Rather than a list of my favorite books (I can never seem to remember them when pressed), I've decided to keep an absolutely faithful account of what I read. I'll be adding to this list every couple of months. I'm not sure if this page will be of interest to anyone else, but hey, this is the Web—since when was that the criterion?
The past few months I've allowed myself to read whatever the heck I want. It's been a joy. I'm about to launch into a new novel, and have a pile of biographies on my desk. Saul Below. Vladimir Nabokov. Alma Mahler. Alongside that a few histories of the Côte d'Azur, of Hollywood in the 1940s.
Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson
This one was a reread, after loving Life After Life so much I felt like I needed more Atkinson. It's every bit as good as you want it to be.
The Post-Office Girl by Stefan Zweig
Zweig is a killer. Such aching pain. Such tragedy. OY OY OY.
Chess Story by Stefan Zweig
I wish I had a complete set of every single New York Review reissue. They're so lovely.
Journey Into the Past by Stefan Zweig
This slim little novella devastated me. Broke my heart.
The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout
A great, satisfying read.
The Stranger's Child by Alan Hollinghurst
It was reading this amazing book that made me understand what my new novel was going to be about.
Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
This book is so lush, and so compelling, and ultimately it kind of falls apart. But I didn't care.
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
A serious weeper. And funny, too.
The Riviera Set: From Queen Victoria to Princess Grace by Lita-Rose Betcherman
The Patrick Melrose Novels by Edward St. Aubyn
Reread all of these. They're every bit as good as the first few times I read them.
Posted by ayelet on April 12, 2013.
Lots of great reading this time. So happy to be done with my Budapest obsession, the fruits of which will be published in January 2014 by Knopf.
With or Without You by Domenica Ruta.
I'm not usually so into the pain memoir, but the writing is so good, the mother so crazy, that it's worth it.
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
The Purchase by Linda Spaulding
Rich and dense and terrific.
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
Despite wanting to hate it (dude was NOT nice to my husband) I fell under its spell.
Helpless by Barbara Gowdy
Compelling, but the elephant book is genius.
The Round House by Louise Erdrich
This book is actually pretty good. Although the ending is hard to swallow.
Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon
Fascinating, beautiful in places, but influenced (of course) by the author's biases, both conscious and unconscious.
If It's Not One Thing, It's Your Mother by Julia Sweeney
Hilarious. I want her to be my BFF.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Fascinating because it recounts an experience unfamiliar to me, but otherwise a bit predictable in terms of prose and story.
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
I gobbled this up, refusing to converse with anyone until I'd finished.
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
Simply marvelous. Read it.
Londoners by Craig Taylor
A must-read for Anglophiles.
The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis
Lovely first novel.
Hello Goodbye Hello by Craig Brown
This book is utterly delightful. I know I say that a lot about books, but this one really is delightful.
The White Bone by Barbara Gowdy
I know this book is nuts. It's told from the point of view of elephants, for god sake. But it's magical and heartbreaking. And it changed the way I think about animals in the world.
Train Dreams by Denis Johnson
One of the ten best books I've ever read.
Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov) by Stacy Schiff
1. I utterly identified with Véra.
2. My God, was she a loathsome woman.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
Everyone should read this book. It should be required reading for every human.
Posted by ayelet on January 28, 2013.
It's been a fine, long stretch of reading for me. Some marvelous books. I'm finally free of the obligation to read everything ever written about the Holocaust in Hungary (though I doubt I cracked the surface), and am reading purely for fun, which is pure joy. I suppose it's getting to be time to consider my next novel, so soon enough I'll have to turn my attention to whatever inspiration will be appropriate for that. Though for the time being, I haven't the faintest idea what I'll do next. TV, at least through the end of the year, and hopefully longer.
Freud's Sister by Goce Smilevski
If this novel has even a jot of truth in it, Freud was a loathsome prick (but we knew that already) who allowed his sisters to be murdered by the Nazis when he could have saved them. Worth a read for those, like me, who are Holocaust-obsessed.
Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan
I'd read McEwan's dream journal (and I despise dreams), so perhaps I'm not a good gauge of this one, but I did like it very much. I like all his books very much. Though the main character here didn't ring quite as true to me as some others of his. It wasn't her callowness. I have teenagers. I know how callow youth is. It was just something about her seemed false.
Traps by MacKenzie Bezos
Bezos is a great, relatively undiscovered, talent. She's got a miraculous way with a sentence.
The City of Devi by Manil Suri
I am a total sucker for Suri. He blows my mind. And this book is just a fun and fabulous as the rest.
Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie
This memoir about Rushdie's days under the Iranian Fatwa is fascinating, mostly because it's chock full of literary gossip and payback.
The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford
Sometimes the prose is delightful, but the sexism so unbearable that it's impossible to enjoy a book. It just comes off as at once boorish and insipid, which is something of a trick. But I hear Parade's End is great, so I'll give it a try before I give up on him as a writer who does not survive his era.
The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison
A very quick, very sweet and charming (and sad) read.
