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What We're Reading: December Edition!

Thanks to a jam-packed work schedule, I have been an absolutely terrible reader over the past, um...while. Looking back at my October self, sitting there, smugly plowing her way through novel after novel, I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t picked up a book in three weeks. All will be well, though! I have six more days of work before a blessed long break from work, thanks to the vacation days I’ve been hoarding like crazy.

In addition to finishing our Literally PDX x LWLShelf December pick, Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi, I’ve got a stack of books I’m dying to get to, especially after reading the “Best Books of 2019” lists at the New York Times, the New Yorker, and New York Magazine (are you sensing a theme here?). I’d like to share a few of the best books I’ve read this year - some old, and some new, as well as a few books I’m hoping to read before 2020 arrives. 2019 was a great year for literature, and I’d love to know what you read this year that you loved.


The Topeka School by Ben Lerner (Published in 2019)- This semi-autobiographical novel follows Adam Gordon in his senior year of high school. With a famous feminist mother and a psychologist father, Adam navigates life as a “popular kid,” a skilled debator, a child of parents with real-world problems, and as a young person growing up in a world filled with toxic masculinity. I heard an interview with Ben and his mother, real-life feminist psychologist Harriet Lerner, and have been anxious to read this one since!

Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow (Published in 2019) - With the onset of the #Metoo movement in 2017, Ronan Farrow began to make startling discoveries about a major Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein, from the women who claimed he had assaulted them. As he followed leads and attempted to break the story, Ronan was the victim of surveillance attempts, intimidation, and a media empire that turned its back on survivors. I cannot wait to read this one.

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado (Published in 2019) - From Amazon: “In the Dream House is Carmen Maria Machado’s engrossing and wildly innovative account of a relationship gone bad, and a bold dissection of the mechanisms and cultural representations of psychological abuse. Tracing the full arc of a harrowing relationship with a charismatic but volatile woman, Machado struggles to make sense of how what happened to her shaped the person she was becoming.” I heard an interview with Maria on my favorite podcast, The Cut on Tuesdays, and her storytelling is absolutely heartwrenching.

Read It - Loved It:

The Idiot by Elif Batuman (Published in 2017) - I devoured this one so fast I surprised myself! The Idiot follows Selin, a freshman at Harvard in 1995. Selin is, well, awkward. She’s not interested in parties, in drama, in none of the things I was consumed with at 18. She meets Ivan, an older student, during one of her classes. They begin exchanging emails, and something like a relationship begins to build, and it carries her to the other side of the world. So much of nothing happens in this book, and it’s such a beautiful look at the awkwardness of young adulthood.

Vacuum in the Dark by Jen Beagin (Published in 2019) - Mona is a twenty-something house cleaner in Taos, New Mexico. Beagin’s book takes us along with Mona as she cleans the homes of Taos’s eccentric community, while conversing with her imaginary friend, Terry Gross (NPR, anyone?), and taking secret photos of herself in her clients’ abodes. Full of affairs, heartbreak, the confrontation of a difficult upbringing, and lots of humor, Vacuum in the Dark was an absolute joy to read.

The Fact of a Body: A Memoir and a Murder by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich (Published in 2017) - Alex’s book chronicles her life as a child of two lawyers, and as a lawyer herself, who feels she has solidified her position as anti-death penalty. When she begins researching the case of accused murderer Ricky Langley, her beliefs are put into question and she must confront her past, filled with family secrets and devastation. This was such a beautiful book, though really tough to read at times, due to the nature of the crimes Alex writes about. This was another one I flew through.

What great books have you read in 2019? What are you hoping to read before 2020 and beyond? Let's wish each other luck in our reading goals!

Happy reading and happy December! It's the most wonderful time of the year!


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