In The Midst of Winter - Isabel Allende

 

I have always been a fan of Allende's work and love the way she intertwines character stories and history. As it is winter in NYC, this book is especially timely for me with its snowy Brooklyn setting!

 

Past Reads:

My Life on the Road - Gloria Steinem

For Women's History Month I selected to read a variety of female authored books, starting with Gloria Steinem's famous memoir of childhood and travels. I spent most of the time I was reading this underlying quotes or thoughts I found particularly relevant. I appreciated her years of learning, insight on parts of the U.S. I've never visited and perspective on what it means to be a feminist. 

I Am Not Your Negro - James Baldwin

I watched this documentary in New York City, a late night showing on the rooftop of the Yotel, and then picked up the novel accompaniment afterward so I could read the words myself. Based on the incomplete by James Baldwin, Remember this House, the novel pieces together interviews and written works by James to pull together a profile of Medgar Evans, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. An important and highly relevant look into the civil rights movement and the struggling identity of the United States. 

Daring to Drive - Manal al-Sharif

A glimpse into modern day Saudi Arabia and the customs that govern public society. The memoir focuses on Manal's life and the pivotal moment in which she decides to get behind the wheel of a car as a woman and drive through town. I enjoyed how her story brought you through each phase of her childhood, sometimes exceptionally intimately, allowing you to understand how Manal went from a moderate Muslim to a high-schooler with extreme believes and then to a woman who defied Saudi custom with the consequence of jail. 

Swing Time - Zadie Smith

I've heard a lot of wonderful things about this novel and wish it hadn't taken me so long to pick it up. Its a storyline that follows two girls from childhood to adulthood and the complex psychological relationship they had. It also skims the surface on foreign aide in Africa, an interesting thread in the narative that I enjoyed having been an international relations major. 

The Defining Decade - Dr. Meg Jay   

All twentysomethings search for meaning in what seems to be an abyss of uncertainty; where is my next job, next apartment, next relationship? Am I doing anything right? Using a mix of personal anecdotes from her time on the couch and studies on human psychology and biology, Dr. Jay outlines and breaks down many of the questions twentysomethings have as they begin 'adulting'. Worth reading for some perspective on time and accomplishments!

The Swans of Fifth Avenue - Melanie Benjamin

As a lover of Breakfast at Tiffany's, or rather Audrey Hepburn, I picked up this book to learn a bit more about Truman Capote. What I found was enticing and disturbing. A story told around the rise and ultimate social demise Capote, the novel highlights life in New York City in the age of golden money and grandeur. 

A Gentleman in Moscow - Amor Towles

I learned more about the nuances of Russian politics during the early 1900s from this book than I ever did in school. Though as a reader you never leave the luxurious Hotel Metropol, you live a full life through the eyes of a very interesting Alexander Rostov. I enjoyed Towles' Rules of Civility when I read it a few years back, but may be loved this story even more!

Maybe in Another Life - Taylor Jenkins Reid

Everyone wonders what would have happened had they made a different decision at any point in their life, this novel lays it out. A women faces a decision that plays out very differently on both sides of the coin. As a reader you follow both realities and in the end, can't quite tell which you were rooting for. 

The Swiss Affair - Emylia Hall

As I prepared to leave Europe, I am picked up this novel based in Lausanne, Switzerland. The story follows a student, Hadley Dunn, who is studying abroad on the shores of Lake Geneva with a close friend. When tragedy strikes, Hadley searches for answers in the beautiful city of Lausanne. I loved reading a book so close to my Swiss home of Geneva, it proved to be a quick and delightful read. 

The Circle - Dave Eggers

Wow. A must-read for anyone in this digital age, aka everyone. The plot totally sucked me in from the start and I found it hard to put down; I would often look up from reading and find I felt as if I was in the book. The story covers important topics such as privacy, valuable human connection and technological development through the storyline of a women who works for a large, powerful internet company. I HIGHLY recommend this novel!

Girls on Fire - Robin Wasserman

Shocking. That is my one-word analysis of this book and what I thought as I turned the last pages. It is a story of two best friends in a small Pennsylvania town as the discover who they are and what it means to be friends. The book is dark and a bit twisted, you feel badly for the characters as they experience things beyond their control, only to then be frustrated by their personal choices. A well-written and captivating novel.

The Heart Goes Last - Margaret Atwood

I've read several Margaret Atwood novels and always enjoyed them, The Heart Goes Last was no exception. Focused on the idea of utopian society and its faults, Atwood contemplates love, desire and sacrifice. The plot follows a couple who turn to a gated society in economic desperation and begin to live a life of relative luxury inside a gated community. After several months the cracks in the community begin to show and the couple finds themselves in the middle of a large espionage ring. 

