You’re Sick of Your House
Want to read a banned book or have listened to “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” a million times
Hey book lovers,
I hope you had a great weekend. I’m still settling into the new apartment, and I’m glad that it’s starting to look like me.
It’s not just my living space that’s getting a makeover — this newsletter is too. You might have noticed the new header image. My talented friend and coworker Erick Messer designed it and a new logo for me. You can check out more of his work on his Instagram. Erick really captured my love of books — and my big hair (which grows larger each day as D.C.’s swampy season approaches).
It’s a big bookish week for me (even more than usual, I guess). Tomorrow, I’m watching a conversation between Patrick Radden Keefe and Beth Macy about Keefe’s new book Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty. I’ve written before about how much I love Keefe’s Say Nothing, and I’m looking forward to his investigation into the Sackler family and their connection to the opioid epidemic. I’m also hoping to attend an event celebrating the publication of What Comes After by JoAnne Tompkins, who O Magazine called “an American Tana French.” And, my book club meets.
If you’re looking for virtual author events, I can’t recommend Sarah Nicolas’ newsletter, appropriately named Virtual Author & Writer Events, enough. The newsletter comes out each Sunday with a rundown of events across all genres. I love it.
So many books (and book events!) and so little time.
And now, what to read if …
You’re Looking for Something New About Your House
At Home by Bill Bryson
One of the great things about moving is getting to explore four new walls. After a year quarantined in an apartment that I’d already lived in for seven years, it’s extremely exciting to be in a new space (even if that new space is still filled with boxes.)
If, after more than a year at home, you’re desperate to discover something — anything — you don’t know about your house, Bill Bryson’s At Home is the perfect book. With his characteristic wit and humor, Bryson takes us on a room-by-room tour of his old, Victorian home in Norfolk, England to illuminate the history of how we live today. In the kitchen, we learn about the history of ice and the spice trade, while in the bedroom, Bryson explains where the phrase “make the bed” comes from.
My guess is that most readers will know at least some of the information Bryson presents, but even if that is the case, it’s a humorous, enjoyable read. And reading about early homes — without electricity or running water — will probably help you feel appreciative of your own space instead of sick of it.
You Want to Read a Banned Book
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
The American Library Association released its annual list of most challenged books last week. More than 270 books were targeted, often for featuring LGBT characters or exploring the topic of police violence.
I could give a TedTalk on why banning books is wrongheaded and counterproductive but will instead tell you to read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, a frequent target of book banners.
The Hate U Give follows sixteen-year-old Starr Carter, who straddles two worlds — the poor neighborhood she lives in and the high-end suburban prep school she attends. Starr’s life is flipped upside down after witnessing the fatal shooting of her unarmed childhood best friend by the police.
Thomas writes with empathy as Starr navigates testifying in the grand jury hearing and worries about how it will change her life. While The Hate U Give is YA, its characters are far more nuanced and complex than those often found in adult books. There’s something for people of all ages here.
I re-read The Hate U Give this summer in the wake of the George Floyd protests for a book club and it blew me away again. I’ve found myself reflecting a lot on it over the past few weeks as I read the coverage of Derek Chauvin’s trial. The Hate U Give should be read widely and celebrated — not banned.
You’re Listening to “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” On Repeat
Love at First by Kate Clayborn
Taylor Swift released a re-recorded version of her breakout album “Fearless” last week, the latest salvo in a feud over the ownership of her work (if you haven’t followed the saga, this explainer will get you up to speed). “Fearless” includes “Love Story,” a Romeo and Juliet tale with a happy ending that launched Swift to super-stardom.
Clayborn’s Love at First has whispers of Romeo and Juliet too, opening with a pair of star-crossed lovers meeting on a balcony. Nora Clarke and Will Sterling live in the same Chicago condo building, but they couldn’t view it more differently. For Nora, the building is home — complete with aging velvet wallpaper and residents she considers family. On the other hand, Will sees the apartment his uncle left him in the old building as a reminder of childhood memories he’d rather forget. After Will informs the building’s residents that he plans to rent out his unit for short-term stays, Nora launches a campaign to convince him otherwise.
My love for Clayborn is well-established. I had high expectations for Love at First — and Clayborn exceeded them. It’s a realistic, moving love story with a delightful cast of side characters. I planned on savoring Love at First, reading it over a longer period, instead, I devoured it a day, unable to put it down.
Have you read any of these? What did you think?
Thanks to everyone who reached out after reading my interview with Ashley Holstrom. I learned a lot from Ashley and I am glad you enjoyed the Q&A!
If you have someone you’d like see featured in a Q&A let me know by leaving a comment or responding to this email.
What to Read If is a free weekly book recommendation newsletter. Need a rec? Want to gush about a book? Reply to this email, leave a comment or find me on Twitter @elizabethheld.
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The Hate U Give is incredible!
I'm also looking forward to PRK and Beth Macy tomorrow! I loved Beth's book Dopesick. Fun fact, my bff from college grew up in Roanoke, VA and was neighbors with Beth!