I love book lists. Give me a list of award books or a list of books you absolutely adored, and I will slowly make my way through the list until I have read them all. Today’s book is one I discovered on an award list. The title is Everything I Never Told You and is Celeste Ng’s debut novel. I first heard of Everything I Never Told You when I was tuned in to watch the Alex Awards online. The Alex Awards are an award given out by the American Library Association (ALA) to the 10 best adult books that have special appeal to teens. (This book has also been on numerous other lists and won another award. Check out Celeste Ng’s website for more information.)
Everything I Never Told You begins, “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet. 1977, May 3, six thirty in the morning, no one knows anything but this innocuous fact: Lydia is late for breakfast.” After those simple, yet devastating, few sentences, Ng weaves together the story of a Chinese-American family growing up in 1970s Ohio. Each family member is outlined: the professor father James, stay-at-home mother Marilyn, older brother Nathan who is desperate to leave home, younger sister Hannah who seems to blend into the background, and the middle golden-child Lydia whose mother and father have placed all of their hopes on her shoulders, as well as several other members of the community. When Lydia’s body is found in the lake right down the street from their house, the entire family falls apart.
This book delves into the complex nature of the Lees: family, history, home, and the struggles we all make on a daily basis to understand each other and to find ourselves.
If that description caught your interest, check out No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale. This book deals with similar concepts of love, loss, and the tragic and upheaving nature of death. This book takes place in the small town of Friendship, Wisconsin, where residents have been shocked by the discovery of high school student Ruth Fried’s body in a cornfield. Her best friend, 16-year-old Kippy Bushamn, finds herself trying to solve her best friend’s murder. Ruth’s mother has given Ruth’s diary to Kippy with the express instruction to redact the sexy parts. Kippy sets out to find out who murdered her best friend and discovers that in her small Midwestern town, everyone seems to have secrets.
This quirky murder mystery will have you following Kippy around as she emulates her idol, Diane Sawyer, to figure out who her best friend really was and what really happened when she died.
Ellen McCarthy has written a charming set of lessons about living and enjoying love in her book, The Real Thing: Lessons on Love and Life From a Wedding Reporter’s Notebook. What intrigued me the most about this book was that McCarthy was a skeptic about the whole wedding business and love when she first began reporting about weddings and even after she married. She sometimes is still skeptical, but feels that working as a wedding reporter has allowed her to find a set of resources, whether those resources are married couples, the notes she’s scribbled down, or the books she has read, that she can utilize to keep her marriage strong and alive. This book serves as a collection of the lessons she believes everyone should be aware of regarding love and life.
McCarthy writes throughout this book that she took her job as a wedding reporter because she wanted to write about people. Sure, she would love to have a Saturday night off to go and hangout with her friends, but once she is sitting and waiting for the ceremony begin, she is immediately thrown into a new beautiful love story and the beginning of a new life together. McCarthy tackles the questions of “How do you know this person is the one?”, “Should we live together before marriage?”, and even “Should I call the wedding off?” McCarthy admits to being far from a marriage and love expert and that is why she augments her written beliefs within this book with multiple interviews from experts, as well as interviews and snapshots into the weddings and lives of the people she has interviewed for her job.
McCarthy has gathered together a multitude of information about how people go about finding love and the life they want. This book is eye-opening for people in all stages of relationships, from single to happily married for years to divorced, and provides help for those who may need a little push to understand the life they are living now.
What Was I Thinking?: 58 Bad Boyfriend Stories was edited by Barbara Davilman and Liz Dubelman as a way for people to talk about the point in their relationship where they realized that their dealings with that person were doomed and over. Sometimes the relationship may not actually end for weeks or even years later, but there is usually that one defining moment where it suddenly hits you that you don’t like that person as much as you thought you did. Out of the hundreds of submissions that Davilman and Dubelman received, they were only able to pick out 58 to put together into this collection.
As I was reading this book, I came across many themes: 1) sometimes the reasons for our break-ups may seem like nothing at all to other people(he plucked his uni-brow, I dyed my hair, he didn’t like to read), but they can be deal-breakers to the person who ultimately calls it quits, 2) that A-HA relationship-ending moment may not be so obvious to us right when it happens, but in hindsight, we definitely recognize that moment as the “start of impending doom”, 3) that blast of clarity when we know that the relationship was over was sometimes more vivid and easier to remember than the entire relationship itself, and 4) no matter how many times our friends tell us our significant other may be just a little too weird, we will not actually break-up with that person ourselves until we burst out of the happiness bubble and honeymoon phase of the new relationship and see the person for who they really are.
