Sadie's bookshelf at Shakespeare and Company
17th October 2018
My time at Shakespeare and Company has been characterised by an untold assortment of positive conversations and experiences, so it’s no surprise to me that when I went back over the list of books I’ve read since being here (almost 60 titles!), it reflected that variety. Many of these books are prize-winners (The Vegetarian and Flights both won the Man Booker International Prize) or classics (like The Secret History), but others are relatively unknown. Other Men’s Daughters is full of sentences that you want to read multiple times to appreciate how well-crafted they are; the structure of and stories within Flights, which its author calls a “constellation novel”, were something profound to me. The three non-fiction books—the last three on the list—I chose for their strong influence on my views of the modern world, my travel plans, and my sense of inner peace this year.
There are many themes I could pick out from this final list of the best books I’ve read this year, but the main thing that seems apparent to me is that most of the writers are women, and the stories are about women. Mrs. Caliban is a terribly sad, fantastic novella that highlights the plight of an American housewife who is let down by everyone she knows; Bonjour Tristesse and The Dud Avocado are extremely funny, yet ultimately revolve around the struggle for the young female protagonists’ independence amidst those seeking to limit their freedom; Anaïs Nin, the most luxuriously erotic writer I know, commits to sensual pleasure in a way so fully embodied as to make one be glad to be a woman. Educated, The Summer Without Men, and How Should a Person Be? also speak of a familiar complexity that these authors are so good at putting on the page. With a little distance, it is obvious to me that I connect with these works on a deeply emotional level that has something to do with their intelligent treatment of the female condition.
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