In my 2019 reading goals post, I said that one of the things that I wanted to commit to doing was writing more detailed thoughts on my favorite books I read each quarter. Why should we have to wait until the end of the year for me to write about my ultimate favorites? Here’s what I loved the most in Quarter One.
Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
I believe this was my second Taylor Jenkins Reid book (the first was The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo) and I’ve loved everything I’ve read by her, including another later on this list. This book is a story of Hannah, a woman who is faced with a simple choice: go home with her friend, or go out with a man she’s met just that night. The book takes the reader through both of those choices, showing what would happen in both scenarios. I loved how some things were just the same in her life and some things were so hugely different. I am learning to believe that there is no right choice in 99% of cases, just the best choice we make with the information we have. I can’t deny that as someone who dreams up great stories and pictures herself falling in love everywhere she goes, that I didn’t love the idea of seeing where two choices would take you. Would you meet the love of your life if you turned down the cheese aisle of the grocery story instead of the beans? Who’s to say. I enjoyed that Hannah turned out alright in both scenarios. One choice wasn’t a “do this and you’ll hate yourself” choice. Instead it made me feel like whatever options I choose, I’ll probably still be okay. I also loved that I couldn’t decide which of the scenarios I wanted Hannah to have really picked! Both were lovely.
One Day in December by Josie Silver
This is definitely the fluffiest book on this list. I loved the story and I flew right through it. Laurie spots the love of her life through a bus window one snowy December day, and then she spends the next year looking for him. She’s all but given up on finding him, until one day she meets him in the unlikeliest – and worst – of scenarios. I loved how purely London and how purely mid-twenties this felt, even as the story carries Laurie and her cast of friends and lovers through the next few years. She moves abroad, she loses touch with her best friend and then reconnects with her, and she falls in love with half a dozen different people along the way. Laurie felt like someone I’d like to be best friends with, if I had the opportunity, even in spite of her flaws (because who among us doesn’t have flaws). This felt like a realistic portrait of growing up, but with a heavy dose of romantic comedy.
Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Another TJR novel! This book got huge press both before and after its publication and I am here to tell you that its popularity is not unfounded. I enjoyed the experience of reading this book so much. I didn’t know until I picked it up and settled in to read that it was told in the form of an oral history. It took a few pages for me to get into it, but when I did, I was really into it. The book tells the story of Daisy Jones, a young singer living in Los Angeles, and how she meets and later joins a band called The Six. Together, the band reaches legendary status. But then they split at the height of their popularity, and no one really knows why. The mission of the interviewer is to figure out why. From a writing perspective, I had to wonder how much work it was to keep track of all thee pieces and who had said what and how to make it all flow together. From a reading perspective, it’s flawless, so I imagine the answer is that it took a lot of work. I found myself wishing that the band was real, because I wanted to listen to their music! Daisy gave me strong Stevie Nicks vibes, and I imagine that she was part of the inspiration for this story. This list is full of books I would reread, and this book is likely the first one I’d pick.
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
I loved this one so much that as I was finishing the library copy, I placed an order for my own copy, because I knew I’d want to read it again. This is a story told between two times, once in 1980s Chicago at the cusp of the AIDS crisis, and the other in 2015 Paris. It tells the story of Yale, a man who finds himself with a shrinking social circle and far too much time spent with friends in hospitals for him to count. His job in an art gallery causes him a lot of trouble, but far less trouble than the fact that his friends are all dying of AIDS. How does one find the perseverance to push through in that kind of situation? In 2015 Paris, Fiona, the sister of Yale’s friend, is looking for her estranged daughter and has hired a private investigator to help. I found myself much more interested in the Yale storyline, though I appreciate Fiona’s as well. Both of the stories have themes of loyalty and searching for your people, even when the odds are against you. This is a book I’ve recommended to many friends already.
A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza
Endless thank yous to Hannah Moerman, who claimed this as one of her favorite reads of 2017 and told me that I should give it a shot. This book starts off a bit slow and jumps around in time, but I quickly discovered that what followed was a thoughtful, emotional story about family and loyalty and figuring yourself out. It begins at the wedding of one of the three children of an Indian family living in America. The brother has left the family and returns for his sister’s wedding with his head hung in shame. The most confusing thing about this book is that it goes back and forth in time with no discernible structure: it’s easy to tell when the book is told in the past and when it’s told in the present, but the past segments are time jumps all over the place. I really loved how this book had characters I really identified with, like the older sister trying her absolute best to make her family proud and to keep her siblings in line. I loved learning more about Indian culture through this book. The parents have an arranged marriage, and they expect their children to follow suit. They expect their kids will follow Indian customs while benefiting from the good parts of America, but of course this isn’t how it works out. I’m definitely glad I read this one.