Recently, I’ve been trying to stretch my reading interests a bit. My love for Young Adult will never perish, but I feel like as an educated twenty something I need more. Finding this “more” and learning what/who I enjoy has been the tough part. I tried just walking into the sections of the bookstore that I never wander, but that didn’t cut it. I needed recommendations or a place to start. So, after some serious research and a trip to my Amazon shopping cart, here is what I came away with. I haven’t yet read any of these, but I am so looking forward to it. I promise to keep you updated on my Big Girl reads progress!
Also quick side note, me calling this list of books “big girl”/unconventional reads in no way takes away from those of you nerds who only read YA/MG. I just mean that to me, these books feel a little out of my comfort zone. Having them on my shelves and sitting down to read has me feeling like a real Young Woman™ – and I haven’t quite reconciled what that means yet.
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
“A collection of essays spanning politics, criticism, and feminism from one of the most-watched young cultural observers of her generation, Roxane Gay.
“Pink is my favorite color. I used to say my favorite color was black to be cool, but it is pink—all shades of pink. If I have an accessory, it is probably pink. I read Vogue, and I’m not doing it ironically, though it might seem that way. I once live-tweeted the September issue.”
In these funny and insightful essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman (Sweet Valley High) of color (The Help) while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years (Girls, Django in Chains) and commenting on the state of feminism today (abortion, Chris Brown). The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.
Bad Feminist is a sharp, funny, and spot-on look at the ways in which the culture we consume becomes who we are, and an inspiring call-to-arms of all the ways we still need to do better.” (Synopsis taken from Amazon)
Me, My Hair, and I: Twenty-Seven Women Untangle an Obsession edited by Elizabeth Benedict
“Ask a woman about her hair, and she just might tell you the story of her life. Ask a whole bunch of women about their hair, and you could get a history of the world. Surprising, insightful, frequently funny, and always forthright, the essays in Me, My Hair, and I are reflections and revelations about every aspect of women’s lives from family, race, religion, and motherhood to culture, health, politics, and sexuality.
They take place in African American kitchens, at Hindu Bengali weddings, and inside Hasidic Jewish homes. The conversation is intimate and global at once. Layered into these reminiscences are tributes to influences throughout history: Jackie Kennedy, Lena Horne, Farrah Fawcett, the Grateful Dead, and Botticelli’s Venus.
The long and the short of it is that our hair is our glory—and our nemesis, our history, our self-esteem, our joy, our mortality. Every woman knows that many things in life matter more than hair, but few bring as much pleasure as a really great hairdo.” (Synopsis taken from Amazon)
Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space by Lynn Sherr
“The definitive biography of Sally Ride, America’s first woman in space, with exclusive insights from Ride’s family and partner, by the ABC reporter who covered NASA during its transformation from a test-pilot boys’ club to a more inclusive elite.
Sally Ride made history as the first American woman in space. A member of the first astronaut class to include women, she broke through a quarter-century of white male fighter jocks when NASA chose her for the seventh shuttle mission, cracking the celestial ceiling and inspiring several generations of women.
After a second flight, Ride served on the panels investigating the Challenger explosion and the Columbia disintegration that killed all aboard. In both instances she faulted NASA’s rush to meet mission deadlines and its organizational failures. She cofounded a company promoting science and education for children, especially girls.
Sherr also writes about Ride’s scrupulously guarded personal life—she kept her sexual orientation private—with exclusive access to Ride’s partner, her former husband, her family, and countless friends and colleagues. Sherr draws from Ride’s diaries, files, and letters. This is a rich biography of a fascinating woman whose life intersected with revolutionary social and scientific changes in America. Sherr’s revealing portrait is warm and admiring but unsparing. It makes this extraordinarily talented and bold woman, an inspiration to millions, come alive.” (Synopsis taken from Amazon)
Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar
“Life can be hard: your lover cheats on you; you lose a family member; you can’t pay the bills—and it can be great: you’ve had the hottest sex of your life; you get that plum job; you muster the courage to write your novel. Sugar—the once-anonymous online columnist at The Rumpus, now revealed as Cheryl Strayed, author of the bestselling memoir Wild—is the person thousands turn to for advice.
Tiny Beautiful Things brings the best of Dear Sugar in one place and includes never-before-published columns and a new introduction by Steve Almond. Rich with humor, insight, compassion—and absolute honesty—this book is a balm for everything life throws our way.” (Synopsis taken from Amazon)
Bad Behavior by Marry Gaitskill
“Now a classic: Bad Behavior made critical waves when it first published, heralding Gaitskill’s arrival on the literary scene and her establishment as one of the sharpest, erotically charged, and audaciously funny writing talents of contemporary literature. Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times called it “Pinteresque,” saying, “Ms. Gaitskill writes with such authority, such radar-perfect detail, that she is able to make even the most extreme situations seem real… her reportorial candor, uncompromised by sentimentality or voyeuristic charm…underscores the strength of her debut.” (Synopsis taken from Amazon)
White Teeth by Zadie Smith
“Zadie Smith’s dazzling debut caught critics grasping for comparisons and deciding on everyone from Charles Dickens to Salman Rushdie to John Irving and Martin Amis. But the truth is that Zadie Smith’s voice is remarkably, fluently, and altogether wonderfully her own.
At the center of this invigorating novel are two unlikely friends, Archie Jones and Samad Iqbal. Hapless veterans of World War II, Archie and Samad and their families become agents of England’s irrevocable transformation. A second marriage to Clara Bowden, a beautiful, albeit tooth-challenged, Jamaican half his age, quite literally gives Archie a second lease on life, and produces Irie, a knowing child whose personality doesn’t quite match her name (Jamaican for “no problem”). Samad’s late-in-life arranged marriage (he had to wait for his bride to be born), produces twin sons whose separate paths confound Iqbal’s every effort to direct them, and a renewed, if selective, submission to his Islamic faith. Set against London’s racial and cultural tapestry, venturing across the former empire and into the past as it barrels toward the future, White Teeth revels in the ecstatic hodgepodge of modern life, flirting with disaster, confounding expectations, and embracing the comedy of daily existence.” (Synopsis taken from Amazon
Delta of Venus by Anaïs Nin
“An extraordinarily rich and exotic collection from the mistress of erotic writing.