Check out this book to commiserate with these women about the moments when they knew their relationships were just over and it became clear that that relationship was not going to work out. Be prepared to look back out your own relationships as you read this book because the women sharing their personal stories are not afraid to dig deep into their pasts to talk about their moments of clarity, no matter how foggy those moments have been right in the midst of the happiness.
Let’s talk about how we come to find books to read. Sometimes we hear about certain books on television, spy a blurb written online about the newest work by a famous author, or a friend recommends a book to us that they think we may like. Most of my book recommendations come from either friends or online blurbs. Irritable Hearts: A PTSD Love Story by Mac McClelland was my newest book recommendation from a friend, one who thought that I may relate to the main character and how she goes about finding out her truth.
In this memoir, Mac McClelland writes about her journey around the world, her life story, and a new love. Mac is an investigative journalist who is not put off by the prospect of covering the news in dangerous parts of the world. In 2010, Mac travels to Haiti to cover the aftermath of the massive earthquake that killed over 200,000 people. Here, Mac decides to team up with several locals to write stories about the devastating aftereffects and the displacement of so many people living in Haiti. She delves into many traumatic situations in order to get to the bottom of her story. While in Haiti, Mac also meets Nico, a French soldier with whom she begins a world-travelling love affair. Mac believes she has a hold on her life and that the new symptoms she is displaying after witnessing a particularly gruesome attack(one which she never actually describes in detail) are just part of being a journalist.
After leaving Haiti, Mac’s symptoms get worse. She starts crying and imagining graphic scenes of violence that lead her to call an emergency meeting with her therapist. While meeting with her, Mac realizes that she is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, which her recent trip to Haiti and her previous tension/trauma-filled life experiences have brought to light. Trying to deal with her symptoms becomes increasingly difficult and she turns to alcohol, television, and some violent therapies to help her cope. Mac also reaches out to other PTSD sufferers and begins researching and reading everything about PTSD that she can get her hands on. Irritable Hearts: A PTSD Love Story is McClelland’s story of finding a new love with Nico, her struggle to repair herself, and how she deals with all of the changes happening around and within herself.
A phone call wakes you up in the middle of the night: “This is Detective Inspector Bowles from the Metropolitan police, Mrs. Busfield. We’re outside your house. Can you please let us in?” You scramble out of bed in shock, your first thoughts running to your two grown children and the one sleeping down the hall. Are they okay? You open the front door to find two policemen telling you your husband of twenty-eight years has been found dead, floating in a river. Not possible. He’s supposed to be in Dubai on business. You are in denial.
Fast forward to the funeral. As you walk to the crematorium flanked by your children, everyone stares. Standing outside, you hear wailing coming from the parking lot and see a grown woman on her knees keening. As she staggers to the door, you’re infuriated that she dare intrude on your grief. She reaches the vicar standing on the steps, grips his arms, and demands to know what happened to your husband and wants to know who organized the funeral without telling her. He politely tries to disengage, while asking who the woman is. She grips his arm and says, “I’m his wife.” You are shocked. She can’t be.
Two women. One husband. Deception, betrayal, and death. If this description has caught your interest, check out Tamar Cohen’s War of the Wives for more information about Selina, Lottie, their families, and the dead patriarch of the family, Simon Busfield. Just remember: Not everything is as it seems.
In today’s world, it’s not uncommon to see many people concentrating more and more on their screens and less and less on the people in front of them. This sad fact hit Hannah Brencher when she moved to New York right after she graduated from college. As she was exploring her new home, she discovered that instead of the warm and welcoming place she expected it to be, she was surrounded by people who knew exactly what they wanted to do, who knew exactly where they needed to be, and who were not the least bit concerned about a young girl who was just trying to figure things out and looking for help.
Feeling somewhat defeated one day at the subway station, she saw an old woman who seemed to be in a similar lonely situation. Brencher was drawn to the woman and could not look away. Staring at her, she remembered how her mother used to write her love letters and how that simple piece of paper always made her feel better because that meant someone else understood and cared about you. She decided then and there to write the woman a love letter. Sitting curled up on the train, Brencher hurriedly scrawled a note to this woman, wrote “If you find this letter, it’s for you…” on the front, and dropped it. Feeling better, she began leaving love notes all over the city and eventually created the blog The World Needs More Love Letters.
Seeking help when her inbox reached over 400 requests for love letters, she created a campaign that you can subscribe to join to write love letters to perfect strangers. If You Find this Letter: My Journey to Find Purpose Through Hundreds of Letters to Strangers is a memoir Brencher wrote describing her love-letter writing journey in her new home, how she began to feel more connected to the people around her, and how this simple letter writing campaign has helped her restore her belief in the goodness of people.
Love, of a Kind is the seventh book of poetry put together by Felix Dennis. Dennis was diagnosed with throat cancer in January 2012. As a result of that diagnosis, he began bringing together and revising poems for what he believed to be his last book. The poems here run along the themes of pain, life, death, and love.
