Born and raised in Kentucky, Shawn now gets sweaty palms if she's more than 2 hours from saltwater. She begrudgingly accepts Seattle winters, makes quilts and food, and seeks out writing from underrepresented parts of the world as often as possible.
One essay imagines the life and death of a woolly mammoth based on the scars found on its frozen carcass. Another, told from the perspective of a tortoise that Darwin took from the Galapagos to his home in London before deciding to focus on the finches, made me weep for its portrayal of neglected love. This collection is endlessly, endlessly creative. And the cover is just perfect (which we all know matters a little).
Probably my most recommended novel. It's been about 10 years since the first time I read it, but I vividly remember finishing it overnight, too entranced to stop. Saramago manages to turn a story about an epidemic of blindness into a staggering warning about how quickly society could crumble around us. You don't have to read it overnight, but you do have to read it.
"When Enebeli Okwara sent his girl out into the world, he did not know what the world did to daughters. He did not know how quickly it would wick the dew off her, how she would be returned to him hollowed out, relieved of her better parts."
This short story collection brims over with lovely, gutting descriptions of girlhood, family, home, and love. Moving and memorable.
Batuman's semi-autobiographical debut novel explores language and its shortcomings, the awkwardness of young adulthood, and the encompassing pain of a crush from the perspective of Selin, an Ivy League freshman of Turkish descent. The beauty of the novel comes from Selin's raw relatability; some passages made me physically cringe in the way that finding and reading my journal from ten years ago might. I walked away from the novel with a bit more empathy for my former self.
This is the collection I keep close at all times and the one I'm most likely to hand to a friend in pain. It gives me perspective, grounds me, reminds me that there's love and light in a world that exhausts.
One essay, presented in vignettes, interweaving the construction of a house and a direct address to a lover. The author's deft use of language echoes the lyricism of a prose poem without sacrificing the approachability of a personal essay. One of the most unique and gorgeous books I've come across lately.