If I'm not writing or having a cocktail with friends or spending quality time with my cats, I can usually be found curled up on my armchair or sprawled across my black leather couch reading. At home, I surround myself with books. They lurk in every room, even the bathrooms, just waiting to be read, to fulfill their sole purpose. And I make it a point to carry a book with me most everywhere I go, because you never know when you'll find yourself waiting too long for that oil change, trapped at a boring party, or stuck in traffic on the interstate. Whether you read for five minutes or five hours, what matters most is that you squeeze in time to read everyday. (At least, it matters to me).
So now that it's already October and three-fourths of 2019 have passed us by (and because I haven't posted a blog for several months), I thought I'd share with you some of the best books I've read this year. Most of these were published previous to 2019, but since my current reading list is over two-hundred books deep, you'll just have to forgive me that these are not newly-published gems.
You Came Back, by Christopher Coake:
Thirty-something midwesterner Mark Fife believes he has successfully moved past the accidental death of his young son Brendan, as well as his subsequent divorce from his college sweetheart Chloe. He's successful, he's in love again, and he believes he's mastered his own memories. But then he is contacted by a strange woman who tells him not only that she owns his old house, but that she believes it to be haunted by Brendan's ghost. Will Mark--who does not believe in ghosts--come to accept the mounting evidence that Brendan's is real? Will his engagement to his new love Allison be threatened by the reappearance in Mark's life of Chloe--who does believe? If the ghost is real, what can these two wounded parents do to help their son? YOU CAME BACK examines the beauty and danger of belief in all its forms--not only belief in the supernatural, but in the love that binds parents and children, husbands and wives.
Reasons To Stay Alive, by Matt Haig:
Like nearly one in five people, Matt Haig suffers from depression. Reasons to Stay Alive is Matt’s inspiring account of how, minute by minute and day by day, he overcame the disease with the help of reading, writing, and the love of his parents and his girlfriend (and now-wife), Andrea. And eventually, he learned to appreciate life all the more for it. Everyone’s lives are touched by mental illness: if we do not suffer from it ourselves, then we have a friend or loved one who does. Matt’s frankness about his experiences is both inspiring to those who feel daunted by depression and illuminating to those who are mystified by it. Above all, his humor and encouragement never let us lose sight of hope. Speaking as his present self to his former self in the depths of depression, Matt is adamant that the oldest cliché is the truest—there is light at the end of the tunnel. He teaches us to celebrate the small joys and moments of peace that life brings, and reminds us that there are always reasons to stay alive.
Miraculum, by Steph Post:
The year is 1922. The carnival is Pontilliar’s Spectacular Star Light Miraculum, staked out on the Texas-Louisiana border. One blazing summer night, a mysterious stranger steps onto the midway, lights a cigarette and forever changes the world around him. Tattooed snake charmer Ruby has traveled with her father’s carnival for most of her life and, jaded though she is, can’t help but be drawn to the tall man in the immaculate black suit who conveniently joins the carnival as a chicken-biting geek. Mercurial and charismatic, Daniel charms everyone he encounters, but his manipulation of Ruby turns complicated when it’s no longer clear who’s holding all the cards. Daniel is full of secrets, but he hadn’t counted on Ruby having a few of her own. When one tragedy after another strikes the carnival—and it becomes clear that Daniel is somehow at the center of calamity—Ruby takes it upon herself to discover the mystery of the shadowy man pulling all the strings. Joined by Hayden, a roughneck-turned-mural-painter wrestling demons of his own, Ruby engages Daniel in a dangerous, eye-opening game in which nothing is as it seems and everything is at stake.
White, by Bret Easton Ellis:
White is Bret Easton Ellis's first work of nonfiction. Already the bad boy of American literature, from Less Than Zero to American Psycho, Ellis has also earned the wrath of right-thinking people everywhere with his provocations on social media, and here he escalates his admonishment of received truths as expressed by today's version of "the left." Eschewing convention, he embraces views that will make many in literary and media communities cringe, as he takes aim at the relentless anti-Trump fixation, coastal elites, corporate censorship, Hollywood, identity politics, Generation Wuss, "woke" cultural watchdogs, the obfuscation of ideals once both cherished and clear, and the fugue state of American democracy. In a young century marked by hysterical correctness and obsessive fervency on both sides of an aisle that's taken on the scale of the Grand Canyon, White is a clarion call for freedom of speech and artistic freedom.
Chasers of the Light: Poems From the Typewriter Series, by Tyler Knott, Gregson:
The epic made simple. The miracle in the mundane. One day, while browsing an antique store in Helena, Montana, photographer Tyler Knott Gregson stumbled upon a vintage Remington typewriter for sale. Standing up and using a page from a broken book he was buying for $2, he typed a poem without thinking, without planning, and without the ability to revise anything. He fell in love. Three years and almost one thousand poems later, Tyler is now known as the creator of the Typewriter Series: a striking collection of poems typed onto found scraps of paper or created via blackout method. Chasers of the Light features some of his most insightful and beautifully worded pieces of work—poems that illuminate grand gestures and small glimpses, poems that celebrate the beauty of a life spent chasing the light.
How Not to Die Alone, by Richard Roper:
Andrew's been feeling stuck. For years he's worked a thankless public health job, searching for the next of kin of those who die alone. Luckily, he goes home to a loving family every night. At least, that's what his coworkers believe. Then he meets Peggy. A misunderstanding has left Andrew trapped in his own white lie and his lonely apartment. When new employee Peggy breezes into the office like a breath of fresh air, she makes Andrew feel truly alive for the first time in decades. Could there be more to life than this? But telling Peggy the truth could mean losing everything. For twenty years, Andrew has worked to keep his heart safe, forgetting one important thing: how to live. Maybe it's time for him to start.
The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein:
Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver. Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn't simply about going fast. On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through. A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautifully crafted and captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life ... as only a dog could tell it.
The Editor, by Steven Rowley:
After years of trying to make it as a writer in 1990s New York City, James Smale finally sells his novel to an editor at a major publishing house: none other than Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Jackie--or Mrs. Onassis, as she's known in the office--has fallen in love with James's candidly autobiographical novel, one that exposes his own dysfunctional family. But when the book's forthcoming publication threatens to unravel already fragile relationships, both within his family and with his partner, James finds that he can't bring himself to finish the manuscript. Jackie and James develop an unexpected friendship, and she pushes him to write an authentic ending, encouraging him to head home to confront the truth about his relationship with his mother. Then a long-held family secret is revealed, and he realizes his editor may have had a larger plan that goes beyond the page... From the bestselling author of Lily and the Octopus comes a funny, poignant, and highly original novel about an author whose relationship with his very famous book editor will change him forever--both as a writer and a son.
So there you have it, my favorite books I've read so far this year, and there's still three months to go! If you're looking for your next good read, I highly recommend all of the above as ways of not only passing the time during all of life's duller moments, but also as ways of enlightening your mind, your heart, and the world around you.