After I finished this brief (160 pages), unexpected, quirky gem of the book, I didn't have the words to describe it. Long after I finished Convenience Store Woman (2018) by Sayaka Murata, I kept thinking about it. This offbeat, moving story follows 36-year-old Keiko, who has spent half her life working at a convenience store. She’s content with her life.
To say Xingyin has lived a sheltered life is putting it mildly. She, her mother, and her mother's attendant live alone in the Palace of Pure Light on the moon, for Xingyin's mother is the moon goddess. Their days pass peacefully, until Xingyin awakens her celestial powers, which prompts an unexpected visit from the Celestial Empress. Xingyin learns that her birth was a secret, and that her mother's position as the moon goddess is a punishment for drinking the elixir of immortality, which the Celestial Emperor gifted to Xingyin's father for saving the mortal realm from the sunbirds.
SeinLanguage by Jerry Seinfeld is perfect for anyone who has sat there thinking, "Boy, nothing sounds better right now than reading the first 90 seconds of every Seinfeld episode in one sitting," which is what I said to myself right before checking out this book.
Loosely based on true events at a Russian nuclear facility in the 1960s, The Half Life of Valery K (2022) follows the story of a Russian nuclear scientist, pulled from a freezing gulag to lend his expertise to what seem to be human radiation trials at the mysterious City 40. Never sure who to trust and who to fear, he picks his way through a minefield of misinformation and mystery.
Crossroads (2021) is the first novel I’ve read by Jonathan Franzen, an author who made a big splash when his first novel, The Corrections, was released, just over twenty years ago now. Franzen has gone on to write other popular novels (with single word titles), including Freedom and Purity, along with multiple essay collections.
This conversational collection of essays is great reading or listening. In American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures (2018), 32 authors share their personal experiences growing up in America as 1st or 2nd generation Americans. Some vignettes cover a specific childhood incident; others reflecting, as the children of immigrants, on their parents’ choices; still others speak on current matters.
Tin Man (2018) is a slim volume packed full with beauty and emotion. It's a story about love - young love, first love, friendship, hidden love, lost love and all the heartbreak that ensues. It's a coming-of-age story of two young boys who find solace in each other after the loss of and rejection from their parents. It's a bittersweet study of loneliness, grief and acceptance.
Gone Girl (2012) by Gillian Flynn had been on my radar for a few years but once I finally paid it the attention it deserves I was glad I did! I liked it so much that when I finished, I immediately checked out the audiobook on Libby so I could listen to it with my spouse.
Molly Gray is an excellent hotel maid, completing her daily tasks by returning rooms to a “state of perfection.” She is less successful at connecting with people, struggling with social awkwardness and unkind coworkers. Her life changes dramatically when she discovers Mr. Black dead in his bed.
Unbroken (2014) by Laura Hillenbrand tells the remarkable story of Olympic runner Louis Zamperini. Louis was made to run by his brother Pete, who saw the boy had talent but realized that it would also keep him out of trouble. He eventually went on to compete in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, where he shook Hitler's hand.