books

Recent Reads: How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are

How to Be Parisian

I am forever trekking through a strange sort of literary labyrinth. I don’t really know how I pick a new book to read once I’ve finished another one. I do have about a hundred books in my ever-growing “to read” pile, and despite my bursting bookshelves, I still can’t resist buying even more books whenever I come across one that piques my interest.

I think I chanced upon How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are on Instagram. Instagram is my favorite social media outlet. It’s my happy place. I pretty much exclusively follow Parisians, food bloggers, and, best of all, Parisian food bloggers. I also follow a handful of New Yorkers and some travel photographers whose shots of jaw-droppingly gorgeous landscapes make me seethe with jealousy and hate my life (okay, I’m exaggerating . . . but only a little).

Anyway, yes, I believe I discovered this book on Instagram and I’m so glad I did. It’s the sort of book that you can finish over the course of a lazy afternoon with nothing but a bottle of rosé and Edith Piaf crooning in the background to keep you company. It’s an easy read and it’s not meant to be taken seriously—unless you’re like me and you truly do wear head-to-toe black, even in the middle of July, and you drink too much red wine and hate working out and you don’t believe that age is a good enough excuse to go to bed early. In that case, behold, your new Bible. More

Recent Reads: Time Was Soft There

Time Was Soft ThereShakespeare and Company is the bookish tourist’s equivalent of Times Square. I first went to Paris in 2007, but, ingenue that I was at the time, I hadn’t yet heard of this glorious little literary Mecca. But by the time I went for my second time, about a year ago, it was at last on my to-go list. Though my husband and I attempt to seek out the truth of a city and avoid the biggest tourist traps, I couldn’t resist the lure of paying a visit to this storied and historic Left Bank book shop. Shortly thereafter I came across Time Was Soft There, writer Jeremy Mercer’s memoir of the year he spent living at Shakespeare and Company, and I was bewitched.

In case you aren’t familiar with it, Shakespeare and Company was first opened in 1919 by Sylvia Beach, an American expat and a member of the “Lost Generation.” The original English language bookstore was located first at 8 rue Dupuytren before moving to 12 rue de l’Odéon. It survived the Great Depression, but Beach was forced to close it down after the German invasion of France. Per Wikipedia, “Ernest Hemingway symbolically liberated the shop in person in 1944, but it never reopened for business.” (Fun side note: Hemingway mentions the shop in A Moveable Feast, a book for which, as you might have guessed, I harbor a certain fondness.) More

Recent Reads: Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls

Let's Explore Diabetes With OwlsI think I’ve read just about every word David Sedaris has ever written. As an aspiring author, I’m obsessed with his ability to turn a phrase in the most clever and subversive ways. I bought Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls as soon as it came out last year but, since I always have a mile-high stack of books waiting to be read on my nightstand, I only got around to reading it this summer. And as I suspected I would, I read the first page and immediately wished I’d gotten to it sooner.

Like his other books, Let’s Explore is a collection of essays, short stories, musings, and anecdotes, some likely true, some clearly fabricated by the author’s delightfully warped mind, all thoroughly enjoyable. One of the things I love most about Sedaris is how he doesn’t hold back: he shoots from the hip and says things that most of us (or at least I) would be afraid to say. This particular gift of his shines through throughout the book. More

Recent Reads: One More Thing

One More Thing

B.J. Novak is a brilliant sort of triple threat: he’s an accomplished actor, a published writer, and he’s devastatingly attractive. It’s infuriating. But, having recently read his first book, One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories, I must stand humbly in the long shadow of his literary prowess.

Who knew that beneath his boyish good looks, the temp from The Office was hiding an enviable way with words? I honestly haven’t read anything quite this good in a long time. Novak’s writing style is equal parts eloquent, witty, inventive, and incisive—in short, everything an aspiring writer like myself hopes to be. More

Recent Reads: Fear of Flying

Somehow, despite the fact that I was an English major, and that I’m female, and that I’m obsessed with mid-century American literature, I’d never heard of Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying until recently. Published in 1973 (so, yes, a few years beyond my preferred mid-century time-frame), the book is a seminal work of feminist fiction that encapsulated the dramatic shift in women’s attitudes toward sex, sexuality, and their role in society.

I will admit that the book caught my attention because of its ingeniously sexy cover. I mean, come on, how clever and tantalizingly subversive is this?

Fear of Flying

It also doesn’t hurt that Henry Miller’s is among the reviews featured on the back. More

Recent Reads: The Girl You Left Behind

The Girl You Left BehindI’ll be the first to admit that I’m a bit of a book snob. Probably quite not as snobbish as some of my English major compatriots—I haven’t read and will likely never read Infinite Jest, not even for the street cred—but I do have a great disdain for:

  • Anything about vampires written in the past 10 years
  • Anything by Dan Brown, Nicholas Sparks, or James Patterson (he doesn’t even write his own books!)
  • Anything with “-oholic” in the title (I’m referring only to terms such as “chocoholic” and “shopoholic”—I’d very much be interested in a book with a title such as, say, Confessions of Jazz Age Alcoholic in Denial: A Boozy Portrait of Zelda Fitzgerald)
  • Anything with a pink or overly girlish cover (I’ll grant an exception for Mindy Kaling’s irresistible Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, because she’s perfect and amazing and adorable)

Essentially, I tend to shy away from books that are outrageously popular (the books of which you can usually find pocket-sized versions at the airport), and, specifically, I steer clear of chick lit. But I recently chanced upon a British author who falls into the chick lit category (though just barely, I would argue) and with whom I am utterly in love. Her name? Jojo Moyes. More

Recent Reads: Other Voices, Other Rooms

Other Voices, Other RoomsThe first book of Truman Capote’s that I read was not, as you might suspect, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but rather In Cold Blood, a groundbreaking work of literary nonfiction and arguably Capote’s finest effort. I loved it so much that, in a failed bid to secure admission to a Ph.D. program at one of the Holy Trinity Ivies, I once even wrote a lengthy scholarly paper on the book.

I’ve since read Breakfast at Tiffany’s (like any girl worth her salt, the movie is one of my favorites, but the book is very different—not necessarily better than the movie, but more like a different story altogether) and the several short stories contained therein (“A Christmas Memory” is possibly the best short story I’ve ever read). Next up was Other Voices, Other Rooms, which had been sitting on my nightstand for several months after I received it as a gift, and I finally got around to reading it last month. More

Recent Reads: Loving Frank

Loving FrankOne of my favorite literary sub-genres is biographical fiction. Such books are rooted in fact, but the author brings the details to life and fills in the blanks with his or her imagination. The Paris Wife, which tells the story of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife Hadley, is one of my favorites, and I recently picked up (and can’t wait to dig into) The Aviator’s Wife and Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald. I’m realizing as I’m writing this that the common thread among these titles is that they focus on the women behind certain illustrious men and give them a long-overdue and much-deserved moment in the spotlight. I can’t help but wonder what a psychoanalyst would have to say about that . . .

But anyway.

Loving Frank falls into this category as well. Written by Nancy Horan, it recounts the bittersweet tale of Mamah Borthwick Cheney and Frank Lloyd Wright. The star-crossed lovers had a scandalous affair that shocked Chicago society back in the early 1900s. They ended up leaving their respective spouses for each other and, though they enjoyed a brief season of happiness, everything eventually ended in tragedy. More