Time and Again by Jack Finney
I was briefly considering writing a time travel TV show, and read this for that. It was super fun.
Jacob's Folly by Rebecca Miller
This book doesn't necessarily fulfill its ambition, but it's better to strive and not quite succeed than not to try at all. It's fascinating and worth the read.
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
I totally adored this book. It's experimental in its way, but also a ripping yarn. (See how British I can be?)
Nella Last's War: The Second World War Diaries of Housewife, 49 edited by Richard Broad and Suzie Fleming
This book was part of the Mass-Observation project in England, where people -- not writers, just regular, normal, not-necessarily-neurotic people -- were asked to keep daily diaries. Nella Last's is remarkably fascinating. She's a terrific writer, but more to the point, the window into the life of a housewife in the thick of the war, the bombings, the rationing, is incredibly interesting. And the food! Gah. Horrible.
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
I honestly can't say why I liked this book so much. Probably the stylish prose. Has to be, actually, because I sort of hate Westerns. But I gobbled this up in just a couple of nights.
Where'd You Go, Bernadette: A Novel by Maria Semple
Super, super fun.
Toby's Room by Pat Barker
Barker's Regeneration trilogy are among my favorite books. But now it just feels like she's just treading the same, well-worn path.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Not my cup of tea.
Trapezeby Simon Mawer
I love a good spy story.
Posted by ayelet on November 12, 2012.
It's been an incredible summer: glorious Maine weather, the kids off at camp for a month. I finished another draft of my novel and handed it in to the editor. I went to Africa as part of Hillary Clinton's press team, and wrote an article about the experience for Marie Claire magazine. I sold a couple of ideas to CBS, and have been busy preparing to write the scripts. Crazy busy, but also oddly relaxing.
My reading for the past couple of months:
NW by Zadie Smith
A new novel by Zadie Smith is always a cause for rejoicing. This one breathes and pulses and works its magic on you.
Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel
I absolutely adored this, until I suddenly got incredibly bored and didn't care any more about annoying and abusive ghosts.
Crazy Salad, Wallflower at the Orgy, and Scribble Scribble by Nora Ephron
Her death made me so very sad, so I read a bunch of her essays.
Touching the Void by Joe Simpson
I absolutely love survivor tales, the grimmer the better. This one rocks.
Big Girls Don't Cry by Rebecca Traister
I love Rebecca's writing so much. This is a fascinating and moving ride.
Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton
I just wish she'd written it by herself. It reads like it was written by committee. Which, of course, it was.
Half Empty by David Rakoff
I honestly can't bear that this marvelous hilarious generous sweet and incisive writer is dead.
Mission to Paris by Alan Furst
Typical of Furst, lots of fun
The Translator by John Crowley
He's so good.
Game Change by John Heilmemann and Mark Halperin
OH MY GOD, this book is crazy fascinating. Can it be true, though?
May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Holmes
A.M. is such a graceful and masterful writer.
Posted by ayelet on August 21, 2012.
I spent so much time working on my pilot, falling into bed at 2 am after doing rewrites after work, that I ended up reading much less than usual. But I did read some great stuff.
The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff
A delightful first novel, wonderful in that way first novels are wonderful. Packed full of everything the author ever read, thought, saw, felt, loved, hated, etc.
Arcadia by Lauren Groff
And with this, Groff really comes into her own.
The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger
I love Nell Freudenberger's books. I can't honestly say if the book is an accurate reflection of Bangladeshi culture, but it feels absolutely, perfectly true.
Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan
I read this because I needed to see how a young writer does period, and the transition back and forth between periods. The ending is desperately unsatisfying, which ruined the whole book for me.
Crusoe's Daughter by Jane Gardam
Not my favorite of Gardam's books, but still awesome.
Imagine by Jonah Lehrer
I gave copies of this to my whole staff on my TV show. It's a fun fascinating read. I'm sure you'd learn more reading the actual science, but you wouldn't have anywhere near as much fun.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
I read this in a single sitting on the plane from Boston to SFO. It's terrific. I cried like a maniac.
Purge by Sofi Oksanen
I had such high hopes. Sigh.
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
This may be the best book I've ever read. I mean, except for my husband's books. This book does everything a novel should, and more and more.
The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright
She is such a breathtaking writer. So exact. So hilarious. GOD I love the Irish.
Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James
The thing is, Jane Austen is perfect. So...even a master like P.D. James is doomed to fail trying to write in her voice.
Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen
Anna Quindlen is about a dozen years older than me, we're both writers, we both have kids, we're in happy marriages, we're comfortably situated in life (kenahora), so I find it very comforting to read her essays. Gives me an idea of what might be coming down the pike.
The First 20 Minutes by Gretchen Reynolds
I'm a desperate hypochondriac so I love reading zippy exercise books like this one.
Waiting for Sunrise by William Boyd
I love William Boyd, but this novel didn't do it for me.
Enchantments by Kathryn Harrison
This is a competent, interesting book. I'm not very into the Russian royal family, though.
Posted by ayelet on June 11, 2012.