My 5 Monday: Books to Escape To

Monday already?! I don’t know about you all, but my weekend just flew by. Even though I flew from the East Coast to the West Coast and technically gained 3 hours, it still felt like I lost a whole day to travel and jetlag.

I’m not complaining though- I actually really don’t mind flying. There’s something about being in no one place, with no one you know, and having hours of silence to think (unless there is a crying child behind you, of course) that really just creates a freer feeling headspace. I always feel like I’m escaping reality when I’m in airplane, which is what inspired today’s “My 5 Monday” post! Whenever I get into that zone of feeling like I’m escaping, I like to double down a pick up a book that encompasses those same characteristics. What I would define as escapist literature would be books that have vivid settings, captivating story lines, heartfelt emotions, or a gripping mystery. Basically an immersive page-turner that can make me escape to a different time or place.

And with that, here are my 5 escapist books!

5. The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlin19286669

I first picked up this one in an airport, so for that reason alone it seems to fit my escapism needs immediately! In all seriousness though, I absolutely could not put this down from the moment I started. I wouldn’t necessarily say this is a thriller, but it has quite a few huge twists and emotional breakthroughs that really keep you hooked.

I don’t want to give too much away, so I will keep this short. In fact, don’t even read the Goodreads description, as I personally think that gives away a really interesting plot twist that I would have rather not known about going into the book. All you need to know is it’s about a young woman who goes to her hometown to deal with her late father’s paperwork, funeral, and house but finds all sorts of hidden family secrets- especially secrets surrounding her sister’s suicide years earlier.

The Silent Sister has mystery, family secrets, drama, loss, gain, and most of all- heart. I think I teared up multiple times reading this from the heartfelt messages throughout. I truly escaped my own reality by traveling to this small town, unweaving the family’s history, and growing with the characters until the very end.

4. Joyland by Stephen King13596166

Joyland is actually the first Stephen King book I’ve ever read. It’s not like I’ve exactly avoided Stephen King, it’s more like I don’t even know where to start with him. So when my fiance picked it up in one of our favorite bookstores, I knew it was finally time to start! We read this at (mostly) the same time and it made it such a fun first Stephen King experience. The cover was what immediately grabbed us, along with the almost nostalgic campy sounding description. It takes place in small town in the ’70s and is filled with carnies, a haunting murderous past, and a little coming of age narration.

I will repeat: small town, 1970s, carnivals, murder. These characteristics fit a few of my quintessential escapist needs. You’re whisked back to a tight North Carolina community, a carnival town I should stress, the place of a vicious murder, 40 years ago. Try to tell me you wouldn’t escape your current life by going to such a different time and place.

I ultimately finished this book in a few days, and was pleasantly surprised by the amount of heart and soul that this book contained. Sure there are carnies and haunting murders, but there are also bonds of friendship, families in unexpected places, and love. Now that I’ve broken into Stephen King, it definitely won’t be my last!

3. The Girls by Emma Cline26893819

I feel like this book sparked a little bit of a controversy, and it seemed like readers either absolutely loved it or hated it. I will definitely preface that this book isn’t for everyone out there, but I think most would agree that it’s a great way to escape reality for a little bit.

The Girls is another 1960s-1970s read that I devoured in a few days. Ok maybe I definitely have a fascination with the ’70s- I may or may not have once asked a hairstylist to give me Bridget Bardot hair. Similarly to Joyland, this is first a foremost a coming-of-age story, except this time about a young girl, Evie. Contrary to Joyland, I would say this book has much more emphasis on its time period and could even be considered in the realm of historical fiction. If you’re not already aware, The Girls is loosely based on the Manson girls and murders, which I may or may not have another fascination with. I was captivated by this other perspective of The Family- a young girl who is, for lack of a better word, completely normal and just learning how to be a young woman in a such a changing time and gets sucked in. It’s in this way that see just how tantalizing a tight knit group of carefree individuals is, through the eyes of an impressionable young girl. We get an insight into her psyche through her palpable descriptions and her obsessions.

I felt the descriptions of growing up as an insecure and self conscious girl was all too accurate and familiar. Emma Cline does a phenomenal job of depicting these feelings and showing how timeless insecurity and the need to fit in is. The novel is so much deeper than meets the eye, and offers a very fresh perspective on a coming of age story. I also can’t even begin to explain how blown away I was by the writing itself- I ate up every vivid description and metaphor. If the plot itself isn’t escapist enough for you, the whimsical and airy writing will be sure to do that for you. Again, even the writing isn’t for everyone, but I think it’s undeniable that Cline’s debut is fresh, unique, and truly escapist.

2. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson89724

Yes you can surprisingly escape reality in just under 150 pages! They don’t call Shirley Jackson the queen of horror for nothing, and if this story doesn’t horrify you in the best way possible and make you forget about work, tests, life, than I don’t know what can. We Have Always Lived in the Castle is eerie, twisted, sinister, macabre, yet also a little funny and endearing in a way. I know that combination sounds odd, but you have to understand the brilliance in which Jackson writes her characters and her dark story lines. It’s unclear when this story takes place, but it’s no doubt a small town back in the day- some of my classic go-to escapist qualities.

The story centers around two interesting sisters after the murder of their parents by way of arsenic poisoning. The murderer was presumed to be the older sister Constance, although we quickly start to question who the real murderer is. The younger, Merricat, protects Constance from the gossip and harshness of the town, and the two make a very unique and isolated pair. I won’t give too much away, since the book is so short as it is, but if you’re looking for a quick escape and a little chill, look no further!

1. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple13526165

Yay! You’ve reached number one through all of my ramblings! Where’d You Go, Bernadette is my ultimate escapist novel despite its deviation from the others on my list. My other 4 made me feel almost every emotion under the sun, but this one right here made me laugh out loud embarrassingly in public settings. I understand this book also got a few mixed reviews, but this book is pure comedic and satirical gold.

