In both fiction and non-fiction, I love a book that helps us unravel ourselves by illuminating place, a book that transports me from here to there. These six books will take you far… and deliver you.
You want to think Los Angeles is cold and inhospitable and full of fakery and mirage. Why do we cling to that notion? Los Angeles is full of love and wonder and streets filled with locals making their way in the world—going to bars and restaurants and shops run by other Los Angelenos who are real people in a real city. David Ulin’s Sidewalking opens LA up for all of us—locals or not. A quietly stirring book, this should be on your must-read list. As much about how we explore and how we hide as anything, I loved it and can’t wait to read it again and again.
- Olivia (Or, the Weight of the Past) by Judith Rossner (Rome)
Mothers and daughters and pasta and how we transform and transform again. Life is messy and beautiful and love can be as twisty as a cavatappi noodle—and it’s all here in this smart, moving novel. The past remains and echoes even when we think it is far away and Olivia brings it all back home. Rossner is a master storyteller and I’ve come back to this one for decades.
What fractured light allows us to see past all sorrow and fear and weight? If anyone can illuminate the path, it’s Danticat. I hate books that are gauzy and wrapped in mysticism and flickering imagery—and I so feared that this return to fiction for adults by Danticat was just that. It is not. It is a thoughtful consideration of how we move—and don’t—through loss and uncertainty and how we incorporate joy, despite everything.
- Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather (New Mexico)
Every time I read this book, it’s an entirely different novel to me. New Mexico, especially Santa Fe, is more vivid and true each time. The homes, the people, the landscape—Cather is a sublime master and they are all rendered without a false note. What promise does a fresh landscape hold?
- Rich in Love by Josephine Humphreys (Charleston)
For a few hours of my life, I was transported to Charleston and its environs via the power of Jo’s storytelling and perfect rendering of place. Better yet, I’ve never entirely left that place—it stuck. That’s a novel—that lets you live a little in in it, even twenty-five years later.
- Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Cartagena)
Read it. Today. And, take a look at this article about Gabo and the city.
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