1. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I'm not sure when I bought this book but it's been on my shelf for years and I'd never read it. I recently heard it described as the female version of Catcher in the Rye, both in its story line and its cultural significance. It is not an autobiography but it bears resemblance to Plath's own fascinating and tragic life. It made me think of my grandmother and how women of that generation challenged norms and battled expectations at every turn. An American classic worth reading.
2. The Center of Everything by Laura Moriarty. I am only half-way through this novel, but so far so good. I heard about it because the University of Kansas selected it as the 2014 KU Common Book, a program designed to unify students and faculty around a singular reading experience. It is set in rural Kansas, the center of the map, the center of everything, in the 1980s and it is like looking back into my own childhood:
"The Day After is going to be on television in November....I want to watch it, but I don't think I'll be able to because the school sent home a note."
"She has bought copies of Tiger Beat magazine and taped up pictures from it on her walls...Deena has seen The Outsiders seven times, and has pictures of all the stars: C.Thomas Howell, Rob Lowe, Tom Cruise, Ralph Macchio. She knows their names from the movie: Sodapop, Ponyboy, Johnny."
The Center of Everything is a novel about adolescence, family, and the social and political norms that shape identity in blue-collar middle America. Everyone can relate to this story.
3. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I've had this book on my reading list for over a year. I heard a lot of buzz about the book but didn't know what to expect. It is a real surprise with a twist half-way through and an ending that left me feeling somewhat dissatisfied - but not because it was predictable. I got lost in the narrative and in the characters and lost sleep over this book. I finished it in just a few days. Flynn is a KC native and a Jayhawk. What's not to like?
4. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. I've given this book to several of my graduate students over the past few years and finally found time to read it myself. This is an incredible and unbelievable story about a woman, Henrietta Lacks, whose cells were taken for research in 1951 without her consent, without her knowledge. A whole biomedical industry and decades of research sprung up as a result of her immortal cells while her family suffered through poverty, abuse and poor health. I have used these cells in the lab myself and never knew the story behind them. A must read.
Reading something right now that you love? Let me know, I need some new books!
Find my previous reading lists here.