what I'm reading over winter break: library book haul part 1

It's officially winter break, I'm back home all cozy watching the snow fall outside, and I'm ready to fill my days with endless reading. I've been reunited with my very favorite library, so I'm definitely making the most of it. I placed an absurd number of holds, but this list just features the first 9 that came in. I'm not sure where to dive in first, but I'm so excited to catch up on reading again and get up to date with this new world of books written for adults that I'm finally finding my place in. I have those giddy feelings of when I first aged into YA and it suddenly felt like a whole new world had opened up all over again. 

The Idiot 
by Elif Batuman 
I picked up this book for the first time over the summer from the library. I got through about 100 pages before I had to return it, and I felt relatively indifferent. But after rereading Sally Rooney this fall and connecting with it in a way I never had before, I figured it was worth picking this one up again to see if I'd have a different outlook. I grabbed a paperback copy from a local bookstore for the plane, and I've been reading it for the last few days, far more swept up in the story than I ever had been. 
Official Summary: 
The year is 1995, and email is new. Selin, the daughter of Turkish immigrants, arrives for her freshman year at Harvard. She signs up for classes in subjects she has never heard of, befriends her charismatic and worldly Serbian classmate, Svetlana, and, almost by accident, begins corresponding with Ivan, an older mathematics student from Hungary. Selin may have barely spoken to Ivan, but with each email they exchange, the act of writing seems to take on new and increasingly mysterious meanings.

At the end of the school year, Ivan goes to Budapest for the summer, and Selin heads to the Hungarian countryside, to teach English in a program run by one of Ivan's friends. On the way, she spends two weeks visiting Paris with Svetlana. Selin's summer in Europe does not resonate with anything she has previously heard about the typical experiences of American college students, or indeed of any other kinds of people. For Selin, this is a journey further inside herself: a coming to grips with the ineffable and exhilarating confusion of first love, and with the growing consciousness that she is doomed to become a writer.

Eileen 
by Ottessa Moshfegh
I read My Year of Rest and Relaxation last year and never quite got the hype, but I'm still interested in reading more of her work since she's such a lauded author. I've seen this recommended by a few people online and on book displays, so I figured I'd dive in. 
Official Summary:
The Christmas season offers little cheer for Eileen Dunlop, an unassuming yet disturbed young woman trapped between her role as her alcoholic father’s caretaker in a home whose squalor is the talk of the neighborhood and a day job as a secretary at the boys prison, filled with its own quotidian horrors. 
Consumed by resentment and self-loathing, Eileen tempers her dreary days with perverse fantasies and dreams of escaping to the big city. In the meantime, she fills her nights and weekends with shoplifting, stalking a buff prison guard named Randy, and cleaning up her increasingly deranged father’s messes. When the bright, beautiful, and cheery Rebecca Saint John arrives on the scene as the new counselor at the prison, Eileen is enchanted and proves unable to resist what appears at first to be a miraculously budding friendship. But her affection for Rebecca ultimately pulls her into complicity in a crime that surpasses her wildest imaginings.

Girl, Woman, Other 
by Bernardine Evaristo
I've wanted to catch up on popular, important books in literary fiction from the last few years, so this 2019 Booker Prize winner felt like a worthy choice. I was also intrigued by the idea of a book creating a portrait of 12 different characters. 
Official Summary:
Teeming with life and crackling with energy — a love song to modern Britain and black womanhood
Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years.
Joyfully polyphonic and vibrantly contemporary, this is a gloriously new kind of history, a novel of our times: celebratory, ever-dynamic and utterly irresistible.

by Ling Ma
I'm a bit weary of jumping into a book about a pandemic sweeping NYC, but interestingly, this book came out in 2018 and is about a very different pandemic. I'm curious to see what insights Ma has in her fictitious tale. I've also seen this recommended a ton, and I love completing the circle of millennial pink books. 
Official Summary:
Candace Chen, a millennial drone self-sequestered in a Manhattan office tower, is devoted to routine. So she barely notices when a plague of biblical proportions sweeps New York. Then Shen Fever spreads. Families flee. Companies halt operations. The subways squeak to a halt. Soon entirely alone, still unfevered, she photographs the eerie, abandoned city as the anonymous blogger NY Ghost.
Candace won’t be able to make it on her own forever, though. Enter a group of survivors, led by the power-hungry IT tech Bob. They’re traveling to a place called the Facility, where, Bob promises, they will have everything they need to start society anew. But Candace is carrying a secret she knows Bob will exploit. Should she escape from her rescuers?
A send-up and takedown of the rituals, routines, and missed opportunities of contemporary life, Ling Ma’s Severance is a quirky coming-of-adulthood tale and satire.

by Maggie O'Farrell 
My interest in reading this is two-fold. First, Jack Edwards talks about this book all the time on his BookTube channel, and so now I'm intrigued. Second, I'm taking a class about Shakespeare and his times next semester, so this feels like a good way to get excited for the class. I'm not normally a historical fiction reader, but I'm trying to branch out.
Official Summary:
Drawing on Maggie O'Farrell's long-term fascination with the little-known story behind Shakespeare's most enigmatic play, Hamnet is a luminous portrait of a marriage, at its heart the loss of a beloved child. 
Warwickshire in the 1580s. Agnes is a woman as feared as she is sought after for her unusual gifts. She settles with her husband in Henley street, Stratford, and has three children: a daughter, Susanna, and then twins, Hamnet and Judith. The boy, Hamnet, dies in 1596, aged eleven. Four years or so later, the husband writes a play called Hamlet. 
Award-winning author Maggie O'Farrell's new novel breathes full-blooded life into the story of a loss usually consigned to literary footnotes, and provides an unforgettable vindication of Agnes, a woman intriguingly absent from history.


