A Few Great Books I’ve Read* in the First Half of 2017 (and One I Couldn’t Stand).

Just Kids, Patti Smith. This book made me believe in real magic. Patti Smith’s world of coincidence and synchronicity is too perfect to write off as dumb luck. Her “how we met” with Robert Mapplethorpe is the stuff of fiction. Or in this case, memoir. And characters like Dali prance in and out of her tales like little pops of color. The best part? Patti Smith’s writing.

You’ll Grow Out of It, Jessi Klein. I lol’ed, I saw myself, and I repeated anecdotes at parties (with great success). And it’s a true a crowd pleaser: my partner and I would listen to chapters in the car and laugh heartily together. If Jessi Klein is interested in adding a funny-enough Jewish gal to her clan, I’m more than ready to head to Miraval with her.

A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara. This book tore me to pieces. I couldn’t put it down. But I HAD to put it down for my psyche. It thrust me into dark places that were hard to get out of. But Yanagihara balances cruelty with the beauty love + loyalty. It is a NOVEL of the highest order. And one who’s characters I think about often.

Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage, Stephanie Coontz. “Myth-shattering” is quoted on the cover and I couldn’t have picked a better phrase. Turns out all of our romantic comedy dreams are far from the “traditional marriage.” This was a fascinating read and even better dinner conversation. My conclusion was that modern marriages are complex and continuously evolving social structures we need to examine + re-examine. Don’t rest!

Fun Home, Alison Bechdel. Recommended by a friend, this is only one of a handful of graphic novels I’ve read. I was surprised by how much brain-power it took to take it all in. It is wordy! And for a word-lover like myself, that’s saying a lot. A fascinating story, the graphics pulled me deep into Alison’s world and I was completely absorbed.

Sweetbitter, Stephanie Danler. Good food, sex, drugs, a young woman’s coming of age story, and really good prose. What more is there to want in a novel? Pro-tip: follow Danler on Instagram.

Bad Feminist, Roxanne Gay. What’s there to say? Roxanne Gay is a force. She writes engaging, often difficult short stories about women of all kinds.

And that one I couldn’t stand?

Purity, Jonathan Franzen. I picked this book up in Tulum on a bookshelf. My favorite way to read. Traveling and having books appear. The upside of the novel? It is a well-written, engaging story. The downside? I found most of the characters to be intolerable. And women were too closely tied to their perceived sexuality to have much complexity. I’ll say this: I never forgot it was Jonathan Franzen writing his female characters.

*Or listened to.