*Image above of James Cook’s dreamy library in Paris. Swoon.
I have read nothing since June. The old me would have felt guilty about this, but the current me shrugs and says: “We’ll get back there again.” I love reading for many reasons – escape, provocation, intellectual stimulation, instruction of various kinds – and I feel a nearly vocational commitment to maintaining its habit in my life, but I have finally come to the view that there are heavy seasons where my engagement with some of my favorite pastimes will need to temporarily wane. Moving put everything on hold, but in the weeks since the dust has settled, I have been prioritizing time with my husband in the evening and exercise (when I can) in the morning and I have not been finding enough give in my week to accommodate reading, too. Now that mini is off to school and we seem to be falling into a more regular routine, I have had occasion to pick up a book and it feels delightful. (Hello, old friend!). There is nothing better than getting into bed early with wet hair and a good book. Four books that have lured me back into the saddle, all of which are on the “best-seller, great-for-cocktail-party-convo” side of the spectrum:
1 // Sally Rooney, Beautiful World Where Are You. I loved her earlier novels so much I trekked out to Brooklyn to hear her speak while I was 234 months pregnant and mildly to aggressively worried I might go into labor while on the D train. She is exceptional at building chemistry between characters in small details, like describing the positioning of two bodies, the movement of hands in hair, the casual conversations. I am again wowed by her technique in this regard though I will say the book is not as gripping as her earlier ones were. That said, a few Magpies chimed in to say the novel becomes “stickier” as it unfolds. Description: “Alice, a novelist, meets Felix, who works in a warehouse, and asks him if he’d like to travel to Rome with her. In Dublin, her best friend, Eileen, is getting over a break-up, and slips back into flirting with Simon, a man she has known since childhood. Alice, Felix, Eileen, and Simon are still young―but life is catching up with them. They desire each other, they delude each other, they get together, they break apart.” More on her earlier novels here.
2 // Liane Moriarty, Apples Never Fall. The magic-touch author of Big Little Lies, Nine Perfect Strangers, and — my personal favorite, What Alice Forgot (seriously love that book and wish it had been made into a show; if you are looking for a fail-proof “get me hooked on a book I can’t put down,” start there!) is back again. I always enjoy Moriarty’s cinematic, family-oriented drama and rich character design. Description: “If your mother was missing, would you tell the police? Even if the most obvious suspect was your father? This is the dilemma facing the four grown Delaney siblings. The Delaneys are fixtures in their community. The parents, Stan and Joy, are the envy of all of their friends. They’re killers on the tennis court, and off it their chemistry is palpable. But after 50 years of marriage, they’ve finally sold their famed tennis academy and are ready to start what should be the golden years of their lives. So why are Stan and Joy so miserable?…”
3 // Shari La Pena, Not A Happy Family. If you are a thriller-lover, here’s our next joy ride. I absolutely love thrillers both because they represent a total escape and I find them interesting as a genre in contemporary society, especially from a gender lens. (Like, why is it that so many modern thrillers involve unhappy family relationships, where the evil one is “from inside” — a wanton husband, an evil mother-in-law, a cruel child, etc?). La Pena has some fantastic recent thrillers under her belt (my favorite was The Couple Next Door), and the latest sounds winning: “Brecken Hill in upstate New York is an expensive place to live. You have to be rich to have a house there, and Fred and Sheila Merton certainly are rich. But even all their money can’t protect them when a killer comes to call. The Mertons are brutally murdered after a fraught Easter dinner with their three adult kids. Who, of course, are devastated. Or are they? They each stand to inherit millions.”
4 // Janet Hadlow, The Other Bennet Sister. First, let me thank a Magpie for prompting me to tune into an interesting podcast interview by a UVA faculty member who specializes in 19th century literature in the comments on this post. I enjoyed listening and specifically snagged the Hadlow book rec from her! In The Other Bennet Sister, “Mary, the bookish ugly duckling of Pride and Prejudice’s five Bennet sisters, emerges from the shadows and transforms into a desired woman with choices of her own.” Perfect fan lit for those of us in love with P&P. Cannot wait to read this.
