The weather is getting cooler which means it is time to snuggle up under a blanket with a cat or dog beside you (or on you) and get down to some reading. The editors and staff at Literary Mama have created a list of titles they’ve been enjoying this fall. We hope they inspire you to read or maybe give you ideas of what you might want to purchase for friends and family for the winter gift-giving holidays.
What books are you immersed in now? Let us know in the comments!
Managing Editor Jenny Bartoy writes, “I’m currently reading the last chapters of What My Bones Know by Stephanie Foo. In this poignant memoir, Foo recounts the abuse she experienced from her parents in childhood and the far-ranging impacts of her complex PTSD (C-PTSD), a diagnosis she received as an adult. In a voice sharp and fierce, Foo describes her extensive research into C-PTSD and her equally extensive attempts to heal. Throughout she explores her family roots, the depths of intergenerational trauma in Asian-American immigrant communities, the inadequacies of American healthcare, and the patriarchal systems that continue to minimize and erase women’s trauma. What My Bones Know is at times devastating, at others hilarious, and altogether quite informative. Above all it is a gorgeous love story between a woman and her own fractured soul. I highly recommend it.”
Profiles Editor Brianna Avenia-Tapper writes, “I recently finished Joy Enough, Sarah McColl’s lusty and meandering memoir about her mother, whom McColl loved deeply. McColl’s marriage and divorce– the latter taking place while her mother is terminally ill–form a secondary thread, but this felt somewhat tangential, maybe even performative, when read against the urgency, honesty and tenderness of the story McColl has to tell about her mother. Her mother’s death serves as the book’s climax. The real reason I think you should know about Joy Enough is not McColl’s prose (though it is sexy, stylish, intimate, layered), and not the book’s pacing (at best it is dream-like, thoughtful, looping. Sometimes, it plods.) Instead, I recommend this book for a single line: “I am realizing…that having a mother who loves you is a lucky stroke, like being born beautiful or rich.” Another character responds, “arguably…a mother who loves you is the best advantage.” Retyping these lines now, I am reminded of how brilliant things so often appear obvious once they’ve been voiced. McColl has articulated something that desperately needed to be said, but hadn’t been. Perhaps this is because the alternative it implies–that plenty of mothers do not love their children, at least not as McColl’s mother loved her–is so disruptive, so hard for us to think about. McColl’s memoir forces us to think about this, which is reason enough to read it.”
Rhonda Havig, Newsletter Editor and Data Analyst writes, “The Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel pulled me in as soon as I stuck my toe in the waters of the first few pages. The story involves a handful of characters from different centuries who experience the same phenomenon involving the sound of a violin in an airship terminal. Mandel does a lovely job of introducing the characters and their experience with the event, then weaving their stories together across time. From what I understand, she even wove in some auto-fiction — one of the main characters is an author who leaves her husband and daughter at home while going on a book promotion tour during a pandemic. Not only is the story intriguing, the way she writes it is interesting. Between the sections, there are shifts from present to past tense and from third to first person. I recommend The Sea of Tranquility for both a fun read and a study in the craft of writing.”
Reviews Editor Anne Greenawalt writes, “I’m listening to the audiobook of Trashlands by Alison Stine, speculative fiction set in a future in which plastic, no longer produced, has become currency. A plucker, or plastic trash picker, Coral, is stuck in Trashlands, a dump with a strip club. She’s trying to save enough money to buy back her son who was stolen by the factories. She conceived him as a young girl after being abused by a much older man. He proved to be a difficult child, angry and violent. She has moments where she feels relief that he’s gone, but is fueled to earn his release to ease her guilt, even at big financial and emotional costs to her. The setting and situations within the novel are fascinating, and Coral’s complicated feelings about her son add a layer of complexity that’s making it worth the read.”
Blog Editor Michelle Chalkey writes, “I just finished Such a Fun Age, a debut novel by Kiley Reid that came out in 2019. I had bought the book on my kindle when it was released but was hesitant to read it, thinking I had to be in a good head space. I knew the book was about race and class and concentrated around an incident with a small child. As a highly sensitive person, I thought it was going to be heavy for me to sit down with. But wow, was I wrong! While the book does center around those themes and a racially charged opening incident, the author takes you through these themes in a subtle, not-so-heavy but big-hearted reading experience. I couldn’t wait to pick up the book each night and find out what would happen next. The book opens with Emira Tucker being confronted at a high-end supermarket while doing her job of babysitting the Chamberlains’ toddler one night The store’s security guard, seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, accuses Emira of kidnapping the little girl. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. The story then follows Emira, who is approaching the age of 26 and desperate to find a job with health insurance; Alix Chamberlain, the toddler’s mother who wants to make things right with Emira; and the bystander who caught the incident on camera as they all navigate the aftermath.”
Blog Editor Carrie Vittitoe writes of her current reading life: “Some readers intentionally select books based on the seasons, but I am rarely that reader. However, this October has put the spooky on me since I couldn’t help but be intrigued by Louisville, KY writer J. H. Markert’s latest book, The Nightmare Man, which is a real departure for him given his prior focus on historical novels [under the name James Markert]. The novel begins with Detective Winchester Mills’ discovery of a grisly murder, but that horrific event is soon followed by a suicide in a bookstore. While these events seem completely random, both are eerily similar to the plot of local author Ben Bookman’s latest novel. How is this even possible? Was it an early reader who went off the rails? Even more strange is that this isn’t the first time Bookman and Mills have crossed paths; when Bookman’s younger brother, Devon, disappeared years ago, Ben was then the center of suspicion. But Ben is only one member of the strange Bookman family; everything about them, including the ancestral home and associated asylum, has long been shrouded in mystery and threat. Markert layers suspense without making the plot dense and unwieldy, and the novel succeeded in keeping me reading far too late into the night.”