By Kelsey's Reads

She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement

Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey

$28.00 $25.20

The authors of this book are the journalists who broke the Harvey Weinstein story for the New York Times. The back 1/4 of the book covers the Kavanaugh nomination and Dr. Ford's testimony, which I wasn't initially expecting so heads up! The writing was a bit dry for my taste, as you might expect with journalism, but if you're interested in settlement cases for sexual assault and the seedy underbelly of Hollywood, this might be a good read!

Normal People

Sally Rooney

$17.00 $15.64

This novel is worth all the hype. I now worship Sally Rooney. In NORMAL PEOPLE, we follow Marianne and Connell, a high school/college couple who fall apart and back together over and over again in part because of how broken they both are. More than that, it's about the interiority of people, can you ever really know someone? The writing is spectacular, the structure was engaging. I couldn't put it down.

The Mothers

Brit Bennett

$16.00 $14.72

This novel focuses on the role of mothers in our lives--the good ones, the bad ones, the chosen ones, the reluctant ones--through the lens of three main characters in Oceanside, California. Without spoiling anything, I was hesitant to buy in to the idea that decisions we make as teenagers can essentially haunt us for the rest of our lives, even when they were the right decisions. But the theme of grief really resonated with me and the writing is extremely compelling!

Look How Happy I'm Making You: Stories

Polly Rosenwaike

$16.95 $15.59

LOOK HOW HAPPY I'M MAKING YOU is a collection of short stories all centering around "the baby years," as the back cover says. More specifically, it tells the stories of women who are pregnant, whether they'd like to be or not; women who aren't pregnant, but would like to be; and recently postpartum women as they navigate new motherhood and the overwhelming difficulty and beauty that is making another person with your body. The collection is cohesive, the prose is sharp, and I enjoyed the linked theme. CW: miscarriage, postpartum depression, and abortion.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem: Essays

Joan Didion

$15.00 $13.80

Make no mistake, Didion is a writer's writer. Throughout reading this collection, I found myself wishing that I was taking a class on this book so I could talk to others about it and, more importantly, so someone much smarter than me could contextualize most of it. Didion is certainly a writer of her time and many of her references were lost on me having not been alive in the 60s and 70s. I felt the same way when I read "The White Album" (the essay) and so maybe it was foolish to think I could just *dive* into this collection without a primer. I plan on revisiting this one in the future for a more well-informed rereading.

Little Fires Everywhere

Celeste Ng

$17.00 $15.64

I can't figure out for the life of me why I waited so long to read this one after all the critical and anecdotal acclaim it received in 2017 when it was first published BUT now that I've finally read it I can tell you it's just as good as everyone said it is. We follow the stories of two families--the Warrens and the Richardsons--who could not be more different from the other, which is what draws the children of these families together. Throughout the book they bring out the best and the worst in each other, secrets are revealed, and nothing will ever be the same. We explore themes of familial love, sacrifice, motherhood, and generally being imperfect. The plot is compelling and the character development is excellent. I'd recommend this to anyone in need of a fiction fix!

Weather

Jenny Offill

$23.95 $21.56

My first quarantine read and it is TIMELY! We follow Lizzie, a young wife and mother, once an aspiring graduate student, she never finished her degree and now works at the university library as a librarian. The back drop of this novel is the impending climate crisis which has led everyone, especially the wealthy, to some (light) doomsday prepping. Lizzie is also juggling her recovering addict brother and an overzealous mother, combined with her own feelings of impending doom. This novel is told in vignettes, so it is a pretty quick read, nor it is anchored in plot, if that's more your style. It's the kind of novel you sink into and get lost. Really recommend if you're a lover of literary fiction!

My Dark Vanessa

Kate Elizabeth Russell

$27.99 $25.19

CW: Sexual Assault, Grooming This novel is...tough. Our main character, Vanessa, tells the complicated tale of abuse at the hands of her high school English teacher, moving between the present narrative (2017) and the time the abuse mostly occurred (the early 2000s). I found it incredibly compelling as abusers are not always obviously abusive to their victims, and watching Vanessa untangle that painful truth was very raw and real for me. I'm also not sure I've ever encountered a novel that tackled this subject matter with such nuance. It is definitely not for everyone, though, as Russell leaves nothing to the imagination, so be wary!

My Year of Rest and Relaxation

Ottessa Moshfegh

$16.00 $14.72

We follow an unnamed narrator several years after her wealthy parents die within months of each other as she attempts to self-medicate by knocking herself unconscious with a mix of sedatives for an entire year. There are great moments of dark humor and I enjoyed the probing of the narrator's unique mind and her particular avoidance of grief, but overall, I didn't find it super compelling. Other reviews I've read have either *loved* it or *hated* it, with minimal in between. For those who hated it, it had something to do with the "unlikeable" narrator which I think is not a real reason to dislike a book.

Stray: A Memoir

Stephanie Danler

$25.95 $23.36

I'm working on writing a full review of this incredible memoir that I'm hoping to publish somewhere, but what you need to know is: Our present narrative takes place as Danler returns to the Los Angeles where she grew up after writing her novel, SWEETBITTER. We follow Danler navigating 3 relationships, past and present, with her addict parents and a man she was having an affair with, broken up into three sections-- Mother, Father, Monster. This memoir is incredibly moving and Danler's control of language is impressive and evident on every page. Danler writes about trauma and its effects, both elegantly and devastatingly. I can't recommend this book enough.

Untamed

Glennon Doyle

$28.00 $25.20

It took all of my energy to push through this book, if I'm honest. I wasn't a fan of the short, chopped essays that read more as anecdotes and lectures or revelations the author had, but in the last third of the book there were some essays that struck cords with me and I really appreciated. I think Glennon Doyle is a wonderful person and I'd listen to her give inspiration speeches or have a drink with her (she lives in my hometown!), but I wasn't the biggest fan of her writing.

Trust Exercise

Susan Choi

$27.00 $24.30

This book has received a lot of mixed reviews despite winning the National Book Award and is short listed for the Pulitzer? Just goes to show that general readership and critics often disagree. Without spoiling anything, we follow high school theatre kids in the 1980s for the first third, then jump ahead in time for both the second and third act of the book. I struggled to get through the first third of this book; it read similarly to me as NORMAL PEOPLE, plot-wise though, the writing style couldn't be more different, and then everything changed in the second act of the book. I just finished reading it, so my opinion might change, but I'm still grappling with it. Ultimately, Choi's novel is a meditation on what is fiction, and therefore, what is true? If you love literary fiction and are up for something different and unexpected, I'd give this one a try!

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

Reza Aslan

$18.00 $16.56

Currently reading -- review forthcoming!