^^ Photo by artist Marloes De Vries. ^^
Six months ago I made the decision that I wasn’t going to buy any new books until l I had finished all those sitting unread in my apartment. I wrote a blog post about it, sent word to all my loved ones and asked them to keep me accountable, and finally, set off to adventure within my own bookshelves.
Now you might be thinking, how many books can this kid actually have in her Brooklyn apartment? Well after six months of reading I am proud to say I’m officially down to 90 and for the first time in forever, when I look around my apartment, the number of read books outweighs those I’ve yet to properly meet. This challenge has been part of a larger resolution to be fully engaged with everything I own — or send them on their way to a home that will love them better. While I still can’t help but to fill up my Amazon wishlist after watching my favorite BookTubers Jen Campbell and Leena Norms share their reviews, I have really enjoyed remembering why I bought so many of these books in the first place.
While my favorite reads from the last six months aren’t new releases, they’re each reminders that great literature stands the test of time. I hope they’ll inspire you to dig through the piles of your second hand bookstores or plan a book swap with your group of friends the next time you’re looking for something new to read.
Last year I set a new personal record reading 32 books in a year. When compared to some of the most popular BookTube channels or Bookstagrams that is a puny number but we’re not about comparing ourselves to others here at Hey, Is This Thing On. Over the last six months I have volleyed between fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, memoirs, and kid’s books. Of everything I read, these are the titles I’d most highly recommend:
- A Gentlemen in Moscow – Set in Moscow in 1922, this beautifully crafted novel follows Count Alexander Rostov, a former Russian aristocrat put on house arrest in the Grand Metropol Hotel located across the square from the Kremlin. The novel spans 30 years as the Count observes the dismantling of the world he once knew and loved. While time marches on at the Metropol, the Count’s changing relationships and observations will sit with you long after you turn the last page. This is now one of my favorite books of all time and I genuinely wish I could sit and chat over tea with Count Rostov — that’s how amazing of a character he is.
- The Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater – This book is like getting a warm hug to the heart. A memoir from Racked editor Alanna Okun, this book shares the lessons Okun has learned as a knitter and how this hobby has been a constant through the high and lows of becoming an adult. I just loved this book, the way Okun writes and her honesty are both refreshing, and would highly recommend this to anyone who loves an excellent feel good memoir.
- Tell the Wolves I’m Home – I didn’t fall head over heels for this book when I first finished it, but six months later I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought back to it and been struck by how raw and vulnerable this story is. This novel is set in 1987 and follows a 14-year-old girl named June who learns that her favorite Uncle Finn has died of an illness her mother won’t talk about. June is a bit of an oddball and only felt understood by her Uncle whom she’d visit in New York City. Upon his death, June learns about his partner Toby — a figure exiled by her mother from their family. Both left adrift from grief, Toby and June form a complicated, secret, and unlikely friendship. This all comes to a head when June learns that Toby is sick with the same illness her uncle had and must decide if, and how, she’ll help. This book is an intimate and heartbreaking portrait of the AIDs epidemic and one that should not be missed.
- The Rules Do Not Apply – This tiny memoir will break your heart and then put it back together again. Ariel Levy holds nothing back as she writes about the year she gave birth alone in a Mongolian hotel to a premature baby who did not survive. Following that tragedy, Levy gets divorced and begins to rebuild her life again at 38. While heavy, this book is a must-read, capturing the true power of human resilience and reminding us that love can be found in the most unlikely and grief-ridden places.
- Sick – Even though I knew how this book ends, I was still on the edge of my seat waiting for doctors to land on the right diagnosis. “Sick” is a memoir from Iranian American writer Porochista Khakpour about living with undiagnosed late stage Lyme disease and her decades of being misdiagnosed, not believed, and plagued by mental illness and addiction. It’s an intimate and necessary look into the horrors of chronic illness and the importance of more people understanding the true impact chronic illness has on physically and mentally destroying a person’s body.
- Exit West – This is a tiny but mighty book about a young couple’s decision to leave their war torn homeland and the effects this decision has on their relationship moving forward. Every word in this book matters and it’s an important read especially in today’s political climate.
I’m currently finishing up Under the Tuscan Sun which follows author Frances Mayes’s journey buying and restoring a many centuries old house in Tuscany. This book is super charming and as I described to my mum on the phone the other day, “It’s like the original ‘Eat, Pray, Love.'” Let it warm your bookshelf and heart just like it’s done mine. And finally, a bit of a curve ball, Trauma Stewardship – An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others. My dear friend (and life mentor — can’t forget that title!) Zabie sent this to me when I was experiencing a rough patch of burnout. This book is amazing and a must read for every human. It digs into the ways caring for others, in any capacity, can cause emotional burnout and guides each reader on how to build boundaries and practices to keep our emotional, physical and mental health safe.
I’d love to know what you’re currently reading … and buying in bookstores. Let me live vicariously through you!