comScore

Books aren’t canceled! Here’s a roundup of what we’re reading right now

itemprop

It might be hard to read the news these days, but it’s always a good time to get lost in a book. This week a few City Pages staffers share what is making them turn the page each day.

Jessica Armbruster

What are you reading right now:

We are Never Meeting in Real Life. Essays by Samantha Irby

What’s it about?

In this collection of essays, Irby starts big, opening with a chapter pitching a more honest Bachelorette. One where she would wear orthopedic shoes and sweatpants, test men on their laundry skills, and hand out condoms each round. For those unfamiliar with her work, it’s a wonderful introduction. Each chapter is an explosion of honesty, where Irby reflects on dating with a disability, why hoarding blazers is kinda okay, how much she hates her cat, Helen Keller. 

Would you recommend it?
Hell yes. Each essay is a quick and funny read; the chapter titled “A Case for Remaining Indoors” feels particularly timely.

Notable quote:
On why we should dine indoors: “I don’t care how long the wait is, I’d rather wait an hour for a table that won’t get covered in pigeon shit and the airborne pathogens expelled from the mouths of curious passersby."

Em Cassel

What are you reading right now?

Something that May Shock and Discredit You by Daniel Mallory Ortberg

What's it about?

It's an essay collection with a lot about gender transition, but also about the specific and elusive beauty of Captain James T. Kirk, spending your adolescence watching teenage boys play video games (which will not make them fall in love with you! People don't know this!!!!), the actually soul-crushing but happy-presenting Golden Girls finale, religion, history, literature, and more.

Why would you recommend it?

Very few books make me laugh out loud -- I am much more of an internal laugh-reader -- but this one got me from the title of the very first essay: "When You Were Younger and You Got Home Early and You Were the First One Home and No One Else Was Out On the Street, Did You Ever Worry That the Rapture Had Happened Without You? I Did."

Notable quote:

"Something a lot of people don't know about me is that my transition started the day I failed to parallel park correctly in front of a man standing outside my apartment complex. This is more common than people think! Something like 38 percent of trans men cite the inciting incident of their transition as being watched while failing to parallel park correctly. There's no shame in it, and I wish we made more room for that conversation in our community."

Hannah Jones

What are you reading right now?

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

What's it about?

Puns mostly, but it’s also about a disaffected demon and a book-loving angel trying to prevent Armageddon so they can continue to chill on Earth and drink and whatnot. I’m aware it’s a very popular TV show. I haven’t seen it, and I’m incredibly late in the reading of it, but had to figure out where all this gay fan art on my Instagram feed came from, okay?

Fun fact: 

The gay fan art the book has inspired is very good.

Would you recommend it?

It can get a little heavy-handed thematically, but the writing style is lithe and bouncy and cartoonish -- and who doesn’t love a satanic nun or two?

Susan Du

What are you reading right now?

The last book I got from the library, Double Star by Robert Heinlein

What's it about?

A flamboyant human actor has to impersonate a kidnapped politician to make peace with the martians, whom he hates because he's a "human supremacist."

Notable quote:

"Worst of all, a man is not a single complexity; he is a different complexity to every person who knows him."

Would you recommend it? 

Is his naive portrayal of women the product of his time or was the author just a lazy narcissist? I don't know! It's a paperback sci-fi from 1956 from the same guy who wrote Starship Troopers. So if that's your cup of tea... 

Sarah Brumble

What are you reading right now?

The Abundance by Annie Dillard.

What's it about?

This is a collection of shorter pieces pulled from Dillard's bigger works (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Teaching a Stone to Talk, An American Childhood). Through narrative essays, she investigates bugs and animals as if they were people, only to regard people like creatures from another planet, all in hopes of trying to get to the bottom of why things have their own, certain natures.

Notable quote: 

"This is the Big Time here, every minute of it. Will someone please explain to Alan McDonald in his dignity, to the deer at Providencia in his dignity, what is going on? And copy me on it." 

Fun fact:

Would you recommend it?

I love the way she vacillates between lyricism and straightforward prose, with an eye toward mysticism, only to toss in something deadpan funny right after a long gut-punch about why humans are kinda blind and dumb and the worst. 

Jay Boller

What are you reading right now? 

We’ve Got People: From Jesse Jackson to AOC, the End of Big Money and the Rise of a Movement by Ryan Grim

What's it about?

It’s a decades-long leftist examination of the Democratic Party selling its soul, abandoning working people for corporate money, and losing elections spectacularly. 

Notable fun fact: 

Rahm Emmanuel was a standout ballet dancer at Sarah Lawrence College! 

Would you recommend it?

Sure, though I’d start with Thomas Frank’s similarly themed Listen, Liberal.

Erik Thompson

What are you reading right now? 

In Search of Lost Time - Volume 1: Swann's Way by Marcel Proust

What's it about?

Hard to say, since I'm just starting out what is essentially a couple thousand page, multi-volume novel. But from what I understand, the narrator bites into a madeleine and a flood of memories from his youth come back to him. He reflects on his past love affairs, how quickly time has passed, and searches for meaning in an unfeeling, aristocratic world.

Notable quote or fun fact

I think the book starts with one of the best opening lines in the history of literature:

"For a long time I would go to bed early. Sometimes, the candle barely out, my eyes closed so quickly that I did not have time to tell myself: ‘I'm falling asleep.’"

As far as interesting facts go, Proust spent time in a sanatorium following the death of his mother when he was in his early 30s. And only the first four volumes of In Search of Lost Time were published during Proust's lifetime. The final three volumes, The Captive, The Fugitive, and Time Regained, were all published following his death in 1922. 

Why would you recommend it?
While we're all self-isolating indoors, why not tackle an epic work of French literature that deals with the lost, fleeting moments of time that we'll never get back again? Seems rather fitting for these troubled, uncertain times of ours.