September 18, 2015
What I'm Reading | Which Brings Me To You
Girl goes to the library, full of hope and joy and enthusiasm. Girl walks through the library, smiling at all of the reading people, and sidles up to a computer with the library catalog open. Girl pulls out her Goodreads app, scrolls through, selects a book that she'd like to read, types it into the catalog search. Book is not available. Girl repeats this process approximately 20 times. Book is not available. Book is not available at this location. Book is only available in ebook format. Book is on hold by approximately 1 million other people.
Or actually, really, girl (metaphorically) throws up her hands and *almost* leaves the library.
Girl takes a deep breath.
Girl decides to take a stroll through the library stacks and try to find a book to read the old-fashioned way. Which is to say, by choosing a book by its cover, essentially. By waiting for a title to jump out. By reading book jackets. By taking a chance. By diverging from the already 100 mile long to-read list and picking something at random.
Girl picks up a few books, puts them back. Then, Girl finds this book. The spine is covered in fun colored stripes. The name Steve Almond sounds familiar. The subtitle is "a novel in confessions," which is intriguing, and the cover art indicates that some letters are exchanged. Girl reads book jacket, checks book out.
Girl exits the library satisfied.
I have a love/hate relationship with the library, ya'll. On the one hand, it's free, not buying books reduces the number of things I have to schlep from apartment to apartment, and it reduces the amount of waste there is in the world (we've all donated tons of books to our local thrift stores, haven't we?). These are all good things. On the other hand, it can be challenging to get specific books, especially in a city like Austin where there are a million tiny locations, and the hours of operation are limited. I really need to plan ahead and reserve books and figure out how the ebook/audiobook system for the library works, but I haven't gotten that far yet.
Anyway. All of this is a terribly long preface to the actual reason you're here, which is to hear about this book, Which Brings Me to You, by Steve Almond and Julianna Baggott.
This book is fantastic.
I tore through it, which is saying a lot since I have such little reading time. I read it on my balcony, in my bed, on my lunch break at work. I read it as quickly as possible because 1) I enjoyed reading it, and 2) I really needed to know what happened at the end.
Let me back up. The basic premise of the book is this: Girl meets Guy at wedding, Girl and Guy almost hook up in the coat closet but Guy backs out and says he really likes her and proposes they exchange letters, confessions about life and previous relationships, the real nitty gritty life stuff, 100% honesty, and if they still want to see each other again and possibly pursue a relationship after exchanging these letters, they will. So they write each other.
The promise of honesty means that we get to see two very real characters reveal a lot about themselves. Some of these things are just terribly embarrassing moments, or insecurities, or bad behaviors, and some of these things are taboo, strange, private things that one would not normally ever voice or admit to, even though we all have these thoughts sometimes. This is terrifically refreshing. You really get to know both characters. You invest in them. And you want to know, after everything is said, how they will feel about each other when (if!) they see each other again. What strange kind of awkward that will be. What that will look like. Where they will end up.
If the name Steve Almond sounds familiar to you, too, it may be because you too are a big fan of Dear Sugar, a former advice column on The Rumpus and currently an advice podcast. Steve Almond was Sugar before Cheryl Strayed was, and co-hosts the current podcast with her. If you like Cheryl's writing, and especially her writing as Sugar, you will enjoy his too. It's capricious and caring and encouraging and honest and personable, and he never misses a detail. Sadly, I don't know much about Julianna Baggott, but I definitely want to read more from both of them.
This book is like an indie rom-com. It's what I always want rom-coms to be and they never are. It's not the most serious thing you'll read this year (in all likelihood), but it's probably not the silliest thing you'll read either. It deals with some real, heartbreaking life stuff. It has tough moments. And also fun moments and nostalgic moments and laugh out loud moments. It's a reminder that relationships are messy, and life is too. It's a voice in the ear saying it's okay if you haven't figured it out yet, but you will. It's an inspiration to send real letters in the mail. And it's exactly what I needed.
Please pick this book up at your local library or bookstore, lovelies. I promise you won't regret it. And let me know what you're reading, too.
Yours Truly, Jen