Hi, it's me, a real life algorithm, recommending books for all your life experiences that Amazon doesn't know about (yet).
If drinking wine makes you feel old and stuffy, you’ll love Wine. All the Time by Marissa Ross
Last year I was at a bar, working check-in for an event, glass of wine in hand. Someone who could not have been older than 22 checked in. After I had given her a drink ticket, she said, “omg, look at you with your wine! you are so sophisticated!” She might as well have said “CHEERS GRANDMA.”
Ever since then, I’ve felt, maybe, 1% self-conscious about drinking wine; like it’s an activity for stuffy old millionaires (a group to which I have no desire to belong.)
Marissa Ross is the opposite of stuffy, and listening to her descriptions of wine— “this wine tastes like that scene from Master of None when Dev and Francesca are dancing to Edoardo Vianello’s “Guarda Come Dondolo”— and watching her interpretive dance to the law and order theme song on Instagram stories have made me feel less like a stuffy octogenarian.
if you’re ready for Ashton Kutcher to jump out and tell you the 2016 election was a giant episode of Punk’d, you'll love Thanks, Obama by David Litt and Who Thought This Was a Good Idea by Alyssa Mastromonaco.
First of all, when are we going to get an updated reference for the feeling of wanting something to be a joke? FOR THE LOVE OF ASHTON KUTCHER, make it happen.
Anyway, both of these books feature funny Obama staffers reflecting on their dream jobs. I enjoyed them both. The masses (including Mindy Kaling) loved Alyssa Mastromonaco’s book, but I think I liked David Litt’s a tiny bit better. But whatever. Read them both, then wait patiently for a Jon Lovett book announcement.
If you’ve ever replied to a "your mom" joke with “Actually, my mom’s dead,” you'll love:
The Dead Moms Club by Kate Spencer
The Dead Mom's Club is a comedy’s writer’s memoir/ survival guide to losing your mom, heavy with pop culture references (from the Babysitter’s Club to the Kardashians). This resonated with my sense of humor, so I loved it—but it might not be for everyone.
Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong
A few negative reviews on Goodreads called this book “random” and “disjointed” but that was exactly what I loved about it. It was one of my favorite books of the year.
Ruth’s father was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and she moves home to help take care of him. Goodbye, Vitamin is her stream-of-consciousness style thoughts on the year, filled with random observations on life and irreverent thoughts about her family. It worked for me. I think what I loved was that Ruth’s thoughts were rarely thoughtful missives about losing her father or reverent looks back at the man he was, but more organic observations. Like this one:
What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons
I was halfway through this book before I realized it was a novel, not a memoir. It’s a very true-to-life look at what it’s like to lose your parent, peppered with thoughts on race and identity.
If you like watching Love Actually for the seventh time while drinking a huge glass of wine (and I know you do), you'll love Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak.
This book was hysterical, although I don’t think that was the intention. It was a Hallmark movie wrapped in a wacky sitcom with a touch of The Family Stone, and I read it in front of the fire with a glass of wine and cackled the whole time. That doesn’t mean I loved it—it was predictable and flat and kind of annoying—but I regret nothing.
If you have trouble with commitment [to a journal], you'll love My Life With Bob by Pamela Paul.
Raise your hand if you have a shelf full of half-filled journals. Just me? Maybe that’s why I was in awe of Pamela Paul, who has kept a journal of the books she’s read for decades. The books each correspond to a specific moment in her life, and this book catalogs how those books informed those moments—and vice versa. I loved it.
If you've been waiting for an excuse to use the expression "I'M SHOOK," you'll love Dark Matter by Blake Crouch.
So I’m not really sci-fi person, and that may have contributed to how I reacted to this book—I was not in a good place after reading this. But in the best way possible. You get it, right?
Maybe it’s because this is my first foray into quantum physics (pushes glasses up bridge of nose) but I read this book in two sittings, then spent the next few hours rocking in a corner, whispering softly, it's okay, the bad men aren't going to take you.
That being said, I didn’t love the writing style or the characters. This book was all plot.
If you are going to lose your mind if you hear one more person say “it’s the Warby Parker of _____,” you'll love Startup by Doree Shafrir.
Doree Shafrir was Buzzfeed’s tech editor, so my theory is that she stockpiled witty observations about startup culture and used them as the basis of this novel. I thought it was hilarious, being a somewhat savvy user of the internets, but it might be lost on someone who isn't. I can't get over the line “don’t mansplain your fake twitter account to me!”
If you are personally offended that football players are kneeling (or know someone who does), you/they will love...
Well, love isn't the right word. You'll probably resist reading these books, and if you do, you'll get defensive at their messages. But I honestly think stories like these have the power to crack a mental block—even if it's just one small chip at a time—when nothing else will do the trick.
Empathy, people. It’s one of the best things about reading.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Just read this, okay?
Maybe you think you’re “above” YA, but I would bet there’s a big overlap between people who think YA is beneath them and those who just cannot grasp the concept of Black Lives Matter. Perhaps writing aimed at teenagers is the only way to get through to someone who struggles with the concept?
Not that there’s anything wrong with writing aimed at teenagers—huge YA fan over here. And not that Angie Thomas wrote this book to appease the “all lives matter” people.
It’s just a great read that happens to tackle an important message.
We’re Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union
Gabrielle Union’s memoir is funny and real and dish-y* and is worth reading for oh-so-many reasons. But there’s a chapter about the teenage boys she’s raising with Dwyane Wade—and the anxiety that comes along with raising black teenage boys— that is probably eye-opening for a lot of us white people.
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
Again, this is a beautiful book that has many many, merits beyond this one scene (people are comparing Jesmyn Ward to Hemingway!), but there is a moment with a black boy and a police officer that feels impossibly terrifying and ordinary at the same time.
If you know someone who struggles with anxiety, you'll love Turtles All the Way Down by John Green.
Beloved YA author John Green has struggled with OCD (the real kind, not the “omg I love organizing my books by color, I’m so OCD!” kind) his whole life, so his depiction of Aza, a teenage girl with OCD, felt very true to life. It helped me empathize with the people in my life who deal with anxiety. And the story was cute, too, obviously, because it's John Green.
If you read Hanson fan fiction that your classmate printed out and brought to your 8th-grade history class, you'll love Grace and the Fever by Zan Romanoff
Well, that was specific. Not sure where it came from, certainly not my own life experience. ANYWAY. If you’ve ever been a fangirl of anything and imagined what it would be like to actually meet the object of your affection, this is a fun look at that fantasy. It also taught me some things about One Direction** that I can drop in conversation with any teenagers I come across so they might consider me Hip.
* HEATH LEDGER BROUGHT A DIDGERIDOO TO THE SET OF 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU, Y'ALL
** I definitely did NOT type ‘new direction’ first.