Reads, Ranked: The Final Five

Welcome to the second half of my Top Ten Books list! The position of these books lower on my list means nothing; I did not rank the reads in order of preference. However, the second half does seem to feature more non-fiction than yesterday’s installment, also unintentional, but worth nothing. Let’s get started:

1. The Opposite of Loneliness 

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Many of my nearest and dearest from college spent high school at Buckingham, Browne & Nichols in Cambridge, Massachusetts. As it happens, so did Marina Keegan, the author of this incredible collection of stories. The work was published posthumously, as Keegan died tragically in a car accident just a few days following her graduation from Yale. As an English major at Yale, in the introduction to this book one of Keegan’s former professors writes of her obsessive and constant desire to improve her work. This anthology is proof that her painstaking perfectionism paid off; it’s a mixture of non-fiction and fiction short stories, all of which are poignant, wonderful, and deeply relatable [for teens & twenty-somethings] in a manner that authors from previous generations cannot affect. Keegan truly embodied the zeitgest and doubtless would’ve been, in Lena Dunham-as-Hannah Horvath’s words, “the voice of her generation.” Though I loved the entirety of the collection, two of the works struck particular chords with me; first, the titular essay, which I have included in the quotes section below in addition to providing a full link here, and, second, Cold Pastoral, an essay in which a girl discovers the diary of her boyfriend following his death and finds he never let go of his first love. The book is haunting given Keegan’s proclamations on the importance of enjoying youth and allusions to the brevity of life, but ultimately comforting in the notion that this tremendous talent lived her short life to the fullest.

Favorite Quotes:

We’re so young. We’re twenty-two years old. We have so much time. There’s this sentiment I sometimes sense, creeping in our collective conscious as we lie alone after a party, or pack up our books when we give in and go out – that it is somehow too late. That others are somehow ahead. More accomplished, more specialized. More on the path to somehow saving the world, somehow creating or inventing or improving. That it’s too late now to BEGIN a beginning and we must settle for continuance, for commencement – The Opposite of Loneliness

We were in the stage where we couldn’t make serious eye contact for fear of implying we were too invested. We used euphemisms like “I miss you” and “I like you” and smiled every time our noses got too close…A lot of time was spent being consciously romantic: making sushi, walking places, waiting too long before responding to texts. – Cold Pastoral

2. The Year of Magical Thinking 

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Joan Didion’s memoirs are depressing. Her life is a study in surviving adversity; her husband and only daughter died within two years of each other. This book is focused on the year following the death of her husband, John, during which her daughter, Quintana, is very sick and frequently in and out of the hospital. Though the book is heavy, the prose is signature Didion, as in breathtaking. It’s a great introduction to her work and will have you running to the bookstore to stock up on her stories the moment you finish.

Favorite Quote: 

The way I write is who I am, or have become, yet this is a case in which I wish I had instead of words and their rhythms a cutting room, equipped with an Avid, a digital editing system on which I could touch a key and collapse the sequence of time, show you simultaneously all the frames of memory that come to me now, let you pick the takes, the marginally different expressions, the variant readings of the same lines. This is a case in which I need more than words to find the meaning. This is a case in which I need whatever it is I think or believe to be penetrable, if only for myself

3. Look At Me 

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Though most would likely choose A Visit from the Goon Squad (loved, for the record) or The Invisible Circus (also loved) as their favorite Jennifer Egan book, I must say I found Look At Me a bit more fascinating. It was compulsively readable, with a premise that bordered on chick-lit (model gets severely disfigured in a car accident, needs to re-establish her identity) and taut prose that toughens it up.

Favorite Quote:

I lied a lot and with good reason: to protect the truth—safeguard it like wearing fake gems to keep the real ones from getting stolen or cheapened by overuse. I guarded what truths I possessed because information was not a thing—it was colorless odorless shapeless and therefore indestructible. There was no way to retrieve or void it no way to halt its proliferation.

4. The Glass Castle 

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I’ve already reviewed this book in my ‘Dysfunctional Families (book #4 on that list) Blog Post. If you’re just getting started with memoirs or are looking for a quick but moving airplane read, grab this and go. This appeared three times on the Top Ten Books list.

Note: Walls’ other books, Half Broke Horses and Silver Star, are just as good

5. A Moveable Feast 

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As I recently read [and subsequently added] this, I gave it the full review treatment. Find that here and tell me you’re not tempted to book a flight to Paris.

That’s all for now!

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