The Twenties Club’s Winter Reading List ’19
A list of all the books you might enjoy reading this winter. It’s a mix of the ones I’ve already devoured, those I’ve got lined up next, and a few recommendations from the cutest bookworms I know (my girlfriends Millie, Paige, Georgia and Harriet).
If you’re anything like me and were completely enthralled by the bizarre, turtle-neck-wearing, con woman Elizabeth Holmes, then you need to read Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup – the untold story of the rise and collapse of her multi-billion-dollar startup, Theranos. I kept seeing this book pop up on the Instagram Story’s of various celebrities who all claimed it was the most addictive book they had ever read.
Everything I Never Told You follows a Chinese-American family living in Ohio in the 1970s. Lydia is the favourite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfil the dreams they were unable to pursue – until Lydia’s body is found in the local lake. My friend Millie said she loves Ng’s ability to create multi-dimensional characters and explore gender issues as well as more nuanced experiences like what it means to be in a mixed-race family, “Everything I Never Told You reveals how the container of “family” doesn’t always translate into intimacy and closeness.”
I loved Rudy Francisco’s debut collection of poetry, Helium, so much that I wrote a review about it. Rudy is redefining poetry for an entirely new generation of readers – us.
On Paige’s must-read list this winter is Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and The Drug Company That Addicted America. This book is particularly timely given America’s twenty-plus-year opioid crisis that shows no signs of ending. Macy takes readers into the epicentre of the problem and shows how it has impacted everyone from distressed small communities in Central Appalachia to picture-perfect wealthy suburbs.
Also on Paige’s must-read list is Donna Tartt’s 2014 Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Goldfinch. It’s a fictional story about 13-year-old New Yorker, Theo, who miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother, is then abandoned by his father and taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. He is tormented by how much he misses his mother, and down the years clings to the thing that most reminds him of her: a painting that ultimately draws him into the criminal underworld of art theft. The movie trailer for the film-adaptation just dropped and it looks incredible.
My friend Georgia would not stop raving about this book, “The Moment of Lift is about the the critical importance of gender in global development. This book is a call to empathy and inclusion and women owning their power – an absolute must-read.” Georgia said Gates is particularly convincing in her argument that providing education to girls around the world is the single greatest tool we have for breaking the cycle of inequality, as well as interesting discussions around faith (Gates had to stand against her own church when she campaigned for women’s rights to family planning), the problem with American billionaires going into under-developed countries, and why humans claiming their own power will lead to gigantic global change (she uses the example of the Global AIDS crisis and how when sex workers in India took advantage of the medicine being offered to them they were able to stymie the impending escalation of the crisis).
Shrill provocatively dissects what it means to become “self-aware” the hard way; to go from wanting to be silent and invisible to earning a living defending the silenced. Lindy West spent her entire childhood being painfully shy, trying to hide her big body and bigger opinions. So she now dedicates her adult life to being vulnerable, articulate and funny, and waging public wars with any stand-up comedian who makes jokes about rape.
Acclaimed essayist Mary Laura Philpott has been described as, “The modern-day reincarnation of your favorite female authors—Nora Ephron, Erma Bombeck, Jean Kerr, and Laurie Colwin.” I Miss You When I Blink is a collection of personal essays about what happened when Philpott checked off every box on her life’s to-do list (job, spouse, house, baby…) and yet instead of feeling content and successful, she felt anxious. Lost. Stuck. Her essays tackle the conflicting pressures of modern adulthood – which basically makes Philpott’s book a TTC must-read.
This famous memoir, which featured on TTC’s Summer Reading List last year, takes readers on Westbrook’s journey from growing up in a “survivalist” family in Idaho (no formal education, doctors, hospital visits, or connection to modern society), to teaching herself mathematics and grammar in order to be admitted to Brigham Young University and go on to study at Cambridge and Harvard. Millie said, “I was totally immersed in Educated, my heart was racing and I cried a few times. It was so different to my own reality which made it both shocking and inspiring.”
When The Silent Patient was released earlier this year, it had already broken publishing records (it was sold to 43 territories globally – the most for any thriller pre-publication in history), but Harriet still warns that this book is a psychological thriller so it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, “The book is about a well-known artist, Alicia, who appears to be in a happy marriage until one day she shoots her husband and then becomes completely silent for years following the murder. A forensic psychologist becomes obsessed with the case and makes it his mission to get Alicia to speak, which leads to a few unexpected twists…”. I went online after reading Harriet’s review and found out that Brad Pitt’s production company, Plan B, have already bought the film rights.
This is another one of Harriet’s recommendations that was so successful it’s already in talks to be made into a feature film (this time with Reese Witherspoon signed on as a producer). Where The Crawdads Sing is a coming-of-age-meets-possible-murder story about Kya Clark, dubbed the “Marsh Girl” by the rest of her small town in North Carolina, who is accused of murdering the handsome Chase Andrews. But Kya isn’t the one the locals should fear… Harriet said, “This was so well written and I loved it.”
The Collected Schizophrenias is a collection of personal essays written by Esmé Weijun Wang, offering an unparalleled insight into what it feels like to live with schizoaffective disorder. The essays are extremely intimate and moving; ranging from the limitations of diagnosis, how Wang used fashion as a means to present as high-functioning, to the depths of a rare form of psychosis. Vogue said, “Is there a more daring act for a writer than to expose their own mental illness?”.
The trouble with reading a book that has been lauded in so much praise is that you go into it with such high expectations. I recently finished Ordinary People, and I loved it – but not for the reasons I thought I would. The book is about two couples living in South London in 2008, just after Barack Obama has been elected, who are at turning points in their respective marriages and no matter which direction they choose they will be making life-changing sacrifices. Evans winded me with her ability to write about the monotonous, familiar colours of long-term relationships, grief, sex, and adulthood, but in sentences that sounded like Joni Mitchell lyrics. There is no big “moment” in this story, which is why you won’t even realise you’ve fallen in love with it until the very last page.
Another book I’m dying to read which was long-listed for the Women’s Prize this year and described as, “A heartbreaking and genuinely suspenseful love story in which nobody’s wrong and everybody’s wounded.” Newlyweds, Celestial and Roy, are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South, who’s lives are torn apart when Roy is wrongly convicted of a crime and sentenced to twelve years in prison. As Roy’s time in prison passes, Celestial is unable to hold onto the love that has been their centre and takes comfort in Andre – Roy’s best man at their wedding. I can’t wait to curl up with An American Marriage in the coming months.