Since wintertime means curling up under a big pile of blankets and tackling my ever-growing queue of books on my Kindle, I’ve been reading a lot lately. If summer is for beach reads, then winter is for bittersweet love stories (and for brushing up on your knowledge of Wall Street and Jazz Age figures – right? …right?)
Here are some of my favorites I’ve
devoured read this winter.
1. Flash Boys by Michael Lewis
When was the last time you read 288 pages about the Wall Street crash in 2007? Ever heard of dark pools, or high-frequency trading? (Business students, keep your hands down.) This book received glowing reviews on Amazon, and I’ve forgotten 100% of what I learned as an econ undergrad 5 years ago – hence the need for a refresher. I think it’s important for Americans to understand what caused our market crash 8 years ago – it’s had an indelible impact on all of us, from unemployment, suppressed wages, and mortgage rates to cultural shifts and grassroots movements (remember Occupy Wall Street?).
Michael Lewis does a great job of explaining the subprime loan crisis, and the events leading up to it, in layman’s terms that any of us can understand. But really, this is an epic about a hero among the many ruthless, selfish commanders of the stock markets. A Canadian trader, Brad Katsuyama, discovers that certain banks and hedge funds have a competitive advantage (based largely on their connection speed to the stock exchanges), and he sets out to create his own stock exchange that prevents high-frequency trading. I was a) impressed that one guy could start his own stock exchange, and b) proud that I can now keep up with a bit of stock-market talk now. Dark pools, psshhhhh.
2. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
On a recent trip to Powell’s Books in Portland, I picked up a copy of this book (it was in the “Staff Recommendations” section, no surprise!) and proceeded to power through it in 3-4 days. It was my favorite book I’ve read in a long, long time – funny, quirky, dark, romantic, and full of the spirit of adventure (Antarctica!). My dreams are now filled with fantasies on cruising to Antarctica and kayaking around icebergs.
If you haven’t read this yet, run – don’t walk – to the nearest bookstore (or download it, stat). Bonus: the story begins in my hometown, Seattle.
3. Coming Clean, A Memoir by Kimberly Rae Miller
This is a real-life hoarder story. Need I say more?
Kim grew up with two hoarder parents, and her stories – the living conditions she experienced her entire childhood – broke my heart. Beach read? Nope. Eye-opening, heart-crushing, intriguing addendum to the TLC show? You bet. If you need motivation to haul a carload of old stuff to Goodwill and clean within an inch of your life – this one’s for you.
4. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Ah, to be young and in love. Rainbow Rowell captures the drama and excitement of high school relationships, while digging deeper to expose the struggles of a girl living in decrepit conditions – Eleanor shares a bedroom with 5 siblings and lives in fear of the wrath of her abusive alcoholic stepfather. There are bullies, protective parents, and creepy teachers; first kisses, long rides on school buses, and Shakespeare reading assignments. It’s refreshing to read a throw-back to high school life, and these two kids are perfect for each other.
5. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
When I said winter is for bittersweet love stories, I wasn’t kidding. This novel should be sold with a pack of tissues and a disclaimer that you will cry. (Who doesn’t love a good cry, though?) For the first time in ages, since I saw The Butterfly and the Diving Bell, I really peered into the mind – and the agony – of a quadriplegic man. At times, the narrator, Lou, is a bit naive, but her relationship with Will, first as his caretaker, then as his friend, is one of those complex, raw, realistic, and slowly evolving love stories that only the best writers can conjure.
6. Everybody Was So Young: Gerald and Sara Murphy, A Lost Generation Love Story by Amanda Vaill
Admit it: you love anything “art deco” or Gatsby-themed. In so many of the stories about Scott and Zelda Fitzerald, Hemingway and his first (and second, and third) wives, Pablo Picasso and Igor Stravinsky and Gertrude Stein, there are mentions of the Murphys – Gerald and Sara, two wealthy American expats who took Paris by storm in the 1920s and were the link between all of those infamous writers and artists. This biography tells their story, and it reads like a true-life version of The Paris Wife or Tender Is the Night. A-plus for anecdotes about Scott and Zelda’s craziest schemes, vivid descriptions of villas on the French Riviera, and capturing the frenetic spirit of the era.