When I was growing up, few things made me happier than a fresh stack of books from the library. But in the last decade or so, between the heavy reading lists in university and the demands of my first full-time job, reading for pleasure often fell by the wayside. That's something I'd like to change going forward as the winter break (and my subsequent bouts of sickness) made me rediscover the joy of picking up a real book. Here are a few I've enjoyed recently. What are you reading?
1. Bloom:Navigating Life and Style by Estée Lalonde. UK-based beauty blogger and influencer Estée Lalonde's first book is the sort you want to show off on Instagram. Pretty cover aside, its pages are filled with artful photos and heartfelt essays on a wide range of lifestyle topics. As someone unfamiliar with Lalonde's work, I was impressed by her candor and authenticity, especially when she's opening up about her struggle with anxiety and depression and her introverted ways. Bloom is an enjoyable read for any young woman striving for a life with more balance, substance, and style.
2. Neal's Yard Remedies Beauty Book. I've been dealing with some not-so-fun health issues that often leave me fatigued, so in an effort to eliminate bodily stress and conserve energy, I'm trying to go natural with my beauty routine whenever I can. The NYR Beauty Book is an invaluable resource for doing just that; it's chock full of information for approaching beauty and wellness in a holistic way. As someone who's trying to pay better attention to the ingredients in beauty products, I appreciated the lists of ingredients to avoid, as well as the encyclopedic overview of the most common natural beauty ingredients and their skincare and health benefits. There are also recipes for making your own natural products and tutorials for makeup looks, dry-brushing, spa nights, and facial massage.
3. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. I'm a sucker for YA books with buzz, so hearing that Before I Fall would get the movie treatment in 2017 definitely piqued my interest. The story focuses on Samantha Kingston, a popular high school girl who seemingly dies in a car accident on the way home from a party, only to wake up and repeat the day of her death again and again. As the minute details of her routine change each time she re-lives the day, Sam confronts the uncomfortable truth that the popular life may not have made her a very good person. The plot is predictable à la Mean Girls meets Groundhog Day, but that didn't stop me from racing through the final pages late at night to find out how it ends.
4. In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume. For her fourth foray into adult fiction, Judy Blume mined the traumatic true-life events of her past—specifically, a series of three plane crashes that rocked her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, during the winter of 1951/1952. The novel is an epic look at the effect of the crashes on victims, their families, and residents of Elizabeth in the present and the years to come. Points-of-view switch at a dizzying pace, and for the first few chapters I had difficulty sorting out the relationships between all the characters, but after a while I found the core of the book to be the coming-of-age story of a young Jewish girl named Miriam against this backdrop of tragedy. The characters are sharply drawn and the story deftly told—it's quintessential Judy Blume in a lot of ways—and I particularly enjoyed the era-specific detail.
5. Baby Proof by Emily Giffin. I'm of an age where most of my friends and I are starting families or thinking about it, so the themes in Baby Proof really resonated with me. Protagonist Claudia Parr seems to have it all: a thriving career in New York as a book editor, a loving husband named Ben, a life of freedom and self-fulfillment predicated upon her and Ben's mutual desire to not have children. But what happens when Ben changes his mind and wants kids a couple years into their marriage and Claudia still doesn't and never will? While Claudia and Ben grapple with the emotional fallout of their differences, Claudia's family and friends have their own baby dramas to deal with: one sister is the mother of three with an unfaithful husband; another sister is in a loving marriage yet struggling with infertility; her BFF is ready to settle down but can't seem to find "the one." Giffin's simple prose and emotional forthrightness keep the story from veering into overly saccharine territory, and I for one was pleased with the ending.
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