Today’s post isn’t a book, or a poem, but rather an article I saw this morning from Harper’s Bazaar 14 Famous Love Letters from Celebrities and Historical Figures. Love letters are my weakness, naturally, but oh my this is quite a collection. Some of them you may be familiar with (F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda’s exchanges are frequently featured in these types of articles.) A few years ago on a weekend trip to Montgomery Alabama (random weekend spot, I know but it was a good meeting point between Tennessee and Florida,) I was dead set on visiting the Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald home (which is now a museum) downtown. Some of their writings were even on display there. Despite my fascination with this celebrity literary couple, in this article it was Orson Welles words to Rita Hayworth that most deeply struck me. If you enjoy this one, be sure to check out the rest of these in the linked article above.
Tuesday was World Poetry Day, and since it’s still the week that celebrated this day I thought I’d share one of my favorite poems with you. Clementine Von Radics “mouthful of forever.” The moment I found the line, “i will love you when you are a still day. i will love you when you are a hurricane.” a few years ago, it found a spot in my heart and mind and has been there ever since. The poem reads almost like a vow, and I just think that’s beautiful. Plus, “I know sometimes it’s still hard to let me see you in all your cracked perfection” it just strikes a chord…every time. You know when you read something, and it feels like you’re reading your own thoughts back to yourself? That’s “mouthful of forever” for me. I hope you enjoy it, and dig into some poetry this week – Mary Oliver, Shel Silverstein, Walt Whitman, Robert Frost, Pablo Neruda, Emily Dickinson, Maya Angelou, Nayyirah Waheed, Atticus, Tyler Nott Gregson, Nick Miller, Andrea Gibson, Derek Walcott – I could go on and on, whatever your fancy…just read some. And without further adieu mouthful of forever:
I am not the first person you loved.
You are not the first person I looked at
with a mouthful of forevers. We
have both known loss like the sharp edges
of a knife. We have both lived with lips
more scar tissue than skin. Our love came
unannounced in the middle of the night.
Our love came when we’d given up
on asking love to come. I think
that has to be part
of its miracle.
This is how we heal.
I will kiss you like forgiveness. You
will hold me like I’m hope. Our arms
will bandage and we will press promises
between us like flowers in a book.
I will write sonnets to the salt of sweat
on your skin. I will write novels to the scar
of your nose. I will write a dictionary
of all the words I have used trying
to describe the way it feels to have finally,
finally found you.
And I will not be afraid
of your scars.
I know sometimes
it’s still hard to let me see you
in all your cracked perfection,
but please know:
whether it’s the days you burn
more brilliant than the sun
or the nights you collapse into my lap
your body broken into a thousand questions,
you are the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
I will love you when you are a still day.
I will love you when you are a hurricane.
A few weekends ago, I finally got my hands on a copy of Lauren Graham’s Talking As Fast As I Can. I was really excited to read this one. Of course, I loved her as Lorelai Gilmore on Gilmore Girls and Sarah Braverman on Parenthood, and in anything else I’ve been able to watch her in. When I’ve read interviews, she seems so personable and real. I don’t think it’s a stretch to imagine parts of her own personality come shining through her characters in certain moments. Since middle school (yeah, I named characters in my short stories for English class Lorelai,) I’ve admired her. We know she’s an incredible actress but she’s also a phenomenal writer. I thought about this a lot while trying to figure out how to put into words the way reading her book made me feel. Lauren Graham’s writing is like sitting on your best friend’s bed in one of those just absolute down in the dumps moments, and knowing there’s not another single place you could be that would provide that level of comfort. (You know, the ultimate look of understanding your pain even if there aren’t any words for it? And how there’s a spot just for your head on their shoulder while they listen to you cry, or tell an angry story, or whatever it might be, and the way their pillows seem so much fluffier and better than yours in that second because you’re just not alone?) Lauren Graham being real about her own struggles is so refreshing to read. But the thing is – she’s not complaining, it’s just life, and she’s just putting it out there. She worked her ass off for any piece of success that has come her way, but the cool thing is – she didn’t do it for the success per say – it sounds like she carefully picked projects where she felt connected to the characters and wanted to invest in something beautiful with the cast. How wonderful is that? I firmly believe this book found me very specifically at the time that it did (or I found it, and I’m not just saying that because I was cooped up in the house for the weekend feeling gross not being able to shower for almost 60 hours) because when I reached the hundredth page, there’s a passage that spoke to me so loudly it brought tears to my eyes and I re-read it a few times. I wouldn’t normally include an excerpt, but I am sure there are others out there that may need to read this right now:
