Favorite books from August

The best books I read in August, in no particular order.

Between the World and Me

Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates. Required reading for all Americans, especially white Americans.

Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston. This was my second time with this novel (read it again for my church book club), and it was just as dazzling and powerful the second time around. Notably, I felt struck by what an important feminist novel it is.

The Unknown Craftsman: A Japanese Insight Into Beauty

The Unknown Craftsman: A Japanese Insight into Beauty, Soetsu Yanagi. This book, a series of philosophical essays on Korean and Japanese folk art, so perfectly captures all that I adore about Japanese aesthetics. I am dying to go back to Japan and fill up an entire suitcase with ceramics.

Black Lamb and Grey Falcon

Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, Rebecca West. This tome is so deeply worth it. Rebecca West travels throughout the former Yugoslavia and the Balkans on the brink of World War II and writes about the region and its history with such beauty, wit, and strength. Highly, highly recommended.

Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing

Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing, May Sarton. I knew from the first sentence that I’d love this novel, and I was right. The dialogue flags in places, but it’s beautifully composed, and the characters are extremely memorable and strong. This is the first book of Sarton’s that I’ve read, and I’m looking forward to reading many more.

White Girls

White Girls, Hilton Als. Bold and occasionally inscrutable essays by a powerful writer. I particularly enjoyed his perspective on Flannery O’Connor, and the essay about André Leon Talley was pitch-perfect and heartbreaking by turns.

A Life in Letters

A Life in Letters, Anton Chekhov. Collected correspondence from Chekhov’s life, which shines a light on his humor and very human genius.

What were the best books you read last month?

10 short story collections you have to read

Stop what you are doing and go read ALL of these short story collections. All of them! (These are the 10 best that I have ever read, with some honorable mentions below.)

The Collected Stories

  1. The Collected Stories, by Eudora Welty
  2. The Duel and Other Stories, by Anton Chekhov
  3. The Complete Stories, by Flannery O’Connor
  4. The Stories of Paul Bowles, by Paul Bowles
  5. Rashomon and 17 Other Stories, by Ryunosuke Akutagawa
  6. Close Range, by Annie Proulx
  7. Tenth of December, by George Saunders
  8. The Marquise of O and Other Stories, by Heinrich von Kleist
  9. Runaway, by Alice Munro
  10. The Wonders of the Invisible World, by David Gates

The Wonders of the Invisible World

Honorable Mentions

  • The Aleph and Other Stories, Jorge Luis Borges
  • Drown, by Junot Diaz
  • The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  • The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories, by Ernest Hemingway
  • Dubliners, by James Joyce
  • Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • The Garden Party and Other Stories, by Katherine Mansfield
  • Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, by Z.Z. Packer
  • Binocular Vision: New and Selected Stories, by Edith Pearlman
  • Nine Stories, by J.D. Salinger
  • Fools: Stories, by Joan Silber
  • Sleepwalker in a Fog, by Tatyana Tolstaya
  • First Love and Other Stories, by Ivan Turgenev
  • A Haunted House and Other Short Stories, by Virginia Woolf

A Haunted House and Other Short Stories

What are your favorite short story collections? What did I grievously leave off the lists?

To be Chekhov

Senior year of college, I took a course on Russian literature that I loved. We had to write our final paper on various themes from our favorite short story of the semester. I chose Chekhov’s brilliant “The Lady with the Little Dog,” but I didn’t want to write another generic paper, so I made a request of the professor. What if my paper was a short story, written from the perspective of Gurov’s wife, making her the sympathetic character instead? He thought about it for a moment and said he loved the idea.

I worked hard on my little story and had fun with it, even though I knew it wasn’t a mini-masterpiece. But I was pleased with my effort. When I got the paper back, I got an A–. Overall, my professor liked it, but his closing comment read, “Interesting attempt, Abby. But I do wish that the writing sounded more like Chekhov himself.”

Oh, I thought, OK. So write it more like the greatest short fiction writer who’s EVER LIVED? OK. Sure thing. I’ll get right on that.

Top 10 books I’d want on a desert island

Screenshot from "LOST."

The ol’ desert island conundrum! Ten books is pretty lavish. If my husband and a dog were a given, here are the top 10 books I’d request that Charles Widmore send me on the island:

  1. The Bible. Naturally.
  2. In Search of Lost Time–all of it! You could read it for the rest of your life. (Marcel Proust)
  3. Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy).
  4. To the Lighthouse (Virginia Woolf). It will always be new to me.
  5. Complete short stories of Anton Chekhov. Meditations on the human spirit when I am isolated from humans?
  6. Complete works of Shakespeare. We could perform on the beach!
  7. Infinite Jest (David Foster Wallace). I haven’t read it yet, but I know it’s a magnificent tome, so it suits the other members of this list.
  8. Middlemarch (George Eliot).
  9. The Corrections (Jonathan Franzen).
  10. East of Eden (John Steinbeck).

You?

Monday Snax

We had a perfect, celebration-filled weekend in Davidson and Charlotte. Complete set of photos here!

Marriaged!
We watched these two get married. Warmest congratulations, Jonathan and Keara!
Glowing with love
We got all dressed up.
It's Pizookie time!
We took the Pizookie challenge.
Family love
And we welcomed home our beloved world traveler!

 Snax with a piping hot cup of darjeeling tea, imported straight from the region itself:

What I’ve Done. Just reading the list of things Grace did these past six months is enough to make one’s head spin. Proud of you, muppet, but mostly I’m just really, really glad that you’re home. (Como Say What?)

Memories of Chekhov. An excerpt from a new book of people’s opinions and stories about the great Anton Chekhov. Delightful. (New York Review of Books)

The Lake House, Part 2. Does this look like the absolute perfect vacation or what? I’m enamored. (Sweet Fine Day)

Teal Blue Envelope Calligraphy. Must learn how to write like this. (Paper Tastebuds)

An Epistolary Confession. I haven’t written many letters lately, and this thoughtful piece by Jenni Simmons on the Curator made me want to revive my practice of regular letter writing. (The Curator)

No-Bake Chocolate Cake. I haven’t actually made this yet, but it sounds perfect–especially since our temperamental old oven makes baking a terrifying and often tragic adventure. (Mint)

The Unconditional Love of Dogs. This is why I think keeping pets, especially dogs, matters to humanity. (Doggerel)

Hover Cat. I feel that this GIF sums up the personality of most cats and dogs. (Animals Being Di*ks)