Photo courtesy of Margaret Durow/Trunk Archive
The 9 Books We’re Reading This Winter
Our end-of-winter reading list—the end is coming, right?—skews toward novels and memoirs that either take us far, far away or somehow draw us in closer. But in either case, we are compelled to look at our own lives a little bit differently.
Dani Shapiro is the bestselling author of four memoirs, including Devotion and Hourglass. She’s written a lot, and thoughtfully, about her family history and her own identity. At one point, without really thinking about it, she submitted her DNA for analysis on a genealogy website. When the results came back in the spring of 2016, Shapiro was shocked. Her father, her beloved father whose deep Jewish lineage Shapiro had always identified with, was not her biological father. Did this mean she was not the person she thought she was? Did it change everything? Did it change nothing? Inheritance explores Shapiro’s identity in relationship to her memory, family history, biology, and experience. And it essentially asks the question: What makes us who we are? It’s brilliant, and we can’t wait to have Shapiro on The goop Podcast to talk more about it.
Karen Thompson Walker’s second stunning novel (after The Age of Miracles) is set in a small college town in Southern California where a mysterious illness begins to spread. It starts on one floor of a freshman dorm. Students fall asleep—and can’t be woken up. Their brains, doctors discover, are showing higher levels of activity than ever recorded. They’re dreaming superdreams. Told from the perspective of several different characters affected by the phenomenon in Santa Lora—a first-time father, a seasoned professor, a freshman falling in love, two sisters—The Dreamers is a book of ideas. What lives at the edges of our minds, beyond our understanding of the world? How many possibilities of what was, what is, and what could be exist in our dreams? And how might we wake up to any of them?
The novel of the month for our staff #goopbookclub is Madeline Miller’s retelling of the story of the goddess/nymph Circe. Circe was a big hit when it came out last summer, and we’re playing catch-up. If you’re in the same boat: This book is for you if you loved Miller’s debut, The Song of Achilles; if you geek out on Greek mythology; if you binge epics like Game of Thrones. What’s perhaps most interesting about this narrative, though, is Miller’s portrayal of Circe as a witch finding her power—and the way this character asks us to reconsider the meaning of magic.
Sally Rooney: one hell of a writer. You don’t have to like her characters but you will become obsessed with reading about their lives. Rooney’s writing is cool, sly, sharp; it can wake you up in the night with a thought you never considered before. Rooney’s debut novel, Conversations with Friends is about two tight university friends—who dated in high school—who become entangled with an older married couple. If you haven’t yet, read it now, and clear your bedside table for Rooney’s sophomore novel, Normal People, which comes out in April in the US. (Normal People already debuted in the UK and Ireland—Rooney is Irish—and was longlisted for the Man Booker and Dylan Thomas Prizes. It won the Costa Novel Award.)
Pick up The Last Romantics when you want to be swept into a fictional family. Tara Conklin’s new novel begins in 2079, when the renowned poet Fiona Skinner, near the end of her life, is asked about the woman who inspired her iconic collection The Love Poem. It’s a moment that brings Fiona back to her childhood, growing up in a middle-class Connecticut town in the 1980s, and to the story of her siblings—dependable Renee, romantic Caroline, and golden boy Joe. As the narrative traces their converging and diverging paths over the course of their lives—and promises made, kept, broken, changed—you’ll fall deeper and deeper in with this family.
The second instant bestseller from the coauthors of The Wife Between Us: Desperate for cash, Jessica Farris sneaks into an NYU study on morality and psychology. As the study’s demands get more invasive—and much more intense—at the hands of a puppeteering psychiatrist, Jessica sinks into hall-of-mirrors paranoia. In this freewheeling story of obsession and control, the real thrill isn’t in the twist-after-twist plotline. It’s a question that won’t really hit you until you put the book down: Who, ultimately, is pulling the strings?
Cozy by Isabel Gillies
Isabel Gillies is the New York Times–bestselling author of Happens Every Day, A Year and Six Seconds, and Starry Night. (She also wrote an essay for us about going through menopause in her thirties.) This book, Cozy, is different from her past memoirs and novel. It’s a mashup of manifesto, lifestyle guide, memoir, observation, recipes, and hand-drawn illustrations. And it’s all about what it means to feel “cozy” as you move through the world. Put it on the shelf next to your copy of The Little Book of Hygge, Marie Kondo, and The Happiness Project.
This memoir is Eat, Pray, Love stretched across a lifetime, stretched across ten lifetimes. Or as Elizabeth Gilbert herself put it: “In a world full of spiritual seekers, Megan Griswold is an undisputed All-Star.” Think of something a little experimental, and Griswold has probably tried it. She asked for her first mantra for Christmas at the age of seven. In middle school, she was going to seminars on sexuality. She went to Barnard College, got an MA at Yale, and has received certifications in everything from doulaship to yoga to Shiatsu to personal training. The catch? When her newly wedded husband calls her from jail, Griswold is pushed toward a whole different kind of adventure.
LA in the ’60s and ’70s was even more louche and fabulous than we imagine. As luck would have it, a brilliant writer—who happened to be gorgeous and wildly adventurous—also happened to live (and live she did) right in the middle of it. Eve Babitz grew up in Hollywood, managed to attend every fantastical party and date every handsome actor or artist, and wrote beautiful novels as well as nonfiction, all of it as juicy as it is smart. Her work had been dismissed for years, until Vanity Fair writer Lili Anolik wrote a piece about her. Babitz’s novels have now been reprinted, and Anolik has written this incredible companion to them. Hollywood’s Eve tracks not just the fabulousness but the eccentricity of the still-living Babitz, and the frustrations that anyone close to her—including Anolik herself—experiences. It’s unputdownable in the way of a great piece of gossip, but it goes much deeper, into the curious relationship between subject and author, genius and acolyte, eccentric and orbiting caregivers.