By Grand Central Station I Sat Down And Wept by Elizabeth Smart (novel)
Blurry. This book was just blurry for me. It’s like I could see that there was some beautiful writing, some raw and fully-felt emotion, but I couldn’t quite get hold of it. There were moments that I was in sync with it but then it just would slip away again. I was happy when I read it, which maybe isn’t the right headspace, but a book that’s essentially about raw emotion should be moving nonetheless. Maybe part of the point is how caught up in its own lyricism it is (as she is caught up in the emotion), but it just didn’t do it for me.
The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan (graphic novel)
I just love Shaun Tan’s work. I don’t like this as much as The Arrival or The Red Tree, because it doesn’t have that same darkness or depth to it, but it’s still good. You can read it as a simple story of a boy finding a place for a lost thing, or as a story about rushing through the day-to-day and not noticing anymore, and how we treat those things which are different. If you’ve never read Tan before, definitely start with The Arrival or The Red Tree, but then give this one a go too.
The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison (non-fiction)
I’ve been meaning to read this for such a long time and I’m so glad I finally got round to it. Each essay deals with empathy and pain in different ways, and it’s more memoir-confessional in style (and it’s helpful to know that going in as most of the marketing I saw made it sound more like a pop science book). It’s incredibly thought-provoking, interesting, and sharply written. Even you don’t agree with everything she says or does I think you still get something from it. Highly recommended.
Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge (non-fiction)
Younge took a random 24-hour period (Saturday 23rd November 2013) and wrote about every child and teen killed by gunfire (not including suicide) in America. There were ten. Each chapter discusses one child and what happened to them, but also who they were as people and what their lives were like. Each chapter takes aspects of their story to discuss a different aspect of gun crime or American culture. It’s incredibly empathic and powerful. It’s not about gun control; but it is about gun control. The worst and most damning thing about this book is that it could have been written about any day. Any day. If you read nothing else, read this book; these ten lives are representative of so many: