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the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.
AUG
15

Top Ten Books that I Love

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In honor of National Book Lovers Day, which went largely unnoticed again this past week, I thought I'd put together some thoughts about some of the books I truly love. It goes without saying that as a writer and avid reader, books mean a lot to me. I know how hard they can be to compose, to arrange, to get out there, to publish, to market. That there are still so many people out there who have thought to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and gone through the whole endeavor just to make their words available for people like you and me is something I am grateful for every day. The escape, the adventure, the creativity, the honesty, and the wisdom we absorb through the written words of others, well, it's what I consider one of the great blessings of our time.

*These are in no particular order, except the order in which they came to my mind. Make of that what you will.

1. Peace Like a River. This one gets me every time, and I've read it plenty. Combining the innocence and humor of a young narrator with the unbreakable bond of family, you'll find yourself torn between justice and mercy...although justice never really has a chance when love and family are in the mix, now, does it? You'll be rooting for Davy and the RV-towing family who's trying to track him down.

2. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Honestly one of the greatest regrets of my life is that it took me until THIS SUMMER to finally read this book. How much time I wasted not being acquainted with the Nolan family. Young Francie and her mother Katie are some of the most memorable characters I've ever known, and something about the degree to which you become immersed in this world of old-school Brooklyn is simply captivating. A true treasure.

3. The Year of Magical Thinking. My favorite of Joan Didion's books, it explores grief in a way that feels both practical and sentimental.

4. The End of Your Life Book Club. I'm such a sucker for memoirs anyway, and this one was both literary (you'll get lots of great ideas for reading material!) and heartbreaking (from the very beginning, you know how it has to end). For anyone who has ever loved their mother.

5. Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.. I'd never really thought of the film Breakfast at Tiffany's ushering in a whole new era of female sexuality (and not really sure that I entirely buy it), but as a huge fan of the novella, of the jewelry store, and of Audrey Hepburn, this book has plenty of all three. From the writing to the casting to the filming, this is a fascinating look at a movie that, if not quite sexually redefining, was undoubtedly iconic. An absolute treat.

6. The Secret Life of Cowboys. An honest and messily beautiful account of a writer turned cowboy who takes his chances on ranch life. And Tom Groneberg actually reached out to thank me when I complimented his books in a previous post. We've corresponded a bit, and you've got to love authors who aren't above reaching out to their fans.

7. Tis. Out of Frank McCourt's trilogy of memoirs, Angela's Ashes gets the most press. But I find Tis to be the best of the bunch. His childhood years behind him, Tis tells of McCourt's first years in America.

8. The Alchemist. A beautiful story packed to the brim with symbolism and parallels that will have you thinking lost past the last page. A book ultimately about following your dreams and finding out what exactly it is that the universe has in store for you, it's what ultimately inspired me to go get my gemologist diploma.

9. Quiet. Fascinating (and, oh, so true) nonfiction read about the power of introverts in a society that lopsidedly praises (and goes to great lengths to matriculate) extroverts. Every introvert will rejoice...and for every boss, manager, dean, and CEO, it should be required reading.

10. Frankenstein. This one made such an impression on me when I first read it because it's not at all the book you think it's going to be. We hear so much about the story of Frankenstein, but, believe me, you should read the real thing. Not unlike characters such as Elphaba and the Phantom, you'll be left musing over these tragic characters who, initially so full of goodness, were ultimately changed and cracked by the way others treated them.

JUN
10

Goodbye to all that

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I've been reading a collection of essays written by female writers who have at some point lived in (and left) New York. It's amazing how conflicted we writer folk can be about this city, and in almost every essay is what I've come to dub an inevitable waffling between how we could never leave new York and the fact that we can't leave fast enough because being here is, at most, draining and shallow, and, at worst, sort of sucky. In these essays there are three camps of people: those who love New York, those who hate New York, and those who--for better or for worse--feel an unnamed sense of belonging, pull, and attraction to being in New York. This final group are those who even after moving away end up moving back; those who even if they choose not to move back still pine for the city every day, wish they were there again, home.

I suppose you could say I belong to this third group of people, although I'm not really sure why. It's not like New York was ever mine. Certain of the essayists make quite clear, in fact, how annoyed they are with these so-called baby New Yorkers who move to the city with big dreams and after a few months of living with a bunch of roommates in a small flat in the East Village start going around claiming the city as their own. But when I say I belong to this third group, it's because my attraction to New York is something I cannot help. It's wired into me. I know this because living here has been hard. I've found many aspects of it much more challenging than I had ever anticipated, yet the thought of leaving tomorrow has me weepy.

To me, New York City equals possibility. On a grand scale, certainly, and the fact that I've been able to complete and fulfill a dream while here certainly boosts the life-making fantasy I've got going in my mind when I think of Manhattan. But I'm talking about possibility on a small scale, too. Because no other city is like this. No other city offers so much in the way of daily activities, eateries, or attractions. Any day could take you in any number of directions and result in any number of outcomes, favorites, and new friends. As an introvert, it's not even as if I was taking full advantage of this, but the point is that it's there for you when you want it. And there is comfort in that. Not to suggest that I'm sad about beginning a new chapter on the other side of the country (translation: I am totally sad), but I know every night will find me wondering what everyone in New York is up to, feeling the way you feel in dreams when you've been left behind, beating off with a stick this annoying sense that a bunch of fun is being had without you. Having now lived in New York, I know it will absolutely be true. To quote the essay that opens the book, "California has taught me this: you can take the girl out of New York, but all that accomplishes is taking the girl out of New York." I guess we'll just have to see.