The story focuses on an agoraphobic, anxious, oddball mother who fails to fit in with her Seattle 1%-er neighbors. She’s quirky and silly, but also touches your heart in un-explainable and unforgettable ways. It’s also about a family in crisis when this mother disappears, and insanity ensues when her daughter tries to piece together where her agoraphobic mother could have possibly gone. The story is told in a fun and engrossing way, through series of notes, report cards, email exchanges, and official documents compiled by said daughter to solve said disappearance.

Although the story is mostly satire, it is heartwarming and ultimately the story of a mother and daughter and their irreplaceable bond. The vivid descriptions, the humor, and the quirky personalities are a different kind of escapism for me, albeit by favorite. This was my favorite read of 2017 and my favorite book to escape the madness!

Do you have any novels that you like to escape into? Whether a different time or place or with an interesting set of characters? I’d love to hear more recommendations for when you just need to unplug and escape for a little bit. Comment below! 🙂

My 5 Monday: Required Reading

Happy Monday my bookworms! It’s been awhile since I posted, but I’ve been slowly settling back into my second home, NYC. Coming back to NYC is always a little like riding a bike, I fall right into my old ways like no time has passed: waking up to my cat’s meows, standing at my favorite end of the subway platform, going to the same place for my favorite oatmeal, and of course, listening to an audiobook through it all.

Because it’s Monday and I’m sure I’m not the only one who needs a little pick me up, I wanted to start a new weekly blog post called “My 5 Monday” which is a top five of my favorite bookish things. And this Monday I wanted to talk about some of my past favorite books, specifically my favorite required reading from my school days. My fiance is in grad school, (working his butt off and making me so proud I may add!!) and it sometimes makes me think back to my school days and all the reading that was assigned. In fact, some of the books I was required to read in college actually became a few of my favorite books of all time, and wanted to share “My 5” favorites.

In college, I was a Geography major, and have always been a lover of maps. Senior year though, I returned to my first love, reading, and took a few literature classes. I took Latino Lit, focusing on POC narrators and authors, and Classic Lit, where we read classic literature but with more intersectionality: feminist and LGBT+ focused specifically. I learned so much in these classes; both of them shaped a lot about what I know and think today, and I even got some favorite reads out of it!

And with that, here are My 5 Monday: Required Reading edition.

5. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

Fun Home is a graphic novel that doubles as a memoir of Alison Bechdel’s growing up. Don’t be deceived by the title or the fact that this is a graphic novel, it is not necessarily fun and lighthearted. Although she has a knack for comedy too, Fun Home illustrates the dysfunctional and darker family issues such as internalized homophobia and death. I love how Alison Bechdel can lets us into these family issues and hardships in a, well, fun, way such as a graphic novel. If you want to know the woman behind the Bechdel-Wallace test a little more closely, this a great and quick read, yet also full of rich meaning.

4. East of Eden by John Steinbeck

I don’t really think I could accurately sum up such a classic in a few sentences, but this book really changed my outlook on a lot of aspects of life and religion. It also happened to take place in some of my favorite Californian scenery- San Luis Obispo County. The first 200 page description of rolling hills may not appeal to everyone, but it really holds a special place in my heart. I finished this book in a few sittings, despite the length of the book; ok maaaaybe I finished because I was approaching some deadlines, but I like to think that it was really just that compelling. The ending brought me to tears (probably the first time that had ever happened to me) so this book is really special to me, more than I could sum up on this fine Monday afternoon.

3. The Awakening by Kate Chopin

It’s kind of funny that this book is number three on my list, because that’s the exact amount of times I’ve had to read it for different classes. I love this book for many different reasons, but it hasn’t always been this way. I actually hated this book the first time I read it, I think I was too young to really grasp it. By the third time this was assigned, I was enthralled. I feel like this book has grown up with me through the years, I read it at three different stages of life, and each time it meaning something different to me. This is a quick read that I will staunchly defend as important feminist literature with themes in: free will, love, and ultimately being a woman in the Victorian era.

2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I promise I’m not being biased when I place this as my second favorite required reading even though it DID assist me in winning a regional competition in literature when I was in middle school. I read this book numerous times, wrote essay upon essay, and was even tested among other students on my knowledge of it. So to say I know this book like the back of my hand is an understatement. You would think with how many times I read it, this book would grow tired and boring. However, reading this book over and over again actually added to my love for it. This book was probably one of my best friends in middle school, and think what you want about me for saying that 🙂 This book was stuffed to the brims with important life lessons that kids and adults alike can benefit, and Scout will always be my little heroine.

1. The Tattooed Soldier by Hector Tobar

To say this novel, read in my Latino Lit class, changed my outlook on life is a complete understatement. Told in three different perspectives, and set during prominent historical moments, this book intertwines politics, love, history, and war. Partly set during the Guatemalan Civil War, Red Scare, and the Rodney King riots, this book covers so many important topics that will make you want to scream and cry and hug your loved ones all at once. This book impacted the way I think, and it made me love reading again after a very long dry spell of books. Whenever someone wants a reading recommendation, this is the first one I go to, and one I will always hold dear. It’s a tough read, but it will teach you in ways school doesn’t, and is an incredibly important required read.

Honorable mentions: The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Doubt by Jennifer Michael Hecht, Gods Go Begging by Alfredo Vea, and The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson.

Before I started my love of thrillers and mysteries, I loved my required reading. These are some of my first loves and ones I will carry with me for a long time. Thanks for reading about some of my favorites- now I want to hear yours! What are some of your required reads that became favorites? What about ones you read but couldn’t stand? What do you think we should all be required to read in schools?