Discover more from What To Read If
You’re Obsessed With Wordle
Are snowed in or have the blues
Burk recorded the album in the store, between the poetry and mystery sections, when it was closed for shopping due to the pandemic. “The bookstore was closed, so I just hauled a bunch of gear over there…The books are pretty good at absorbing loud guitar sounds,” he told DCist.
Sit behind that desk like you don’t care
reading those prose poems by Baudelaire
When I asked for novels you pointed upstairs
and used a pencil to tie up your black hair
Drinking wine and talking Proust
You and Rushdie introduced
Said your prose was so sublime
Now you’re in search of lost time
Go, listen and enjoy.
And, now, what to read if…
You’re a Daily Wordle Player
Wordle, a word guessing game, is the new viral internet hit. Players have six chances to guess a five-letter word. After each guess, they learn if any letters in their recent stab are correct. (My brother points out it’s pretty much exactly the same as the ’80s game show Lingo.) There’s one puzzle a day and everyone — worldwide — plays the same game, making it easy to compare results. And, adorably, software engineer Josh Wardle originally made it as a gift for his partner, who loves word games.
If you too love games like Wordle, Scrabble or Boggle, consider picking up Stefan Fatsis’ Word Freak, an exploration of the world of competitive Scrabble. Fatsis, a lifelong fan of the game, considered himself a strong player until he met those who were nationally ranked. He took a leave of absence from his job to report a book on the board game and began to devote himself full-time to Scrabble.
Word Freak is a story of obsession: Fastis documents his and others’ fascination with the game. He attends a meeting of America’s Most Dysfunctional Scrabble Club and profiles the nation’s best Scrabblers, who make their living playing in tournaments. They’re a quirky cast of characters, such as Matt, who travels with a bag of stuffed animals and “smart” drugs. Fatsis, a sportswriter, clearly relishes the players’ competitive spirit and shares their love of the game. Word Freak is a fun look at a fascinating subculture that can hold you over between Wordle games.
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You’re Dealing With Winter Weather
The D.C. area received its first snowstorm of the season last week. We got roughly 6-8 inches (the banks were about the same height as my very short dog). While it was snowing outside, I coincidentally read Dava Shastri’s Last Day, which focuses on a family snowed-in over the Christmas holiday on a private island.
In the year 2044, Dava Shastri, a renowned philanthropist, summons her four adult children and their kids to her luxurious island manor for the holidays. Once there, she makes two bombshell announcements: First, she has terminal brain cancer and will be committing doctor-assisted suicide in the coming days. Second, Dava has arranged for her death to be announced early, so she can understand what her legacy will be. Isolated, with limited access to phones and wifi, the family is forced to reckon with Dava’s death, life and everything in between.
It’s quite the concept (reminiscent of Tom Sawyer attending his own funeral) but Ramisetti pulls it off. Each of the four children are well drawn, but Dava is a complex character — filled with interesting contradictions — that will be sticking with me for a while. Through a series of flashbacks, as well as excerpts of news reports about her “death,” readers get a sense of not just who she is, but how she came to be so legacy obsessed. It’s a good read, a new take on the snowed-in trope and could be a great pick for your next book club.
You’ve Got the Post-Holiday Blahs
I got hit with the post-holiday blahs particularly hard this year. I found it tough last week to get the motivation to do anything beyond work and lie on my couch. I’m blaming the omicron variant. If you’re feeling a bit down, Beth O’Leary’s heartwarming The Switch is your next read.
The Switch follows Leena Cotton, a young London professional grieving her sister's death, and her grandmother Eileen. After botching a major presentation at work, Leena is ordered to take a two-month sabbatical. Simultaneously, Eileen is looking for a second chance at love but doesn’t have many options in her small Yorkshire village. So, as the title implies, the pair decide to “switch” for two months: Eileen will live with Leena’s roommates in the city and Leena will take on her grandmother’s many roles in her tiny, idyllic town.
It’s a warm, cozy novel that will make you want to call your grandmother. Like all Beth O’Leary novels, the core message of The Switch is that bad things happen, but with friends and family, it’s possible to move past them. (That makes them sound trite. They’re not.) So, grab a cup of tea, a blanket and The Switch, and melt away some of those post-holiday blues.
I’m happy to have a guest recommendation from Valorie Clark. She hosts the podcast Unruly Figures about rebels through history and writes the newsletter Collected Rejections which features essays about writing and more. Valorie suggests The Daevabad Trilogy:
“There’s nothing quite as galvanizing as the feeling of being transported to a completely new world, and that’s what City of Brass did for me. In 18th century Cairo, Nahri only believes in magic as far as she can use it to swindle the next Ottoman noble. But when she accidentally summons a mysterious djinn warrior, she’s swept away to a city hidden from human eyes. There, she discovers that she’s the last in a noble line and the djinn are depending on her to save them.”
A few programming notes:
There’s still time to enter the raffle for a copy of Emma Eisenberg’s Third Rainbow Girl and Better Luck Next Time by Julia Claiborne Johnson. Just comment here with a book you’re looking forward to reading this year.
I’ll be back on Thursday with a Q&A featuring agent and YA author Eric Smith.
You’ll receive next week’s issue on Tuesday because of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. If you’re looking for MLK-themed reading, consider his Letter from Birmingham Jail. It’s a brilliant text and foundational to the civil rights movement.
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