New Year’s Day found me watching football with my husband, sister, and parents in my aunt’s (recently renovated) basement. Surfing 2013 best of/worst of lists on the web brought me to this reading list for your quarter-life crisis . At 29 I may be a little late for my crisis, but I’d hate to miss it. And of the 29 books on the list I’ve already read (and liked or loved) seven. Seven!! How random, no? So I added the whole lot to my goodreads list and jumped in. Here’s progress as of the last day of January:
Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayer Loved this. Strayer is the no-longer-anonymous “Sugar”, advice columnist atThe Rumpus. The book is a collection of her articles slash sort of a memoir? Anyway, she totally reaffirmed my faith in humanity, in myself, in the kindness of strangers and the possibility of transcendence. But, like, without being too squishy about it. Basically it made me feel like the movie I Heart Huckabees makes me feel which is really nice. A super lucky first pick from the list, it made me hungry for more.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn Captivating. Everything and everyone in this novel is so f*cked up. I think I’d been held back a little in my fiction consumption, sticking to older classics and favorites from younger years. The brutal description of grown people with grown (granted highly unlikely) problems was refreshing and reassuring. I’ve got a sense now what the “quarter-life crisis” book list is bringing to the table and I like it.
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri Pretty good read about a first-gen American with Indian parents straddling old world expectations and new world dreams. Spoke to my need to please my family in a sort of blind, subconscious loyalty way. Apparently teen rebellion is just a detour on the way to still not establishing your own identity. Or maybe that’s just me? I don’t know, blame it on the quarter-life crisis.
In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut Memoir about a perpetual traveler’s early adventures. The author speaks about himself in both the first and third person in a way that really added to the narrative – how he both identifies with his younger self and also doesn’t even recognize that young man. I didn’t love this one, but the suspense in the last third of the book pulled me through it. The author’s struggles to save a suicidal friend cut pretty close to home, and made the book feel really honest to me. Maybe too honest? A bit painful really.
Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke Literally a handful of letters Rilke wrote to a young poet who struck up a correspondence with him in 1903. Loved, loved this collection. Rilke is like the mentor you’d always want. Distant and objective but almost unbelievably compassionate. A strong proponent of solitude. Which I think I could use more of. The introduction was probably 20% of the book, but valuable to set the scene. I read the whole book in an evening and am considering putting it into some kind of annual rotation. Maybe a nice book to read every New Year’s Day? Or a birthday tradition? After 15+ years of watching Sixteen Candles on my birthday it may be time to step it up.
The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollingsworth Enjoyable novel about a young, middle class gay man in London in the early 80′s. He’s found lodging in the home of a wealthy MP, the father of a school friend. The book intimately follows his first romances, his inevitable spiral into the coke-fueled, secretive gay life of the young and rich at that time. Then AIDS. Because that’s the 80′s. In a way it was all a bit predictable, but the up-close experience of the protagonist keeps it from feeling stale. I liked the book, but I was kind of depressed by the end. Which did not put me in the right frame of mind for…
Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book by Walker Percy The blurb made this sound like a sort of self-help book spoof full of surprisingly helpful insights. Unfortunately it seems to be… philosophy. Not my genre. Like, at all. I’m about 2 chapters (not that it seems to have chapters?) and I’m going to put it to the side. On principle I want to finish the entire list honestly, but this one might have to provide filler in half-hour segments between the rest of the selections. Unless it really turns around. I think I may not be deep enough for this kind of self-evaluation. Or perhaps I just haven’t had enough therapy. Regardless this one isn’t doing it for me.
And so, onward!
p.s. I’ve previously read Hyperbole and a Half, Let’s Pretend this Never Happened, The Marriage Plot, Love is a Mix Tape, Of Human Bondage, The Good Earth, and The Joy Luck Club. Interestingly the first three in the last 18 months, the fourth and fifth roughly seven years ago and last two over ten years ago. If I’m still enjoying the quarter-life crisis project after I’ve finished the others I may reread the last four with older eyes more wisdom.
p.p.s Full disclosure, this entire thing was also posted at Go Mighty. With which I've finally initiated contact after 4 months of thinking about it.