The Painted Girls, by Cathy Marie Buchanan
This book details the life of two sisters growing up in the slums of Paris and their journeys in taking on various jobs (ballet dancer, laundress, prostitute, etc.) The male characters are mostly used as symbolic props here, and the critical thoughts of the girls are the focal point. Nevertheless, the historical context of 19th century Paris forces the girls to at least partly rely on the various men in their lives. It was a beautiful if heartbreaking novel to read.
“I want to put my face in my hands, to howl, for me, for Antoinette, for all the women of Paris, for the burden of having what men desire, for the heaviness of knowing it is ours to give, that with our flesh we make our way in the world.”
The 4-Hour Workweek, by Timothy Ferriss
I talked about this in my previous post about getting a virtual assistant (experiment is still going strong, by the way). This book is a “how to cut yourself away from the corporate world and achieve true happiness by running your own business and traveling” kind of book. After I finished it, I went through a bit of a Ferriss craze by listening to a bunch of his interviews (he also wrote “The 4-Hour Chef” and “The 4-Hour Body” but I didn’t get a chance to read those yet). I found a lot of his advice a little too extreme for me – some of it came off as pushing responsibility onto others rather than being accountable – but his confidence in his teachings reinforced a lot of the lessons that I already knew. High recommended read.
Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles
I feel like this book is rich enough to be studied as part of a high school curriculum. Think Great Gatsby but with more in-depth characters and likeable storyline. It’s a very classy and clean read, which reflects the main character, Katey’s temperament. Katey slowly winds herself up Manhattan’s social ladder in an entirely hard-working and honest way – but not without temptations. The ending of the book’s various characters leads to a lot of discussion, so this would be a great book club read.
“You see that thirty-year-old blonde next to Jake? That’s his fiancée, Carrie Clapboard. Carrie moved all manner of heaven and earth to get into that chair. And soon she will happily oversee scullery maids and table settings and the reupholstering of antique chairs at three different houses; which is all well and good. But if I were your age, I wouldn’t be trying to figure out how to get into Carrie’s shoes – I’d be trying to figure out how to get into Jake’s.”