Because I’m a New York transplant, I naturally gravitate toward the books that highlight the trials and tribulations of this overwhelming place (see Still Me, The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street, The Futures, and about a million others I haven’t reviewed yet). Stephanie Danler‘s Sweetbitter fit that mold, which is why I added it to my bookshelf in 2017.
This storyline makes for great TV too, and on May 6, Starz premiered a six-episode Sweetbitter based on a screenplay written by Danler who also worked as an executive producer. Brad Pitt’s production company, Plan B, coproduced the series.
It would be a shame if Big Little Literature let this opportunity pass; therefore, it’s time for Sweetbitter to go toe to toe: book versus TV show.
Give me some historical fiction, a strong heroine, and some Italia, and, really, nothing can go wrong. Am I right? Or am I right?
Although being in Italy this past February was the best nine days of my life, it had some consequences: a serious post-vacation funk. Yes, my vacation to this beautiful country was so fabulous that it left me feeling depressed that I ever left. My friend Dana knew the cure.
Thank goodness she brought Sarah Dunant’s 2003 hit, The Birth of Venus, into my life three months after returning to the States. I might still be in a post-Italy funk (honestly, it’ll never end), but this novel allowed me to indulge in a few of my favorite things. Now that’s amore.
Some people might argue that if you’ve visited one bookstore, you’ve visited them all; how different can they possibly be? I know on the surface many have similar names and characteristics, but au contraire. I firmly believe in bookstore individuality, and just like you can’t judge its contents by their covers, you cannot judge a literary hub by its storefront.
So I make it my duty to visit as many bookstores as possible when I travel; thus, I’m introducing a new series to Big Little Literature of all the necessary deets about bookstores across the country: Shop ‘Til You Drop.
First up: Portland, Maine.
Portland’s Eastern Promenade.
- What: Still Me
- Who: Jojo Moyes
- Pages: 388
- Genre: Contemporary fiction; chick lit
- Published: 2018
- The lit: of 5 flames
If you’ve been following Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You series, by now you know the premise surrounds a brilliant and quirky young woman, Louisa, who is trying to maintain her spunky personality through love, loss, and unfathomable decisions. (PSA: If you haven’t read the series, I advise you start now.) Moyes’ threequel, Still Me, doesn’t wander far from this theme, but it does introduce a caveat with new complications. The book isn’t just about finding yourself or staying true to that person. It’s also about the unique challenges women face in this scenario. In the words of Ruth Dewitt Bukater, “Of course, it’s unfair. We’re women. Our choices are never easy.”
Quality is the most subjective characteristic when it comes to literature. Sure, every reader loves great symbolism, those masterpieces that speak to cultural moments, thorough and exact research about a time or place, those books that really hit home and move you. Sometimes, though, you need a break from the real world. You need something that will make you laugh or cry irrationally and believe that fairy tale love actually exists.
As someone who reads about overcollateralization, subordination, and tranching all day, while trying to parse legalese that makes you want to stab out your eyes, I know firsthand the importance of a feel-good and easy read. So it’s with great honor that I present to you my case for the novels that give you the best of feels (despite some of the harshest criticisms): chick lit.
The rumors, in this case, were true: Celeste Ng’s second novel was every bit the banger that critics claimed it to be.
Little Fires Everywhere lit up every best-of 2017 list, it became a New York Times best seller, every book club was reading it, and rightfully so. Therefore, I was very much looking forward to diving right in, and apparently so was everyone else in Jersey City because I had to wait two months before it was ready at my library.
There’s a reason the hype exists. Ng’s words flow effortlessly while telling a complex story that we know all too well and that shamefully intrigues us. The one where rumors and gossip spread so fast, like a fire that can’t be put out. They can’t be tamed, and neither could Ng’s book. It didn’t ignite several small flames as its name suggests though; its greatness was one giant wildfire.
I love books that challenge my opinions, what I think I know about the world and how I’d respond in certain situations (see The Patriots). Am I as forgiving as I think? Is my unconditional love really that unconditional, or can it be based on time and circumstance? Would I really stand up for what’s right in a very compromising situation? Point is: You never know unless you’re in someone else’s shoes. Outcomes are never accurately predicted.
Tayari Jones provides these existential questions in her 2018 smash, An American Marriage, which Oprah has promoted. You think you know what you’re getting when you read the book sleeve about a black man in the south being wrongly accused of a crime. The New York Times says it best. “An American Marriage tells us a story we think we know … But Jones’s story isn’t the one we are expecting.” It’s a story that had me asking “What would I do?” from start to finish and flipping furiously to learn what decisions the characters would make. And let’s be honest: If something is fine by Oprah, it’s fine be me too.