Thursday, February 11, 2016

A Few Recommendations

Random, I know, but in the dark depths of winter I find that it's helpful to find a few things you love and then latch onto them obsessively. All the better to distract yourself from the fact that you can't go outside without 42 layers of clothing and snow gear, and spring is a good six weeks away.

Here are some recent discoveries that have been floating my old creaky boat lately:

Books:

* The Children's Crusade, by Ann Packer. This book had been on my to-read list for several months (it was published last year and in every book-review magazine column I encountered for awhile there), but I'd forgotten all about it until it appeared before my eyes during a browse at the public library a few weeks ago. It's a big, fat, emotional novel--the literary equivalent of a long, rich dinner with many courses--about a family of grown siblings returning to and reuniting with one another, remembering and reliving and flashing back to their childhood together and the complicated, often unhappy marriage of their polar-opposite parents. I couldn't put it down.

* Wish You Were Here, by Stewart O'Nan. Another expansive-family-life novel, a decade-plus old (published 2003) but still spot-on in its depiction of everyday dynamics and exchanges between grown children and their aged parents, fortysomething parents and their school-ager kiddos, middle-aged husbands and wives with each other. So real it felt like listening in on actual conversations and true-life family moments--that are a lot like mine and everyone else's I know.

* What Comes Next and How to Like It, by Abigail Thomas. An beautiful essay-ish memoir of both the dramatic and mundane experiences of this acclaimed writer's life. Not to mention, the best title I've heard since I Was Told There'd Be Cake. 

Songs:

* "Fire and the Flood," Vance Joy. I fell in love with this Australian singer-songwriter's 2014-2015ish hit, "Riptide," first because it was catchy as hell on the pop-music radio station while driving my kiddos to the pool and back all summer, and then I fell even harder later when I heard the song described as "a ballad [not at all, actually] of unrequited love" and I finally really got it. (Plus: the ukelele! So good.) Then "Fire and the Flood" came out and the fact that it was so cheery-and-in-love after all that "Riptide" heartache just made me--as corny as it sounds--so happy for him. Like, the song actually makes me smile. I imagine this sweet dude is finally happy, and writing about it. ("Late at night, when you can't fall asleep / I'll be lying right beside you, counting sheep.") Good on you, Vance! Plus it's got all sorts of great hooks and Vance Joy's interesting voice.


* "Out of the Woods," Taylor Swift. Hold up now. Listen. I hated Taylor Swift. I mean, the radio had overplayed her annoying top-40 hits so egregiously in the past year or few that I'd developed a probably unhealthy level of hatred toward T.S. Not just her music; it had become about HER. Gah! All her humble-brag lyrics about how cool and sexy and stylish and irresistible she is to boys. Ugh! Hate her! It was a little irrational, I admit. But anyway. This song was released and it was....different. And I love it. It's got that driving, desperate chorus and those relentless drums. It's an awesome running-playlist song.

* "Shake it Out," Florence and the Machine. Yeah, this is about ten million x better than that OTHER song with a similar title--you know, the TAYLOR SWIFT (see hatred, above) one? I was never a big Florence and the Machine fan. But this song popped up on the radio not long ago and the lyrics grabbed me by the throat and slayed me. Wow. Another good run-as-fast-as-you-can song.

Happy reading and running, you all.

xo
S.

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