Read Well: The Goldfinch

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It's been about a month since I finished it, so I figured it was high time I write about The Goldfinch.

As a disclaimer - with every passing year on this earth, I get more and more reticent to recommend books to people I know. I've found that a person's taste in books is one of the absolute hardest things to predict - I'm constantly surprised by my nerdy friends who have not-so-secret loves for chick lit, creative types who love books about business, and casual readers who unexpectedly appreciate fine literature. So please, take all of my book recommendations with a grain of salt - these books just might not be for you.

That being said, I'm also the kind of person who tends to think that the things I like are the best things. I'll leave it at that.

The short version here is that I loved The Goldfinch. It's easily the best book I've read so far this year. It also recently won The Pulitzer Prize, so I feel like my opinion has been validated in a very real way.

However, books about the dark, sad, and terrible parts of love are totally my thing. And The Goldfinch is definitely dark and definitely sad. Death is a central, ever-present topic in this book. There are sections about drug addiction that will make you feel like your world is spinning. And the resolution is anything but traditional. If those things sound like things you don't like, then the 750-page investment is probably not for you.

For those of you willing to give something new (and something good!) a shot, I would totally recommend it. The story itself is very unique - I struggle to think of any other books similar in character type and plot progression. Well, I can think of one - Harry Potter. That assertion will make more sense if you read The Goldfinch (or maybe it won't, if I'm making all of this up) but I'm convinced that Donna Tartt draws deliberate parallels to Harry Potter throughout. Literary folks - can you let me know if you got that too?

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Since it has been quite awhile since I last wrote about books, and since I'm sure many of you will be traveling and relaxing and reading this summer, I thought it would be a nice time to recap some of my all-time favorite books. Enjoy!

Literary

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

A Visit From the Good Squad by Jennifer Egan

Short Stories

How to Breath Underwater by Julie Orringer

Both Ways Is The Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy

Mysteries

In the Woods by Tana French (+ its sequels)

Funny girls trying to deal with being girls:

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen

Poser by Claire Dederer

Nonfiction

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (seriously, EVERYONE likes this book)

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

Read Well: Books I'm Excited About

All day yesterday I couldn't decide what I wanted to post about today. I have more pictures from Texas - should I post those? Or maybe I could make a holiday gift guide? Nothing struck me as something that I wanted to write about. And then it hit me: why don't I write about the one thing that's been on my mind all day? Books.

I am a dedicated reader, as I expressed in my first-ever post on books. Being as into books as I am, something I've been doing for years now is keeping a running Amazon wish list of all the books that I want to read. Whenever I get bored, I find myself likely to Google something like "best books of 2003" read the top couple hits, and add every single volume that sounds good to my wish list. My wish list currently has 59 books on it. It's an easy way to keep tabs on all those books that you hear about, want to read, but don't have time for now.

The books below are three of the 59 books currently languishing on my wish list (I have an additional 14 to-read books sitting on my shelf). I would like to stress that I am not putting my personal stamp of approval on any of the three books below - I haven't read them yet! And often books that I think are going to be great end up disappointing me big time (case in point: the book I just picked up. It's called The Family Fang and it's awful). However, I've got high hopes for these based on the summaries I've read and the glowing critical reception they've all received. Hopefully one (or all!) of them sounds good to you.

Book #1: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

I first heard about Wolf Hall when its sequel, Bring Up the Bodies, was published and subsequently LOVED by pretty much every critic ever. Wolf Hall is written from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell, one of Henry VIII's closest advisors. From what I've heard, the book covers the beginning of Henry VIII's marrying streak, and yet does it in a way that doesn't continue to beat an often-told piece of history to death. I am insanely excited to read this book (I haven't yet due to my intricate book-choosing system...I'm not sure we're close enough friends for me to explain it yet) so when I get to it, it will be a beautiful day.

Book #2: Catherine the Great by Robert Massie

If a book has 700 pages and yet still has almost only five-star reviews, that's a pretty solid sign that it's a good book (not that you should regularly base your reading decisions off of Amazon reviews...as a friend of mine once said about books, the masses cannot be trusted!). However, Robert Massie is the master of Russian history, and what I've read on the Internet says that he's a master of entertainment as well. Although you may know little (or nothing) about Catherine the Great, there are few books that are more interesting than a well-written biography. Everything about this book makes me think that it's the perfect choice for reading by your fire, under your Christmas stockings, wrapped in a blanket.  

Book #3: Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton

I brushed elbows with this book several times before placing it on my sacred to-read list. I saw it on "best of" lists, I saw that it sold a lot of copies. Nothing convinced me that I would find it all that interesting until I heard a book store employee raving about it to a customer in New York about one year ago. I know from personal experience that true book lovers will not go out on a limb and really push a book unless it is really, really, good. Blood, Bones & Butter is an autobiography about one woman's long journey to becoming a chef. My inadvertent eavesdropping made this book about an inadvertent education one of the most exciting additions to my list.

What's on your to-read list? Have a great Thursday!