by Jennifer Saint 
Here's another genre that I don't read a ton of now but loved when I was in middle school. I've been a huge Greek Myths fan since I was a kid, so I'm excited to dive into a story about Ariadne, the Minotaur, and the  island of Crete. (This was also recommended by Jack Edwards).
Official Summary:
Ariadne, Princess of Crete, grows up greeting the dawn from her beautiful dancing floor and listening to her nursemaid's stories of gods and heroes. But beneath her golden palace echo the ever-present hoofbeats of her brother, the Minotaur, a monster who demands blood sacrifice.
When Theseus, the Prince of Athens, arrives to vanquish the beast, Ariadne sees in his green eyes not a threat but an escape. Defying the gods, betraying her family and country, and risking everything for love, Ariadne helps Theseus kill the Minotaur. But will Ariadne's decision ensure her happy ending? And what of Phaedra, the beloved younger sister she leaves behind?
Hypnotic, propulsive, and utterly transporting, Jennifer Saint's Ariadne forges a new epic, one that puts the forgotten women of Greek mythology back at the heart of the story, as they strive for a better world.

by Taffy Brodesser-Akner 
This is the most random discovery of a book on this list. I was vaguely aware of this book from working in a bookstore in 2019, but it really came onto my radar when I saw a one-off commercial for this book getting turned into a movie. They didn't even really mention the book, but the title rung a bell, and I started googling until I found it because the movie premise really pulled me in. 
Official Summary:
Recently separated Toby Fleishman is suddenly, somehow--and at age forty-one, short as ever--surrounded by women who want him: women who are self-actualized, women who are smart and interesting, women who don't mind his height, women who are eager to take him for a test drive with just the swipe of an app. Toby doesn't mind being used in this way; it's a welcome change from the thirteen years he spent as a married man, the thirteen years of emotional neglect and contempt he's just endured. Anthropologically speaking, it's like nothing he ever experienced before, particularly back in the 1990s, when he first began dating and became used to swimming in the murky waters of rejection.
But Toby's new life--liver specialist by day, kids every other weekend, rabid somewhat anonymous sex at night--is interrupted when his ex-wife suddenly disappears. Either on a vision quest or a nervous breakdown, Toby doesn't know--she won't answer his texts or calls.
Is Toby's ex just angry, like always? Is she punishing him, yet again, for not being the bread winner she was? As he desperately searches for her while juggling his job and parenting their two unraveling children, Toby is forced to reckon with the real reasons his marriage fell apart, and to ask if the story he has been telling himself all this time is true.

by Emily Austin 
Talk about an eye catching title. I first saw this book highly recommended on Jensen McRae's Instagram, and then Jack Edwards started talking about it, and suddenly it was popping up everywhere. I'm possibly most excited to pick up this one from the list. 
Official Summary:
Gilda, a twenty-something lesbian, cannot stop ruminating about death. Desperate for relief from her panicky mind and alienated from her repressive family, she responds to a flyer for free therapy at a local Catholic church, and finds herself being greeted by Father Jeff, who assumes she’s there for a job interview. Too embarrassed to correct him, Gilda is abruptly hired to replace the recently deceased receptionist Grace.
In between trying to memorize the lines to Catholic mass, hiding the fact that she has a new girlfriend, and erecting a dirty dish tower in her crumbling apartment, Gilda strikes up an email correspondence with Grace’s old friend. She can’t bear to ignore the kindly old woman, who has been trying to reach her friend through the church inbox, but she also can’t bring herself to break the bad news. Desperate, she begins impersonating Grace via email. But when the police discover suspicious circumstances surrounding Grace’s death, Gilda may have to finally reveal the truth of her mortifying existence.

by Meg Mason 
This book came from seeing a book display called Sad Girl books. It was surrounded by a ton of my other favorite recent reads, so I decided to add it to the pile. 
Official Summary:
This novel is about a woman called Martha. She knows there is something wrong with her but she doesn't know what it is. Her husband Patrick thinks she is fine. He says everyone has something, the thing is just to keep going.
Martha told Patrick before they got married that she didn't want to have children. He said he didn't mind either way because he has loved her since he was fourteen and making her happy is all that matters, although he does not seem able to do it.
By the time Martha finds out what is wrong, it doesn't really matter anymore. It is too late to get the only thing she has ever wanted. Or maybe it will turn out that you can stop loving someone and start again from nothing - if you can find something else to want.

by Dolly Alder 
I'm not totally sure where I got the idea to read this book, but I love fiction about dating in the modern, tech filled world and also dramatic stories about big life changes so I felt like I was primed to like this. Also, I've been seeing Everything I Know About Love everywhere, and since I couldn't get my hands on it, I went for Ghosts instead. 
Official Summary: 
Nina Dean has arrived at her early thirties as a successful food writer with loving friends and family, plus a new home and neighbourhood. When she meets Max, a beguiling romantic hero who tells her on date one that he's going to marry her, it feels like all is going to plan.
A new relationship couldn't have come at a better time - her thirties have not been the liberating, uncomplicated experience she was sold. Everywhere she turns, she is reminded of time passing and opportunities dwindling. Friendships are fading, ex-boyfriends are moving on and, worse, everyone's moving to the suburbs. There's no solace to be found in her family, with a mum who's caught in a baffling mid-life makeover and a beloved dad who is vanishing in slow-motion into dementia.
Dolly Alderton's debut novel is funny and tender, filled with whip-smart observations about relationships, family, memory, and how we live now.


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