Dear readers, you must forgive me. Some of these picks are Columbused.*
*Columbusing: (v) When white people claim to discover something that has been there the entire time. See also: dreadlocks, yoga, twerking, Miley Cyrus.
So even though I didn’t discover them, they’re still good. Need suggestions for the month of April? Read on!
The Love Affairs Of Nathaniel P (Adelle Waldman)
All humans should read this book. Period. I will probably write an entire essay at some point about how much this book has helped me navigate my own romantic relationships. I borrowed this tome from my local library twice before I found it at The Strand in March. When I saw it, I yelped, grabbed it, and scared the shit out of the woman standing next to me.
I once took a picture of the following paragraph from this book so that I would always have it to guide me. That’s how much I love it. And if you are a female-identified person who dates cis men and wonders what is going on in their brains, you will love it too.
“Sometimes he wondered whether he was a bit misogynistic. Over the years, various women had complained that almost all of the writers he admired were not only dead and white but male. Although this was pointed out to him with prosecutorial glee, Nate didn’t think it meant all that much. Women had faced systemic barriers to education and opportunity for most of history. They hadn’t written as much.
What he didn’t say — why aid the prosecution’s case? — was that the kind of writing he preferred seemed inherently masculine.
Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro)
Yes, yes, this book has been famous for years. But if you’re out of the loop like I am, and haven’t read it yet, get your grubby little paws on it soon!! It is such a page turner. It’s the kind of book that makes you want to forgo social plans just so you can figure out what’s up with Kathy H, Tommy, and Ruth, and what this whole “completion” thing means. It’s a perfect read for anyone who is interested in science fiction, dystopian novels, bildungsromans, or fans of Florence and the Machine.
I highly recommend playing “Never Let Me Go” on repeat in the background so you can feel all the feels.
Everything I Never Told You (Celeste Ng)
Humans, I haven’t even finished this book yet and I want you to read it. The novel depicts a family who searches for answers after their daughter Lydia drowns. When I first found out that the children were biracial, I didn’t blink. Then, I caught the date a few pages later – 1977 – and the small fact of their ethnic background took on a larger significance. I never had considered the perils of growing up half-Asian in small-town America, though I spend a good deal of my own time reflecting on my own mixed suburban upbringing. If you want to read about the intersections of race, gender, class, and grief from the point of view of four family members, this is your book.
100 Selected Poems (e.e. cummings)
What do you say we all make a collective pact to read cummings’ poetry during NationalPoetry Month just so we can conjure up some spring? I highly recommend it for the month of April so you can enjoy lines like this:
i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
“i thank you God for most this amazing,” #95 in 100 Selected Poems
“Race-Conscious Casting and the Erasure of the Black Past in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton,” Lyra D. Monteiro, The Public Historian
This is an absolute must-read for anyone who considers themselves to be a Hamilton fan. Monteiro closely examines the racial politics of the show, and comes to astute conclusions like this one:
“This realization brings attention to a truly damning omission in the show: despite the proliferation of black and brown bodies onstage, not a single enslaved or free person of color exists as a character in this play … one could easily assume that slavery did not exist in this world, and certainly that it was not an important part of the lives and livelihoods of the men who created the nation.”
I said it once and I’ll say it again: We can love works and recognize their shortcomings as well.
“Imaginary Spaces,” Andrew O’Hagan, The New Yorker
I know nothing about design. But this article was a fascinating look into the work a stage designer named Es Devlin, who considers the psychological conflicts of a narrative before creating the set. I had never thought about how staging could influence our interpretation of a show before this article – theater buffs, check it out!
“Runs in the Family,” Siddartha Mukherjee, The New Yorker
Another thing I know nothing about is neuroscience. In fact, in trying to recommend this article to a friend, I texted her, “Do you like brain stuff?” But I was entranced by this article about the genetic roots about schizophrenia, which is braided with the author’s family history of the disease. Mukherjee chronicles two parallel scientists in Boston who race to understand the effects of genetics on the brain as he searches for a personal way to reconcile his relatives’ disease.
I’ve been listening to a lot more podcasts lately, and I happened to hear this amazing “This American Life” episode while driving one afternoon. It’s a gem. Basically, Gregor Samsa realizes he is turning into a cockroach and reaches out to a famous doctor for advice – and you’ll never guess who his interlocutor is.
Happy reading! What have you been into this month?