Sunday Shorts: Father’s Day

Father’s day can be a complicated day for people so sometimes it’s easier to leave the personal and find solace in books. Below I compiled a few books that either touch upon the idea of fathers and fatherhood, or delves deep into the father-daughter / father-son relationship. Sometimes words are easier than relationships and here are a few that seem to get it right, flaws and all.

The Night of the Gun.jpgThe Night of the Gun by David Carr

David Carr meant a lot of things to a lot of people. For some, he was a recovered drug addict and cancer survivor. For others, he was the well-known, well-respected New York Times columnist. For still others, he transcended all of this. Carr was intelligent, blunt, skeptical, and honest. His memoir, published in 2008, is an excavation of past transgressions, the memories lost of drugs and alcohol, and the blooming of his unstoppable love for his daughters. The Night of the Gun is tough to read at points (Carr shamefully admits to hitting his fair share of women) and he is not excused from his mistakes (which were often taken out onto others). However, it is an honest, frank portrayal of flawed fatherhood. Sometimes you don’t want syrupy tributes, you want the truth.

Fun Home.jpgFun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Allison Bechdel

Allison Bechdel’s graphic memoir outlines the tenuous, distant relationship with her father. For her entire life, her father – the town funeral director and high-school English teacher – had also been a closeted homosexual. Shortly after Bechdel discovered this, her father died and left her with so many unanswered questions about the man who had always been an enigma. The book, which is littered with literary allusions, explores gender roles, sexual orientation, and the way our parents inform our lives even as they remain mysteries to us. Fun Home is smart and upsetting and deeply personal. There’s an unflinching honesty that makes me want to look away, but asks that I don’t. So I don’t.

All the LightAll The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

I have a feeling not many people would classify Doerr’s Pultizer Prize-winning novel as a novel about fathers because it’s not. It’s a book about war and hate and fear and love and hopelessness and justice and healing and fathers. It’s about all of those things. Fathers who create worlds for their children; fathers who are absent; fathers who are dead; fathers who disappear; fathers who return; men who become fathers in times of war. Simultaneously set in Germany and Nazi-occupied France, the novel shows us all the ways fathers can illuminate our lives but especially in times of darkness.

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What would you recommend for father’s day themed books? What’s your favorite father’s-centric book? Have you read any of the above?


Sunday Shorts (on Saturday)- Love & Romance

handwritingIn honor of holiday, I’ve decided to post a special edition of my feature, Sunday Shorts, where I compile a short list of Editor’s picks within a specific genre or topic.

And just because Valentine’s Day is almost over doesn’t mean you have to stop reading books about love, and couples, and couples falling in (and out) (and in) (and out) of love. Here’s a few of my picks for the best novels about love:

Americanah1. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I just finished this book last week and it has already become on the best novels I’ve ever read. Blisteringly intelligent, funny, insightful, and culturally-relevant, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of the best writers writing today.

The story follows Ifemelu and Obinze, young lovers from Nigeria, who torn apart by war and circumstance and the post-9/11 world. Ifemelu finds academic success in America and Obinze finds himself living as an undocumented worker in London, but neither finds happiness. The novel follows their attempt to navigate back to themselves, to their homeland, and to each other.

To simply call this book a love story would be the gravest of literary injustices. It is a cultural critique and a love story and a book about race, and it is all of these things in the most wonderfully unapologetic way. All of these things along with the beautiful prose will leave you breathless.

2. Blankets by Craig ThompsonBlankets

A graphic novel about the beauty and brokenness of first love. A partial meditation on childhood, religion, the beauty and power of winter, and falling in love with the idea of someone instead of the real. It is an honest portrayal of one of the most devastating moments of growing up–falling in love with someone who cannot love you with the sameness in which you love them.

Thompson’s illustrations and writing are equally beautifuly–able to evoke feeling from his chiaroscuro drawings and from his poetic musings. It’s a book worth reading especially during a sleepy snowstorm.

Landline 3. Landline by Rainbow Rowell

I listened to this audiobook (fitting for the theme of the book) in December and I really enjoyed it. The premise: Georgie and Neal have been married for 14 years, a marriage that had been in trouble for far longer than Georgie is willing to admit. When she chooses her career (her big break) over Christmas with her family, it seems as if Georgie has leveled everything they had built together. Enter in a magic yellow landline phone, a phone that allows 37-year-old Georgie to talk to 22-year-old Neal–back when their relationship was shiny and sparkling and new.

