Baby Got Books.
Hopefully you’ll have time during the holidays to escape the drama, sleep in late and curl up with a good book. My friends know I’m a voracious reader and here are some recent favorites I hope you’ll like too. So, go ahead, slip into your Birdies, pull your hair back into a silk scrunchie, and get ready to read.
The Friend by Sigrid Nunez - The Friend just won the 2018 National Book Award and it’s a great read. It’s about a writer who has lost one of her best friends and ends up having to take in his very large and grieving Great Dane into her very small NYC apartment. Sigrid Nunez writes about love, death, art and friendship, and the relationship that develops between her and this big, sad, traumatized dog.
I’m a newbie to a book group that’s been meeting monthly for 30 years (I think I’ve only logged in 8 years so far). The dozen women in my group are smart, interesting, well-read and have extremely discerning tastes – they do NOT want to waste their time. I would feel confident recommending The Friend to the group – the book is well written and there’s a lot of interesting thoughts about readers and writers that would make for lively discussion.
I liked Sigrid Nunez’s interview with the New York Times about becoming an “overnight literary sensation” - after 23 years and 8 books.
Wisdom @ Work – the Making of a Modern Elder by Chip Conley - When we get to be a “certain age” and you see that power is moving to people much younger than us, we may start questioning our relevancy in the work force and in the world around us. This book, The Making of a Modern Elder, made me feel much better about myself and my capacity to contribute and add value.
Chip Conley is in his late 50’s – he had founded and run a successful boutique hotel chain (Joie de Vivre) for 25 years. When he sold that company, the founders of Airbnb asked him to come onboard. While he had a lifetime of hospitality experience and leadership skills - he felt he lacked the digital fluency required to succeed in such a tech forward company. But, he came to realize that the true “sharing economy” is about sharing wisdom across generations.
Chip Conley talks about how we acquire wisdom and how we need to retain a “growth mindset” – a way of seeing the world through a lens of curiosity where risk and imagination open up new possibilities. Are we a carton of milk that’s spoiling? Or are we that bottle of wine that gets better with age? But, not every old wine is a good one, right? It depends on not only its age, but also on how you store it, serve it, and the reason for raising a glass.
This book is super readable and if you do choose to go old-school with the the hardcover version, you’ll get a lot of use out of your highlighter. Chip has launched a Modern Elder Academy in Baja California – it’s the world’s first midlife wisdom school. Participants “learn how to reboot their lives to evolve out of past knowledge/experience to become a vital relevant part of the modern economy”. I have a friend going in January 2019 – I’ll report back if anyone’s interested.
Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh - Eileen won the PEN/Hemingway debut fiction award and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. David Sedaris chose it to be his “recommended book” on a 40-city tour, during which he promoted, sold and signed this book, not one of his own. Eileen is funny, strange, shocking and mesmerizing. After reading it I became sort of obsessed with the author and have read everything else she has written.
It’s difficult describing the book without giving away too much, so here is a description from Oprah -"Rife with dark emotions and twisted fantasies, Moshfegh's psychological thriller is the sinister account of the reclusive Eileen, whose prospects for escape from her abysmal life take a turn for the worse when a friendship with a coworker spirals into obsession."
In her interview with The Guardian, Ottessa Moshfegh explains that she had been writing short stories that received critical acclaim and won awards, but realized she needed to make money to continue to pursue her career as a writer. So she intentionally set out to write something that would be a commercial success, following the rules laid out in a book called “The 90 Day Novel”. The experiment went sideways with this unreliable narrator and strange story.
Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West - I heard Lindy West on This American Life several times and was captivated by her story and her attitude – she is totally entertaining and completely original. Her book Shrill is a memoir where she talks about how she went from being ashamed of her fatness to embracing it. To get a sense of how smart and funny she is, listen to her segments on the podcast, like this one about dealing with an online troll and here, where she reads from Shrill.
And if, like me, you just love Ira Glass and This American Life, be sure to catch this episode of the new Without Fail podcast – an interview with Ira led by one of his protégés Alex Blumberg who created a network called Gimlet.
Sophia of Silicon Valley by Anna Yen - I know, it may sound like a silly beach book but it’s not. Sophia of Silicon Valley is a fun, interesting book about a young woman who ends up working her ass off at fictional companies based on real life Pixar and Tesla. The book seems semi-autobiographical and incorporates the author’s real-life experiences, which included being mentored by Steve Jobs. I was fascinated by the main character, by her work ethic and her distinct personality that could deal with such a strong and difficult genius like Steve Jobs and learn so much from him in the process. It’s light-hearted, so it don’t expect it to delve into the misogyny/etc. of the Silicon Valley start-up/VC culture but it’s a delightful read.