Books

THE STEELE MAIDEN BOOK CLUB: CHAPTER FOUR

The Steele Maiden Book Club: August

And we’re back with another chapter of my #SteeleMaidenBookClub (and what is quickly becoming one of the posts I look forward to the most each month). In July I really switched up the type of books I was reading (you can see last month’s here), from my standard, go-to fiction, to a more diverse range. And I was thrilled with the results. Below, my thoughts on July’s reading + what I’ve got on my shelf for August. Hope you’ll find something here you might like too!

The Woman in the Window by A.J.Finn: Without giving anything away – the story is set in New York and centers on a woman who has a fear of leaving the house so she spends her days watching her neighbors through the window. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a thriller (I guess there was Gone Girl a few years ago, but aside from that it’s probably been a decade) and this one didn’t disappoint. Although I must really be out of practice at reading thrillers because my co-worker read this in the weeks after I did and totally guessed one of the major plot twists that I hadn’t suspected. Alas. Either way it was a quick, edge of my seat read that I really enjoyed. Not surprisingly, it’s going to be made into a movie. Do yourself a favor and read the book first.

Motherhood by Shelia Heti: Where do I start with this one? It was unlike anything I’ve ever read before. It follows a loose storyline but is essentially just a stream of conscious, honest account of a 30-something year old woman thinking about her decision whether or not to have children. If you’ve wanted to be a mother since you were 5 years old or already are one.. this honestly might not be for you. But if you are a woman, who even once in her life has had the fleeting (or reoccurring) thought ‘I’m not sure if I’d be a great mother’, ‘I’m not sure if I really want to have kids’, ‘I’m not sure if kids would fit into the life I had dreamed for myself’, ‘I’m not sure if I want to have kids with my current partner’ etc. etc. – then I think this would really hit home.

I didn’t agree with everything here, but I don’t think that’s the point. The point is that for most of my life I’ve rarely heard women brave enough to say ‘I’m not sure if motherhood is for me’. I know a few who spoke about it being a firm no and almost all of the rest who seemed to follow the same societal script of ‘I can’t wait to get married and have kids’. Neither is right or wrong – but that grey area? It doesn’t get discussed as often as I think it should. Below, a few of the passages that I found particularly striking (and then I’ll move on):

“I don’t want to make somebody else. I want to make myself.”

“Being a woman, you can’t just say you don’t want a child. You have to have some big plan or idea of what you’re going to do instead. And it better be something great. And you had better be able to tell it convincingly – before it even happens – what the arc of your life will be.

“It suddenly seemed like a huge conspiracy to keep women in their thirties – when you finally have some brains and some skills and experience – from doing anything useful with them at all.”

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain: This was a tough one. Not because I didn’t love it (I really, really loved it), but because I think I was secretly searching each page for an answer as to why his life would end the way it did. Anthony Bourdain is someone I always greatly respected and admired, and this book only cemented that. He was a man that lived really fully and wasn’t afraid to make mistakes or start over. I like a person that I think would have my back in a bar fight and he would certainly be one of those people. Aside from all of that, this book is sort of a exposé on all things in New York kitchens. It’s hilarious, humbling and at times heartbreaking. I finished the book with such an respect for the people who make a living in a kitchen, but not all the answers. Aside from the fact that sometimes it seems, even the best of us can get lost along the way. I only wish someone had been there to have his back in the fight.

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For this upcoming month I’m sticking with a variety of types of books since I loved the results of that in July so much. I’ve got Mrs. Fletcher (a romp of a read apparently), Station Eleven (YA fiction set in the aftermath of an apocalypse), The Female Persuasion (a very-buzzy current fiction pick that I’m excited to dive into about female relationships between mentors, friends, bosses, etc.) and Born to Run (Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography) on my shelf for August. Feel free to read along with me!

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THE STEELE MAIDEN BOOK CLUB: CHAPTER THREE

The Steele Maiden Book Club: Chapter Three

Back in the Spring I kicked off #SteeleMaidenBookClub and not only has it encouraged me to devote way more time to reading this year (the way I used to before endlessly scrolling Instagram became a thing), but it’s also become on of my favorite posts to write here on the blog. So without further ado – my third installment (you can see the last post’s here and here) and if you want to see/hear me talk about this month’s book club picks I’m going to be posting a short video to IGTV here.

Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt: This was the story of a young girl in the 1970’s who runs away with her high school teacher. It flips between her story (which takes some twists and turns) and the story of the sister she left behind and the woman who raised them. I think I ended up liking the flashback stories more than the ones that followed the main character.. but in general it was a good, easy read. This could make it into your beach bag this summer for sure.

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney: I love, love, loveddd this book – but I think that’s largely because I really related to it. The story follows Lillian’s life – flipping between when she was a copywriter/ad executive in New York in the 30s/40s and now, in the 1980s when she’s a much older woman, still living in the city. So much of her feelings towards her career and this city felt so much like my own which I rarely find in characters. But even if you’re not a Manhattan or nothing diehard, this book was very well-written and fun look at one woman’s life at two very different time periods.

The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride: Ahh… where do I start? I guess on the first 5 pages because honestly that’s all I could bear to read of this book. It is very rare for me to start a book and not give it at least 100 pages, but honestly the dialect is so difficult that I just couldn’t muster through it. Maybe in the winter when I’m cooped up with nothing but time I’ll come back to this, but in Summer I wanted a book that sparked my imagination or sucked me in page by page. Not something I had to read slowly in a silent room. Let’s put this one on the shelf, shall we?