While the pacing isn’t perfect, the story of Neal and Georgie’s second chance feels imperfectly perfect. The magic phone plot device doesn’t feel as importance as the ruminations on the strange, awkwardness of young love and the familiarity and friction of aging love. It was a quick, but satisfying read about love and marriage and the ways to mend the splintering of long-term relationships. Landline definitely kept me on the hook.

Lover's Dictionary4. The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan

I read this book almost two years ago while on a post-graduation vacation with my family and best friend–just a month after beginning a new relationship with my current boyfriend. David Levithan’s experimental prose-poem novel gutted me. The simplicity of the language; the premise; the wavy-timeline of love–it all left me reeling.

Each word in the dictionary is accompanied by a definition aka an anecdote from the “Lover’s” relationship. It follows the highs and lows of being deeply in love, of being one half of a whole, of something coming to an end, of trying to put that end into words. The vignettes are beautiful and heart-wrenching and easily devoured. A perfect book to break your heart, put it back to together, and shatter it again just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Sunday Shorts: Page to Screen

On Sundays, I’ll compile a short list of Editor’s picks within a specific genre or topic. 

Gone Girl1. Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
Release Date: October 3

Perhaps the most anticipated book-to-screen release of the year, Gillian Flynn’s mystery thriller is sure to keep everyone on their toes. If the movie is as wonderful as the teaser posters and trailers have been, I really do think audiences will be in for a treat (book fans especially so). One thing I think will make the movie truly great? The deplorable characters. Never have I hated the protagonists of a book more than I hated the protagonists of Gone Girl. They were vain, awful, murderous, and horrifyingly (verging on) sub-human, which is exactly why I think they’ll translate well to film (we love to hate after all). The filmmakers have changed the ending (thank god), but I’m nervous for the huge twist that comes in the middle of the novel. I can’t wait to see how they sustain the narrative for the second half of the film. Regardless of reviews, I’m bound to see Gone Girl opening weekend.

2. The Giver, Lois LowrThe Givery
Release Date: August 15

Unfortunately for fans of the book, The Giver (which was released in US theaters on Friday) has gotten less-than-stellar reviews. Like all adaptations, it’s often hard to capture the beauty of books — especially one as renowned and beloved as Lowry’s dystopian masterpiece. The book is nuanced and quietly meditates on real issues, such as totalitarianism, idealism, and good vs. evil. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like huge fans of the book will enjoy the film, but it’s nice to see such an important book from my childhood be put forth into the world again (albeit a different medium).

Wild3. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail, Cheryl Strayed
Release Date: December 5

Cheryl Strayed’s insanely popular memoir starring Reese Witherspoon is set to hit the big screen at the end of the year. Following the death of her mother, the 22-year-old writer was lost and craving anything that seemed like “direction.” So she left behind a broken marriage and an estranged family to set forth on the biggest journey of her life — hiking the Pacific Coast Trail…alone. Her tale is one of heartbreak and loss and struggle (physically and mentally). Strayed writes with such honesty and poise that you can forgive her stupidity (she had zero hiking experience) because can feel her heart mending itself. I’m sure the movie will be wild as well.

 4. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Judith Viorst
Release Date: October 10

Despite being a 23-year-old college graduate with a full time job and a serious relationship, there are still days where I sympathize with Alexander on a soul level. If you have never read Judith Viorst’s classic children’s book, I suggest you do so immediately. It’s light, funny, and a little bit sassy, which of course is why I love it. The film won’t be illustrated — the live-action movie stars Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner. While the movie looks a little over-the-top, I may see it just for the simple fact of catching up with my good, old (young?) friend Alexander.

this is where I leave you

5. This Is Where I Leave You, Jonathon Tropper
Release Date: September 19

Confession: I have not read Jonathon Tropper’s novel (yet), but it has been on my “to-read” list for far too long. The book surrounds Judd Foxman and his family who reunite for the first time in years while sitting shiva for their father. So why am I so excited for a film adaptation of a book I’ve never read? First, I’m a sucker for dysfunctional family stories. Second, the film features Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, and Adam Driver. Third, Jonathan Tropper wrote the screenplay, which hopefully means the movie will retain the humor and raw emotion the book was praised for.

So, dear That Worn Book Smell reader, this is where I leave you.