What are you reading?

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I had one of the funnest afternoons of my life with Amy Rigby, author of the plucky and audacious Girl to City: A Memoir, back in about 1992, when she was in a indie-country trio called The Shams, and I was writing about rock music and working at Sassy. We met at South by Southwest—this is back when it was just a feisty little music festival—but I was already a fan of her band, and I got to spend time with them and we bonded instantly. The day after SXSW ended, I needed to get to Houston to see my grandmother, and they were headed there for a gig, so they offered me a ride, and it was just one of those epic, cinematic afternoons that you remember always, full of detours involving Mexican food, a massive flea market, and lots of music. Later on, Amy left the Shams and embarked on a solo career (do yourself a favor and listen to this some time) and she’s still at it, touring a lot and also playing upstate, where she lives with her husband. Amy also has a very witty and engaging blog, which is where I first heard about this book, which I realize I am realllly taking a long time to get to, but which you will love. Amy writes with such satisfying detail about arriving in Manhattan for art school in 1976, and zeroing in on the city’s nascent punk scene in no time, hanging out at CBGB and co-founding punk venue Tier 3.  It’s really cool to read about that scene from a female perspective, and Amy’s is so spot-on: funny, honest, and wise.  It’s also a really poignant look at the sacrifice involved in living the life of an artist. I read most books on my phone these days, but a hard copy of this one was sent to me, and I’m so glad: it’s one I want sitting on my bookshelf.

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77 Thoughts on What are you reading?
    Anniki
    8 Oct 2019
    8:56am

    Just finished Stay and Fight by madeline ffitch a couple of weeks ago and have already passed it on to two friends who also loved it. Really strong characters and a lovely story.

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      Susanna
      8 Oct 2019
      1:34pm

      I just read that and really liked it too!

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    Jamie
    8 Oct 2019
    8:58am

    I just got The Butterfly Girl by Rene Denfeld yesterday. It’s the sequel to The Child Finder, which was the very best book I read in 2018 (and I read it in January, and read over 80 books that year). I cannot wait to dive into The Butterfly Girl. Denfeld’s topics are rough (about child abduction, or child homelessness), but her writing is so elegant and lovely.

    I also am reading Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell, which is the sequel to Carry On, which is the companion novel to Fangirl. All are great.

    Also, I’m listening to Michelle Obama’s Becoming, which I listen to off and on (when it comes back to my account on my library app); I have a copy of the book, but really am dedicated to listening to her voice tell her story. I miss these people so much.

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      Kim
      8 Oct 2019
      9:13am

      Love Rainbow Rowell! Putting that one on my library hold list.

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      Jan W
      8 Oct 2019
      3:53pm

      I loved Fangirl and Carry On! If you can believe it, Carry On is even better as an audio book. I did not love Wayward Son as much; maybe the next one?

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    Carrie
    9 Oct 2019
    9:58pm

    I’m reading Anthropology of an American Girl by Hilary Thayer Hamann and My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier. I highly recommend both of them 🙂

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    Louise
    9 Oct 2019
    9:35am

    I just finished Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I really enjoyed it and it served as a much needed distraction from the increasingly horrifying 24 hour news cycle. I also recommend The Huntress, Kate Quinn’s follow-up to the Alice Network. I found the beginning a bit annoying but was drawn in by the historical accounts of Russian women who were trained as pilots and flew bombers during WWII.
    Thanks for a great post!

    1

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    Emily M.
    9 Oct 2019
    9:12am

    Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust. The relatively new translation by Lydia Davis. It’s not easy, but if you take your time and work through it carefully, it’s amazing.

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    Kimbersam
    9 Oct 2019
    11:07am

    Kim, When should we make room in our reading lists for your memoir?

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    Sue
    8 Oct 2019
    8:01am

    The late 70s music scene is perfectly depicted in Daisy Jones and the Six. Loved, loved, loved this novel!

