August 2021 Books I Read and Loved
(Note: I only write about books I love.)
The Book of Delights, by Ross Gay. I’d dipped in and out of this book before, but finally read it straight through, essayette to essayette, until all the essayettes were gone, kind of like I do with the bags of Lindt milk chocolate truffles I buy and stash away on a high shelf. These tiny essays, every one of them, made me laugh, smile, nod, frown, and see something about the world in a slightly different way. Every time I read something by Ross Gay I feel like calling him and talking about it, that’s how much I love his work, and then I remember that oh, we’ve never met and we’re not friends in real life. (Yet…bwahaha.) So far I’ve bought four copies of this tiny book –FOUR–at my beloved neighborhood indie Magers and Quinn to give to people I adore. That alone should tell you something.
Goldenrod, by Maggie Smith. How I love this book of poems. I treasure it as much as Good Bones, and I didn’t think that would be possible. Maggie Smith’s poems are so spare. There’s space and light on every page of her books, yet what she conjures in both image and feeling is vast. She’s a word artist in her use of the visual, and of negative space. Same thing in her imagery – the woman has an uncanny ability to flip a situation, or an emotion, inside out and upside down until suddenly you see possibility and freedom where you didn’t before. (I’ve also bought four copies of this book too, one to keep, three to give away.)
Pablo and Birdy, by me. You would think that, having written this book myself, I would remember everything about it. You would be wrong. I want to adapt Pablo and Birdy into a screenplay, so I re-read it in preparation, only to find that I’d forgotten so much. In fact, it felt like a novel I’d never read before. Who was Pablo’s original family? Why was he floating alone on the sea with only a parrot to watch over him? What will happen when the winds of change come over Isla? What if there really were such a bird as a Seafaring Parrot – what could I learn, and put to rest, about my own past? (Yes, I realize this not-remembering my own novel reveals way too much about me, but so be it. Shrug emoji.)
The Night Watchman, by Louise Erdrich. Damn, this woman knows how to tell a story. I was captivated by this book from page one and didn’t want to put it down. Pixie! She will live inside me forever, and so will her sister Vera. So will Thomas, and dear Wood Mountain, and the unearthly Zhaanat. So will the land they live on so deeply that when I think about this novel I think about its people as part-land. Historical fiction based on the life of Erdrich’s grandfather, this novel is contemporary and timeless and sweeping and specific and just wonderful.
Leaving Time, by Jodi Picoult. You know those little shelf cards you often see in indie bookstores, placed by booksellers next to books they love? Sometimes one of my novels has one with something like “If you love Jodi Picoult, give Alison McGhee a try!” So I’ve always been scared to read a Jodi Picoult novel because what if I hated it, and by extension hated my own books? Finally I decided it was time to get over it, and wow did I love Leaving Time. It’s captivating, mysterious, sad, funny, with a wild twist at the end, and I learned so, so much about elephants, those beautiful creatures. Now I want to read all Jodi Picoult’s novels – which one should I read next?
Sanity and Tallulah, by Molly Brooks. This graphic novel has been on my shelf for a while now, and I finally plucked it off and figured I’d read a few pages to see if I was interested. Three hours later I’d gobbled the whole thing down – so funny and full of adventure. Two best friends relegated, with their cool and funny parents, to a far corner of the universe in a falling-apart space station who have to figure out, on the fly, how to fix the thing before everyone dies. That’s kind of the plot – I was having too much fun reading it to keep close track. The whole way through I kept thinking damn, Molly Brooks must’ve had a blast with this book. Reading Sanity and Tallulah made me want to come up with my own joyride of a graphic novel.