Les livres de 2013: round 1.

On days when I want to get out of the house but don't want to buy something, I head to the library. (You'd be surprised how often a good excuse for leaving the house is "we need more XYZ!" and it makes me feel like a giant consumer...) The selection of books I've been reading lately has been pretty diverse as a result; since I'm not shelling out for anything, I put books on hold at a whim.

As with other times in my life, reading is a solid escape for me, transporting me from the given moment to another time, place and situation. I can read while nursing, before bed, in the subway while the baby sleeps in his stroller, at the coffee shop... it's my one constant hobby in a completely new world of parenthood.

So here's how I've started the year:

1. Paris: A Love Story by Kati Marton
I wanted to read this book because I thought it would be a memoir about Richard Holbrooke's widow (and therefore I'd learn something about Holbrooke and current events in the process). Instead I learned a lot about Holbrooke's widow and her relationship with Paris. I recognized the phenomenon of having a relationship with Paris that spans many years and it made me pretty nostalgic for Europe, living abroad and travel. I'm not sure this was the best book to read at the moment... it made me think a lot about how I'm pretty pinned down in Brooklyn lately.

That said, my favorite parts of the book were the glimpses of other well-known people through Marton's eyes. Peter Jennings (her ex-husband), Hilary Clinton (a good friend and colleague of Holbrooke) and more...

2. The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis
Great. GREAT. So worth reading... the story of a woman and her family in the years after the Great Migration. (Side note: isn't it funny how some fiction books make you interested in periods of history? I'm now kind of obsessed with the Great Migration.)

The writing was beautiful, the characters were memorable and I can't wait to read this again.

3. Open Heart by Elie Wiesel
This is a tiny little memoir about Wiesel's open heart surgery and I wish it had been more medical than religious. He paints the scene when some routine tests reveal a serious issue that can only be fixed by heart surgery. He contemplates what it might be like to die on the operating table after living through so much, including the Holocaust.

But can I say something? The Jewish history and religious references are HEAVY. I can't think of a specific example but I left this book feeling like a cloud of gloom had hovered over a little book that describes a dark humanity and a dark and guilt-obsessed god.

4. January First by Michael Schofield
I'd seen this family on Oprah a few years ago and they stayed with me. Their daughter, January, was diagnosed with Schizophrenia at 5 or 6 years old. This memoir, written by January's father, describes the journey to her diagnosis. And while part of me was worried I'd project some of this onto Noah in a weird way, I didn't. Instead I gave him extra smooches, relieved that the little guy is healthy and doing great so far.

The book isn't going to win any awards for writing but the situation is so compelling that it was a fascinating glimpse into this family's struggle.

5. This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz
I read Oscar Wao a few years back and remember liking it well enough. I wasn't Pulitzer Prize bowled over, though. This book, on the other hand, disproved that original impression. The dude can write the hellllllll out of a sentence.

I'll risk sharing a spoiler here but only because I wish I'd known before I was halfway through the book. This is a collection of short stories that are all about the same people. I wish I'd realized it faster so I could track Yunior and his story a little more attentively... as it is, I may want to read it again sometime. I think it would hold up really well in a closer reread.

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