It’s fall! Well, not really yet at all, actually–the weather is still balmy and the kids are wearing shorts (of course, they’ll wear shorts into February, but you get what I’m saying).
Maybe now, however, you have some time to sit down and chill—and let your hand unclench from having filled out all those gratuitous school forms?
Welcome to my fall list of Books By Women To Make You Feel Better About Life.
1. “Catastrophic Happiness: Finding Joy in Childhood’s Messy Years,” by Catherine Newman
Word, Catherine Newman. Newman has two kids to my six (I nearly wrote seven, that’s how f*cking tired I am), so maybe she doesn’t have as much chaos in her house as I do in mine. Anyway, that’s going to be what I tell myself because she has written a book of such beauty and grace that I will feel bad for not having written a version of it myself for my entire life. Her book should be mandatory fun reading for all parents.
The main character, Karen Neulander, writes this book to her son as a blueprint to her soul: she is dying of ovarian cancer, and wants to convey to her son what she was like (her son Jake is only 6). I know, maybe this doesn’t seem like a “feel good” read. And I did cry. But it is just so breathtakingly beautiful as she observes the mundane and translates it into piercing, quivering love in her words. A gem.
3. “The After Party,” by Anton DiSclafani
This book will transport the reader back to the 1950s in Texas, where big poufy skirts and martinis proliferate along with ruby-red lipstick and wasp waists. It’s the story of a friendship that cannot stand the test of time as two women grow, and grow apart. It’s a world so different from my own that I could not stop turning the pages.
4. “Goodbye, Vitamin,” by Rachel Khong
This book is told as a diary of a woman who has moved back home to be with her father as he slips further and further into dementia. Yet this story, which might seem like a Hallmark special, is funny and kind. Even though it’s fiction, it resonates like truth and is a beautiful read.
5. “Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give,” by Ada Calhoun
No, it’s not a long list of toasts saying things like, “Your groom sucked in bed,” or “I’m not sure if this marriage will even last to the parking lot.” It’s an introspective memoir on the nature of love and marriage by someone through the prism of two relationships.
6. “The Heirs: A Novel,” by Susan Rieger
This wonderful read about a Manhattan family struggling after the death of its patriarch is almost dramaturgical in its well-paced plot and action. It’s a quick and lighter read for those who liked The Nest (spoiler: this is better).
7. “Class Mom,” by Laurie Gellman
This extremely light read is for anyone who has ever been a class parent…and for anyone who has felt that being a class parent will drive them off the rails. It’s silly but will make you feel happy that you are not a class mom this year. And if you are? Sorry (I am too…sigh).
8. “The Burning Girl,” by Claire Messud
I would follow Claire Messud into a pit, so I am not really the most objective reader, but I am loving this book about childhood and friendship. It is intense and I am candidly not sure if I will be able to read it in chunks in the carpool line, so you’ve been warned.
9. “The Idea of You,” by Robinne Lee
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be the ‘civilian’ girlfriend of an international pop superstar? Personally, I hadn’t, but this frivolous light read took me straight into the world of the paparazzi bumping up against real life. This is a fun one (and the sexy parts are pretty erotic, for what it’s work).
10. “The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After Happiness: A Memoir,” by Heather Harpham
God, this memoir is gorgeous. Harpham writes about giving birth alone with an ambivalent-at-best boyfriend – and then how their love evolves and changes as they find out their newborn daughter is very sick. The writing is just exquisite,e and will make you feel lucky that she put pen to page and let you into her life.