By Kelsey Tidball
If you’re anything like me, fall weekends mean only one thing: pleasure reading! Gone are the days of reading mandatory epic volumes just to make the grade. Suddenly, the scholastic world opens up to you in all its glory. But what do you read when the likes of Dickens, Homer and Hugo finally disappear? When faced with all that freedom, it can sometimes be difficult to know what to sink your teeth into next. Luckily, the Eugene area provides us with many resources for literary woes. The Smith Family Bookstore alone could offer you countless hours of browsing and reading pleasure, and they have two locations: one right on 13th and another downtown on Willamette Street. If Smith Family ever fails (which it never does), there is always Tsunami Books on Willamette, J Michaels Books on East Broadway, and trusty old Barnes and Noble in the Valley River Center. For any wandering, word-loving souls out there unsure of what to read next, I have compiled a list of a few of my favorite books of the summer below. Happy reading, bookworms!
1. The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy
New Yorker Staff Writer Ariel Levy’s new memoir, The Rules Do Not Apply is a heartbreaking examination of a life suddenly in ruins. Levy, who previously published Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, reveals the details of her own life in this new book, discussing her failed marriage, her job, and the sudden loss of her unborn son. “The future I thought I was meticulously crafting for years has disappeared,” Levy writes, “and with it have gone my ideas about the kind of life I’d imagined I was due.” Levy’s book is honest, thought-provoking, and revelatory. It exposes the universality of tragedy and the human condition. The book clips along and is perfect for a cathartic weekend read.
2. The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen
This short story collection explores the refugee experience through personal, evocative and emotional accounts. With stories like “Black-Eyed Women,” a piece about a Vietnamese ghost writer who lives with her mother who was also a refugee from Vietnam. The collection centers on themes of loss, memory, and acceptance. The collection is easily read in parts and is a quick, significant and cathartic read.
3. The Hello Girls: America’s First Women Soldiers by Elizabeth Cobb
Elizabeth Cobb’s The Hello Girls catalogues the experience of the women who voluntarily fought for United States during World War I by operating the switch boards in the U.S. Army Signal Corps. The women who held this position were specially trained, swore the Army oath and wore military uniforms, including identity tags meant to help other soldiers identify their remains. Cobb’s book details their never-before-told story and exposes their bravery and triumph.
4. Lions by Bonnie Nadzam
Bonnie Nadzam’s Lions is a novel that profiles the last 11 residents of Lions, Colorado, a soon-to-be ghost town located in the high plains. The book focuses on the Walker family, exploring their relationship to the small town, their neighbors, and each other. The book reads like a piece of investigative journalism and is filled with beautiful character description and prose. It is the perfect fall read!
5. Z by Therese Anne Fowler
This novel is an imagined, fictional account of the life of Zelda Fitzgerald, esteemed author F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife. Zelda was infamous, and Fowler’s novel captures her wild, untamed, creative nature perfectly. The book is hugely entertaining and brings to life the roaring 20s and the era of the Lost Generation of writers, musicians and artists in a way that’s equal parts sexy, provocative and troubling. Since its publication, the book has inspired an Amazon television series of the same name, currently in its second season. Pick up the book and catch the series on Amazon to see it brought to life this fall.