Here are three novels I recently loved, plus the next book on my list …
The Matrix by Lauren Groff (September 2021)
I finally found this bestseller – about an orphaned teenager being thrown out of the royal court and set to lead a dark, cold, muddy monastery in England – after readers raved about it in the comments section. “I do not know how to adequately recommend the Matrix,” Kate wrote. “Not a single line is spoken by a man, it depicts the most beautiful female loves and friendships, and the women are all amazing. I read it in almost a meeting; it’s now tattooed on my soul. “The premise may sound close, but the wild, poetic novel is a surprisingly funny pageant.
Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart (October 2020)
Several friends devoured this Booker Award-winning novel last year, but I was worried that the themes – addiction, infidelity, violence – were too dark for a pandemic winter. Nevertheless, I cracked it this year and could not put it down. Shuggie is a tender-hearted boy whose world revolves around his alcoholic mother, Agnes, who lives in public housing outside Glasgow, Scotland. The scripture is so vivid that one feels like one is standing right there while his taxi-driving father sleeps around, his mother sets fire to the curtains, and he struggles with his sexuality (while neighbors gossip that he “is not right” ). What an exquisite, heartbreaking debut. I hugged the book as it ended.
Joan Is Okay by Weike Wang (January 2022)
I was lucky enough to get my hands on a review copy of this novel, which follows a workaholic Chinese-American doctor in New York while navigating a busy hospital, the death of her father, her aspiring big brother, her increasingly needy mother and (in the last few chapters) a global pandemic. The quirky protagonist reminded me of some people in my family who do not always “get” social norms, but who are completely themselves, and you love them so much more for it. She also explores her experience as a first-generation daughter of Chinese parents: “For years I was the designated phone picker and, if it was rattling, the polite hangman. Deep your voice, my mother said, answer yes to your father’s name or my … I of course hated all my tasks … but over time, what I hated more was seeing my parents being bullied, for no real reason other than the obvious. ” Wang’s debut novel – Chemistry – won eight gazillion awards, and I would not be surprised if he did.
And next time: The Boy Kings of Texas by Domingo Martinez (July 2012)
I learned about this rough memoir – about a Mexican-American boy who grew up in a border town with Texas – while listening to the author read a chapter on This American Life. In the excerpt, a young Martinez drives a shotgun in his mother’s car while his father tries to cross the border with a truck loaded with marijuana. His writing is fun, honest and enlightening and I can not wait to read the whole book.
What have you been reading lately? Please share below … and here are a lot of books we’ve loved over the years if you’re looking for ideas!
PS My favorite book ever, and what’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever read?
(Photo by Studio Firma / Stocksy.)