In Delta of Venus, Anais Nin pens a lush, magical world where the characters of her imagination possess the most universal of desires and exceptional of talents. Among these provocative stories, a Hungarian adventurer seduces wealthy women then vanishes with their money; a veiled woman selects strangers from a chic restaurant for private trysts; and a Parisian hatmaker named Mathilde leaves her husband for the opium dens of Peru.” (Synopsis taken from Amazon)
Self Help by Lorrie Moore
“In these tales of loss and pleasure, lovers and family, a woman learns to conduct an affair, a child of divorce dances with her mother, and a woman with a terminal illness contemplates her exit. Filled with the sharp humor, emotional acuity, and joyful language Moore has become famous for, these nine glittering tales marked the introduction of an extravagantly gifted writer.” (Synopsis taken from Amazon)
The Portable Dorothy Parker edited by Marion Meade
“The second revision in sixty years, this sublime collection ranges over the verse, stories, essays, and journalism of one of the twentieth century’s most quotable authors.
For this new twenty-first-century edition, devoted admirers can be sure to find their favorite verse and stories. But a variety of fresh material has also been added to create a fuller, more authentic picture of her life’s work. There are some stories new to the Portable, “Such a Pretty Little Picture,” along with a selection of articles written for such disparate publications as Vogue, McCall’s, House and Garden, and New Masses. Two of these pieces concern home decorating, a subject not usually associated with Mrs. Parker. At the heart of her serious work lies her political writings-racial, labor, international-and so “Soldiers of the Republic” is joined by reprints of “Not Enough” and “Sophisticated Poetry-And the Hell With It,” both of which first appeared in New Masses. “A Dorothy Parker Sampler” blends the sublime and the silly with the terrifying, a sort of tasting menu of verse, stories, essays, political journalism, a speech on writing, plus a catchy off-the-cuff rhyme she never thought to write down.”
The introduction of two new sections is intended to provide the richest possible sense of Parker herself. “Self-Portrait” reprints an interview she did in 1956 with The Paris Review, part of a famed ongoing series of conversations (“Writers at Work”) that the literary journal conducted with the best of twentieth-century writers. What makes the interviews so interesting is that they were permitted to edit their transcripts before publication, resulting in miniature autobiographies.
“Letters: 1905-1962,” which might be subtitled “Mrs. Parker Completely Uncensored,” presents correspondence written over the period of a half century, beginning in 1905 when twelve-year-old Dottie wrote her father during a summer vacation on Long Island, and concluding with a 1962 missive from Hollywood describing her fondness for Marilyn Monroe. (Synopsis taken from Amazon)
I Don’t Care About Your Band: What I Learned from Indie Rockers, Trust Funders, Pornographers, Felons, Faux-Se nsitive Hipsters, and Other Guys I’ve Dated by Julie Klausner
“I Don’t Care About Your Band posits that lately the worst guys to date are the ones who seem sensitive. It’s the jerks in nice guy clothing, not the players in Ed Hardy, who break the hearts of modern girls who grew up in the shadow of feminism, thinking they could have everything, but end up compromising constantly. The cowards, the kidults, the critics, and the contenders: these are the stars of Klausner’s memoir about how hard it is to find a man–good or otherwise–when you’re a cynical grown-up exiled in the dregs of Guyville.
Off the popularity of her New York Times “Modern Love” piece about getting the brush-off from an indie rock musician, I Don’t care About Your Band is marbled with the wry strains of Julie Klausner’s precocious curmudgeonry and brimming with truths that anyone who’s ever been on a date will relate to. Klausner is an expert at landing herself waist-deep in crazy, time and time again, in part because her experience as a comedy writer (Best Week Ever, TV Funhouse on SNL) and sketch comedian from NYC’s Upright Citizens Brigade fuels her philosophy of how any scene should unfold, which is, “What? That sounds crazy? Okay, I’ll do it.”
I Don’t Care About Your Band charts a distinctly human journey of a strong-willed but vulnerable protagonist who loves men like it’s her job, but who’s done with guys who know more about love songs than love. Klausner’s is a new outlook on dating in a time of pop culture obsession, and she spent her 20’s doing personal field research to back up her philosophies. This is the girl’s version of High Fidelity. By turns explicit, funny and moving, Klausner’s debut shows the evolution of a young woman who endured myriad encounters with the wrong guys, to emerge with real- world wisdom on matters of the heart. I Don’t Care About Your Band is Julie Klausner’s manifesto, and every one of us can relate.” (Synopsis taken from Amazon)
This list is by now means easy to swallow. Some of these I picked purposefully because they are tough, whereas others I picked because they spoke to me. At this point in my life (the, doe-eyed-omfg-I-am-adult-I-can-do-this-okay-breathe phase) I feel like I need more from things. Books, TV, movies, podcasts, music – I want more. I can’t quite articulate what that more is, but I think with this list and other things I’m finding, I’m getting close. The journey of figuring this out has definitely been hard, but I am determined to quench this need for more. Not enough people my age — particularity girls my age — strive for that. To be horribly pretentious and quote Thoreau, I choose to live/breathe/read/listen deliberately. Want to join me?
Have you read/want to read any of the aforementioned titles? What did you think about them? Any that you think I should read? Let me know down in the comments or find me on Twitter @nerddelizzie