reading up!
by victoria comment

3/30/20

storefront window display filled with books stacked with their pages facing out. / sfgirlbybay

since these are unchartered times for us, i may from time to time veer off on a different track from simply posting interior inspiration. not that i don’t love doing that, but i’d like to try and provide other distractions for us as well, while we’re quarantined. one does not live by interior design alone, although, hmmm, maybe i could — but i digress. reading is probably my number one form of entertainment, and escape. i haven’t had a television set since 2006, but of course, i watch my favorite on from netflix, hulu, appletv and amazon prime on my laptop because sometimes i just can’t give my focus 100% to a book — especially when the world is as weird and worrisome as it is now. but when i can give a book my full attention, and i do an awful lot (i’ve read 11 books thus far this year!) it’s just such a helpful distractor and one i cherish. i thought i’d share some of my very favorite books with you — some fiction, some non and all of them wonderful reads.

woman reading a book and books stacked next to a pile of knit blankets. / sfgirlbybay

I so wish we could all head to our local bookstores right now, but while we can’t we can order books online, use the public libraries’ online resources and wonderful apps like libby to download and read if you have a library card. try overdrive to find your local library and i think you can sign up at some libraries for an online library card. they’ve also just created the national emergency library with over a million titles available for free and with no wait list — to everyone in the world!  i’ve also just bought a gift certificate for my local bookstore in order to try and help keep them afloat until they can reopen. mcsweeney’s has a great list of how to help support small indie bookshops, too. i’m going to pass along a dozen books — from some obscure, long time favorites to some i’ve just recently read and loved. i hope this is of some help to you and if you have further suggestions, please do pass them along!

vintage black and white photo of a woman reading. / sfgirlbybay

good reads book covers. / sfgirlbybay

Warlight by Michael Ondaatje is the wonderful story of fourteen-year-old Nathaniel, and his older sister, Rachel who just after World War II stay behind in London when their parents move to Singapore, leaving them in the care of a mysterious figure named The Moth and his eccentric crew of friends: men and women joined by a shared history of unspecified secret service during the war, all of whom seem, in some way, determined now to protect, and educate in rather unusual ways Rachel and Nathaniel.

My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki is an all-time favorite of mine. an unusual and hard to describe but wonderful story about documentarian Jane Takagi-Little who finally lands a job producing a Japanese television show that just happens to be sponsored by an American meat-exporting business, and in doing so uncovers some unsavory truths about love, fertility, and a dangerous hormone called DES. Soon she will also cross paths with Akiko Ueno, a beleaguered Japanese housewife struggling to escape her overbearing husband.

tangerine by christine mangan — the last person alice shipley expects to see since arriving in tangier with her new husband is lucy mason. after a tragic accident at college, the two best friends once inseparable roommates haven’t spoken in over a year and the mysterious story ensues from there. it’s kind of a talented mister ripley mystery i just loved.

House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III is about the crossover of three lives: a recent immigrant from the Middle East who yearns to restore his family’s dignity in California; A recovering alcoholic and addict down on her luck struggles to hold onto the one thing she has left — her home and her lover, a married cop, who is driven to extremes to win her love. the combustion of their lives makes for a very intriguing read.

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger is a funny, often poignant book about the very passionately in love Clare and Henry — and how the pair vow to hold onto each other and their marriage as they struggle with the effects of Chrono-Displacement Disorder, a condition that casts Henry to involuntarily disappear and enter into the world of time travel.

The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession by Susan Orlean is a witty story of an amazing obsession of an endangered flower —- the rare ghost orchid and a deeply eccentric man named who leads author susan Orlean on an unforgettable tour of America’s strange flower-selling subculture, through Florida’s swamps and beyond. another of my all-time favorite reads.

stacked books with colorful pages. / sfgirlbybay

colorful bold book covers. / sfgirlbybay

hotel du lac by anita brookner tells the story of Edith Hope, who writes romance novels under a pseudonym. When her life begins to resemble the plots of her own novels, however, Edith flees to Switzerland, where the quiet luxury of the Hotel du Lac promises to restore her to her senses. But instead of peace and rest, Edith finds herself sequestered at the hotel with an assortment of love’s casualties and exiles. She also attracts the attention of a worldly man determined to release her unused capacity for mischief and pleasure.

