What I’m Reading What I’m Reading Reading Highlights of 2020 so far 2020 has afforded a lot more reading time than I expected! I’ve read a ton during quarantine - but these books are the ones that stuck in my head and my heart. FICTION The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi - This book deserves the bandwagon surrounding it - Alka Joshi has written vivid characters that we get to follow through a layered, engagingly complex plot. She weaves details of Indian culture and Ayurvedic medicine beautifully through the whole narrative. I devoured every page! Exit West by Mohsin Hamid - Exit West came out in 2017, but to read it at the outset of the pandemic was mind-blowing. The book took my head and turned it forcibly toward a new perspective that’s as radical as it is hopeful. I’ve loved his books - this one has been my anchor as I prepare myself to face whatever future is on the way. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead - I read 2016’s The Underground Railroad just a couple of weeks before George Floyd’s horrific murder. The book was gut-wrenching, cinematic and enormously imaginative. Zone One made me a Colson Whitehead fan, The Underground Railroad made me an acolyte and powerfully deepened my education. Nickel Boys is up next! Normal People by Sally Rooney - Sure, everyone loves the series on Hulu, but Sally Rooney’s book is well worth the read - it’s a finely wrought portrait of two complex and delicate people and the ways they come together and apart. It’s a masterful character study. City of Thieves by David Benioff - Some of the storytellers and creators I respect the most cite this as one of their favorite books. I bought it and ignored it until one afternoon in lockdown when I read it in one sitting. Because this book has everything. It’s a story about the dark caverns of civilizations in chaos and the resilience of humans. It’s bracing inspiration for where we are right now. NON-FICTION Citizen by Claudia Rankine - I bought this book in 2015. I didn’t read it until June, 2020. The miracle of Citizen is that Claudia Rankine drops you deeply and precisely into what it feels like to be a black person living in America. The vignettes are spare but potent. The message is vital. I am very grateful for this book. I’ve pre-ordered her September release - Just Us. Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino. Tolentino’s essay “Losing Religion and Finding Ecstasy in Houston” in The New Yorker was so deft and beautiful that I instantly bought her essay collection. She is a sharp, comprehensive thinker - another voice that’s essential as we stumble through the rubble in our culture on our way to building something better. In the Dreamhouse by Carmen Maria Machado - Reading this book felt like watching a writer balanced on a tightrope spinning plates, doing backflips and also reading Proust aloud to us. Every page I turned elicited another eyebrow raise of admiration for her swashbuckling ambition to recreate memoir as we know it. Wedding Toasts I'll Never Give by Ada Calhoun - I love reading something that’s fiercely intelligent and laugh out loud funny. Ada Calhoun’s perspective on marriage is exactly what we need right now. Why We Can’t Sleep is in my on deck circle! Untamed by Glennon Doyle Melton - Any woman who encourages wildness, purpose, joy, resilience and fierce bad-assery in other women is someone I relish reading! Reading Highlights of 2019 Check my Goodreads page for the latest on what I'm loving! FICTION All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr - I love reading a novel that succeeds at taking on both massive themes and a traditional setting (WWII) while remaining quietly and intimately beautiful. Zeroville by Steve Erickson - Donald Barthelme taught me to love authors who flout form, it was my parents who taught me to love movies. I stayed up way past my bedtime to read this crazy high wire act of a novel that is all about loving the movies! The Dutch House by Ann Patchett - Not only do we get to follow characters through generations, but we get to contemplate an unmistakable point of view about women and gender roles at the same time. It was delicious. Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik - A tour de force novelization of a fascinating woman’s life - a rebellious, brilliant Iranian poetess. Picked it up and didn’t put it down until I finished it. Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman - Purely and utterly delicious, provocative. The first story knocked me out and then the ride got better. And better. Even taking 20 minutes to sneak in one of these stories between meetings reset my brain and transformed my day. Such a pleasure to spend time in the company of a master. NON-FICTION Where the Past Begins by Amy Tan - There’s so much for a writer to learn about how to anchor a non-fiction story in this book. Amy Tan unwraps layers of history and meaning with each memory she holds in her hands. A Mind Unraveled by Kurt Eichenwald - A great reporter blends his memories, interviews with the people around him and documents. Writing this powerful book took as much courage and determination as living this life. Without a Map by Meredith Hall - This was one of those books that knocked me out, not just because it’s gorgeously written, but because she pulled me so deeply into her heart, her mind and her experience of the world. I’m still thinking about it... Know my Name by Chanel Miller - Chanel Miller gave us a huge gift when she pursued her assault case and wrote her remarkable victim impact statement. This book is another exceptional gift. Her tenacity and generosity is world-changing. I’m in awe. Hard to Love: Essays and Confessions by Briallen Hopper - How can I not love a writer who merges literary and movie criticism with theology and meditations on every type of love? I Wrote This Book Because I Love You: Essays by Tim Kreider - Vivid. Hilarious. And underneath it all, pure and beautiful. I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O’Farrell - a ravishing exploration of what it means to be in a body, in a world, told with such specificity and grace. A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle - I read this jewel of a book when it came out 30 years ago, and again this May. Reading it as a writer was a revelation - his sublime details about food and the landscape, his ear for dialogue, the way he brings his characters to life. Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness by Ingrid Fetell Lee - just reading this book makes me giggle, and every chapter helps me notice all of the things that bring me joy and relish them even more! My Life as a Goddess by Guy Branum - delightfully funny and deeply affecting essays/memoir from a writer whose voice is so vivid it feels like he’s in the room! The Messy Middle by Scott Belsky - A great look at what really happens as companies try to grow. And he spends so much time talking about much communication matters - exactly!! Reading highlights of 2018 FICTION To be Sung Underwater by Tom McNeal - big limpid tears plopped from my eyes onto the hotel room pillowcase when I read the end of this beautiful novel! The Power by Naomi Alderman - devoured on one plane ride. Love a fully realized new world. The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert - deliciously complex and satisfying! Circe by Madeline Miller - spellbinding, moving, fascinating - all the adjectives. Really. A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin - read this nearly 20 years ago, but fell into it again this year and was carried away. NON-FICTION Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed - breathtaking writing, but it’s Cheryl’s clear eyed, unstinting way of seeing real life that was so moving. Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker - who knew? Not me. Gorgeous. The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer - bracing, inspiring, cheerful, hilarious. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight - a roller-coaster ride, in a good way. The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp - remarkable. Felt dumb that I’d never heard of this book until this year, but so glad to have it now. The Artist’s Journey by Steven Pressfield - he doesn’t know it, but Steven Pressfield is my shaman. The Hard Thing about Hard Things by Ben Horowitz - I read this book for my other life as a communications coach for technology leaders, but it’s here precisely because it’s nothing like your average business book. It is a tour de force of candor and insight.