This month our reading recommendations include a thought-provoking novel, a collection of short prose pieces, and the memoir of a well-loved household name that is sure to melt your heart.
How far would you go to protect your child if you found out they had deliberately and cruelly exploited someone—and worse—didn’t seem a bit sorry for it? For me that was the most disturbing question raised in All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin, because discovering your child has trashed your values and grown into someone that you don’t always like is easy to imagine when you are raising teenagers. There are other important and topical issues packed into this novel, such as privilege, racism, and self-worth, and the story is, somewhat inevitably, set to the background of social media. Here, however, we are given the opportunity to go deeper inside the aftermath of an offensive post through the accounts of three of the main characters: Nina, mother of the alleged offender; Lyla, the injured party; and Tom, her father. While we listen to the heart of each character, we come to understand the complexity of issues which provoke their reactions. The result is messy and thus true to life and draws you in as you consider what you would do in their shoes. In my opinion, this is an important book for any parent to read because it will make you reconsider how proactive you’re being about passing your values onto your kids and the challenges of being a teenager in modern society.
Christina Consolino, Senior Editor and Profiles Editor, read about parenting from an entirely different angle: “Literary Mama contributor Ben Berman’s most recent book, Then Again, will be released this month. Much of the collection of predominantly one-page, prose pieces revolves around Berman’s experiences with his young children, but the book takes the reader on quite a journey: from a maze of alleys in Kathmandu to an art gallery in Berman’s own Boston neighborhood to many places in-between. More surprising than the variety of settings though, is the form that Berman uses, which he explains in the Afterword: after watching his young daughters’ amazement that one word could have more than one meaning, he ‘began to wonder what it would be like to try to write linked narratives where each section of a piece explored a different sense of the title word and each piece’s title connected to the next.’ Berman succeeded in his mission. Not only did each piece connect to the next, but each piece connected me to it. I found myself turning the pages of this book quickly, enthralled by the intimate, insightful moments that Berman chose to share with his readers.”
Kim Ruff, Creative Nonfiction and Fiction Editorial Assistant, thinks you’ll enjoy this one as much as she did: “In my last review of a book for Literary Mama’s Now Reading series, I discussed how the voice of a book is what draws me in and keeps me reading. More specifically I said, ‘When I hear the narrator’s voice, I want to feel like it’s someone who I can sit down with over a cup of coffee, or even a beer.’ Anthony Bourdain was someone who embodied these characteristics. The shows he hosted that I watched religiously, showed time and again that he was someone who was able to connect with people through food, drink, and his incredible knack for storytelling and listening to those who told stories. I admired and respected his blunt yet refined narration to viewers as much as I admired the humility he displayed to complete strangers when traveling to unfamiliar places. There have been numerous tragedies of celebrity suicides over recent years, but Bourdain’s hit me like a ton of bricks. The reason is irrelevant, but as a fan of his television shows, purchasing his memoir Kitchen Confidential seemed like the next logical step. I was curious to know if he was the same person on the page as he was on screen. Unsurprisingly, he did not disappoint. The way his voice landed on the page emulated the way he spoke to viewers and I was hooked from the first line of his Introduction: ‘Don’t get me wrong…’ That first line felt like being interjected into the middle of a conversation with him. He was giving his readers the down and dirty of his trade and then apologizing for it at the same time—candor and modesty all stuffed into the first few words of his book. Kitchen Confidential brims with dialogue that is so inherently Bourdain that his voice comes to life in your ears while you’re reading—a voice that I presume we all know, love, admire, and miss. I know I would have loved to sit down with Bourdain to listen to his stories and dig into one of his favorite dishes as we clanked our pints of beer together.”
Which author would you like to drink a beer (or coffee) with? Write their name in the comments or tweet us @LiteraryMama. You can also follow us on Instagram @Literary_Mama and Goodreads for more recommendations.