Some things are just better together, amiright?
And that’s why one of my favorite things Anne Bogel (of Modern Mrs. Darcy) does is pair books together. She calls them “book flights”. Basically they’re books with similar themes that would make great companion reads. I personally love when a fictional book can be paired with a non-fiction book because I think the comparisons can really add to each reading experience, and in a perfect world I would be able to come up with such pairings all the time, but I’m just not that good.
I gave it my best shot though and came up with some books that pair well together! Look for this to become a quarterly post for me!
City of Girls swept me away into 1940s New York City. I loved seeing Vivian come-of-age and all the tough lessons she had to learn to do that. This book was so unexpectedly Elizabeth Gilbert – I think we’re all guilty of thinking of Eat, Pray, Love when we think of her writing, but this dive into fiction rocked my world. Her true talent became obvious to me and I wanted to personally live amongst these people and this story. I loved it so much!
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo evoked many of the same feelings for me. In this book, Evelyn lives in Hollywood during the glamorous cinematic years. I personally fell victim to the thought that this was going to be a fluffy romance, but it’s full of depth and it’s a very smart book that questions what ‘love’ is and whether someone can even know what love is until they’ve found their truth. It’s an amazing book that I devoured in one day, and I still think about it often!
*** If you could only read one of these books, I’d go with The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.
The Great Believers is a beautiful story centered around the AIDS crisis in Chicago in the 1980s. It was heart-wrenching and sad, but Rebecca Makkai did such a great job of creating characters that made you feel like you were part of their inner circle. This story takes the reader back to the 80s when it was still largely common for gay men to be shunned from the rest of the world. As the AIDS epidemic seemingly took over this community, they were shunned even more. They were gathered in large hospital rooms, beds lined up in rows, and many nurses/doctors too scared to touch them or offer any sort of empathy or compassion. It broke my heart.
The Heart’s Invisible Furies has all the feels and it’s just the most beautiful life story. Cyril Avery is born in post-WWII Ireland. His mother gives him up for adoption when he’s just three days old. He struggles most of his life to find a place to belong – and let’s just say that Ireland and all her politics do not make it easy on him. As a child who realizes early on that he is gay – in a country and a time where that declaration is completely unacceptable – Avery endures many heartbreaking, confusing, and difficult times. He searches for a love and acceptance that many (even still today) take for granted.
If you read both of these and still want more, read If You Want To Make God Laugh. With well-developed characters who have powerful and transformative stories to share, I could not put this one down. Following three separate ladies with very different stories, their lives become intertwined in the most beautiful and compassionate way. Set in the 1990s in post-apartaid South Africa, this book explores themes of racism, motherhood, the AIDS epidemic, and family.
*** Only got time for one? Definitely, hands down, The Heart’s Invisible Furies!
When Patsy decides to leave Jamaica to provide a better financial life for her daughter and to find her girlfriend, there are various challenges she must overcome as an undocumented person in the United States. She quickly realizes how lonely and difficult it is to find a job and friends. As she navigates this new world, she loses touch with her daughter back home and has to reconcile the feelings she has towards motherhood.
In Dear America, Vargas tells us he was brought to America as a small child. When he went to the local DMV to get his driver’s permit, he found out his papers were fake and that he was, in fact, not a US citizen like he always thought he was. Vargas went on to become an incredible journalist and this book gives detailed insight into America’s problematic immigration system. For those Americans that believe undocumented people should “just get their papers”, please read this book. For those Americans who have zero compassion for the troubled lives many of these people are trying to flee, please read this book. For those Americans who are privileged enough to voice their opinions, please read this book!
*** If you only have time for one, read Dear America: Notes from an Undocumented Citizen!
The Editor does a phenomenal job of showing its readers what the publishing world is like. From writing the book to finding an editor to making the edits to the story, I was fascinated at this inside look. The addition of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis as the editor (true story!) was icing on the cake. I loved the story just as much as the behind-the-scenes information.
On the non-fictional side, Wild Words is the perfect companion for any writer. A slow and gentle and meditative look into a writer’s life, there’s a section for almost every stage a writer may find themselves in – The Season of Beginnings, The Season of Self-Doubt, The Season of Finishing.
*** Only want to read one? That depends if you want fiction or non-fiction! And/or if you’re more of a reader or more of a writer!
Piecing Me Together explores themes of race, friendship, privilege, and identity from a young woman’s perspective. At times, it felt like the fictional version of what I imagine Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming, to be like. Jade knows she has to excel in school and get good grades if she is going to break out of the poverty cycle she currently lives in. College is her only ticket out. As she navigates her high school years, she is also confronted by racial issues that make her realize the differences between her journey and her privileged classmates.
Similarly, Dear Martin packs a huge punch. In response to so many young Black (unarmed) men being gunned down by law enforcement in recent news, Stone delivers a book that addresses the subtle racism that is so present in today’s world. Eye-opening, revealing, and honest, this is a must read for everyone!
*** Only picking one to read? That’s a tough choice because they’re similar, but different. If forced to choose, I’d go with Piecing Me Together because it explores more topics.