“Strange, I thought, as I jumped a sheet of water at the curb, how a few hours could change everything – or rather, how strange to find that the present contained such a bright shard of the living past, damaged and eroded but not destroyed.”
~ Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch
Read: during my semester abroad, and it was one of the most incredible books. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that I was in Europe that made parts of it so relevant and special. Artwork and history and culture were intertwined with my daily life while there, in a way that I sometimes still cannot believe I was lucky enough to have experienced. This book is a gift. An artwork in itself. I want to pick it up a few years down the road, and see how the meanings of certain lines have changed for me, and how some have stayed the same. I’d like to grow old with this book.
“But how can you not like music? That’s the same as not liking food! Or sex!”
~ David Nicholls, Us
Read: while in Italy during our first travel break, and it was perfect for the time that I was there. Following a man’s travels through Europe in search of his family, but really to find himself, was engaging and revealing. It spoke a lot to regret and to making amends, to not being afraid to start over, no matter how much you perceive that it is “too late.” And I loved David Nicholls’ beautiful descriptions of the various cities in Europe. Dusty rose. Dimensions of bricks and paving stones. And a long soliloquy on the history of art. It’s a good book to curl up with, on a train, going somewhere new.
“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”
~ Jack Kerouac, On the Road
Read: while taking Organic Chemistry in Boulder, CO over the summer (not the smartest choice, to start this book while in class. All I wanted to do all summer long was sit outside, with this book in hand, dreaming of long road trips).
Came to Mind: The sense of wanderlust and the ache of having no home. Never satisfied completely with what one has. A true feeling of loneliness despite being surrounded by people.
I think that On the Road tackles the feeling that many of us have on social media: that people are doing better things, cooler things, having an amazing time with the best friend group in exciting places. And if you’re not there doing that very same thing, there’s an emptiness that occurs, and you seek to fill with anything, something, ends-up-being-distracting tangent that is the evil of the scroll button. And I miss just those days when people would talk to each other on the subway, or look across the table to the person at the other end, where we didn’t have to go on adventures just to post about them, where a visit from a friend didn’t warrant a video or selfie or a picture really of any sort except for the one that you took, just the two of you, for you later to paste on the wall of your new apartment room, to remember that time you couldn’t stop laughing. The days when it didn’t look strange if you just sat and looked out the window at all the rushing moments around you, when waiting for a friend or an appointment or just to think for a time.
I’m guilty of it too. FOMO. And the increased presence of technology in my life. The more accounts I make, the more distraction I invite into my life, and the more time perhaps that I take away from those around me. But what if those around me are just as distracted? Should I rid myself of the distraction to embrace a quality of loneliness? But is loneliness, or the feeling of emptiness, the only outcome if I should rid myself of distractions? Could I still pour enough into relationships without needing to have social media? I think so. But I need to work on it: be more unplugged, and become more communicative. And to listen, to really listen to people.
“’All these lives,’ she said. ‘All the stories we never know.’”
~ Elizabeth Strout, Olive Kitteridge
Read: in the summer, after my Organic Chemistry class had ended (a good move). This was a book I couldn’t put down: for the writing, for the imagery, for the character of Olive Kitteredge. It made me realize how little we truly know about the people around us – that if we never ask, we will never truly know.
“‘Do you think it would be fun—” Fiona shouted. “Do you think it would be fun if we got married?’
He took her up on it, he shouted yes. He wanted never to be away from her. She had the spark of life.”
~ Alice Munro, “The Bear Came Over the Mountain”
Read: partially in a Starbucks in Nashville, when I was supposed to be writing my lab report, and finished during Winter Break. A short story with such beautifully written simple lines, I had to keep opening up my notebook to jot down this sentence or that one. The ending, for me, was ambiguous, though perhaps rightfully so, as the topics covered in the story edged the every-grey area – never clearly a situation of black or white, completely wrong or absolutely right. I’d love to read more of this author in 2016, to get a better sense of her writing style.
“‘But I remember you,’ he smiles. ‘I remember you waking up. You sleeping. You getting the hiccups at the movie theater.’
She can’t talk.
‘But it makes me sad, he concludes. ‘You make me sad a bit. I still love you, but we’re not going to start anything.’
Her eyes well up. Quietly, she says, ‘Thank you.’ She wipes her nose.
‘When I’m old and bent and sitting in a chair, you come and hold my hand. All right? That’s your job, okay?’
He takes her hand and kisses it. ‘No,’ he says. ‘When you’re old and bent, I’ll be gone. I’ll hold it now. Later, you’ll have to remember.’”
~ Tom Rachman, The Imperfectionists
Read: in the month of November, on rainy Friday afternoons, and then finished on the plane going home for Thanksgiving Break. All I can say is that this book is now one of my very favourites and probably will be for a long time. I read the chapter that contained the above quote sitting on the plane next to this sweet, unsuspecting lady, and promptly proceeded to cry so many tears. Crying on various forms of transportation has become one of my specialties this past year. Mainly, it’s thanks to books like this one.
“You see if you tell yourself the same tale over and over again enough times then the tellings become separate stories and you will generally fool yourself into thinking and forgetting you only started with one solitary season out of your life.”
~ Kaye Gibbons, Ellen Foster
Read: in the first week of Winter Break, during breaks between Christmas Eve Services I was playing for. It had me laughing and tearing up and wishing Ellen Foster could narrate parts of my own life. Her perspective on living is infectious, dear, and inspiring.
“She had been adept at the beginning and the end of things, and now she saw that whatever pleasures life had to offer lay in the middle. She could find some peace there.”
~ Robert Goolrick, A Reliable Wife
Read: in the months of September and October, when the leaves were starting to change outside, and we had weeks and weeks of steel, grey sky. It fit the mood perfectly, and never failed to put me in a mood as well. Somber, but not dreary, sad, but not fully tragic. Slightly gothic, definitely dark, with rays of the most beautifully written lines that shone truth to the heart of the matter: that people yearn for love and for companionship, but the road to finding it is hard-worn, weary, and often obstacle laden.
The entirety of Rupi Kaur’s book Milk and Honey, but most especially, this poem:
most importantly love
like it’s the only thing you know how
at the end of the day all this
where you’re sitting
nothing even matters
except love and human connection
who you loved
and how deeply you loved them
how you touched the people around you
and how much you gave them
Read: the whole book on Christmas Day – I couldn’t put it down (it was my present <3). She can say so very much with so very little. This book was needed, is needed – read it.
On My List For 2016:
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles – Haruki Murakami
Attached – Amir Levine
Brooklyn – Colm Toibin
All The Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr
The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman
Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage: Stories – Alice Munro
The Rise & Fall of Great Powers – Tom Rachman