The author lived a fairly loud and extravagant life after a humble beginning. Dennis was born and lived a life of poverty in a south London suburb where he dealt with his father moving to Australia, his mother choosing not to follow, and their subsequent divorce in a time where divorces just did not happen. As a consequence of their divorce, Dennis’ mother chose to not let her previous failed marriage be a reason for her or her children to not succeed in life. Dennis’ career spanned from publisher to poet to spoken word performer to philanthropist. Never one to stray from the limelight, various interviews with Dennis can be found online.
After his diagnosis in 2012, Dennis created Love, of a Kind as a way to cope. Dennis pairs his poems with woodcut engravings that help pull readers more completely into his world. Read along and feel Dennis as he pours his feelings about love into the words that he chose to be his memory after his death in 2014.
I, for one, love to eat and my friends know it. Our discussions usually go: “What are you eating?” “Where did you get that? I want one…” “You went WHERE to eat without me?!” The typical food-fest. Imagine my joy when I stumbled upon Food: A Love Story by comedian Jim Gaffigan. I had listened to Gaffigan’s standup before and discovered that he LOVES to eat, comes from a very large family, and was raised in the Midwest. I knew I must read it and was not disappointed.
In this book, Gaffigan draws upon his family history, his deep love of ALMOST anything food, and how sometimes you just have to hide your food from others to completely enjoy it and that there is nothing wrong with doing so. Pictures of Gaffigan, his family, and HIS food break up discussions about vegetarians, how he mistakenly overanalyzed and did not realize the worthiness of steak growing up, “adult” junk food, how he decided to eat healthy, and his description of the perceived differences between hot dogs and sausages(and how you must know the correct way to order them in different cities). Make sure to have food nearby as you devour this book and discover the importance difference between many cheeses and it’s okay not to like seafood or fruit.
If you are looking for more Gaffigan, you’re in luck! Food: A Love Story is a follow-up to Gaffigan’s other book, Dad is Fat, which is also available through the Davenport Public Library.
Nancy Davidson uncovers the inspiring, funny and sometimes bizarre stories behind lost cat posters, revealing how our relationships with cats compel us to both love and live with courage. The Secrets of Lost Cats traces the evolution of Nancy Davidson’s passion for lost cat posters.
When her orange tabby, Zak, disappeared, Nancy Davidson did what countless people before her had done. She made a lost cat poster. And after days of frantic searching, she found him. Nancy was ecstatic. Zak seemed happy, too – although being a cat, it was hard to tell. Zak may have remained his old self, but Nancy had changed. From that moment on, she became acutely aware of lost cat posters. She studied their language, composition, and design. She was drawn to their folk art. Mostly, however, she was intrigued by the messages themselves – the stories behind the posters. It wasn’t long before Nancy reached out to the owners calling them to offer empathy and support. And it wasn’t long before they confided in her and sought her advice. What they told her – and what she learns – forms the basis of this engaging and insightful book. From the astonishing, almost implausible posters she encounters across the country – and indeed, the world – to the daring, dedication, and emotional complexity of the lost cat owners themselves, The Secrets of Lost Cats provides readers with an absorbing read that illuminates love, loss, and learning to love again, even more deeply. (description from publisher)
Pulitzer Prize winning author, Junot Díaz writes with a kind of swagger and cool that makes it pretty hard to believe that he’s a creative writing professor at MIT. Having recently finished reading his third published book, a collection of short stories called This is How You Lose Her, I am convinced that he knows every dirty word in English and Spanish. Particularly if the words are referencing female anatomy. So be warned, this is not the novel for anyone offended by salty and sexual language.
But if you can get beyond that, I can’t recommend this book enough. Díaz, himself a Dominican immigrant, tells stories about immigrants that help create a full picture of why someone is who they are. He shows that machismo is often a projection due to a lack of respect, and poor behavior isn’t something to be excused, but it can sometimes be explained. This is never more true than in his semi-autobiographical character, Yunior, the protagonist of most of this collection.
Readers may have met Yunior in Díaz’s The Brief Life of Oscar Wao (winner of the aforementioned Pulitzer) or in his first published collection of short stories, Drown, but I met Yunior for the first time after he cheated on Magda in This is How You Lose Her. As he cheats his way through many of these short stories — and continues to imprison himself in grief and regret following the discovery of his transgressions — Yunior’s story becomes less about each individual relationship and more about how Yunior’s relationships reflect his own self-image and cultural identity. The most powerful passages in the novel occur in his home, when we meet his family and see the effects of his father and brother’s infidelity on the family. Equally funny and frustrating, Díaz has written a complicated novel that feels both universal and unique.