In honor of my leaving New York City, rereading Colum McCann’s Let The Great World Spin was a must. It is without a doubt one of my favorite books of all time, and it is most definitely my favorite book to take place in NYC.
1.) It is a novel comprised of many different stories, woven together absolutely beautifully. Think the movie Crash, but more melodic, and more honest. McCann’s written word allows its reader to become fully immersed in the individual stories he paints, making it that much more poignant when his characters’ lives, loves, and losses become intertwined.
2.) Taking place in New York City in 1974, the novel begins, and in many ways ends, with the act of Philippe Petit walking on a tightrope between the World Trade Center towers. And although 1974 is nearly thirty years prior to that fateful morning in downtown Manhattan, the book has many times been referred to as an allegory of the events of 9/11. A.k.a, a must-read for everybody.
3.) Lastly, the fact that McCann unites the lives of people SO inherently unsimilar is totally and completely refreshing. As a former NYC resident, witnessing the continual income gap of the city was a daily struggle. Riding on the subway, it was freeing to read as the lives of a Park Avenue mother, a Harlem prostitute, and a Lower East Side artist coalesced. It was even more moving to uncover the life lesson that bound them all together — that no matter what you have and where you come from, we all grieve, and we all need hope to move on.
Ultimately, McCann reminds us that we are all human, and that is the most meaningful commonality we could ever have.
“The world spins. We stumble on. It is enough.”
When my sister-in-law told me this novel was required reading for her in medical school, I was instantly intrigued. And Mr. Verghese did not let me down. In fact, it’s statistically impossible that I’ll read a book this good for a very long time.
A fictional medical memoir, an engrossing cultural experience, and an unyielding testament to the role of family – Cutting for Stone tells the story of the forever bond between twin brothers Shiva and Marion Stone. Set in Ethiopia on the brink of revolution, this book is a work of fiction that significantly mirrors real life history, written so beautifully at times it’s simply poetic. And the life lessons it teaches its reader resound long after its 653 pages. This is an intensely emotional tour-de-force of a book, but in the absolute best way…. and there are tear stains on my copy to prove it. Pick it up. You won’t regret it.
“Not only our actions, but also our omissions, become our destiny.”
Let me just preface this by saying that I’ve read and cherished every book written by Wally Lamb. Seriously. He has this uncanny ability to make you fall into a total trance with his characters, and grow to love them despite their extremely discernible flaws. And while the majority of his books aren’t always plot driven, they still grip you. His writing is just so… human. Every time I finish a book by Lamb I instantaneously miss it.
And now, my favorite Wally Lamb book of them all – She’s Come Undone. Told from the arresting perspective of Dolores Price, a 40-year-old woman who recounts in meticulous detail her harrowing journey into adulthood, this book is not one for the light of heart. Part disturbing, part comical, part utterly heartbreaking, the honest way in which Mr. Lamb gives his narrator her voice makes it impossible not to fall in love with her. And the story itself is one that will make even the harshest of critics open their eyes to what really lies at the root of obesity, mental illness, and the undeniable value of a positive self-image. It’s a novel about divorce, about rape, about AIDs, and about abortion. But it’s also about the incontestable worth of hope and love. Throughout it all, the remaining constant is Dolores’ personal growth, told with her unapologetic, bitingly humorous outlook on life. And I mean, who wouldn’t sympathize with a heroine like that?
“Love is like breathing, you take it in and let it out.”