That's me in the photograph. It's the day after Thanksgiving and I'm spending the morning in bed with a great book and a cup of Earl Grey. Heaven. I might look a little fuzzy and out of focus but you would too if you had just made three gallons of turkey gravy.
You can't see the title in the photo, but the book I'm reading is one I stole from my fourteen-year-old niece. She might be my new reading soulmate. We were on vacation, pontooning on Green Bay, and I recognized a fellow book nerd when she showed up with a dogeared paperback in hand. All afternoon, she tolerated me leaning over her shoulder until finally, she handed over the book. A generous gesture.
It is about a high school kid surviving the horrors of modern American teenhood, and in gobbling it up, I realized how I enjoy stories about people in different stages of life than my own. Maybe you do too. If so, here are three excellent books that cover youth, single adulthood, and old age.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
The "Me" in the title is Greg Gaines, a high school senior who hates himself in such amusing ways, your laughs will wake up the person snoring next to you. Greg and his bff Earl spend their days filming bad remakes of famous movies. Life is good, or at least bearable, until Greg's friend Rachel is diagnosed with cancer. (No, this book is not "The Fault in Our Stars".)
The story is so wonderfully clever, so outrageously hilarious, that I'm now dissecting it to understand its secrets. (I bought my niece a fresh copy.)
All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
This book, about thirty-nine-year-old Andrea Bern living a freewheeling life in New York, feels like a series of Modern Love essays -- raunchy and raw but also beautiful. It contains a lot of sex and it is well-written sex, which is as rare in novels as orgasming simultaneously is in real life.
Not to keep making media references, but the book's structure reminds me of Instagram -- each chapter a shallow yet impossibly appealing view into another world, a sphere where you might recognize one element but the rest is so exotic and faraway, you're obviously a tourist here.
I love the heroine -- maybe she's Amy Schumer. A trainwreck. Though if I'm being totally honest, her tale is a cautionary one about the dangers of not having a spouse or children in the millennial age - the endless loop of me me me.
What Comes Next and How to Like It by Abigail Thomas
Many of my favorite writers exercise incredible restraint. They are judicious about what to leave off the page. They don't give us everything. This is the case with What Comes Next and How to Like It. It is part memoir, part journal, and the writing is so lean, you need to allow extra time to chew.
Abigail is well into her seventies. She has outlived husbands, raised children, buried parents, and loved many dogs. She and her best friend, Chuck, mean everything to each other. They are simpatico, growing old together, still joking about consummating their decades-long friendship.
As carefully as the author paints pictures with words, she also describes actual painting with paint. These little paragraphs seemed at first like simple little palate cleansers between the meaty chapters about Abigail's life, but they captivated me so much. I realize that we all must have hobbies.
I couldn't put it down. I burnt a piece of Mariano's Irish soda bread because I was caught up in this book. I put in another piece - the last one in the loaf - and burnt it too.
Every week, I scour the web for great essays, vintage deals, funny or interesting photos, and loads of other treats. Join the hundreds of subscribers who email me if I'm late: