Cori's Staff Picks
I wanna be Mary Laura Philpott's best friend. She has great insight, doesn't hold back, and has the perfectly charming amount of potty mouth that tells you she is keeping it real. Through some of her college references, I quickly learned we were about the same age. That made her even more relatable, and when you add in my fondness for the South, her essays were a treat from start to finish. I dog eared so many pages to revisit and enjoy. This is that perfect type of book to pick up when you are short on time. You can read an essay or two as your time allows.
With touches of the movies “Big” and “13 Going on 30” and the book “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” this story took me to unexpected places. Starting with Oona’s 19th birthday, her mental presence and consciousness continues aging chronologically while time leaping to different ages of her life each year. It was an imaginative and thought provoking read with more depth than anticipated. It left me with the simple but powerful reminder that we can be worried about our past and future, but all we have is right now. We can spend our time and energy fighting to change the imperfect and unwanted, or we can seize onto what life is offering us right now and make the most of our experiences. By living our lives instead of running away from them, we are shaping the journey of our existence and accepting that we will have both high and low points. It also left me thinking about who are the anchors who provide support, guidance, and continuity through my life? Beyond the deeper themes, this story had the perfect balance of comedic and dramatic moments and provides a lovely homage to New York City, music, and pop culture through the various decades we encounter alongside Oona. I also loved this as an audiobook.
Spectacularly ambitious and intricate homage to the late 1960’s music and counterculture scene. Moving amongst different band members’ experiences and perspectives, each chapter title overlaps as a song title, and in turn provides the story that inspired the writing of each of their songs. How often will you get to travel around London, England, and beyond while experiencing the creation, rise, and fall of a fictional band you wish had actually existed?
“...one of the questions I most wanted to ask my friends was: Can I see an average day in your life right now? A real day, not one curated for social media or filled with the best activities to entertain a visitor. On the one hand, it’s a simple question. On the other, it’s almost too intimate. And it might be impossible, because the presence of a visitor changes a day, no matter how close the friends are.”
This quote encapsulates much of what this book is about. I will start by saying this will be on my top reads of 2019. It’s that good. As a 40-something introvert who cherishes her friends but struggles with maintaining close contact over the miles, this story spoke to me on so many levels. I welcomed being invited into May’s intriguing, delightful, and acerbic mind. There are many intricate threads woven together to provide insight into May’s past and present life. May lives in her childhood house with her widowed father and works as the campus gardener at the local university. May rewards us with lovely and insightful observations of her neighbors, small town life, and botany. I adored the lovely interludes where she shares her own plant knowledge as well as the tree sheets with descriptions and drawings that her father periodically leaves her. Beyond the funny bits, we also begin to understand May’s reluctance toward intimacy and observe her still sorting through her grief over her mother’s illness and death. Unexpectedly awarded 30 days of leave by her employer, May decides to begin a quest to understand what friendship means for her, how to be a better friend, and reconnect with the four people she has identified as her closest friends. May asks herself, what would have happened if The Odyssey’s Penelope had left? What kind of traveler, friend and guest would she be? Armed with hostess gifts, Emily Post’s guide to etiquette, and Grendel (her suitcase), May takes us on a journey that will fill your heart and make you laugh as she shares her funny, awkward, and mostly spot-on observations about 21st century connections and friendships. #fortnightfriends
How did she manage to create this gorgeous family saga in less than 200 pages? Told through a chorus of five different voices, family members fill in the puzzle of their lives piece by piece and generation by generation. Told out of sequence, we learn how these lives intersected, arrived in Brooklyn, and navigated their way through the racial complexities of the 20th and 21st centuries. We experience how they face timeless issues of family, love, identity, race, and class. The poetic language along with full audio cast makes for a moving and spell-binding listen.
With admittedly slow pacing at the beginning of this series, this series builds and will increasingly draw you in as you become enmeshed in an amazing cast of diverse characters and the enchanting world of Quebec. Penny continues to be brilliant in her intricate stories that involve a psychological study of human relationships and behavior, cultural history of Canada, food descriptions that will make you drool, the inside mind of artists and their world, oh and a murder mystery to be solved in each book.
These fantastical treats will take you on a satisfying adventure. The world building is approachable and easy to follow as you are swept away into the deserts of the Middle East with Nahri, a likeable and feisty rogue heroine, who made her living swindling the rich in Cairo until whisked away to a hidden but adjacent magical world filled with djinn, monsters and magical beings. The series is filled with political intrigue rooted in racial and religious tensions that build and build through multiple explosive showdowns.
At its simplest, we could just say this is a story about the human condition. Backman’s wry and deceptively simple storytelling provides us an exquisite and astute study of the little complexities that fills our lives with joy and pain. Through his rich story exploring second chances, missed opportunities, and unintended consequences, he captures the essence of what it means to be human and the complexities of navigating relationships with each other by exploring what we say and do not say to one another. The audio version is absolutely spectacular. The narrator brings each character to life with unique and spot-on personalities that I cannot imagine creating myself in my head. Her delivery of the dialogue and story is spot on and kept me laughing throughout.