Devil in the White City – by Erik Larson
One of many reasons that I’m going to make a terrible book blogger is because sometimes it takes me forever to jump on the bandwagon after I hear rave reviews about a book. I mean, aren’t book bloggers supposed to be all on top of what’s cool before it’s cool? Anyway, I heard 100 things about Devil in the White City, and it just didn’t sound that exciting to me – world’s fair 1893, Chicago history, true crime, blah blah blah. I’ll be in the corner with a Jen Lancaster book. And then I picked this book up, and I don’t think I put it down for two days. I was totally consumed – and totally hooked on Erik Larson’s writing style. I just could not – and still cannot – get over how he writes nonfiction with so much detail and emotion that you feel like you’re there. I rave about this book all time, and then sometimes I remember that it’s actually about a completely creepy serial killer, and that my obsession with this book maybe makes me come across as crazypants. I swear though, it’s about the writing style. Larson introduced me to the narrative nonfiction genre, and made me rethink how I read, and how I (would like to) write.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society – by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Whenever anyone is looking for a book recommendation, I shout out this book. It’s short and flowy (is that a word?) enough to be a vacation read, but it’s also a historical fiction piece that maybe will make you slightly smarter as you go. It’s cute and romantic without being trite and cheesy, and the authors (there are two, and I really don’t know anything about them or their other work) create interesting characters with believable backgrounds and personalities. It’s written in letters, but don’t let that steer you away, even if that’s not your thing. This book is worth a shot, and, if nothing else, you will learn something about Guernsey.
The Brooklyn Follies – by Paul Auster
This is obviously a book I can’t shut up about, considering that I couldn’t even write my first review without referencing The Brooklyn Follies. This, like 70% of what I read, came as an Amanda-recommendation, and she rarely steers me wrong. The Brooklyn Follies is just my type of novel, where complicated characters must come to terms with the fact their lives are somehow failing to meet their expectations, and something’s gotta give. I don’t mean that to sound like this book is at all formulaic, because it’s not. It’s more that there certain books that really tug at my heartstrings in a similar fashion (I Know This Much is True, White Teeth, The Corrections), and it seem the main element is a character (or several) figuring out how to get his or her a** in gear. As I learned in high school English (in addition to learning about the gun in act one), this book could be subtitled, “the [mis]education of Tom Wood.” And you should read it, because obviously I won’t shut up until you do.
Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth & Happiness – by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein
I read Nudge because my friend was applying to graduate school in accounting, and she said “oh, no, I swear it’s really interesting. Read this book, and you’ll understand the kinds of things I want to study.” I said, “nice try, but a PhD in accounting sounds like anything but interesting.” And then I read this book, and I proceeded to reference it in every conversation I had (about anything) for a solid two weeks. That was a few years ago, and I still find myself referencing it on the regular. Nudge is about behavioral economics, or how we make decisions about using resources. Ugh, I know. If I haven’t lost you yet, the authors use the phrase “libertarian paternalism” to describe their model, and those two words are ones I would not generally use to describe my outlook on anything. I’m telling you though, it’s really thought provoking, and, they offer practical solutions to huge social issues that, in theory, make a great deal of sense. When I’m trying to incentive someone to act a certain way (whether that’s trying to improve performance at work or trying to get myself out of bed to go for a run), I think about how this book really addresses the challenge of creating incentives that are relevant and simple. Even if it sounds dull, I swear it really is interesting!
It’s Called A Breakup Because It’s Broken – by Greg Behrendt and Amiira Ruotola-Behrendt
I know you’re saying, “dude, Holly, are you really picking a breakup self-help book as the #5 book you can’t shut up about? Cuz, uh, that’s sort of lame and embarrassing.” Yeah, I know. I thought a lot about contenders for #5, but I kept coming back to this one for many reasons. My primary reason is that I picked this book up while wandering around a bookstore in a sad state of mind (years ago), and this book totally cheered me up and helped me gain some much needed perspective on a breakup situation. I was definitely not too cool to follow along all the list making exercises in the book, which helped me see that, like Cher, I DID believe in life after love, after all. In the greater scheme, I’m also picking this book because a) I have a secret thing (not so secret anymore, eh?) for self-help-type books. Jillian Michaels, Geenan Roth, the What-Color-is-Your-Parachute? guy – I love them. I think that’s a reflection of the fact that b) books really are my go-to source for whatever it is that I’m dealing with. Recently, I’ve read a book about the intricacies of football, in order to better understand and enjoy lazy Sundays with my football crazy fiance (oh look, that old breakup thing turned out to be a good thing after all!), and books about wedding traditions to make sure that I’m not inadvertently including too many crazy homages to the patriarchy in our’s. I’ve read weight loss books, workplace motivation books, personal finance books, and relationship books, because when I want to get better at something, reading a book about it is usually my first line of defense (or would that be attack?…clearly I don’t read military books, though we do have a houseful of civil war books if the mood strikes). I’ve recommended It’s Called A Breakup Because It’s Broken a few times, though it is difficult to say to someone, “hey, you are looking a bit crazy. Read this book!” without sounding like a complete asshat. However, sometimes it’s worth being that asshat to a friend, so go ahead and recommend this book as needed. And if you’re the one walking around Barnes and Noble like a sad Sally, pick this book up, get some coffee (and probably a pastry) and sit down and start reading. You’ll probably at least crack a smile before you leave the store, even it you don’t buy the book.