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      Carrie
      9 Oct 2019
      10:00pm

      I blew through that book on summer vacation and really enjoyed it!

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    c.w.
    8 Oct 2019
    8:08am

    (i always love these posts because i always find something {or many things} I want to read!) The Atlas of Reds and Blues by Devi S. Laskar. Brilliant take on the immigration story. And on my nightstand in the waiting to be read pile is Inland by Tea OBreht.

    7

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    Jill
    8 Oct 2019
    8:42am

    I just finished the third Caitlyn Doughty book and highly recommend all three: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, From Here to Eternity, and Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? She pulls back the curtain on the North American death industry (first book), does a deep dive into death customs and traditions around the world (second book), and answers all kinds of wild questions from kids about death and dying (third book). All are fascinating and informative.
    I also have to strongly recommend The Moment of Lift by Melinda French Gates. You will be appalled and uplifted at the same time.

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    Jozie
    9 Oct 2019
    7:07pm

    As someone stuck on the couch with an injury… reading has been a welcome deterrent to the crazy going on in the world right now. Privileged to read: The New Garconne by Batliwalla, The Testaments by Atwood, Inside Out by Demi Moore, It Seemed Important at the Time by Gloria Vanderbilt, America’s First Daughter by Dray & Kamoie, The Gifted School by Holsinger… and others. I would recommend all of these books. Some are better than others, but I don’t regret reading any of them.

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    Karla Silverman
    10 Oct 2019
    9:25pm

    Rebecca Makkai’s The Great Believers. The best book I’ve read this year. My second favorite book: Alexander Chee’s How to Write and Autobiographical Novel. If you haven’t read both of these book got them now. They are amazing and inspiring and heart breaking.

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    Suju
    11 Oct 2019
    10:36am

    Currently reading Jia Tolentino’s “Trick Mirror.” Great writer whose take on our current moment is spot on.

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    Eloise
    8 Oct 2019
    9:14am

    Love when you do this! I just finished – and highly recommend – The Testaments, the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, and am reading Hamilton, which I just saw in Philly and am seeing in NYC at the end of the month. If you can get past the first 100 or so pages, it’s bery good. (And, I must have cut history class a ton!!)

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      Heather
      8 Oct 2019
      9:22am

      I just finished Testaments also. I had the feeling that Margaret Atwood was like, “well, there’s a new crop of fans and some money to be made,” and she cranked it out in a week (note this is not a criticism of Margaret Atwood — good on her; I am sure as in other industries, women writers are grossly underpaid). But it was an enjoyable conclusion that didn’t just replicate the TV series.

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    Caroline
    8 Oct 2019
    9:15am

    Aww..!

    I will definitely read girl to city!
    Amy lived across the street from me in Williamsburg in the late 80’s
    It was such a small scene in the neighborhood back then and you kinda knew most people . She’s was lovely.
    I have a particularly fond memory of sitting with her on a dirty sofa at a neighbors apt discussing/ complaining about men. Lol! Oh,to be a kid again!

    Anyway, I just read Normal People by Sally Rooney. Young love set mostly in 1980’s Ireland. I really liked it!

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    Heather
    8 Oct 2019
    9:20am

    The guide to the Wonderland Trail. I’ll be applying for a permit in March/April and, if I get said permit, will be hiking the trail in August (93 miles circumnavigating Mt Ranier).

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      Jan W
      8 Oct 2019
      3:48pm

      A friend of mine just returned from biking that trail. Says it was gorgeous, worthwhile, and hard!

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    Gemma
    8 Oct 2019
    9:29am

    I just had my heart ripped out of my chest (in the best possible way) by Rebecca Makkai’s The Great Believers.

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      Melolexx
      9 Oct 2019
      9:19am

      Agree, it was so good.

