F train reading

Screen shot 2015-07-16 at 2.28.19 PMListen, no one enjoys their time on the F train. (If you do please contact me so I can nominate you for intense psychological analysis.) But this summer I have been so enthralled with the books I'm reading that my hour or so on the train each weekday has become a highlight. TL; DR: there are some amazing books out right now and I need to shout about them.

Here's what I've been reading and LOVING this summer:

Dietland by Sarai Walker: You guys. YOU GUYS. This is the feminist book I wish I'd written but don't you dare roll your eyes at that description. It's not a book centered on a moral issue; it's political but only in a deeply engaging, narrative way; and most of all it's inventive, witty, smart, and pretty damn genius. I've been talking about this title on Twitter so much that the author has joked about paying me but I'm the one who should be paying her because this book brought a type of hope to me that has been much needed.

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan: I haven't read the first book from this duo (the smart team behind Go Fug Yourselves) but Twitter couldn't stop raving about this one so here I am, in love with it. It's a sort-of re-imagining of Will and Kate, Duke and Duchess, but here's the kicker: I don't give a damn about the British royal family, despite my love for London. But I definitely give a damn about this book.

In the Unlikely Event and Summer Sisters by Judy Blume: You don't need me to recommend Judy to you, obviously, but her newest -- Unlikely Event -- was so immersive and reminded me how much I love her writing that upon finishing it I had to go re-read (for the 100th time) Summer Sisters, one of my favorites. Here, listen to NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour episode about it.

Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan: Have you ever read a book you thought was about one thing and ended up being about something else entirely? Maybe it's the cover image, but I thought this was a book about the sinking of the Titanic. Pro tip: it's not. It has a plot I haven't seen before in YA and, while I had some slight issues with some things, I still immensely enjoyed it.

Up next: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, which I'm hesitant to start because, from what I understand, it's an incredibly emotional book...and not necessarily positive emotions. So I'm mentally preparing myself to be upset. Also on deck: the new Beatriz Williams, Tiny Little Things, because I adore her writing.

So, because I seem to be on a book buying binge, feel free to leave your suggestions for what I should read in the comments.

On hard books

This is a serious post: how difficult should books be to read? I think back to my college days (English major here), where I was reading for hours a day -- Dosteovsky and Coleridge and Rich, Melville and Dillard and Chaucer in its original English. I would be tired, spent after some of those books. Rejuvenated, too; like I had just run a mental marathon.

There's a burst of rebellion I think many English majors succumb to post-graduation when we're suddenly free to read for fun in more ways than we could before. For me, that meant lots of chick lit and bestsellers; then I joined Scholastic and my pleasure reading became almost exclusively YA. And then I started writing YA for real, and studying the genre. And then I realized how many amazing books I was missing from other genres and started to make concerted efforts to expand. Now I think I have a nice balance of reading material, but still -- there are so many good books to read, and not enough time.


It is no secret I read a lot of children's books...and, well, some of them (considering I have a penchant for old series from the '80s) aren't always the best quality. I mean, that's a can of worms right there (because any book that gets a kid to fall in love with reading is a good book!). But the actual text of some of the stuff I've been re-reading is on the weak side. (I love it, but still.) And as a writer, lately I've been struggling with what I read for fun, and whether it's (perhaps negatively) influencing my writing.

I am a writer who is mostly inspired by other writers -- meaning, reading a fresh poem triggers something in me, or getting lost in a new book makes me rush to finish so I can get back to my own. I have read some ah-mazing books lately -- The Vanishers by Heidi Julavitz, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, The Year of the Gadfly by Jennifer Miller...but I've also just come back from vacation, and a few days of illness where I wanted my comfort books, so I've been reading some not-so-complicated books lately, too. (Like my beloved Baby-sitters Clubs.)

There's something to be said for making your brain hurt now and then. So I'm taking this list of the 10 Most Difficult Books from Publishers Weekly (some of which I've read -- but only some) and thinking: do I need a month of "hard" reading? Do we all? Should my reading be about challenging myself, or about comforting myself? What's my role as a reader -- what's my obligation to the world's best authors?

Where should I start?