My favorite books
I don’t know if I’ve always been a reader. I can’t remember, which seems strange. I would argue that I’ve only become a constant bookworm in my college years, but the built-in bookshelves in my childhood home are littered with young adult novels, most of which I’ve read more than once. When I look at the titles I remember reading them in a day, or two at the most, allowing the story to consume my daytime hours and keep me up long into the night.
So, maybe I’ve always been a reader, but my book-dependancy has only grown as I have. As a writer, a book is my best source of inspiration. A good chapter or phrase inspires me to write just as well and fills my head with “what-ifs.” There’s no chance you meet me without a book in my hand or in my purse. A good book becomes an extension of one’s self, even if just in the days or weeks it’s a main source of entertainment.
I’m constantly finding new favorites. From impressive quotes to books that have changed my perspectives on the world and personal growth, there’s always something noteworthy. Still, a few have stuck with me or continue to be the books I pick up when I need something familiar. I thought I’d start you off with my top five. You can expect future posts on my latest discoveries down the road. I hope in all of the pages I love, you find something that you identify with as well.
*these are in no particular order. I can’t possibly pick a favorite out of them.*
Marlena by Julie Buntin
There are thousands of books written about teenage girls with a rebellious streak and a drug-filled path to find themselves. Marlena, however, is so incredibly different. Adult Cat reminisces on the pill-popping, breaking-and-entering days of her youth and her deceased best friend in chapters that share the past and the present. Out of all the books I’ve read, Marlena is the first I’ve truly felt one with the characters. Throughout the group’s midnight escapades, I felt as if I were with them, due to Buntin’s incredible wording and poetic approach at a topic so over-glamorized. Though the storyline, set in a small, run-down Michigan town, is filled with a certain nostalgia that makes the characters inviting, the verbage used takes aim at the comfort found within and twists it for what it is: haunting and harmful. In Marlena, Buntin has created a beautiful image of perfectly confused characters and a storyline that will stick with you like one of your own memories.
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Gillian Flynn is one of my favorite authors because of her willingness to be dark. In all of her novels, she creates a perfect female anti-hero, the lead character that isn’t perfect; the one you maybe shouldn’t love. Sharp Objects captures Camille Preaker, a mentally unhinged journalist reporting on a double murder in her hometown. In the process, she returns to her mother’s home in which she reopens a disjointed family dynamic and develops a love interest that may cross a boundary within her investigation.
What’s so compelling about Sharp Objects is Flynn’s descriptive writing along with the utterly horrifying details she’s not afraid to reveal too early. Throughout the constant discomfort the book allows, you’ll form your own opinions and pitches, yet the ending is a twist of multiple parts, at least one of which you’ll never expect. The book’s conclusions are fair and shocking, leading Flynn to have crafted a perfect thriller past the blockbuster hit Gone Girl.
So Sad Today by Melissa Broder
If you don’t follow the Twitter account So Sad Today, you should probably do that right now. Laced with blunt sarcasm and depressive tones, Broder has created an online world of mental illness at its worse and a comedic angle that embraces all of the hell it can bring. From a successful online presence, the poet crafted her first collection of personal essays with the same name. So Sad Today is a collection of wacky stories from her time as an administrative assistant at a Tantric sex nonprofit to her struggles accepting death as a concept. Filled with an unmeasurable amount of existential dread, Broder’s humor makes difficult topics like her husband’s debilitating illness and letting go of an unfitting relationship seem manageable, yet fosters a sense of reality and the understanding that we all have struggles, and they can make life harder than we’d like to admit. Though humorous and enjoyable at many moments, So Sad Today is an easily relatable take on depression, anxiety and addiction and the ways these trials shape our deepest thoughts.
Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
First, I need to say that Stephanie Danler is not only one of my favorite authors, but one of my favorite book providers. Her Instagram is stocked with good reads, and I reference it when I don’t know what to pick next. Through her I’ve found some great authors, like Eve Babitz, so she’s influential beyond her own writing.
But more importantly, her debut novel Sweetbitter is a classic New York tale with some dark twists. Inspired by her own early days in New York, Tess begins working in a prestigious, upscale restaurant. There, she learns about food and wine from the best, masters of their craft with full-bodied, intricate personas. As Tess begins to develop relationships with her coworkers, she beings to realize the depth and commitment each holds to their passions and each other. From a motherly figure to a whole-hearted crush, Tess finds herself tangled in the business of the industry and the grimy glamor of the cocaine-filled after parties, all of which shape her dedication and persona as a young woman in a new city.
Danler’s descriptions of New York are something to be coveted by authors everywhere, and her food and wine writing is one of the reasons why Sweetbitter was so successful. Her personal experience shines through and makes the storyline feels so realistic. It’s an easy book to fall into, one you’ll never want to let go of. Luckily, there will be more for its biggest fans in the Starz TV series coming this May.
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
I love a good short horror story. It’s probably my genre of choice. I’ve read a large handful of spooky, unsettling short collections, but Her Body and Other Parties (HBAOP) is by far the most compelling set I’ve read. HBAOP is crafted on a level of discomfort but is oddly comforting. From the classic woman with a green ribbon, amped up to an adult level with descriptions of less-than-perfect sex and a grimy horror feel above the childhood classic, to an episode by episode guide of a haunted Law and Order series, the book is undeniably unique and intriguing.
Each short story is wildly different from the last, and each holds its own level of unpredictability. Many times, you’ll be waiting for the other shoe to drop, only to find a different resolution, better than what you could have imagined. Though frightening and odd in their own sense, the stories in HBAOP fall closer to oneself than you’d imagine, registering as bedtimes stories you’d like to read again and again rather than words that will haunt you for life. The beautiful wording and honesty of adult life found in the pages are poetic in every line, and the collection can be covered by all genres, from science fiction to dark comedy.