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      Jan W
      11 Oct 2019
      9:50pm

      Me too

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      Michele
      8 Oct 2019
      9:19pm

      Oh! This one was already on my to-read list. 🙂

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    Kim
    8 Oct 2019
    9:38am

    Have been slowly working my way through White Fragility – not an easy read but good for me. Looking forward to hearing the author speak this month! On a lighter note, making my way through Gideon the Ninth, a kind-of crazy sci-fi (“lesbian necromancers explore a haunted gothic palace in space! decadent nobles vie to serve the deathless emperor! skeletons!”) that is a lot of fun. Getting ready to read Night Road for a book club.

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    Paulette
    8 Oct 2019
    9:51am

    I’m slowly making my way through Debbie Harry’s new memoir, Face It.

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    Kimbersam
    8 Oct 2019
    9:52am

    Bunny, Mona Awao–Magical realism about an MFA program and a coven, LOVED! Augusten Burroughs new one, Toil and Trouble–honestly it could easily lose 100 pages. A Gentleman in Moscow, had to really work to finish it. Ugh. My Friend Anna–Conwoman story, like it–fast read. Over the Top, Jonathan Van Ness (love him)–I wanted to like this, but it was a lot, needed a better editor.

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    Zoe Arcidiacono
    8 Oct 2019
    10:10am

    I am so reading this! I loved your every so slightly meandering story. I’m looking forward to more like it in your memoir.

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    Jen
    8 Oct 2019
    10:36am

    Cixin Liu’s Three-Body Problem Trilogy is the best thing I have read in forever. Also, Kelefa Sanneh has a pretty devastating takedown of White Fragility in The New Yorker, FWIW. Excited to read the Amy Rigby book.

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      Michele
      8 Oct 2019
      4:45pm

      You know, I tried reading the first book of the Three Body Problem trilogy. I loved the writing and the story but about 2/3 through I started to think that the ending was going to be so dark that I just couldn’t finish. I think it’s the political time that we’re in … there’s only so dark I can go before I just …. can’t. But, maybe I’ll try again.

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        Jen
        9 Oct 2019
        8:48am

        Actually, though there is darkness, there is also light, and it doesn’t feel like a dark read, somehow. The second book is even better than the first, and the third is mind-blowingly great.

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    Margrethe Montgomery
    8 Oct 2019
    10:58am

    I’ve been reading and enjoying the Expanse series. They are very lengthy but great science fiction with interesting ideas and characters. The TV show is good too!

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    Antsy
    8 Oct 2019
    11:15am

    I’m rereading Middlemarch, which is not necessarily hip but is a comfort book for me. But I’m so glad you posted this, as I saw Amy Rigby in concert maybe 15 yrs ago and didn’t realize she had such a dynamic, punk rock past. I will definitely read this.

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      Mouse
      9 Oct 2019
      8:16am

      I reread Middlemarch too; it’s a touchstone book. It is so much about what it is to be just human. A fun corollary is My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead.

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    Sara
    8 Oct 2019
    11:24am

    The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary. It’s the best kind of romance – witty, smart, & funny as hell, with a passel of great characters.

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      Papersitter
      8 Oct 2019
      1:14pm

      This book is delightful and all I could think was “Richard Curtis needs to get this made into a film immediately”

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    Jax
    8 Oct 2019
    11:24am

    I remember Amy Rigby! Thanks for sharing her book and blog!

    I’m still finishing (reading sporadically) Taffy Broder-Akner’s Fleischman’s in Trouble. Love the arch and biting inside view of upper middle class Manhattan life from a divorced and dating-again Dad’s pov.