Because here’s the thing: I was fine on my own, and so are you. But it can be hard when you feel ready for Happy Couplehood and you seem to have missed the train. As my friend Oliver Platt used to say to me about hopes and dreams I’d share with him: “It’s coming, just not on your time frame.” I find this a helpful reminder in any number of ways: not only when you’re hoping to meet someone, but also when you’re waiting for a better job or some relief during a bleak time. When Peter and I held hands that night all those years ago, I had no idea we’d end up shopping at REI together one day. It might have been nice if he could have turned to me and said: “Look, tonight isn’t the right time, but we’re going to leave here and learn a bunch of things that are going to make this work approximately five years from now – see you then!” But life doesn’t often spell things out for you or give you what you want exactly when you want it, otherwise it wouldn’t be called life, it would be called vending machine.
It’s hard to say exactly when it will happen, and it’s true that whatever you’re after may not drop down the moment you spend all your quarters, but someday soon a train is coming. In fact, it may already be on the way. You just don’t know it yet.
I’m not going to lie, I desperately needed to read that. The last six months have tried my sanity and strength so hard, and that was the most appropriate reminder. Reading can be a portal to escape, but it can also be a bridge of understanding between author and reader and that quiet whisper of, “I know.” Don’t get me wrong though, you don’t have to be in the throws of a life crisis to appreciate this book. Aside from Graham’s words of wisdom on timing in life, she also has great anecdotes of friendship, and quirky stories that will make you laugh out loud. Plus, I think she gives good advice about acknowledging the time we have with people we hold dear, and not taking it for granted. She shares parts of her own journey, which I think is important because she didn’t wake up one day as the star of a TV series that ran for seven years, without putting in work to get there. (And she had her own series of disappointments and speed bumps on the way.) Beyond that, she’s like your cool older sister reminding you not to waste time on people who treat you like crap. Obviously, easier said than done but it never hurts to remind people of having positive self-worth, and not to settle. Somehow she conveys all this with a gentle subtlety, and firmness. One of those where if it were in person, you know you’d be disappointed in yourself if you didn’t heed the advice. Plus, any Gilmore Girls fan will love the insight into the re-boot. I’m telling you, if you’re looking for a book that will make you laugh, make you think, and make you appreciate the little things – read this.
Happy New Year friends! Hope everyone had some great days this holiday season. I know I haven’t posted as nearly as often as I should lately. Although we’re five days into this new year, I thought it’d be fun to share my reading list from 2016. I’ll let you know, which ones were my favorites (and I’ll even add in some of the books I started but didn’t finish *insert eye covering emoji here.*) Some of these books have stuck with me in such a way that I think about them several times a week. When you find books like that, it’s hard to find a follow up. What were your favorites you read last year? What are you most looking forward to reading this year? Right after Christmas I started reading A Game of Thrones, but this one is going to take me a while. These are in the order I read them, not by my affection for them. The titles listed in bold were my favorites, and if I already featured it on Meg Says, I linked to the original post. See below for a variety of non-fiction, adult fiction, and young adult books I found this year!
*Note: I apologize for any weird formatting issues, I’ve been trying to sort out the kinks.*
How To Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran (Adult Fiction)
Save the Date by Jen Doll (Adult Non-Fiction)For my girlfriends that are always attending weddings – bridesmaids, guests, etc. you will probably find yourself relating to some of these stories. Some of them are funny, and some you’d feel the embarrassment, or you’d get the tensions that can fly in these situations. Nothing too crazy or surprising, but a reminder that a lot of us might feel like we’re in 27 Dresses (as my brother’s friends used to point out about my life, haha.) We probably all have enough of our stories to compile a book like this.
