faves of fall

Okay, I want to make a book post. (Blame the Brooklyn Book Festival. Jenny Zhang signed my copy of Sour Heart and I am still high.)

These are my favorite recent reads. They seem to have nothing in common, but really, they're all about abusers. (Maybe I'm subconsciously trying to figure out what to do about our whole political situation? Funny how these things come up.)

Anyway, here are three mini-reviews of three books that I should have read much sooner.

Edinburgh by Alexander Chee
When you find a mooring in history, it can save you. It can show you that the things you've felt have been felt throughout history, that your pain is not unique. You belong to a fraternity of misery. (That might make some people feel shitty. I find it bolstering.) Art surfaces those stories so we can find the anchor in them. That's what Edinburgh does, through Korean folklore, medieval Scottish history and Italian opera. And if the incredible span of history and geography it covers isn't enough for you, it also happens to be beautifully written.

Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn
I'm getting to that age where I know why people do some of the unsavory things they do, and I try to have a generous outlook. Here Comes the Sun accomplishes the feat of showing the tragedy beneath the tragedy — the fallout of imperialism, the generational poverty, systemic racism and misogyny that can tear a family apart at the seams, despite their best efforts to stop it. It does it all so well, the reader feels the inevitability of Margot's ruin even as they hope against it.

Personal Days by Ed Park
So fucking delicious. The Jilliad? Grime? Come on. I fell so hard for this ensemble of characters. I saw myself in every one of them. I saw you in them, too. I saw every disgruntled office worker in America. Reading it made me a more empathetic person. I recognized my own fears and doubts and claustrophobic flailing. Anyone who's worked in an office will identify with the uncanny quality of the stories in this book. If you've ever felt like your life was just one big arbitrarily humiliating conspiracy, you'll love the ending. (Maybe "love" is not the word. You'll feel a kinship.)