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      Jax
      8 Oct 2019
      11:29am

      Oh one reason for the sporadic book reading — also trying to keep up with my growing stack of magazines and online reading as well!
      Speaking of magazines, I highly recommend the UK Gentlewoman bi-annual helmed by Penny Martin. Not cheap but so worth it. Feminism and high-end fashion through a thoughtful and classic lens. Margaret Atwood is the current cover. They’ve featured Simone Biles, Agnes Varda, Phoebe Philo, Cindy Sherman, Beyonce among many other icons.
      https://thegentlewoman.co.uk/

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        D.Morgendorffer
        8 Oct 2019
        12:17pm

        I didn’t know Margaret Atwood is the current cover. I treat myself to Gentlewoman when I think the particular articles will interest me. So, thank you for mentioning this. I like the offbeat personality found in it, including homages to grey underwear and Dove soap. Plus, I like the durable covers.

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      Jax
      8 Oct 2019
      7:21pm

      Realized I butchered Taffy’s name while typing on iPhone — Taffy Brodesser-Akner (well-known for that infamous, excellent NYT Gwyneth Paltrow interview and other great articles, including a personal take on the 80s show, thirty-something).
      https://www.nytimes.com/by/taffy-brodesser-akner

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    LisaC
    8 Oct 2019
    11:29am

    I just finished Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottleib (released a few months ago). Really enjoyed it. Before that it was Whisper Network by Chandler Baker. Easy to read but predictable.

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    D.Morgendorffer
    8 Oct 2019
    11:37am

    What a great story! It made me think how so many adventures in your youth involve someone needing a ride. Right now I am leisurely reading some Joan Didion essays, a couple pages each night of Japanese poetry in translation before I go to sleep, From the Country of Eight Islands, and The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4. I thought a family member might enjoy Adrian Mole as a Christmas present, but I had never read it myself so I got myself a copy. I’m glad I did: an extremely funny feminist novel so far. On a book-related note, can anyone recommend some sort of lap book holder thing for reading enormous art books? I treated myself and received as gifts some art books that I look forward to reading, but they are so huge that they become really awkward when I try reading them for an extended amount of time. So, if anyone has any recommendations regarding that, thank you so much!

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      Mae
      8 Oct 2019
      2:48pm

      I just use a pillow!

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    Joannawnyc
    8 Oct 2019
    11:42am

    I enjoyed Mary H.K. Choi’s YA Emergency Contact a lot, the follow-up Permanent Record not so much. I also read Seanan McGuire’s new book Middlegame, which is kind of an evolution if you’ve read/kind of liked her other stuff. On my current to-read list are Austerity by Mark Blyth, Homo Aestheticus by Ellen Dissanayake, The Deeper the Water the Uglier the Fish by Katya Apekina, French Exit by Patrick DeWitt and Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Machado. Mostly I find new books by reading about them online, opening another tab for my local library system, signing into my account and placing a hold, which is why the list is pretty eclectic. Current holds I’m still awaiting: A Family Lexicon and Family Sayings by Natalia Ginzberg, Severance by Ling Ma, How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell, The Topeka School by Ben Lerner, just added Bunny by Mona Awad.

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      Carrie
      9 Oct 2019
      10:05pm

      French Exit was such a delightful read! Can’t wait to see the movie 🎥

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        rita
        10 Oct 2019
        9:48pm

        I have to say, I just read French Exit and it is probably my least favorite book I’ve read this year. But as I tell my kids frequently, what a boring world it would be if we all liked the same things! 🙂

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      Kimbersam
      8 Oct 2019
      7:02pm

      Loved Severance!

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    Joyce Acosta
    8 Oct 2019
    12:06pm

    Reading Year of the Monkey by Patti Smith

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    Judes
    8 Oct 2019
    12:25pm

    I just went back to school to get my MSW and my mid-fifties brain is having trouble enough keeping up with all that reading, but I ordered the Rigby book, because she’s fantastic. Also going to buy Poly Styrene’s daughter’s book, Dayglo.

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      rachel in berkeley
      8 Oct 2019
      1:29pm

      Brava on the new (life) chapter!

