September 2022 Book Marks
I hope you’ve experienced the sensation of being engulfed by a book. It calls to you from the nightstand, or from inside your bag, practically pulsing. The story rivets your eyes to every word.
As a writer, I love the unexpected moments when I’m stopped in my tracks by a sentence, marveling at the composition, the images evoked in my mind through the precision of words. Add a well-woven story, delicate and complex as a fine textile, and I marvel at how each chapter cascades toward the finish.
Different books affect each of us differently. There will always be an insatiable audience for every genre. This summer, I was particularly captivated by “Horse,” Geraldine Brooks’ latest novel. And while my sister Meg enjoyed it, she probably wouldn’t put it in her summer top ten, but yet she’s a huge YA fan.
Reading is intelligent escape. It’s time well-spent; the flip side of digital age demands because the written word lets us construct our own internal worlds, quietly entertaining ourselves in a soft chair, in bed or on a plane.
I always enjoy hearing from you about a beloved literary discovery, a new author or an engrossing read. I hope you’ll enjoy this month’s selections of September books.
Horse by Geraldine Brooks
This accomplished novelist and winner of the Pulitzer Prize has delivered a true winner that effortlessly weaves multiple story lines, periods in history and characters through time. The story opens with a discarded painting and moves to the dusty skeleton of a horse in the Smithsonian and then toggles back to pre-Civil war Kentucky, where a young black slave and horse whisperer, Jarret, who has convinced his master to breed a horse who will grow up to be perhaps the most amazing thoroughbred racehorse of all time, a true horse named Lexington, who went on to be the ancestor of generations of famous American race horses. There is a present day love story between a tomboy scientist named Jess who loves old bones and a black Georgetown grad art student who finds the discarded horse painting, which becomes the basis for his graduate thesis. This book is a love story on many levels, between the characters, and between man and horse. It’s a story that combines science and obsession with the lasting and horrible legacy of injustice and racism in America. If you’re looking for a smart, engrossing read, don’t miss this book.
The Boys by Katie Hafner
Ethan lost his parents at a young age, growing up to be an introverted man with numerous quirks, among them a fear of travel, as well as having children one day. When he meets outgoing Barb at work, they fall in love and eventually marry. Determined to help her husband overcome his fears around being orphaned, Barb brings home two young brothers and Ethan immediately falls in love. When the pandemic hits, Ethan is determined to protect the boys at home and goes into overdrive, focused on their every needs. What should bring the couple together, slowly begins to unwind their relationship until Barb moves out. The boys become a sticking point in the relationship, preventing Ethan from talking about a long-ago secret in childhood. When Ethan decides to take Tommy and Sam on an Italian biking, replicating one he took with Barb, it brings to light just what an unusual family they have become. This book is funny, poignant and so much more, with a delicious twist.
Fiction/Short Story Collection:
Ghost Lover by Lisa Taddeo
As the best-selling author of “Three Women,” Taddeo blew me away with her prose and the raw sexuality and inherent desire in her writing. This short story collection examines all aspects of relationships and longing from the story of a dating service managed by an army of gorgeous girls who will handle the communications over text in relationships, to a famous social media influencer who is empty inside to a story about two hard-partying girlfriends who find themselves in a hospital waiting room. Reading Teddeo’s stories is like adding hot sauce to your spicy enchilada.
Listen World – How the Intrepid Elsie Robinson Became America’s Most-Read Woman by Julia Scheeres and Allison Gilbert
One hundred years ago a woman named Elsie Robinson was born into poverty in Benicia, California, on the edge of the frontier. In the Victorian era, women’s aspirations went no further than to be a wife and mother. But Elsie dreamed of something entirely different and this dream led to an extraordinary life. She married a wealthy easterner and had one son, who was asthmatic and sickly. When the loveless marriage proved too much to bear, she left her husband and set back out to California in search of dryer air and with the goal of being a writer. Her life, which went from literally working in the mines to support her son to becoming a wealthy woman and the most read columnist in the Hearst newspaper empire, is the stuff of a movie. She was an early feminist, before the word was invented and she championed immigrants rights, vocal against antisemitism and derided racism and capital punishment. So much of history has excluded women and people of color but this incredibly well-researched book restores a formative journalist back to their place in the past. And the writing flows as if this were a work of fiction. This was enjoyable from beginning to end.
We all know the importance of making a good impression, and NYT best-selling author breaks down some of the ways in which we can all strive to make more meaningful connections, rather than the “how are you?” kinds of intersections. Researchers believe that the average person will influence up to 80,000 people in the course of a lifetime. That’s 2.8 people a day—and each of us has the power to make those truly positive experiences. Through various chapters and storytelling anecdotes he explores how each of us can be more mindful and effective in wielding the influence we each have over one other in our careers, personal lives, and relationships. Would we live differently if we thought this way? Would we put down our phones and be in the moment more often? It’s an interesting book to provoke some questions in all of us, no matter what aspect of our lives we wish to change. My favorite tip and one that I preach is to simply check in with people, without any “ask.”
The Family Roe – An American Story by Joshua Prager
For anyone who is apt to dismiss this book, assuming that it takes a side on the virulent issue of abortion, this engrossing and compassionate family saga sets the record straight on many of the myths and misconceptions surrounding “Roe v Wade.” With deft researching and reporting, the author creates a story in which every character is human and the collateral tends to be the children. Prager spent spending years with the real “Roe,” a bi-sexual woman of modest means named Norma McCorvey. He goes back in time to trace her ancestors at the heart of Louisiana’s Bayou country and then covers the unwanted pregnancies that befell her grandmother and mother. The original genesis of the book was to find the “Roe baby,” whom most people probably wrongly assume was the abortion won by the court decision, but in fact the court process wound far longer than a maternal gestation and the baby was born and adopted. Multiple characters in the story are interviewed, including all of McCorvey’s children, the lawyers who argued the case, the pro-life leaders who convinced Norma to speak out against abortion and so much more.
You Should Smile More – How to Dismantle Gender Bias in the Workplace by Dawn Hudson, Cie Nicholson, Mitzi Short, Katie Lacey, Lori Tauber Marcus, Angelique Bellmer Krembs
Six C-suite women who used to work at Pepsi have come together to combine and share their collective knowledge (together from 29 industries) in a very tactical and approachable book. For anyone who has wondered what a microaggression looks like, this book covers in a clear-eyed way so many of the behaviors and situations that happen in the workplace that draw down power, whether that’s women leading with an apology or people referring to them as a “girl.” Where it could have been preachy, the book is actually instructive in such a way that uses humor and antidotes and stories to educate and delight. The authors present clear strategies that can be used by all workplace employees stakeholder and also look at each situation from three points of view, if you are a witness, ally or supervisor. I gave this book to my girls to read before they started their first jobs this summer.
*These are books I genuinely love and am thrilled to recommend to my friends. These are Bookshop.org affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I get a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. Alternately, if you prefer to rent books at your local library or buy from your local bookstore, I very much support that!