This year, September 6th is National Read a Book Day which, for us at FCP, begs the question: Isn’t every day “Read a Book Day”? As an office of voracious readers, book recommendations and article links fly between desks often. In honor of National Read a Book Day, the FCP team is sharing some of their favorite recent reads, ranging from memoirs, to collected essays, to nonfiction. Pick up one of these books to celebrate “Read a Book Day”, every day, because the time is always ripe to learn more, pique curiosity, expand horizons, and share perspectives.
Erin is Reading: A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit
In A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Rebecca Solnit defines the state of being lost as “when the world becomes larger than your knowledge of it.” With this, she strips the stigma from a word so easily characterized by a lack of direction and loss of control. Instead, she replaces it with connotations of empowered curiosity and actively wandering— “you’re going to get lost, and you’re going to be better for it. Go on … ”
It’s Solnit’s exploration of what it means to get lost on purpose that took me by the hand and pulled me deeper in. In her collection of essays, Solnit weaves together stories from her own personal history and relationships to tales of other “wanderers.” The narratives are as diverse in perspective as they are in their definition of disorientation. There are so many ways, beyond the physical sense, for a person to lose their way— and Solnit builds community in that.
Dan is Reading: New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson
Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2140 is set in a post-sea-level rise Manhattan. He is a master of weaving granular storytelling with deep scientific data to yield a three-dimensional tale that leaps off the page. Imagine New York as a modern-day Venice, where building entrances are now on the 5th floor, each downtown tower has a boat garage, and sky bridges connect the tops of buildings. For Robinson, the climate crisis, occurring in what he calls “pulses,” reset the international economic order where the sharing economy takes a new foothold, but the invisible hand of global capital still seeks the highest returns. The narrative weaves together uniquely Manhattanite tales including a hedge fund manager, a reality-tv star relocating arctic polar bears to Antarctica, two orphans, a legal eagle, and a search for buried treasure.
Audrey is Reading: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
I recently finished J. D. Vance’s Memoir, Hillbilly Elegy. Vance tells his story about his family and culture growing up in the Appalachians. The book provides a stunning window into the values of his upbringing and their relation to the social problems of his hometown.
Caitlin is Reading: Hunger by Roxanne Gay
Hunger By Roxane Gay is a deeply emotional and raw account of Gay’s struggle with her weight and sense of self after being sexually assaulted by multiple classmates at the age of 12. The book not only explores the themes of what it means to be hungry in many senses of the word, but also takes a close look at how society has come to feel a sense of entitlement over women’s bodies. Gay’s writing is mandatory for the modern millennial feminist, and Hunger is no exception. I highly recommend it.
Up next is Home Fire, a novel by Kamila Shamsie. The book is about Isma, a young woman who travels to the United States from London to pursue a career in academia. But she can’t stop worrying about Aneeka, her beautiful, headstrong sister back in London, or their brother, Parvaiz, who’s disappeared in pursuit of his own dream, to prove himself to the dark legacy of the jihadist father he never knew. When he resurfaces half a globe away, Isma’s worst fears are confirmed. The New York Times describes the book as “ingenious… builds to one of the most memorable final scenes I’ve read in a novel this century.” I’m enjoying the book so far, but interested to see if it lives up to the hype.
Sean is Reading: California: A History by Kevin Starr
Kevin Starr’s California: A History encompasses much of Starr’s (1940-2017) lifetime of work. Starr was an award-winning author and historian, who served as California’s State Librarian from 1994-2004 and was the recipient of the National Humanities Medal from President George W. Bush. California: A History, published in 2005, covers key points of the Golden State’s history, from the Spanish exploration through the Gold Rush, and into the 20th century. This is a wonderful, accessible book for anyone looking to brush up on our state’s rich and diverse history.
Sarah is Reading: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime is about growing up in post-apartheid South Africa. It was engrossing. A true storyteller, Noah shares stories of his childhood from the horrible to the humorous. I laughed, I cried and, best of all, I couldn’t put it down.
Erika is Reading: Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer
Foer’s latest work lived up to the hype generated by his last two breakthrough bestselling novels. Rich with depth and detail, Here I Am is a darkly funny, often frustrating, and always poignant depiction of a family in crisis. Foer deftly ties the character’s struggles with identity, politics, aging, and love to larger themes and broader existential questions without resorting to cliches or losing the magic of the minutia.
This was a story about Jewish American identity, love and loss, spirituality and sexuality, ambition and sacrifice, growth and aging, but more importantly and more urgently, it was a story about one man and his family, and it never lost sight of that. Funny, smart, and heart-wrenching, the novel drew me in, spat me back out, and left me aching and yet somehow satisfied with one of the finest final scenes I’d read in a long while.