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (Adult Fiction)
Soon to be a mini series on HBO with a stellar cast, you should read this before it airs. I was HOOKED, immediately. I love multi-view point stories, and this is a little bit mystery, somewhat amusing, a touch sad, but all around intriguing. It’s one of my favorite “fun” books to recommend.
Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling (Adult Non-Fiction)
Mindy Kaling never disappoints. I love how real she is, and getting a peak into her life and relationships. She is definitely comfortable and completely embraces all that she is – brilliance and flaws, and all. I feel like I’m having a couch convo in my PJs with a friend while I read her stories.
30 Shades of Grayton by Kyle Petit (Adult Non-Fiction)
I picked this up at one of my favorite little independent bookstores over in Seaside, Florida. It’s a quick read, and was mildly entertaining about a woman in a small coastal town dating after a divorce.
Room by Emma Donoghue (Adult Fiction)
A story abut a young woman who was taken, and brought to live in a room. She doesn’t know life outside of those walls anymore, until one day she has a son. Her son changes everything, as she tries to create a world for him within this space. This was another book I just couldn’t put down. I still haven’t seen the Oscar nominated film, but I was convinced it was finally time to set aside any fears I had that this was going to psychologically torment me and finally read it. I’m so glad I did. This is a beautiful story that I’d say is more about love and life, and the ties that bind then about the awful abduction and treatment during that time. It’s written in a format I wasn’t expecting, and I think it’s completely original.
Bright Young Things by Scarlett Thomas (Adult Fiction)
This little British book kept calling to me from the shelf at the library. It felt like I was immersed in a reality television show. A story about a group of random strangers brought together by responding to an ad. I still feel unsettled by the ending, but it was definitely interesting and not like the other books on my list.
Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (Adult Fiction)
I know it’s unfair to compare this novel to Gone Girl, but I think that was expected as it’s written in a similar vein. This one’s hard to provide details without ruining anything but our main character has blurred memories of a variety of events she’s witnessed. Her alcohol issues have caused her to lose her job. Instead of admitting this to her housemate, she continues on her way with her daily train commute. When a woman she’s seen from the train (and has watched her relationship) turns up missing – she gets involved. It had a bit of a slow pace for me, but still managed to create suspense and I’ll admit it took me more than three quarters of the book to “figure it out.”
The Last Boy and Girl in the World by Siobhan Vivian (YA Fiction)
Undoubtedly, hands down one of my favorite books of the year. Not just the year – all time. I freakin’ love this book, and you should read it. The first several chapters were released online prior to the pub date to increase anticipation and oh my goodness – I was glued to my computer screen. I’m not even going to tell you more, but get this book in your life.
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari (Adult Non-Fiction)
My favorite non-fiction book of the year. Aziz is brilliant. He’s hilarious, and he’s so insightful. I only wish I had been a collaborator in this creation. A look on modern dating, and how it’s evolved over time, and what it looks like in different parts of the world. Simply fascinating.
Me Before You by JoJo Moyes (Adult Fiction)
I have to admit I was majorly disappointed in this book. I finally got around to reading it when I saw the film trailer released, (which I never ended up seeing the movie). The trailer made me cry, and all of my friends thought the book would destroy me. A story of a young woman who is out of a job, and ends up taking on the job of caring for a man who’s been injured and permanently paralyzed and lives in his parent’s home. There were somewhat tender moments, but everything seemed so shallow. The characters were apparently experiencing intense emotions, but they were so poorly conveyed that I was unable to connect.
Extraordinary Means by Robyn Shneider (YA Fiction)
Schneider just crafts such beautiful stories. I thought, “oh! I’m going to make it through this one without crying.” Joke was on me, as this story inevitably ripped my heart out. It follows a group of people who are brought together by an usual connection (their TB diagnosis), where they’re all living in a boarding school/treatment center of sorts. It’s one of those stories that extra makes you appreciate the beautiful intricacies of relationships.
