Recommended Reading, May 2016

I've been spending most of my evening free time with a new man. He's been dead for four centuries, but what's that to stop a good love affair?

I'm determined to make it through Michel de Montaigne's Complete Essays this year, and I'm about halfway through.  Though it's taken me some four months to read these 600 pages, that's no reflection on the quality of the material (obviously).  I'm astonished and captivated by this French nobleman's ability to flay himself on the page.  He admits his lusts, his weaknesses, and his strengths.

What are we doing with our time, he argues, if not exploring ourselves first?  What can we know, if we don't know ourselves?  How can we understand what lays beyond our fingertips if we do not first come to terms with the limits of our grasp?

It's daunting stuff, even for a writer who spends a lot of time in her own head.  (Maybe particularly?  Do we writers doubt ourselves even more, for having explored those murky interior depths and gotten lost more often?)  So sometimes, it makes for slow reading.

But the point of this blog post is to recommend the other books I've been reading.  Here were some I loved:

The Tiger Queens by Stephanie Thornton.  This is a rich, nuanced book about some of the women surrounding Genghis Khan.  Totally transportive and convincing, plus heart-breaking.

The Sun and Other Stars by Brigid Pasulka.  You might think you're not interested in a soccer-obsessed town on the coast of Italy, but these charming characters will prove you utterly wrong.

Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 by Francine Prose.  The glamour and danger of pre-war and Nazi-occupied Paris will give you shivers in this beautiful novel by a true master.

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones.  Two half-sisters, one a secret daughter by a clandestine second marriage split this novel of love and yearning.  Just what does it mean to love, Jones asks, and how much will you sacrifice?