Wheeee — I am so excited to read all four of these romps. A few other books on my radar that have been getting quite a bit of buzz once I make my way through this easy-lift list…
THE OTHER BLACK GIRL, Zakiya Dalila Harris
CRYING IN H MART, Michelle Zauner
WHEREABOUTS, Jhumpa Lahiri (one of my long-time favorite authors)
DIARY OF A YOUNG NATURALIST, Dara McAnulty
This one is older but it’s been on my list for a long time and is speaking to me at the moment: The Little Virtues, Natalia Ginzburg.
Some other suggestions, if you’re also attempting to climb out of a reading rut or ease out of a busy-season hiatus:
HOW TO GET OUT OF A READING SLUMP (GREAT COMMENTS ON THIS POST)
10 BOOKS THAT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE (*SHE ASSERTS BOLDLY*)
+Pretty sure this cute little puffer tote is going to be my everyday fall bag. (Gives me Khaite vibes for less.). I’ll be sharing a post on this later today, but Tuckernuck is currently running a promotion of up to 30% off (spend more, save more), so you could snag it on sale here if you buy with something else.
+Just treated myself to my favorite lip product in a new color — punch.
+On my radar for fall beauty: these W.A. eye pods.
+And speaking of beauty: Sephora is currently offering 20% off all foundation PLUS free ship with code SAVE20, which means you can snag Westman Atelier’s superb foundation stick at a rare discount. I wear either this or Laura Mercier’s tinted moisturizer (also 20% off!) every single day. In years past, I have used and liked Giorgio Armani’s famous formula as well as Bare Faced’s formula, though I do feel those offer a heavier/more full-coverage look. (W.A. is like buttah — it just blends into skin, provided you’re well-hydrated. Amazing product.)
+Are you a bath person? We have a soaking tub in my new home and I think I could become one. Maybe slather on a face mask and read for 15 minutes at the end of the day? I think I’m going to splurge on a bottle of Suzanne Kaufman’s bath oil (essentially has a cult following), though I’ve recently heard a couple of different beauty bloggers rave about a classic epsom soak and want to give that a whirl, too.
+Love this fall accessory. Throw on with anything in your closet and instantly feel on-trend and seasonally appropriate.
+I’d like to start cooking for my husband again — he does all (100%) of the cooking for the two of us, though I do cook for the children daily. (We are in a phase where, between early bedtimes and picky eaters, we usually eat after the children are down, but would one day like to synchronize.). Anyhow, my pledge to Mr. Magpie was that I would like to buy a new cookbook or two and make my way through them by cooking recipes from them once a month. A few celebrated cookbooks I’m eyeing for this project:
MARCELLA HAZAN’S ITALIAN KITCHEN
FUCHSIA DUNLOP’S EVERY GRAIN OF RICE
ATK’S AUTUMN AND WINTER COOKBOOK (RELEASED NEXT TUESDAY)
+Or maybe I’ll just go through our existing (and enormous) cookbook library. Some of my favorite cookbooks here.
+This baking cookbook is also in my cart. I was really (!) impressed by a cake of hers I made using a recipe I found online.
+Speaking of, lessons in baking.
+And for the kids’ table: this taupe gingham wipeable tablecloth!
+This Etsy shop offers well-priced, “above-the-knee-length” gingham shorts for tiny boys if you still need some shorts to tide you over til cold weather arrives.
+Such a fabulous everyday dress for fall. Would work in basically any setting with the appropriate accessories — casual work outfit, playdate/playground, coffee, cocktails!
+Great slouchy sweater to wear with your favorite jeans or leggings.
+This taupe blazer is super chic. Love the tie — makes it more feminine.
+I remain in a committed relationship with my Revlon One-Step (on sale for around $30 in the aqua color ATM) but there are random occasions where I let my hair air-dry because of schedule, rush, etc. I’m intrigued by this leave-in product for air-drying your hair — gets good reviews.
+A full review on the One-Step here.