigh the reader down.
18) The Flight of Gemma Hardy, by Margot Livesay. I wasn’t expecting to love this story as much as I did. It’s a retelling and modernization of Jane Eyre, one of Kim’s favorite books.
19) Life of Pi, by Yann Martel. I finally got around to reading this and I’m glad I did. I don’t know what Kim will make of all the religious overtones, but I think she’ll like the story overall. Another one in the Philosophy Is Beautiful category.
20) Joyland, by Stephen King. Because who starts summer any other way than by reading a Stephen King?! Not these sisters.