I had a conversation a few weeks ago with a coworker about the memories books create — how it doesn’t matter how long it’s been, you still remember the exact feeling a book gave you and the exact spot you were when you read it.
It doesn’t happen with everything I pick up, but it did with Colson’s Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad. I barely put down this moving and creative novel the minute I picked it up, and I’ll never forget how I could barely move from the bed in my Brooklyn apartment in the few days it took to read it. I remember being so incredibly in awe of such magic, triumph and heartbreak. And in my subconscious, I think the feelings that book evoked helped inspire Big Little Literature.
Because of these strong feelings, I was a bit skeptical to read Whitehead’s latest The Nickel Boys. I mean, there’s just no way anything can compare, right? Well, his 2019 novel brings the same emotions and power, and I finished this one in a matter of hours (as I descended into Denver accompanied by some devoted speed-reading because no way was I waiting to finish it until I got to my hotel). The verdict is in, and let’s just say it gave The Underground Railroad a very good run for its money.
- What: Pachinko
- Who: Min Jin Lee
- Pages: 496, soft cover
- Genre: Historical fiction
- Published: 2017
- The lit: of 5 flame
Last week, I published a critique about the classic work/business book, which appears to be everywhere these days, including recs in way too many work emails. I know people seek these to learn, but the last book I read is a prime example of how literature can teach you things about the world that formal education never could. And from that comes the cultural awareness we need to better ourselves.
How many business books can do that?
Pachinko not only taught me about historical events that I’d never heard of, but it also illustrated how we are our own worst enemy: Humans all around the world can deeply hurt entire groups of people, and our most hurtful nature seeps out in the face of those who are different. It’s these struggles and how we overcome them that shape our cultures and relationships with others. If you’re wondering if a book can really illustrate all of that, I understand your skepticism. However, this novel, which had been on my list since it came out two years ago, really does have the power and pain to do it all.
- What: Revolutionary
- Who: Alex Myers
- Pages: 307, soft cover
- Genre: Historical fiction
- Published: 2014
- The lit: of 5 flame
I came across Revolutionary thanks to my friend Katie (a fellow cat lover) who sent me the following text after an invitation to an event:
“I figured Revolutionary history, novels, and wine might me up your alley.”
It didn’t matter what this was regarding. I was going to be interested no matter what. Katie had found that the New-York Historical Society was hosting an event with author Alex Myers who wrote a novel about Revolutionary War veteran Deborah Samson. You read that right; indeed, the name Deborah and Revolutionary War were in the same sentence.
I had actually heard about Deborah Samson a few years ago after a visit to Philadelphia and was intrigued by the woman who masqueraded as a man to fight for our nation’s freedom. I always imagined her as someone who fought for women’s right and to break down walls. The event with Myers, though, was about transgender identity. Sure, my original assumptions about this patriot still applied, but was there another story here? Something I had never considered before? I was about to find out.
Yes, that is my very own tricorn.
One of my first memories with my sister occurred when I was around five years old. I kicked her in the face because I wanted to know what a black eye looked like. Anger had nothing to do with it. I was notoriously the question-asker of the family after all, and my curiosity simply got the best of me.
As you can probably imagine, my parents — and my sister who is four years older — were not very happy with me. I don’t remember what my punishment was, but I insisted it wasn’t personal. Fortunately, Erin hasn’t held a grudge against me, and even though I spent a lot of my youth being jealous of my crazy smart and talented older sister (that’s not why I kicked her!), we’ve become close friends. She inspires me every day.
My close sisterly bond is one reason why I wanted to read Before We Were Yours. This incredibly tragic story about sisters who are separated and try to find their way back to each other is well-written and different from the plot of most novels. And it reminds you of the importance of family, especially of the sister who forgives you for any hurt and harm you may have caused in the past.
- What: The Great Alone
- Who: Kristin Hannah
- Pages: 438 pages, hard cover
- Genres: Contemporary fiction and historical fiction
- Published: 2018
- The lit: of 5 flames
I’m a sucker for scenery. It’s true. As much as I love stories about human interaction and purpose, there’s something so refreshing about reading poetic lines that perfectly depict the alluring lost corners of this world and how people connect with them.
I also crave new storylines. Don’t get me wrong: I will never scoff at boy-meets-girl and happily-ever-after plots. But my mind desires something different too. Something that allows me to explore topics and places I never thought about before or personally experienced.
For these reasons, I’ve been intrigued by Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone since it was published in early 2018. In short, it’s a story about a family that moves to Alaska to live off the land. Check out my library, and you won’t see many titles with similar summaries. I couldn’t wait to get lost in it on my trip to Africa (now that was a solid 10 flames); unfortunately, I didn’t willingly escape to another world. Instead, I couldn’t find my way out of a book that dragged on, had random and too many plot twists, and dramatized to the nth degree.
Moms are the world’s real-life heroes. I know my mom holds that title, and I’m grateful every day for this wonderful human who brought me into the world and who taught me every thing I know. So it’s only fitting that the day before I left for a Bostonian expedition with my mother, my new e-reader — yes, I finally caved and bought one — suggested The Red Coat: A Novel of Boston, a book where one mom’s power is a central character.
The book has its flaws, but there’s something sweet and special about it too. In summary, it’s a story about young women trying to navigate this tricky world of love, life, and death with the guiding hand of their own mother. And it proves that their influence and presence are felt long after they leave us. It’s a story line we can somehow all relate to.
Source: Barnes and Noble.
Some books can’t escape you. It’s not just your inner circle reading them; rather, it seems every bibliophile on the planet has picked up a copy at some point. You can’t explain why you haven’t done so yourself, but you know one day you will. And that day will be a good one.
The Nightingale has been that book for me the past few years. I’ve had multiple friends and family members rave about this historical fiction favorite, and one of them compared it to All the Light We Cannot See, a fellow World War II novel I adore. Surely I’d have the same feelings toward this one.
It’s had a far greater reach though. I’ve seen many subway riders reading it, and once I asked one of them what they thought about it.
“Oh I cried on here yesterday reading it.”
I owe my cousin, Julie, who sent me her copy of The Nightingale, among other books I can’t wait to read. Thanks to her, I could no longer be distracted by other novels. It was time to dive into this instant classic, and I’m so happy I did.