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichiw (Adult Non-Fiction)
Short, but powerful. Read it if you haven’t!
Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend by Katie Finn (YA Fiction)
Morgan Matson’s alias. I was excited to finally dive into the Finn world, and while it was somewhat amusing I didn’t feel compelled to read the follow-up novels. Though the light read that has some of the appeal of an MTV reality show like Laguna Beach could be something fun to try.
The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close (Adult Fiction)
This novel was fantastic. Following the relationship of a young couple who met in New York, and later move to DC as the husband pursues a career in politics. This is a work of fiction, but it felt so realistic. I felt like I was reading a blog, or my friend was emailing me about her life. It definitely made me want to read another Jennifer Close book.
Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll (Adult Fiction)
READ THIS. My only qualm with this one was the designer brand name dropping. Once I got beyond that, I was mesmerized by the story. I knew it was building up to something, but I was taken by surprise when I found out what. (Like gasp a loud, close my eyes surprise.) Then when you find out the similarities of Jessical Knoll’s own experiences, it’s even more heart-wrenching. This is a powerful story that I have chills just referring to right now.
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (YA Fiction)
With this historical fiction novel, Ruta Sepetys raced to the top of my list of favorite authors. It’s a unique take on parts of history, and some of it I was ashamed to realize I was unaware of. It’s painful to read at times, but also beautiful. It’s another book that reminds about the strength love gives us, and the grit and determination fueled by that love can pull us through even the seemingly most impossible situations.
The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick (YA Fiction)
Huntley Fitzpatrick is so great at weaving stories about friendship, love, family and the importance of trust and communication in our relationships. There’s always a twist in her stories, that you’re not expecting and I think that just adds to the appeal. I felt like my heart was literally aching for the characters in this story. Tim Mason grows immensely in this book, and it felt like watching a friend experience some really hell situations and come out the other side.
What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler (YA Fiction)
This story had me fired up. Especially because I was reading it around the “grab her by the p****” comments from earlier this fall. It’s just one of those that drove me crazy because unfortunately you can’t shake your shoulders and say it’s just a story. It’s real, it’s inspired by true events, and victims of sexual assault have been shown over and over that even with video proof of them being violated, people will still try and silence and discount their stories. I think this is an important book to read. I think it shines light on a different perspective. And it takes you outside of the exact event that happened to third party characters which I think lends an interesting view point. This text also lent one of my favorite quotes of the year:
“You’re doing the right thing,” she says.
“Doesn’t feel like it.” I wipe my eyes. I am so tired of crying. She nods, reading back over her list and flipping to a new page in her steno pad. “Sometimes, that’s how you know,” she says without looking up. “That’s how you know.”
The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter (YA Fiction)
The librarian seemed a little disturbed when I was checking out this title, but assumptions aside this is an important piece of work. Sure all families have their own sorts of dysfunction, but some have more than others. This one delves into that divide when parents have their own personal issues they project on their children, and take away the chance for their kids to bond with them in normal ways. Of course, that causes all kinds of psychological damage. I can’t imagine feeling the degree of betrayal Cassie experiences, but man what a journey she traverses to get through it. This is one of the grittiest stories I’ve ever read. Sure, there are some positive spots but there’s no glossing over the anger and heartache. I think the straight forward approach to all sorts of topics in this story is brave and important.
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (YA Fiction)
The second book I read by Ruta Sepetys, and it was just as good as the first. Another look into world history, surrounding Stalin and Hitler but referencing some events I still had no idea about. Somehow Sepetys is able to expand your world view, and your heart at the same time. The friendships that blossom through the pages are just so endearing and painstakingly beautiful. It aches to think about the atrocities they witness together, but you’re glad they’re at least together. She has one more title I haven’t read, and this book dissolved any doubt (I didn’t really have) to read anything she’s ever written.
