A realization: people are intimidated to give me books. I totally understand why – the odds of handing me something I already own are not in their favor. Don’t get me wrong, I love getting books as presents, like the one that struck my heart this year or the beautiful vintage Dickens volumes my brother gave my last year (pictured below). And I give books as gifts like there’s no tomorrow.
But this year, I received more bookish gift cards than books themselves. And I was thrilled. So I got to work! Both at Barnes and Noble and our local independent bookstore, I added to my shelves a collection of books I can’t wait to dive into. Here’s what made the cut and why!
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky
In order to start in on one of my 2019 reading resolutions, this was a must buy. I spent a good amount of time researching translations online – evaluating goodreads reviews, reading blogs that covered this exact topic – and decided that this translation was the right option for me. Now to actually start!
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Eleanor & Park and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
When it comes to YA, I’m picky. Some of my favorite books are YA (including the incredibly wonderful The Hate U Give and We Are Okay) but it feels like more often than not, I’m disappointed by the reads I pick up in this genre. However, Rainbow Rowell’s work has received such extraordinary praise but readers I trust, I knew I had to get my hands on these two favorites. And I can’t wait to dive in.
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Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen
One of the two books in this stack that was actually gifted to me, Flipped sounds like it is potentially the cutest middle school love story in the world. A romance told by two voices, this sounds like an undeniably adorable read. I received it in the Ardent Biblio book exchange and was told it was a favorite from middle school of the giver!
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This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage and Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
Bel Canto is one of my favorite books of all time. I reread it this October and was once again overwhelmed by just how much I love Ann Patchett’s ability to tell a story. Since then, I’ve been desperate to get my hands on more of her writing. As I’ve recently been on an essay collection kick, I chose This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage – a collection of personal essays about the real world of Patchett’s life. And Commonwealth is one of the most highly regarded pieces of fiction of the past few years and comes highly recommended by many, including my boss.
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The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare
The Winter’s Tale is my favorite play. Full stop. I collect different editions of it; I’m constantly scouring the shelves of used bookstores for a version I don’t have. Shakespeare is particularly fun to collect because each version is different – if you look closely, you’ll notice differences in footnotes, spellings, and word choices. And The Winter’s Tale is a bit of a challenge – bookstores have scores of Hamlets and Midsummers and Lears but few have this play on their shelves. At this point, I have seven different copies collected across the world, including this version and the text in my Collected Works of Shakespeare (one of my most loved possessions – I used the same collection for four different courses in college). If you see a beautiful used copy somewhere, tell me!
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Homesick for Another World by Ottessa Moshfegh
After finishing My Year of Rest and Relaxation, my curiosity in the rest of Moshfegh’s work has been piqued. As I’m trying to read my way through the NYTimes list of The New Vanguard, this story collection seemed like a necessary addition to my shelves.
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Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
When writing a review of The Great Believers last year, I did some research on great novels about art history. I noticed this title coming up again and again, and so added it to my wishlist!
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Tonight I’m Someone Else by Chelsea Hodson
An essay collection that ranges from the mundane to the bizarre, exploring our bodies, our privacy, and our intimacy? Sign me up. Something about Hodson’s tone has me desperate to read this 2018 essay collection.
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The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan
The other book that was actually gifted to me on this list seems serendipitous. Also sent by a stranger through the Ardent Biblio book exchange, there was no way Jennie could know that I’ve every time I’ve walked into a bookstore this year, I’ve almost walked out with a copy of The Opposite of Loneliness. Not knowing anything about the book, I just felt like it was something I needed. But I hadn’t bought it for myself yet, thank god! Jennie sent it because it was one of her favorite collections. And now, having almost finished it, I can definitely say it’s one of mine too.
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Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Big Magic comes highly recommended by one of my friends (and a past Girls Who Read!), Madeline. I’m excited to dive into this beloved classic; recently, I’ve felt myself bursting with creativity but in need of a plan to harness it in order to actually turn those ideas into reality.
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Becoming by Michelle Obama
This was the most obvious purchase on my list. After the holidays, I planned to buy this one for myself whether I’d received any gift cards or not. And I’m so glad I have it. I’m about halfway through and I’m overwhelmed by how much love, thoughtfulness, and strength Michelle Obama exudes in every chapter.