On the Couch (January Reading)

1.14.22

It’s a tough time to do much more than read, so make some soup and settle in while Omicron rages. Here are some suggestions for immersive reads. Lots of wonderful authors released books at the end of 2021, but these are the titles which are are rising to the top as we start 2022.

Irish Enlightenment

Our book club deliberately chose a happy title to begin the year, Niall Williams This is Happiness to read next, desiring to immerse ourselves in the sounds, rhythms and mystery of the natural world. Williams is an Irish playwright and author, and he and his wife have written books about their garden together.

Puerto Rican Romance

Olga Dies Dreaming is one of 2022 most highly anticipated books, a romantic comedy from a talented newcomer, Xochitl Gonzalez. I bought it based on this rave from Ron Charles of the Washington Post book section, and since my daughter is getting married (finally) in 2022, the wedding planner subplot should provide some chuckles.

History

From the author of one of the most beloved books of the past ten years comes a story that crosses through time and made many year end favorite lists. Anthony Doerr’s Cloud Cuckoo Land is dedicated to librarians and is reviewed here in the New York Times.

Raw Truths

Within a month, two devastating life events happened to Congressman Jamie Raskin – his son took his own life at the end of 2020 and weeks later the grieving father was caught in the Capital building during the insurrection. He is my sister’s Congressman in Maryland, where he was beloved by his constituency long before these horrid events Raskin has managed to write about these events in a new book, Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth, and the Trials of American Democracy.

Polarizing but Popular

Jonathan Franzen is a somewhat polarizing figure for many reasons but readers return for his sprawling stories and examination of our collective boomer past. And I continue to pay attention to him because he is a huge bird lover – read this piece in the Guardian “The Radical Otherness of Birds” and this in National Geographic “Why Birds Matter“, which is a bid for taking care of the planet. This novel, which is set in the 70s, is promised to be the first of a trilogy. Crossroads weighs in 600-ish pages but is well-loved already – here is a recent New Yorker profile of the author.