Bare Bones: I’m Not Lonely If You’re Reading This by Bobby Bones (Adult Non-Fiction)
A memoir from my favorite radio host. I laughed, I cried, I was amazed being reminded of the stories we all carry with us that make us who we are, and sometimes we have no idea what others around us are carrying. This is a great, inspiring story. And it’s all about stories.
The Grown Up by Gillian Flynn (Adult Fiction)
A little psychological terror short story. Definitely had no clue what to expect reading this one, and found it to be just the right amount of creepy.
What Light by Jay Asher (YA Fiction)
This was a perfect read in December with Christmas lights up in my room. A family who goes to their Christmas tree farm every December? Perfect. If you’ve read Thirteen Reasons Why – this one doesn’t have the same life changing punch, but it’s a sweet story. It’s also a good reminder to get to know people on your own, and don’t take their “reputation” at face value because who knows what you could be missing out on.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (Adult Fiction)
In the last week of the year, this was the final book I read. It was actually the second time I’d tried to read it. This time I finished. It was an okay story. I really enjoy weird futuristic, post-apocalyptic stories (The Road, The Age of Miracles), and this one was interesting enough I guess, but it seemed to fall a little flat. There were multiple points of view, and I liked the way it came together in the last seventy-five pages or so, but there were so many more things I wished she’d done with it. Maybe it didn’t help that in December I also watched Netflix’s The OA and was obsessed with all the theories it made me think about. I just wish some of the stories had been further expanded on.
Unfortunately, I started but didn’t finish (and am still working on them):
- Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
- Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh (Adult Fiction)
- The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer (Adult Non-Fiction)
- The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson (YA Fiction)
- Modern Lovers by Emma Straub
A Few Books I’m Looking Forward to Reading in 2017:
The Serpent King by Jeff Zettner
- Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick
- Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein
- All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer
- Still Life With Tornado by A.S. King
- The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock
- All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
- Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple
- Sweet Bitter by Stephanie Danler
- Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
- The Girls by Emma Cline
- Once and For All by Sarah Dessen
- When We Collided by Emery Lord
It’s been a long time since I’ve found a book that was so absolutely addicting, I’ve spent an entire day lost in the pages. My friend Jackie had shared some of her to-read list and “Liane Moriary”‘s Big Little Lies was on the list. When I found out that HBO was going to have a show for the book, I knew I needed to get my hands on a copy before it airs. Just my luck the library had it, and although I didn’t give it top preference in my haul that day, when I unexpectedly had off Tuesday this week and it was dark and yucky out all day, I decided it was the perfect time to give it a try. Oh my goodness. I just could not put it down! Though Big Little Lies is about 460 pages, by the end of the day I only had about 50 pages to go. I decided I should probably sleep so I wouldn’t hate myself at work the next day, but I devoured the last few pages on the following day, and now I’m recommending this title to anyone who will listen. (Especially my girlfriends in book clubs).
The style of Big Little Lies reminds me of one of my favorite novels Where’d You Go Bernadette? There’s a sharp wit in the structure that seems near impossible to not be amused by. The story revolves around a group of kindergartner mothers living in Australia, their financial backgrounds, age, marital status, and looks are all varied and they each describe their experiences through these lenses. There’s a murder among this group, and there are hints throughout the story, but the victim isn’t known until close to the end. The snippets of dialogue from the investigation sprinkled throughout the chapters add to the comic relief of the novel, and are a nice transition between heavily emotional scenes.
The scenes are so intricately crafted that it’s really easy to envision while reading. From screaming matches in the parent pick up line, to boozy brunches at the local cafe, to intense heart to hearts between girlfriends. This story covers such a broad range of topics, from the unexpected adventures of parenting, learning to navigate relationships when divorcees each get remarried and try to maintain some sort of balance, domestic violence, bonds of friendship, and all the secrets that everyone is unknowingly carrying around from day to day.
This novel felt like the equivalent of a Netflix binge; you know when they prompt you “are you still watching?” OF COURSE I’M STILL WATCHING! Basically that’s the highest endorsement I can give this book in encouragement for you to check it out if you haven’t yet!