The Time-Keeper - Mitch Albom

I read this book on the bus from Skopje to Sofia, thankfully there wasn't too much to see scenery wise because I never looked up from reading. The storyline is a contemplation on time and its value, particularly our gratitude and appreciation for the life we currently live. The story follows the creator of time, a young teenage girl, and a dying older man as they experience life and make decisions about the time they have. 

The Bones of Paris - Laurie R. King

Equal parts Disturbing and enthralling, this mystery novel based in Paris was a fast read for me since I couldn't put it down. A man is hired to find a missing American girl in Paris only to find himself in the middle of a large surrealist art scene and conspiracy theory. I recommend this novel for those who love Paris, 1920s art, and a bit of a thrill.

Lean In - Sheryl Sandberg

This is one of the best, must-read 'feminist' novels to have come out recently. It is a deeply personal and motivational reflection on women in the work place and the overall gender gap in American society. As a young woman in my twenties, I found much of what Sheryl said to be helpful and reassuring as I begin to think about starting a more permanent career. 

The Heart and the Fist - Eric Greitens

A non-fiction book about one man's journey with humanitarian organizations and his training and time as a Navy SEAL. It was an interesting and enlightening read that I truly enjoyed. I recommend this to anyone who desires some perspective on humanitarian efforts and military life. It's an inspiring story!

The Bone Clocks - David Mitchel

A deeply engrossing and occasionally confusing novel about time, fate, and relationships. The story follows fifteen-year-old Holly Sykes as she runs away to the English countryside. She is prone to psychic phenomena and meets interesting individuals throughout the course of her life. It took me a long time to get through this novel as I had to weave together many threads of time and location, but its a great read overall.

Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen

My second Sara Gruen novel in a month, what can I say, I'm a fan! Although the novel originally came out when I was in high school, i had somehow put off reading it until now. After being fully consumed by the work, I wish I had picked it up sooner. The novel follows Jacob Jankowski and his time in a circus as a vet. It focuses on love, human darkness and friendship and is wonderfully written.

The Little Paris Bookshop - Nina George

A Little Paris Bookshop follows one man on his journey to heal following the loss of his one love. He is a literary apothecary and sells books to others that will heal their misfortune. One day he sets forth on his book barge with an unexpected guest and heads to the South of France in search of what he has lost. A lovely read with many quotable phrases you will want to underline!

The Clasp - Sloane Crosby

A modern-day novel set simultaneously in NYC, LA, Florida and France, the plot follows college friends as they reconnect. The story revolves around a missing necklace and the story it tells from WWII. It was a quick read, but engaging and I would recommend for the beach! 

The Lowland - Jhumpa Lahiri

A wonderful, yet heartbreaking, story of two brothers and their relationship with each other in a changing India. Based in Calcutta, this novel is about two brothers, Subhash and Udayan, and life after a tragic incident. This was a great change of pace from books I had been reading recently and I absolutely loved this read. Though sad at times theres is always hope and happiness in the everyday lives of the characters. Definitely recommended!

At Waters Edge - Sara Gruen

Written by the same author as Water for Elephants (a book on my to-read list currently), this novel takes place in Scotland near the Loch. The arch of the story follows a wealthy couple and their friend from Philadelphia to Scotland during WWII to find the infamous Loch Ness monster. The story also follows the lives of local villagers and the couple's marriage as it begins to fray. A quick read, but a good one!

Euphoria - Lily King

The story of three anthropologists in New Guinea around WWII and how their lives come together. The characters are studying remote tribes in order to better understand the cultures and how they have developed. The novel is thoughtful and well-written, causing you to think about yourself and the culture around you. It is also a contemplation on relationships and how individuals interact with one another on a daily basis. 

1Q84 - Haruki Murakami

This is one of the first books I have stopped reading in a while. Although beautifully written, the content covered very dark concepts and themes without letting up. Unfortunately, I had to put the book down. I may decide to come back later!

Go Set a Watchman - Harper Lee

The story of a small town in Alabama discussing changing race relations in the second half of the 20th century. The main character, Jean Louise Finch, is visiting family from New York City. She begins to question the world as she knows it and the relationships she revered growing up based on the conversations she hears in the small town. Having read To Kill a Mockingbird when I was much younger, I had unfortunately forgotten much of the storyline for the novel; making Go Set a Watchman a new adventure. I thoroughly enjoyed the work and have been inspired to add her original novel to my re-read list. 

Let the Great World Spin - Colum McCann

Wonderful intertwining narratives of New Yorkers centering around the great tight-rope walking feet in 1974. The plot focuses on various individuals in New York City, the lives they lead and how they cope with love and loss. The book is not always light, but the questions implied by the darker moments inspire self-reflection and critical thought. Overall, a very engaging read.