I swear this is not me trying to impress you with the big fat books I’m currently reading, but while you’re here, check out The Big Fat Books I’m Currently Reading:
I’ve been in a bit of a hibernation state while figuring out what I’m doing with my life (the Millennial’s Dilemma) and also while waiting out the rain that feels like it’s been nonstop since November (the Californian’s Dilemma). Maybe it’s this combination of things that has driven me to seeking out only the longest of books, I dunno, but I’m dropping by with some notes on why they are my three new best friends.
THE LETTERS OF SHIRLEY JACKSON is what the title says. I got into Shirley Jackson’s short stories/essays during the pandemic, and my interest was re-upped after a recent Diaries of Note entry that recommended this book in the postscript. I bought a copy at City Lights and so far it’s been snort-out-loud funny. I’m still in the early letters from her college days (late 1930s), but her personal writing style is so modern and unfiltered and snarky (“i’m so sorry i can’t answer your last letter but i inadvertently tore it up and it fell in the fire. so sorry.”). Makes me want to create a Twitter bot that posts sentences from Shirley Jackson letters just so I can retweet them. Highly recommended, tbh.
LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY is the latest selection for the book club I’m in, which consists of Alex’s aunt, Alex’s cousin, and me—it’s the most consistent, interesting, and successful book club I’ve joined to date (not that there have been that many). This novel is about a chemist-turned-TV cooking star in the 1960s, and reads like it was written for the screen – very strong Mrs. Maisel / Julia vibes. (A quick Google search confirms it’s currently being made into an Apple TV+ series, so there you go.) It looks and sounds like chick lit, which isn’t usually my jam, but it’s super sharp and witty and just a joy to read. Maybe “acerbic feminist chick lit” is more accurate. Extremely book clubbable, at least for this book club.
THE POWER BROKER, oh my god. When I heaved the used copy onto the counter at Green Apple Books, the bookseller at the register responded with a dry “Taking the plunge?” …which feels like an appropriate way to describe one’s experience with this 1,245-page beast. I recently watched Turn Every Page and came away with one clear mission: read. this. book. If I were to try and summarize it in a way that would appeal to nerds like me, I’d describe it as “equal parts biography and urban history that will make you understand civic planning, community displacement, and local political drama in details you never thought possible.” It’s daunting but already feels like the most important book I’ll have read in my lifetime so far. Check back with me in a year or so and see how it’s going.
Honorable mention: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, which Alex and I are reading to each other, a few pages every night. The reading aloud thing is an experiment we started during a (different) pandemic book club, which helped us get through the entirety of MOBY DICK and which I would honestly recommend if you have a partner or friend who is into it! LOTR is a fun one because of the hobbit songs and Gollum dialogue. Alex is the Tolkienhead of the household, but thanks to our reading adventure I’m slowly catching on.
Will March bring any more blog posts? Who knows! But I’ll leave you with some brief self-promotion: yesterday I published a nostalgic thing about what commutes in SF used to look like, if you’re into that sort of thing, and have a story in the latest issue of The San Franciscan available at your local (Bay Area) bookstore! 📚