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After feeling like I picked only ‘new fiction’ this past month, I wanted to really switch it up for the month ahead – and I’m particularly excited about these three picks (full disclosure: I snuck ahead and have already started/finished some of these and they’re gooood). The Woman in the Window is an edge-of-your-seat thriller (perfect for the beach or tearing through on a rainy day), Motherhood is writer Sheila Heti’s honest account of her inner struggle to decide if being a mother is for her or not and Kitchen Confidential was Anthony Bourdain’s first book and after being such a fan of his, I wanted to go back and hear more about where he started. This book is a tell-all memoir about his early days in the kitchen’s of New York City… the good, the bad and the ugly. So far I know I’ll never be eating fish at a restaurant on a Monday night again.

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THE STEELE MAIDEN BOOK CLUB: CHAPTER TWO

The Steele Maiden Book Club: What I'm Reading

Earlier this year I kicked The Steele Maiden  (see the first installment here) and I’m finally back with another round.

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Ann Fowler:

After binging the Amazon series ‘Z: The Beginning of Everything’ starring Christina Ricci about the early days of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald (which I loved) I knew I had to read the novel that it was based on. I, not surprisingly, loved the book even more than the series. If you’re a fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald, the 1920’s or just historical fiction in general I think you’d like this – but the themes of love within a complicated relationship and a woman finding her place in the world are universal here and so beautifully written that I can’t imagine anyone not finding something to relate to in this book. I can see myself re-reading this one.

You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein:

This one falls into the category of books like Lena Dunham’s ‘Not that Kind of Girl’ or Amy Schumer’s ‘Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo’ – easy, amusing reads that aren’t exactly going to make you smarter but are definitely going to make you laugh a few times along the way. I honestly can’t decide if I’d recommend this or not because I think there are stronger books in the female comedian turned writer category (I’ve always loved Tina Fey’s ‘Bossypants’) – but if you’ve already read all of the top titles you’d likely enjoy this one too.

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Next month, I’m diving into Cruel, Beautiful World by Caroline Lewitt (about a young girl in the 60s who run away with her teacher), Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk (about a young woman in advertising in New York in the 30/40s that flashes forward to her life as an older woman in the 80s – I’ve already started this one and really love it so far), and The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride (set at a Drama School in 1990’s London).

All of those are new fiction though which means next go around I want to mix things up – maybe a good thriller or a historical biography? If you have suggestions send ’em my way!

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THE STEELE MAIDEN BOOK CLUB: CHAPTER ONE

The Steele Maiden Book Club: January 2018 Reads

Reading has always been such a huge part of my life that it’s funny to me I’ve never really discussed books here on the blog. My Mom worked at a library up until I went to Kindergarten and my parents like to joke that I could organize a card catalogue before most kids even knew how to read. When I first moved to New York in my early 20s, I founded a book club and have missed it ever since it ended. I used to devour a handful of books every month, but between this blog and my full time career – it became harder and harder to find the time to read.

This year, I’m determined to change that and it seems like you’re all interested in the idea too. So I bring you – the first month/chapter of The Steele Maiden Book Club. Each month, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the books I’ve read in the previous month and then selecting a couple of books for the next month to come, in the case that any of you want to jump in and read along with me!

THEFT BY FINDING by David Sedaris:

Sedaris is one of my all-time favorite authors. Painfully funny in his no frills approach to both writing and life. Theft by Finding is a chronological collection of his real diary entries over the past 40 years. Honest, hilarious, and beautiful even in its banality – there’s something incredibly brave about sharing so much even when it seems unimportant to the greater scope of his life. I also love that because these don’t have an overall narrative you can pick it up and put it down like a collection of short stories. And a reminder, that if you want to be really great at something (be it writing or anything else)… practice it almost every day for decades.

MODERN LOVERS by Emma Straub:

Eh. To be fair this book was exactly what I was expecting so I wouldn’t say I was disappointed, but maybe just not blown away. Set in modern day Brooklyn the story follows two main couples now in their 40s (who met in college) and their now high-school aged children. A multi-generational story that touches on coming of age, navigating relationships and coming to terms with your life choices as you grow older. An overall pleasant read, I’m just not sure that I ever felt very invested in any of the characters. But for a beach vacation or rainy weekend where you want to plow through a book over the course of a few days and not have to overthink it – this would be a good option.

LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE by Celeste Ng:

I read Ng’s debut novel Everything I Never Told You in a single weekend last Summer so I couldn’t wait to pick this one up. Little Fires Everywhere was maybe even better (and that’s saying something). Set in Shaker Heights, Ohio in the 90s the story weaves together two families with very different dynamics and backgrounds. And just like her first novel, shows you just how much we often still don’t know about the very people closest to us. Each character is so beautifully written that you find yourself having a hard time deciding who’s side you’re on as the plot twists and turns. Without giving any more away – suffice to say I can’t recommend this one enough.

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Next month, I’m diving into Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald (after binging the Amazon series ‘Z: The Beginning of Everything’ starring Christina Ricci about the early days of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald – which I lovedddd) and You’ll Grow Out of It (recommended by a friend who just so happened to be one of the members of my old IRL book club). It’s a short month, so I’m sticking to just those two. Have other suggestions? Drop me a line or comment here.

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