Weekend Shut-In Worksheet: Don’t Go Outside, Read These Books

We are in the throes of the first long weekend of the summer, so your dance calendar is most likely full of barbecues and picnics, but if you’re using this time to recharge and eschew the warm embrace of humanity for the equally sweet embrace of your own private solitude, here are three books to help you in your journey.


A Little Life by Hanya Yanigahara: We covered this in last week’s Weekend Shut-In, but this book deserves more than a glib throwaway review, so here’s my plea. The story of Jude, JB, Malcolm and Wiillem appeals because it’s like any story about four friends finding their footing in New York City post college, but its real value lies in Yanigahara’s ability to keep your interest for over 700 pages of dense and oftentimes difficult prose.  Read this book. Don’t be intimidated by its size or the seriousness of its prose. Yanigahara explores the depth of the cruelty human beings can endure without breaking by doling out the torture enacted upon Jude, the main character, in little drips, just enough to keep you turning the pages. It’s misery porn, but like the good stuff, it propels the story forward without bogging it down. I wouldn’t normally tear through a book of this size in a week, but I did, and you will too.


It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life Of Love And War by Lynsey D’Addario: Lynsey D’Addario is a Macarthur Fellow, Pulitzer prize winner and all around bad bitch who made her career as a photojournalist shooting in danger. She’s worked in Afghanistan under the Taliban and also shot in Darfur, the Congo, Haiti and all around the Middle East. She has been kidnapped, she has been embedded wth American troops and seen things through the lens of her camera that we only hear about on the news, anesthetized and made palatable for the masses. It’s What I Do is her memoir of her times as a war photojournalist and serves as a love letter to her job as well as inspiration to be just a teeeensy bit more ambitious. Regardless, it’s a compelling read and well worth your time.


Life Among The Savages and Raising Demons by Shirley Jackson: You know Shirley Jackson, because you read her short story “The Lottery,” or because you found a copy of We Have All Lived In The Castle, and you’ve wondered how one woman could be so deliciously dark and twisty. It will then surprise you that Jackson wrote these two lovely little memoirs about the vagaries of motherhood and raising her children in a rambly old farmhouse in Vermont. These books are basically the ur-text for mommy bloggers, but are engaging, lively reads, without the earnest gloss of contemporary parenting literature. They’re short, and I read them in one sitting each, so I recommend you do the same.