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        D.Morgendorffer
        9 Oct 2019
        10:58am

        Various members of my family have returned to school at various ages and stages. So, congratulations from my whole family! I wanted to say, don’t worry, you’ll manage to swim in the flood of assigned reading. If anything, returning students often are more advanced in metacognition, and as a result, have a better sense of what works for them in terms of reading and study. I’m sure you’re going to be brilliant. Meanwhile, I now have to look up Poly Styrene’s daughter’s book…

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          Judes
          9 Oct 2019
          10:08pm

          Thank you! Right now it’s just kind of ego-crushing, but hopefully I’ll get the hang of it at some point. Viv Albertine’s first book was pretty fun—I haven’t read her second, but if you like elder punk ladies, I recommend.

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            D.Morgendorffer
            10 Oct 2019
            10:04am

            Thank you! I remember seeing the title and liking the rhythm of it and wondered if I’d like the text as well. I have noticed in myself a recent veering towards punk: I wonder if it has to do with a realization that compliance can be a problematic approach for women and being an “elder punk lad(y)” can be a wise work-around.

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    Shannon Thornton
    8 Oct 2019
    12:30pm

    Just this morning ordered “I Used To Be Charming” – New York Review of Books’ collection of some of Eve Babitz’s essays. I CAN’T WAIT. In the middle of The Testaments. So good.

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    rachel in berkeley
    8 Oct 2019
    1:28pm

    Just finished and really enjoyed The Last Book Party by Karen Dukess. I love an engaging novel set in the 1980s. My middle-of-the-night-can’t-sleep-will-read-a-kindle-book-i’ve-read-many-times-before-and-hope-I-go-back-to-sleep is Deborah Harkness’s All Souls Trilogy. I’m waiting on a bunch of books on hold request at my local library including Circe and City of Girls and, thanks to this thread, have added a few new requests! #idratherbereading

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      Holly
      8 Oct 2019
      2:21pm

      You probably already know this, but there is a Sky One adaptation of the All Souls Trilogy (Part 2 comes out later this year/early next) with Matthew Goode as Matthew. It is available on AMC and SO GOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Adaptations of beloved books can often disappoint, but I loved this.

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        Jax
        8 Oct 2019
        7:15pm

        Love Matthew Goode!!!

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      Michele
      8 Oct 2019
      4:48pm

      Looooved the All Souls Trilogy. I have a weakness for historical fiction, and this was just so much fun!

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        rachel in berkeley
        9 Oct 2019
        1:49pm

        Have you read any of Sandra Gulland’s historical fiction? You might enjoy it — Josephine B. trilogy and a pair about the Sun Court.

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    EW
    8 Oct 2019
    1:54pm

    Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami. I just love his stories.
    Today I head Liz Phair speaking on The 1A (NPR, local station WAMU!!) She has a book out that I’m thinking of checking out. Always loved LP

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    Cindy Kamm
    8 Oct 2019
    2:10pm

    Just finished Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb (excellent). Saw Rachel Maddow last night on her book tour and will be diving into Blowout.

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    Jan
    8 Oct 2019
    2:45pm

    Unbecoming, by Rebecca Scherm — quick, enjoyable read!

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    Susanna
    8 Oct 2019
    4:14pm

    Currently reading Loudermilk (Lucy Ives), a hilarious takedown of MFA programs, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop specifically. If you like academic satires, you’ll like that and also Dear Committee Members and The Shakespeare Requirement by Julie Schumacher, both of which I also recently read. Also recent: Stay and Fight (referenced by Anniki above), Lisa Halliday’s Asymmetry, and Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends.

    Oh, and I love Amy Rigby! Saw her several times in NYC in the mid to late 90s.

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    Suju
    8 Oct 2019
    4:25pm

    Reading “What You Have Heard is True” by poet Carolyn Forche. A remarkable (so far) memoir about what happens when a man from El Salvador shows up on her doorstep, tells her all about the death squads, etc. in his country and the US’s complicity in it, and her decision to turn her life upside down and join him in going to El Salvador to learn all about it in person.

