Fall's Crop of Books

Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?
— Henry Ward Beecher

I love fall when the nights turn chilly and the dark comes quicker and I have a good excuse to put my pajamas on at 9 p.m. and slide into bed with a good book. I shop for books in the fall like my girlfriends shop for cashmere sweaters and to-die-for boots. (Well, I do this, too.) But I buy tons of books where one pair of boots and a comfy sweater will do.

Through the season I treat this stack of books like a line of people waiting outside my door, all with stories to tell. A cast of characters you hopefully will make fast friends with or at least understand their flaws and wish them luck on their journeys. And, as book lovers, we live for that indescribable feeling when you’re going about your day’s work and already thinking about sitting or lying in the quiet with a book you can’t wait to get back to. Everyday life, it seems, interfering with the stories ping ponging inside your head. That’s a great book. That’s heaven on earth in the fall in Michigan. I can’t wait to discover one, two, or more this season.

“The only important thing in a book is the meaning that it has for you.”–W. Somerset Maugham

Here’s the list I’m taking with me to the bookstore:

The Children Act by Ian McEwan. I loved, loved Atonement and enjoyed Amsterdam and Saturday. So looking forward to his new one.
Marianne Faithfull: A Life on Record by Marianne Faithfull. She’s a great singer songwriter in her own right and a former girlfriend of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. And she recently said she thinks her ex-boyfriend, a heroin dealer, killed Jim Morrison. Wowser! The husky-voiced chanteuse is in her late 60s now? Hope the book measures up to the crazy life she’s lead.

Some Luck by Jane Smiley. She’s the author of A Thousand Acres and The Age of Grief, one of my absolute favorite short story collections.
Make It Ahead by Ina Garten. The woman cookbook author rules in my house. Pages stick together in most of her books because her recipes I make over and over again. Can’t wait for this one.

The Laughing Monsters by Denis Johnson. Everyone raves about his writing. I need to get with it and it just might be with this new one.

Let Me Be Frank by Richard Ford. A Michigan State boy, and a wonderful writer. I skipped his last one, Canada, and won’t make that mistake again.

Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned” by Lena Dunham. I wasn’t a fan of the first season of the hit TV show, Girls, of which Dunham is the writer and creator. All the women were so foreign and unfriendly and basically not the kind of girlfriends I’d want to hang out with let alone invest with my time. But I gave the second season a look and loved it. I got it, albeit, a little late. Yes, these are young women with young women problems. I guess I was hoping for another Sex in the City. But it’s a different generation and they approach love and career and friendship with a whole different dynamic. It’ll be interesting to read how Dunham differs from her “characters”.

How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran. I loved her book of essays, How to Be a Woman, like reading your best friend’s diary. This new one is her first novel and seems to explore similar territory, a young, poor, woman growing up fat and miserable in London who reinvents herself as a rock critic. I was young and poor once and tried to do the same thing with much less success.

The Zone of Interest by Martin Amis. Have to. We had an intimate conversation on an elevator years ago at a writer’s conference in NYC. (It was a gigantic hotel with a zillion floors and the elevator actually got stuck for a good five minutes.) He had on cowboy boots and a long cattle rancher style coat. But he’s English. The conversation was about Barak Obama. At one point he turned to me and said, “You see it, right?” And of course I did and told him so. The things he said about the other candidates were priceless. But he was clearly a few drinks in, and I would never out another writer as long as I live. Or a book club friend.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler. Just because it’s Amy Poehler. Enough said.

The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Ten Songs by Greil Marcus. Ten songs? I’m trying to limit my list down to ten just to see how close I get to Marcus’s picks. He’s a Rolling Stone magazine veteran writer and a consummate rock historian. Pick your ten and see how you fair against Marcus’s list.

Lila by Marilynne Robinson. She’s the author of Housekeeping, Gilead, and Home. She’s also a Congregationalist minister and writes with wise and unprecedented ways about her character’s conflicts with faith, life, and death. She’s a treasure. Her books need the gift of time and commitment. You won’t be sorry.

Rainey Royal by Dylan Landis. This story chronicles a young girl’s life around the jazz world of Greenwich Village in the 1970s. The kind of story I love to read about and write about.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. This one is getting so much buzz in the industry that I can’t wait to read what all the fuss is about. It is a novel about art, family, and community set in a post-apocalyptic world (pandemic). Everyone, and I mean everyone, is talking about this book.

Thunderstruck & Other Stories by Elizabeth McCracken. I love her writing. She wrote the most authentic and moving account of pregnancy loss I’ve ever read, and I’ve read most. If you want to understand the gut wrenching guilt mothers go through for months, years, pick up An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination. Or read The Giant’s House, another brilliant example of this author’s incredible gift.

And there you have it.

“A book is a dream that you hold in your hand.”–Neil Gaiman
Sweet dreams!!