My top 10 books of the last 5 years

I've casually mentioned this a few times in the last several months, but I co-wrote a book and it's finally available today! It's called Live Natural, and on the surface, it's a coffee table book filled with gorgeously photographed West Coast interiors. But if you actually read it—and I hope you do—it's filled with a ton of actionable tips on how to improve your indoor air quality, design and decorate more sustainably, and create a home that's healthier for you and for the planet. The author, Ali Davin, is my longtime client, and more importantly, she's an incredibly talented interior designer with an incredible eye and a deep well of knowledge on natural, nontoxic materials. I am so proud of this book (working on one was a lifetime dream of mine) and I hope you love it as much as I do.

So in honor of Live Natural's publication day—and considering it's peak beach reading season—I thought I'd share my favorite books that I've read recently. I don't talk about books much here outside of gift guides, but I am a voracious reader, mostly literary fiction. I read every night before bed, on planes, at the hair salon, or pretty much any chance I can get. In no particular order, here are my top 10 books from the last 5 years. 

Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid 

I had been in a reading rut since the demise of my book club, and this is the book that got me out of it. It's the story of a Fleetwood Mac–esque rock band told oral-history style (e.g. all in quotes), and it is a pure delight to read. I know Amazon made it into a miniseries, which I have not seen, but there's no way it can be better than this. I will give an honorable mention to Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, also by Taylor Jenkins Reid, which has arguably a more compelling story, although I found the narrator annoying. 

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

This incredibly moving book takes place in the early days of the AIDS crisis in Chicago in the '80s (including at my alma mater), as well as in current-day Paris, settings both close to my heart. The character development is top notch (they are complex and often unlikable) and much like real life, the story is at times heartbreaking, at times hopeful. Fun fact: I follow the author on Twitter, where she delivers hilarious reviews of Zillow listings.

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk

I started this mystery thinking it was going to be a light read. (It won the Nobel Prize.) It takes place in rural Poland, where a hunter turns up dead, and while there is technically a murder mystery to be solved, this book is so much more than that. It's a profound exploration of animal rights, socioeconomic class, social isolation, altruism, and astrology. It's also very funny, yet an insightful meditation on human nature. I'll leave you with this quote, which blew me away: 

Sometimes it seems to me we're living in a world that we fabricate for ourselves. We decide what's good and what isn't, we draw maps of meanings for ourselves... And then we spend our whole lives struggling with what we have invented for ourselves. The problem is that each of us has our own version of it, so people find it hard to understand each other."


The Latecomer by Jean Hanff Korelitz 

You may have heard of this author because of You Should Have Known, which became the HBO show The Undoing (as the book is now known) with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant, both of which I was underwhelmed by. This book, on the other hand, stayed with me for days, if not weeks, after I read it. It's about a wealthy, dysfunctional family in Brooklyn and it's a deep study of guilt, privilege, grief, and race. You will see the ending coming a mile away, but that doesn't make it any less gut-wrenching. 

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

I almost didn't read this book because of the lame chick-lit cover (bad marketing decision, Doubleday!) but I'm glad I literally did not judge a book by its cover, and that it became so successful in spite of it. It's not a perfect book; some of the plot points are slightly far-fetched and can feel too tidy at times, but it's very, very darkly funny and incredibly creative. (I especially loved the narrative from the dog's POV.) This has also been made into an Amazon miniseries, although I can't imagine it's as anywhere as good as this. 

Trust by Hernan Diaz

This story about a Wall Street tycoon in the Roaring 20s in New York is very conceptual—it's several books within the book, told by different narrators, and it may take you awhile to piece together what's going on, which is kind of the point. It's an exploration of truth—and trust, hence the title—and just when you think you've figured it out, there's a whole new layer to the story. 

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver

I am a Barbara Kingsolver stan. I've read all of her books (even the essays!) but this is by far and away her best. It's a retelling of David Copperfield that takes place amidst the opioid crisis in southern Appalachia, and in spite of knowing the general plot, I felt all the feels reading this. It addresses institutional poverty in a way that no other book I've ever read has, without being at all heavy handed. In spite of being almost 600 pages, the story flies by. 

Dinosaurs by Lydia Millet 

Normally, I prefer a plot-driven novel; this book does not have much of one, but that's part of its charm. It's the story of a man getting to know his new neighbors, and on a deeper level, it's about community and human connection and hope. It felt like such a sweet pivot from A Children's Bible, which is also excellent but a completely different vibe. 

Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld 

Curtis Sittenfeld writes what I call the thinking woman's chick lit; mostly romance, but in the least cringey way possible. This one is about the head writer of a very Saturday Night Live–like show and the crush she develops on one of the episodes' hosts, a rock star. Slight warning that it takes a Pandemic pivot about halfway through, but of all the 2020-ish books I've read (strangely more than I'd like), this was by far the most enjoyable. 

The Bee Sting by Paul Murray

This book has been compared to The Corrections, which is one of my all-time favorites, and in spite of the fact that's it's almost 800 pages—I had to check it out twice from the library to actually finish it—I think it might actually be even better. It's distinctly told from four points of view, from four different family members, and it's all so real, you don't know whether to laugh or cry. I was actually kind of bummed when I finished it, which is saying something for a book that long. 

Read any good books lately? Drop your recs in the comments below! 


Laura B said...

I just got Demon Copperhead for Mother's Day and can't wait to read it this summer! I need to read Daisy Jones and the Six too! Thanks for the reminder! And major congratulations for your book publishing! That is such an incredible accomplishment!

lucask110198 said...

Taylor Jenkins Reid's engrossing book "Daisy Jones & the Six" transports readers to the turbulent world of a 1970s music group. It's written as an oral history, so the rich conversation and nuanced emotions really bring the characters to life. A fascinating and memorable book.General law encompasses rules and regulations established by governments to maintain order, protect rights, and ensure justice. It includes civil, criminal, and administrative law, governing areas like contracts, property, and personal conduct. Law serves to resolve disputes, penalize unlawful actions, and provide a framework for societal functioning, ensuring fairness and security within the community.
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overthehilda said...

Congrats on your newly published book. I have read 5 of your recommendations and yes agree... Will check out the others.

Joanne said...

Congrats on your book! While I wasn't a huge fan of Daisy Jones and the Six I have enjoyed lots of other TJR books and I really liked the miniseries Daisy Jones!

Marsha said...

Congratulations on your book! How exciting! I've read almost all of Taylor Jenkins Reid's books, and Daisy Jones and the Six is near the top. I loved Lessons in Chemistry. It was written so well. I've seen the series from Daisy Jones (meh) and tried to watch Lessons in Chemistry (not even meh). Thanks for all these recommendations. The last Barbara Kingsolver book I read was The Poisonwood Bible. I had to fight my way through that one. It was just so discouraging. One of my favorite books was Harry's Trees. I'm visiting from Nancy's link up!

Nancy 's Fashion Style said...

I don't know any of these books, lol. But I am a thriller reader. Isn't it wonderful ow you can totally loose yourself in a book!

Doused in Pink | Chicago Style Blog said...

How exciting! Congratulations on your book release! I enjoyed Lessons in Chemistry and Demon Cooperhead. Going to add these others to my library list!

Jill - Doused in Pink

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