Lara: Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert wants you to be happy—and in Big Magic, she shares ingredients that cook up joy, fulfillment, and maybe a life with less regrets. Writers, artists, and other creative folks might find solace in Gilbert’s words, and even learn to relax in common situations, such as when ideas go unrealized, or worse, when the very same ones later come to life in someone else’s hands. Big Magic addresses how to handle such issues and more, delivering encouragement and even specific tips, like how to “talk to” fear. If you’re not of artistic persuasion, Big Magic has delights for you, too. Gilbert argues that happiness comes by “…living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear,” and with her personable voice and delivery—she makes it seem possible. As a writer, I particularly enjoyed Big Magic’s multiple anecdotes on creativity, including the stories of how Gilbert came to write—and sometimes let go of—her books. Some of her views might seem slightly controversial, for example that ideas come from a greater collective of sorts, and perhaps a genius, not our own. Or you may not believe what Gilbert makes “magic” out to be. (I’d like to think it’s the delicious possibility Gilbert makes it seem.) At the very least, Big Magic might inspire you to live a freer, happier life. And to be sure—there’s nothing wrong with that.
Big Little Lies
Lyndsey: I knew I wouldn’t sleep a wink on my 12-hour flight, so I turned to Big Little Lies, looking for a captivating, funny, and suspenseful listen to get me through the trip. As a huge fan of Liane Moriarty’s What Alice Forgot, I was hoping for more of her complex characters who dish out juicy gossip and get embroiled in family turmoil. Big Little Lies gave me all that, plus a side of murder.
Moriarty’s novel centers around three powerful women who all have children entering kindergarten. There’s Madeline, the strong, fearless leader; Celeste, the breathtaking beauty who appears to have the picture-perfect husband and admittedly not-so-perfect rowdy twin boys; and Jane, the new-to-town single mother who instantly becomes the center of the Pirriwee Public School witch hunt. Kindergarten, with its campus politics that escalate to affairs, scandal, and the aforementioned murder, turns out to be too difficult even for seasoned veteran Madeline.
Don’t judge a book by its cover. The grass isn’t always greener. We’ve heard the cliches over and over, but Big Little Lies is a fresh, brilliant look at the complicated dynamics that are often lurking just below the carefully painted facade of our lives.
The Walls Around Us
Ashley: The Walls Around Us is just as haunting and darkly beautiful and torturously lonely as its title and cover hinted it would be. This is going to sound super strange, but I’m fascinated with stories that engage with the issue of walls—metaphorical, physical, illusionary, or otherwise. Two of my favorite songs—“Walls” by Sultan + Shepard and “I Promise You Walls” by Shiny Toy Guns—capture the duplicitous nature of walls in a soul-crushing way, which is all I could think about when I started reading Nova Ren Suma’s novel. Walls can keep you safe. Walls can create a prison. Walls have a permanence that reassures us, keeps us sturdy. Walls have a permanence that only crumbles slowly, like our sanity when we’re trapped within. Walls can look pretty on one side but not the other. Walls help us block out what we don’t want to see. These are the disheartening truths The Walls Around Us tackles through the story of three girls caught up in murders and other mysteries. Two of them long to escape the confines of a juvenile correctional facility, while the other is a ballet dancer who’s bound for Juilliard yet can’t escape the guilt she feels after that one bloody night. It’s hard to discuss anything concrete about this book without spoilers, but I can say it features some of the most provocative unreliable narration I’ve ever read.