I have exactly one rule for recommending a book, one question I ask myself. That is, did I finish it?
I’m not one to struggle through a bad book. Even if I paid good money for it and made it 75% through already – if I don’t like it, I won’t finish it.
So here is a selection of books I finished this year, and some thoughts on them.
Aurelia, Aurélia: A Memoir by Kathryn Davis
There are points in your life when you think you’re about to become whatever’s next.– Kathryn Davis in Aurelia, Aurélia
This memoir comes from a fiction writer, and so of course boundaries in form are pushed. One paragraph she is in bed with her dying husband, the next she is a child on a school bus sitting next to her unrequited crush.
A deep, sad book without the melodrama. At just over a hundred pages, you can read through it in a day, and you’ll never look at time spent with loved ones the same way again. Get it here.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
We can never know what to want, because, living only one life, we can neither compare it with our previous lives nor perfect it in our lives to come.Milan Kundera in The Unbearable Lightness of Being
I read this book due to a recommendation by Italo Calvino in one of his essays. There is a point in the novel where Kundera breaks the fourth wall to address how he created his characters. Each character is himself, if he pushed further.
Filled with candor, honesty, and a striking ability to render the uncertainty of an emotional life, you’ll walk away from this book rethinking all the times you were in love and you will make a decision: Will you walk the way of heaviness and weight, or will you drift like windblown ashes in lightness? Get it here.
Wittgenstein’s Mistress by David Markson
Was it really some other person I was so anxious to discover…or was it only my own solitude that I could not abide?David Markson in Wittgenstein’s Mistress
Imagine that you are the last person on earth. The particulars of why don’t seem to matter to you. It’s been years. You spend your time travelling Europe. You’ve lived in the Coliseum, you’ve lived in the Louvre. You’re Kate, though, that doesn’t come up much.
Wittgenstein’s Mistress is a brilliant novel that uses this extraordinary circumstance (whether it’s real or not) to explore loneliness to the nth degree. Where is the limit? What can we stand, and how do we cope? What does knowledge, affection, or even language mean when there is nobody to share it with? Get it here.