“People ask, How did you get in there? What they really want to know is if they are likely to end up in there as well. I can’t answer the real question. All I can tell them is, It’s easy.”
In a series of darkly comic vignettes, Susanna Kaysen paints a startling picture of life on the ward for teenage girls at the McLean Psychiatric Hospital in the late 60s.
For other memoirs about mental illness, check these out:
Lit by Mary Karr
Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson
Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety by Daniel B. Smith
“Folksy and fresh, endearing and affecting, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is the now-classic novel of two women in the 1980s; of gray-headed Mrs. Threadgoode telling her life story to Evelyn, who is in the sad slump of middle age. The tale she tells is also of two women–of the irrepressibly daredevilish tomboy Idgie and her friend Ruth–who back in the thirties ran a little place in Whistle Stop, Alabama, a Southern kind of Cafe Wobegon offering good barbecue and good coffee and all kinds of love and laughter, even an occasional murder. And as the past unfolds, the present–for Evelyn and for us–will never be quite the same again…” (This fabulous and thorough synopsis was taken from the publisher.)
I love this book. It’s set in the South. It’s domestic fiction. And it’s about friendship & family. Three of my favorite criteria for a novel–and one of many reasons I’m convinced I was Southern in a past life.
For more novels featuring sassy Southern belles, check these out:
Ladies’ Night by Mary Kay Andrews
Sullivan’s Island by Dorothea Benton Frank
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells
After the drowning death of their brother Liam, the nine remaining Hegarty siblings return to Dublin for the wake. Shot through with themes of secrecy, betrayal, and redemption this lyrical novel is both a daring exploration of family and compulsively readable.
For more Irish fiction, take a look at these titles:
The Sea by John Banville
In the Woods by Tana French
In the Forest by Edna O’Brien
The Red Tent tells the story of the tribe of Jacob from the perspective of Dinah, Jacob’s only daughter. Through Dinah we learn about Jacob’s four wives: Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah and by extension the lives of women in biblical society. A fascinating, and beautifully written novel that retells the well known chapters of Genesis in a completely new way.
For other books based on biblical stories, check these out:
The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks
The Last Temptation of Christ by Nikos Kazantzakis
The Gospel According to the Son by Norman Mailer
Barbara Kingsolver is known as a brilliant writer of fiction and essays, but in this nonfiction masterpiece she chronicles a year in the life of her family where “they vow to buy only food raised in their own neighborhood, grow it themselves, or learn to live without it.”
“Animal, Vegetable, Miracle makes a passionate case for putting the kitchen back at the center of family life and diversified farms at the center of the American diet.”
For some eclectic food memoirs, check these out:
Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan
Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley
Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl
One of Cather’s earliest novels, written in 1918, My Antonia is the story of Ántonia Shimerda, who arrives on the Nebraska frontier as part of a family of Bohemian emigrants. Her story is told through the eyes of Jim Burden, a neighbor who will befriend Ántonia, teach her English, and follow the remarkable story of her life.
For more novels that focus on the immigrant experience, check these out:
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
Brooklyn by Colm Toibin
Peter Brown is a young Manhattan emergency room doctor with a past, a secret, and a gun–and has 24 hours to save himself and beat the reaper. A wickedly funny and highly suspenseful debut novel.
For more darkly comic novels, check these out:
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
Bite Me by Christopher Moore
Damned by Chuck Palahniuk
Josey Cirrini is “plain and just this side of plump” she lives with her domineering mother in an effort to make up for her tempestuous childhood. Josey finds joy in her closet, stacked with travel magazines, romance novels, and lots of delicious candy. Then one day she opens her closet door to find Della Lee Baker a waitress at the local greasy spoon. Josey doesn’t know who or what Della is hiding from but the young woman begins sending her on a series of missions that get Josey to step outside of the confines of her small life. A charming and lovely offering for the inimitable Sarah Addison Allen.
For more sweetly supernatural romances, check these out:
The Gilly Salt Sisters by Tiffany Baker
The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry
The Law of Love by Laura Esquivel
If you know who Felicia Day is you may just be geeky enough to read this book. Seriously though, even if you’ve never heard of writer/producer/actress/queen of the geeks Day, you should still read this hilarious memoir. An interesting and endlessly entertaining look at a home-schooled violin prodigy and gamer who took the internet by storm.
For more memoirs written by bright, funny, fascinating women, check these out:
Bossypants by Tina Fey
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling
Yes, Please by Amy Poehler
Helen Scales is a marine biologist and diver who has written a fascinating natural history of the sea horse. These amazing creatures have intrigued humans since we first learned of their existence. Learn the history surrounding this singularly unique animal.
For more books that explore the myths and realities surrounding extraordinary sea creatures, check these out:
The Whale by Philip Hoare
Narwhals by Todd McLeish
Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery