Bedtime Stories: August 2018
- August 8, 2018
What do book lovers have queued up and ready to read on their nightstands before lights-out? We asked one of them, and here's what she said.
I’ve spoken to authors who don’t read in their genre while writing. Luckily, this isn’t a rule I abide by. I read nonfiction for historical research — I’ve published two novels in the past two years — and I also read whatever I want for pleasure.
At the moment, I’m writing a novel set in 1945 San Francisco and 1923 New York. I’m reading You Must Remember This: An Oral History of Manhattan from the 1890s to World War II by Jeff Kisseloff. The book is divided into 10 different neighborhoods and devotes a dozen voices to each. I love hearing these recollections of life in the city. I’m also reading Herb Caen’s Baghdad by the Bay to capture the essence of San Francisco in the 1940s. His writing is so evocative.
I devoured The Banker’s Wife by Cristina Alger. It’s a smart financial thriller set in Geneva, Switzerland. Cristina describes it as a “classic thriller,” meaning no drunk, unreliable female narrator. However, when it comes to unreliable narrators, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins is still the best of the bunch. The Child by Fiona Barton kept me guessing until the end, and Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown was riveting, a compelling family drama set in my hometown of Berkeley, California.
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman has a funny and flawed protagonist. I enjoy novels that are both uplifting and sad. I’m in the middle of The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang and it is steamy and charming, featuring an autistic heroine. Erotic Stories For Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal has everything I look for in women’s fiction: tension between mothers and daughters, mystery, romance, and multiculturalism.
When I finally got around to reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, it ended up being one of my favorite books of all time. I had no idea it would be so funny — especially the Vegas chapters. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng was domestic fiction with a literary bent, although I prefer the multiple-POV narration of Liane Moriarity’s Big Little Lies to Ng’s omniscient narrator.
In historical fiction, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid was a slice of old Hollywood I wanted to get lost in. Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate exposed America’s dark adoption history, and The Lost Letter by Jillian Cantor was a World War II love story I didn’t want to put down. Modern Girls by Jennifer S. Brown transported me to the 1930s Jewish immigrant community of the Lower East Side, and I loved it.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez both blew me away. Each novel features authentic teenage protagonists who are women of color. Both made me laugh out loud and also made me cry.
An article in the New Yorker titled “How Should Children’s Books Deal With The Holocaust?” reminded me of Jane Yolen’s novel The Devil’s Arithmetic, which I first read when I was 12. Back then, I loved the time-travel element. Now, rereading it as a mother, I found it painful, heartbreaking, and powerful.
Shanthi Sekaran’s Lucky Boy is also set in Berkeley and is topical in its focus on infertility, motherhood, and immigrant-family separations. As a reader and as an author of historical fiction, I hope our country will learn from its past mistakes. Until then, like Jane Yolen writes, “We must remember.”
Meredith Jaeger is the USA Today bestselling author of The Dressmaker’s Dowry and Boardwalk Summer. She lives outside San Francisco with her husband, their toddler, and their English bulldog.