Greetings dear reader and welcome to the latest installment of The Best Books I Read This Season. Fall is the favorite season of many a bookworm, but I’ve actually always preferred November, since I’ve always found that cloudy, early sunset gloom to be comforting and freeing. (Dark academia Tumblr pages will agree with me; seasonal depression sufferers will not.) I’m pleased to report that even more books I got into this fall may have made the cut for my picks for the best books of the year, a list that will be going live in the coming weeks. Scroll on for some reading recs right now in the meantime.
I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy
Just the fact that this book sold out so widely in its first month of publication should be enough to prove that the written word is not dead. Jennette McCurdy was six years old when she had her first acting audition. Her mother’s dream was for her only daughter to become a star, and Jennette would do anything to make her mother happy. In I’m Glad My Mom Died, McCurdy recounts all this in unflinching detail—just as she chronicles what happens when the dream finally comes true. Cast in a new Nickelodeon series called iCarly, she is thrust into fame. Though Mom is ecstatic, emailing fan club moderators and getting on a first-name basis with the paparazzi (“Hi Gale!”), McCurdy is riddled with anxiety, shame, and self-loathing, which manifest into eating disorders, addiction, and a series of unhealthy relationships. These issues only get worse when, soon after taking the lead in the iCarly spinoff Sam & Cat alongside Ariana Grande, her mother dies of cancer. Finally, after discovering therapy and quitting acting, Jennette embarks on recovery and decides for the first time in her life what she really wants. Told with refreshing candor and dark humor, I’m Glad My Mom Died is an inspiring story of resilience, independence, and the joy of shampooing your own hair.
Girls Can Kiss Now by Jill Gutowitz
Jill Gutowitz’s life—for better and worse—has always been on a collision course with pop culture. There’s the time the FBI showed up at her door because of something she tweeted about Game of Thrones. The pop songs that have been the soundtrack to the worst moments of her life. And of course, the pivotal day when Orange Is the New Black hit the airwaves and broke down the door to Jill’s own sexuality. In these honest examinations of identity, desire, and self-worth, Gutowitz explores perhaps the most monumental cultural shift of our lifetimes: the mainstreaming of lesbian culture. Dusting off her own personal traumas and artifacts of her not-so-distant youth she examines how pop culture acts as a fun house mirror reflecting and refracting our values—always teaching, distracting, disappointing, and revealing us. Girls Can Kiss Now is a fresh and intoxicating blend of personal stories, sharp observations, and laugh-out-loud humor. This timely collection of essays helps us make sense of our collective pop-culture past even as it points the way toward a joyous, uproarious, near—and very queer—future.
The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 1 edited by Peter Steinberg & Karen Kukil
One of the most beloved poets of the modern age, Sylvia Plath continues to inspire and fascinate the literary world. While her renown as one of the twentieth century’s most influential poets is beyond dispute, Plath was also one of its most captivating correspondents. The Letters of Sylvia Plath is the breathtaking compendium of this prolific writer’s correspondence with more than 120 people, including family, friends, contemporaries, and colleagues. This first volume includes her correspondence from her years at Smith, her summer editorial internship in New York City, her time at Cambridge, her experiences touring Europe, and the early days of her marriage to Ted Hughes in 1956. This remarkable, collected edition of Plath’s letters is a work of immense scholarship and care, presenting a comprehensive and historically accurate text of the known and extant letters that she wrote. Intimate and revealing, this masterful compilation offers fans and scholars generous and unprecedented insight into the life of one of our most significant poets.
Where We Go From Here by Lucas Rocha
Ian has just been diagnosed with HIV. Victor, to his great relief, has tested negative. Henrique has been living with HIV for the past three years. When Victor finds himself getting tested for HIV for the first time, he can’t help but question his entire relationship with Henrique, the guy he has-had-been dating. See, Henrique didn’t disclose his positive HIV status to Victor until after they had sex, and even though Henrique insisted on using every possible precaution, Victor is livid. That’s when Victor meets Ian, a guy who’s also getting tested for HIV. But Ian’s test comes back positive, and his world is about to change forever. Though Victor is loath to think about Henrique, he offers to put the two of them in touch, hoping that perhaps Henrique can help Ian navigate his new life. In the process, the lives of Ian, Victor, and Henrique will become intertwined in a story of friendship, love, and stigma: a story about hitting what you think is rock bottom, but finding the courage and support to keep moving forward. Set in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this debut by Brazilian author Lucas Rocha brings attention to how far we’ve come with HIV, while shining a harsh light on just how far we have yet to go.
The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 2 edited by Peter Steinberg & Karen Kukil
The tragedy of Sylvia Plath’s untimely death at age thirty, almost 55 years ago, has left much unknown about her creative and personal life. In this remarkable second volume of the iconic poet and writer’s collected letters, the full range of Plath’s ambitions, talents, fears, and perspective is made visible through her own powerful words. As engaging as they are revealing, these remarkable letters cover the years from 1957 to 1963. They detail the last six tumultuous and prolific years of her life, covering her marriage to Ted Hughes, the births of her children Frieda and Nicholas, her early success, including the publication of the classic The Bell Jar, and her ongoing struggle with depression. The first compendium of its kind to include all of Plath’s letters from this period, this second volume of letters offers an intimate portrait of the writing life and mind of one of the most celebrated poets in literary history.
Dying of Politeness by Geena Davis
From two-time Academy Award winner and screen icon Geena Davis, the surprising tale of her journey to badassery—from her epically polite childhood to roles that loaned her the strength to become a powerhouse in Hollywood. At three years old, Davis announced she was going to be in movies. Now, with a slew of iconic roles and awards under her belt, she has surpassed her childhood dream—but the path to finding yourself never did run smoothly. In this simultaneously hilarious and candid memoir, Davis regales us with tales of a career playing everything from an amnesiac assassin to the parent of a rodent, her eccentric childhood, her relationships, and helping lead the way to gender parity in Hollywood, all while learning to be a little more badass, one role at a time. Dying of Politeness is a touching account of one woman’s journey to fight for herself, and ultimately fighting for women all around the globe.
George Michael: A Life by James Gavin
The definitive biography of George Michael, offering an expansive look at the troubled life of the legendary singer, songwriter, and pop superstar. Michael was an extravagantly gifted, openhearted soul singer whose work was both pained and smolderingly erotic. He was a songwriter of true craft and substance, and his music swept the world, starting in the mid-1980s. His fabricated image—that of a hypermacho sex god—loomed large in the pop culture of his day. It also hid—for a time—the secret he fought against revealing: Michael was gay. Soon his obsession with fame would start to backfire. As one of the industry’s most privileged yet tortured men began to self-destruct, the press showed little sympathy. George Michael: A Life explores the compelling story of a superstar whose struggles, as well as his songs, continue to touch fans all over the world.
Scattered Showers by Rainbow Rowell
Rainbow Rowell has won fans all over the world by writing about love and life in a way that feels true. In her first story collection, she gives us nine beautifully crafted love stories. Girl meets boy camping outside a movie theater. Best friends debate the merits of high school dances. A prince romances a troll. A girl romances an imaginary boy. And Simon Snow himself returns for a holiday adventure. It’s a feast of irresistible characters, hilarious dialogue, and masterful storytelling—in short, everything you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell book.
If we aren’t already, let’s be friends on Goodreads! What were the best books you read this fall?