A Gentleman in Moscow by amor towles is an amazing (and very timely) novel that takes place in 1922. the very witty Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and is sentenced to house arrest and is ordered to spend the rest of his life living in an attic inside a luxury hotel, the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin with an amazing cast of unusual characters.

the dutch house by ann patchett was one of the best books i’ve read this year. it’s a dark fairy tale about a brother and sister who cannot overcome their troubled past and despite every outward sign of success, Danny and Maeve are only truly comfortable when they’re together. Throughout their lives, they return to the well-worn story of what they’ve lost with humor and rage. But when at last they’re forced to confront the people who left them behind, the relationship between an indulged brother and his ever-protective sister is finally tested.

the heart’s invisible furies by john boyne is a book to make you laugh and cry while reminding us all of the redemptive power of the human spirit. Born out of wedlock to a teenage girl cast out from her rural Irish community and adopted by a well-to-do and very eccentric Dublin couple, Cyril Avery is adrift in the world, anchored only tenuously by his friendship with the infinitely more glamourous and dangerous Julian Woodbead. At the mercy of fortune and coincidence, he will spend a lifetime coming to know himself and where he came from — and over his many years, will struggle to discover an identity, a home, a country, and much more.

Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt is a really moving story of a young niece and her artist uncle, their love, grief, and renewal as these two lonely people become the unlikeliest of friends and adventurers. as the story unwinds they find that sometimes you don’t know you’ve lost someone until you’ve found them. it’s a truly tender story of love lost and found, an unforgettable portrait of the way compassion can make us whole again.

The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larson is another very timely read if you’re looking for a bit of hope. On Winston Churchill’s first day as prime minister, Hitler invaded Holland and Belgium, and Poland and Czechoslovakia had already fallen, and the Dunkirk evacuation was just two weeks away. For the next twelve months, Hitler wages a relentless bombing campaign, killing 45,000 Britons. It was up to Churchill to hold his country together and persuade President Roosevelt that Britain was a worthy ally—and willing to fight to the end. with lighthearted gossipy backstories, mister larson weaves an extraordinary and uplifting story of courage in the face of evil.

vintage books. / sfgirlbybay

neutral colored books stacked bedside. / sfgirlbybay

whitewashed loft with books stacked under tall windows. / sfgirlbybay

• photography credits in order of appearance: lusting upon; reverie parisienne; @michellereadsbooks; @historycoolkids; @_____m_d_m_____; AMBRIEHL KHALIL; @lisadengler; in bed store; @theslowtraveler

13 responses to “reading up!”

  1. Thanks for the recommendations Victoria. I’m a reader too, and have read some of your suggestions. I second your recommendation for The Dutch House. Such a beautiful book.
    Take care.

  2. So many enticing titles! I’d love to know your top 5 picks of the bunch. No overthinking, just off the top of your head. I often ask this question of others; it’s a ‘no fail’ method for getting the best book recommendations ever. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Love Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth & Michael Ondaatje’s Divisadero. Excited to check out these. Missing our local book shops & libraries so much.

  4. Have you read Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies? I’ve read some of your picks and they’re among my top ten. Also anything by Colum McCann is fantastic.

  5. Thank you for this list!! Two books in the vein of the Orchid Thief that I’ve loved are The Feather Thief and the Dinosaur Artist

  6. …. thank you so much for sharing these book suggestions, I look forward to checking each one out. I to am missing the love and fun of venturing into the bookstores and library’s and finding just the right book to enjoy and sink into. One day … one day … everything will be alright once again. Please keep healthy and strong everyone, you are all so delightful !! Jayne

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