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    Elisa
    8 Oct 2019
    4:44pm

    I just finished Washington Black, by Canadian writer Esi Edugyan. About a young boy who is a slave in Barbados and his journey. Really good. And I am reading Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson. I read Another Brooklyn and I think she’s a beautiful writer.

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      Jamie
      12 Oct 2019
      12:42am

      I have both on my very very precarious TBR pile(s)…..

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    Michele
    8 Oct 2019
    4:57pm

    I love the books posts. I always get so many good adds to my reading list 🙂 I’m reading the final book in NK Jemisin’s Broken Earth series, The Stone Sky. She’s a fabulous world builder and story teller. I’ve got her How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? lined up on my to-read pile. I’m also reading Slow Horses by Mick Herron. It’s my subway reading, and a decently serviceable spy who-done-it.

    My serious with-a-cuppa-tea reading this month is very serious, and very good: American Prison: A Reporter’s Undercover Journey Into the Business of Punishment. Well written, and well researched, and chilling.

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    LauraBorealis
    8 Oct 2019
    7:57pm

    I read Know My Name by Chanel Miller. The book is beautiful and powerful and an unflinching view into the experience of a sexual violence survivor catapulted into the U.S. criminal justice system. She is a gifted writer and a heroic voice for many.

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    Francine
    8 Oct 2019
    8:15pm

    I read Bad Blood (Elizabeth Holmes/Theranos book) and loved it. Finished The Goldfinch and hated it (golly, it was depressing).

    I have three books on my nightstand right now, (The Alice Network, Red at the Bone, All the Light We Cannot See) but cannot do more than an US Weekly these days. I blame Trump for my raw nerves.

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      Candy
      9 Oct 2019
      10:57am

      Francine— Also thought Bad Blood was great. Of your nightstand books, I’d recommend All the Light We Cannot See for its well and beautifully told story.

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      Betsy Palmer
      9 Oct 2019
      2:03pm

      Did you think the last 150 pages of the Goldfinch were unnecessary? I skimmed the last 25% of the book. Hope the movie has better editing.

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    Mamavalveeta03
    8 Oct 2019
    8:15pm

    I’m reading a book that I won from a lit review site. It’s called The Blue Period by Luke Jerod Kummer. All I can say is, you get what you pay for.

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    M
    9 Oct 2019
    12:42am

    I’m loving (and learning so much important information from) So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo. It’s FAQ’s for sheepish white people. Read it tonight – better late than never!

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      Dana D
      9 Oct 2019
      9:28am

      That book is very good. Also, White Rage and White Fragility. White Rage is the book featured in Chelsea Handler’s new documentary. I’m currently reading How to be An Antiracist by Ibram Kendi and am learning a lot.

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    Jools
    13 Oct 2019
    1:43pm

    I loved The Salt Path by Raynor Winn. A true story of a couple in their early fifties who lose everything (their home, their livelihood and the husband faces a terminal illness) all in one week. They find their future and more walking and wild camping on the south west coast of Britain.
    It’s an adventure, a love story and a thought provoking look at homelessness.
    Also loved Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime.

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    Liz
    14 Oct 2019
    11:04am

    I’m reading What’s the Matter With Kansas?, which was written during the George W. years and is now a fascinating explanation as to how we got to Trump.

    It’s also frightening, because after years of voting for Republicans who ran on culture war issues only to abandon them in favor of corporate tax cuts and economic policies that hurt their voters, Republicans finally have Trump, who is actually accomplishing those culture war promises and has the benefit of a strong economy. I think that explains his cult-like following, regardless of his monstrous personality. I was feeling pretty confident he’d be defeated in 2020, but reading this is making me question that.

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Kim France

I was born in Houston, Texas in 1964 and have lived in New York City since 1988. I had a long career in magazines, working at Sassy, Elle, New York, and Spin, and in 2000, I founded Lucky magazine, which I edited for ten years.

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