how to change your mind

Is it weird that I read a book about psychedelic research and came away thinking about privilege? Whatever. I did. This book is important for many reasons, but it also shines a light on which voices get heard and which experiences are considered valid in this culture.

First, let me say that I’ve never tried LSD, psilocybin or any other psychedelic drug. I’ve never had a lot of patience for baby boomer, hippie nostalgia. By the time I knew who Timothy Leary was, his meaning to the 60s counterculture was vague. He was just another has-been hippie leader trying to stay relevant during my Reagan-era youth. But Pollan’s dismissal of Leary, and his wariness of any psychedelic experience outside institutional environments, shows me just how relevant and radical Leary was.  Continue reading

outline trilogy

by Rachel Cusk

I was so eager to read Kudos after getting the galley that I read it in one day, and forgot to savor it. Now I’m sad that it, and this whole trilogy of books, is finished. If you’re looking for meticulously written literary fiction & don’t mind formal experimentation, pick up any if the three novels. If you want to read in order, start with Outline, then read Transit and finally Kudos.

the pisces

by Melissa Broder

The Pisces is a funny, insightful tale of love addiction taken to its extreme. In the thirteenth year of writing her dissertation, Lucy is struggling to keep it together after losing her boyfriend. While recovering at her sister’s beach house, she meets a man who shares her need for total romantic immersion.

motherhood

by Sheila Heti

When we were kids, my mother decided she wouldn’t tell us about Santa Clause. It seemed weird to tell us a lie that sets us up for deep disappointment later.

What she didn’t realize is that it didn’t matter whether she told us. The myth of Santa Clause so permeates our culture that we both knew about and believed anyway.

Reading Sheila Heti’s Motherhood reminded me of mom’s unsuccessful attempt to ignore Santa Clause. The unnamed narrator doesn’t want children but our culture’s insistent cult of motherhood overwhelms her with anxiety about the decision.

Studies have proven that childless women in their 50s are no less happy than women with children. Once the decision is irreversible, they have the exact same quality of life. Before that, though, in their late 30s & early 40s, they feel anxiety around the decision. Motherhood follows one woman perseverating about whether or not to have children.

Something she has always felt (“I don’t want children”) is constantly challenged by both the people she knows and the media she consumes. All their voices resonate in her: You’ll change your mind; You’ll regret it; Children are the only reason for living.

This first-person back and forth gets a bit grating, giving us a visceral understanding of the anxiety our protagonist is living with. But it’s worth sticking through to the end. This is a smart, funny and necessary book.

eleanor oliphant is completely fine

by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant is an oddball. Quiet, unassuming, socially awkward. She moves through the world alone, but she’s perfectly fine! She he is either unnoticed or mocked, until the office IT man befriends her. Honeyman Eleanor’s lonely world to life with compassion and shows the power of kindness.

merry spinster

merryby Mallory Ortberg

As a librarian in New England, the exact demographic for Ortberg’s late, lamented blog The Toast, I loved their regular feature “Children’s Stories Made Horrific”. Like those, these creepy, gothic takes on classic stories are a little bit bonkers, and a lot of fun.