Light Reads in Dark Times

Erin Kodicek on October 31, 2018
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No matter your affiliation, the scariest thing this Halloween is probably the political climate. Take a break from the vitriol and immerse yourselves in these funny, moving, warmhearted reads.

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When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger

In her latest novel, When Life Gives You Lululemons, Lauren Weisberger drops Emily Charlton, Miranda Priestly’s uber catty assistant from The Devil Wears Prada, into the suburbs of Connecticut, and the result is hilarious. Emily, now in her 30s, is living in Los Angeles with a husband and a career as an image consultant—a career that is suddenly floundering—when she gets a desperate summons to Greenwich, Connecticut, from her old friend Miriam. Miriam’s pal Karolina is all over the media with a bogus drunk driving change, and this senator’s wife and former Victoria’s Secret model needs an image makeover, fast. The narrative is split between the three women as they uncover a major betrayal and in doing so form an enviable bond. The doings of the Greenwich housewives who are now shunning Karolina is uproariously funny, and even jaded Emily is shocked by the scandalous behavior going on behind oversized doors. It feels like Weisberger wrote her novel yesterday, peppering the story with real-life celebrity misconduct. When Life Gives You Lululemons is a laugh-out-loud funny look at rich people behaving badly and the steel bonds of true female friendship. —Seira Wilson

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Calypso by David Sedaris

Reading ruminations on middle age and mortality is not typically a cheery exercise, unless David Sedaris is doing the writing. Many of the essays in Calypso are set at the “Sea Section”—Sedaris’s retreat on the Carolina coast. There, his family whiles away the holidays playing cutthroat board games, baking in the sun, and feeding tumors to snapping turtles (yes, you read that right). In others, he describes shopping shenanigans in Japan (you can thank him for the resurgence of the culotte, or not), his unhealthy Fitbit obsession, and a side vocation picking up trash near his Sussex home. All provide the sort of everyday fodder that is ripe for his beloved brand of witty repartee. But Calypso is as dark as it is droll; it also touches on his late mother’s alcoholism, his sister’s suicide, and a sometimes strained relationship with an irascible father. Any one of these things could fracture a family but it’s clear from these pages that their bond is strong. Calypso is David Sedaris’s funniest, most outrageous, most moving offering yet. —Erin Kodicek

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Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson

Anne Youngson’s debut novel, Meet Me at the Museum, is a book you might find yourself finishing in one go. Mrs. Tina Hopgood is an English farmer’s wife, and Anders Larsen a widowed curator at a museum in Denmark. Though a common interest in one of the museum exhibits brings them together, Anders and Tina soon begin sharing increasingly personal stories and thoughts from their lives, including some never spoken of before. It is touching and uplifting to follow along as their relationship develops, solely through their letters, particularly when Anders notes, “we have both arrived at the same point in our lives. More behind us than ahead of us. Paths chosen that define us. Enough time left to change.” There is much to be charmed by in this epistolary novel, and Meet Me at the Museum is sure to find a welcome home beside bestsellers like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. --Seira Wilson

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Look Alive Out There by Sloane Crosley

In her latest collection of essays, Sloane Crosley demonstrates, yet again, a knack for making the mundane miraculous. Reading Look Alive Out There is like listening to your smartest, funniest friend regale you about their (mis)adventures, be it waging war on a rude neighbor, making an ill-conceived climb up a volcano, or helping a swinger couple pick out a third (as you do). And like a friend, Crosley is not afraid to veer into vulnerable territory, which reveals the growth of a writer who first displayed her sardonic wit and keen appreciation of the absurd in, I Was Told There’d Be Cake. It’s as good a time as any to be reminded that life is full of good humor, but only a select few do that as well as Ms. Crosley. --Erin Kodicek

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Virgil Wander by Leif Enger

Leif Enger’s latest could easily veer into saccharine territory. It’s an endearing yarn, set in a sleepy town near Lake Superior, inhabited by a quirky cast of characters (and even quirkier raccoon and sturgeon). But you quickly discover that all is not quiet on the Midwestern front: The town is in decline; the novel’s namesake has just been in a harrowing car crash; an enigmatic kite enthusiast arrives, searching for his missing son; and, unbeknownst to all, a heartbroken handyman has embarked on a sinister project.Not everyone’s story has a happy ending, but Virgil Wander reminds us that there is hope, that small acts of kindness aren’t small at all and—coupled with the contagious joy of flying a kite—they have the power to turn a flagging town’s frown upside down (something that reading Virgil Wander will do for you). —Erin Kodicek


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