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Book recommendations
3rd June 2015

Book recommendations

Five book recommendations by writer, Jessica Furseth


Last year I didn't read a single book. I read thousands of articles, sure, but no books, and it wasn't the first year this had happened either. As the girl who spent half her breaks in primary school ignoring the other kids so she could finish her book, this was a blow. I thought my reading days were over, that the internet had eroded my ability to focus long enough to get through something longer than a couple thousand words. But then something wonderful happened: I got on a six-hour flight with a broken video system. And I read a whole book in one sitting and absolutely loved it - not just the book itself, but the process of reading. Now I’m back on the books, and it’s wonderful. Here are five books I found and loved.

Sheila Heti: How should a person be? 
This book is intriguing on so many levels. Sheila Heti’s central character, also named Sheila, roams the streets of Toronto where she muses over losing a feeling of destiny and refuses to apologise for being introspective. And there’s the central question of course: How should a person be? Lots of things can be said about the structure of this book, which is compiled of emails, voice transcripts and text. Then there's Heti’s very decent descriptions of sex, something that's often just as relevant as descriptions of food but tricky to do well. The best part though, is Sheila’s friendship with Margaux. I mean, talk about intrigue and mystery. This is a story of friendship, but it beats every love affair. 

Cheryl Strayed: Wild
“Wild is a journey from lost to found,” reads the tagline, but it’s not a story of redemption. No woman will atone for her wicked ways at the end of this book, because there’s nothing to redeem. All the "bad" thing she'd done were just as big a part of the story as the "good" things, concludes Cheryl Strayed in this true-life story. Back when she was 26, Strayed’s mother had died suddenly, her family scattered, her marriage ended, and life had pretty much disintegrated. So she walked over 1000 miles alone through the wilderness, as her toenails fell off one by one and her “monster” backpack rubbed her skin raw. But of course, the real journey is in the mind.

Meghan Daum: My misspent youth 
'On the fringes of the physical world' is my favourite of Daum's essays in this collection, where she talks about meeting someone online in a time when that was considered freaky. Daum’s journalistic pieces include a fascinating visit to the polyamorous pagan Ravenheart family in California, while the best personal essay is probably 'Music is my bag'; Daum outs herself as a band geek, with almost an entire page about the “the fragile, temperamental reed, [the oboe] player's chronic medical condition”. Daum’s flowy style somehow makes you want to know more about the business of the reed - not because you're all that into oboes, but because Daum has a knack for drawing you into her world. 

Emma Forrest: Cherries in the snow
Before she wrote 'Your voice in my head', Emma Forrest wrote this modern fairytale about a wannabe writer who names make-up for a living. The premise sounds like chick-lit and the cover doesn't do it any favours either, but don’t let that put you off. The heroine is sharp, and the writing sharper. Sadie Steinberg is a charming brat who meets her match when the dreamy, tattooed, graffiti artist she's dating turns out to have another woman in his life: his eight-year-old daughter. This book is fun and sexy and clever.

Maria Semple: Where’d you go, Bernadette? 
"Bernadette Fox is notorious" is the tagline on the back - hard to resist, that. This book delivers on this big promise, as Maria Semple has written a fascinating character. “Where’d you go, Bernadette?” is a hoot: funny and rich, and cleverly constructed of letters written by the different characters. I’m left wanting to know more about Bernadette, the architect star and ranty menace, half tempted to google her and see the photos of her creations. Because they sound excellent, and Bernadette feels so real. 

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