"City of Girls" and "Eat, Pray, Love" author Elizabeth Gilbert shares her four favorite—and wide-ranging—reads of 2019.
Elizabeth Gilbert defies expectations. Riveting nonfiction, a travel memoir that people love or hate, an inspirational book on creativity, and a series of novels that span widely different places and times are among the books that prove her to be a writer impossible to pigeonhole. But that’s exactly why we always look forward to her newest books.
This year Gilbert released City of Girls, a novel that the Amazon Books editors chose in June as the Best Book of 2019 So Far. Telling the story of Vivian Morris, a young woman who goes to New York in 1940 to become someone interesting and soon stumbles into disaster, Gilbert tackles the concept that you don’t have to be a “good girl” to be a good person.
We asked Gilbert what she’d been reading and loving lately. Her picks, naturally, were both unexpected and lovely.
Elizabeth Gilbert’s favorite reads of 2019
Flash Count Diary: Menopause and the Vindication of Natural Life by Darcey Steinke
This is a searing (sometimes literally) personal history and investigation into menopause, written by a fearless and brilliant author. When Steinke reached menopause, she was shocked to discover how little information was available about this change of life—and she was also disgusted by the fact that menopausal women are treated in culture like comic punch lines (at best) or crazed witches (at worst). Through explorations of myth, science, nature, culture, and her own challenging but ultimately liberating experience, Steinke weaves a fascinating and inspiring tale of true female power.
This is one of the most beautiful essay collections I’ve read in years. With patient, careful, and elegant prose, Bernard explores her own experience of being a black woman in a white world (Vermont!), and also digs deeply into what it has meant for her to be a wife and a mother and a friend and a professor. More than anything else, I think of this book as a love story: Bernard has passionate relationships with the people in her life whom she loves, and reading these essays reminds us once again of how blessed we are for our connections.
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy
Oh, this book is so beautiful and tender and special! Mackesy, using simple yet poignant illustrations, tells the story of a lonely boy who befriends a mole, a fox, and a horse who help him both understand and survive the world. I would put this book in the same category as Winnie-the-Pooh or the Little Prince—illustrated masterpieces that transcend genre and belong to the ages. This is one of the most lovely tales of friendship I’ve ever seen, and would make a beautiful gift of gratitude to anyone who has ever taken care of you or shown up for you in times of trouble.
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk
I had never heard of Tokarczuk when I read this book over the summer, and I thrilled to this story—a dark, strange, comic, twisted masterpiece of a mystery about an older woman living in the woods between Poland and the Czech Republic who is trying to solve a recent string of brutal murders. I have never met a character quite like the protagonist of this haunting and weirdly delightful novel—a woman who is overeducated, underemployed, truly eccentric, and perhaps totally insane. It’s a great narrative voice, and I loved the book from the first page. Of course, now the world knows Tokarczuk’s name, as she just won the Nobel Prize for Literature this year—and most deservedly. I can’t wait to read the rest of her work. But definitely start with this one.
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