It’s a tough time of year. Sure, the days are short… but they are SO LONG. Warmth seems far off for most of us, and our houses are plagued by colds, stomach viruses, strep, and flu.
You’re exhausted. You need an escape, ideally into a book that will keep you awake for more than two pages. And I will give you that escape, because I love you. Read these six page-turners now — you’ll be glad you did.
And stay strong! Winter is ending! Not really, but whatever.
1. The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani
I’m not going to lie — this book is freaking terrifying. I won’t give you spoilers, but this is not a book for the faint of heart, nor is it for people who believe their caregiver is perfect. (Newsflash: She or he isn’t!) It’s a very vivid and sharply drawn tale of the underlying tensions of economics and love in the caregiver-employer relationship, and one that you will not be able to put down or forget.
2. The Next by Stephanie Gangi
This book is extremely neglect-your-children absorbing. When a woman “of a certain age” dies, she becomes a spirit hellbent on seeking revenge against her former lover. It’s sort of like Ghostbusters meets Fatal Attraction, if we want to be reductive. This is not my usual fare, but it’s a fun dip into the realm of the unknown.
3. Oliver Loving by Stefan Merrill Block
Oliver Loving knocks it out of the park with basically everything. It’s got a compelling storyline — a victim of school shooting in coma-like state, and the lives that have gone on around him in the 10 years since the shooting, combined with a “whodunit” of sorts that’s mashed up with the vagaries of teenage love. The writing is stellar (and you’ll get the pun here once you read the book).
4. Three Floors Up by Eshkol Nevo
I loved this book so much, and wish I had the skills to read it in the original Hebrew so as to better savor the language. Even in translation, this story of the lives of the inhabitants of one apartment house in Tel Aviv are gripping. Pain, lust, loneliness, nostalgia, bitterness, and maternal love are all locked in an intricately choreographed dance in this wonderful collection of interwoven stories.
5. Eternal Life by Dara Horn
Yeah, she’s my sister. But even as one of her biologically-linked fiercest fans, I have to say that this is my favorite of all her books (The World To Come being my personal close second). In this book, a woman in Israel during the Second Temple era (that’s about 530 BCE to 70 CE) makes a bargain with the Temple’s High Priest to save the life of her son: In exchange, she and her lover will live forever. This inability to die — pockmarked by the deaths of all those children she raises — becomes a mediation on what it means to actually live, something that will resonate with all mothers. It’s funny, beautiful, and contemplative — just like my sister. (I had to.)
6. The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity by Esther Perel
If you’ve ever listened to Perel’s podcast, “Where Should We Begin,” you already know that Perel is an extremely insightful analyst who is capable of getting to the very marrow of marital issues. You don’t have to have experienced infidelity in order to find this book illuminating, and it is a great read that will test your sense of empathy and self.