Your Reading Life

Good for Book Clubs

We RIFers are voracious readers and we love to tell a good story. Your Reading Life features personal essays, reader reviews — anything that embraces our literary lifestyle. Pull up a mug of your favorite cozy beverage and join in on the conversation.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

Want Weekly Book Recommendations?

Your email inbox can be an especially nutty place—especially around this time of year. It seems like every new email is an alert about a sale or a travel site offering (barely) discounted flights. But what about an email you’d actually WANT to read?

Well, ICYMI, Read It Forward has a weekly eNewsletter called What We’re Reading—we send you weekly book recommendations straight from our TBR piles in hopes you’ll enjoy them as well. Every Tuesday, our picks rotate around a different theme, but the one constant is that all of the books are awesome reads.

This content is exclusive to our eNewsletter subscribers, which means you won’t see these posts on Read It Forward, only in your email.

So what are you waiting for? Sign up by entering your email address below and clicking the second box that says “I want to get the What We’re Reading newsletter with recommendations for my TBR pile.”

AND, if you’re the sort of person who likes winning free stuff and want to sign up to get our weekly Giveaway email, go ahead and click that first box too!

It’s just another way to show how thankful we are for you, our Read It Forward community.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

RIF’s Favorite Reads of November

Ahh November—time to savor delectable foods, gather with family and, of course, read. We can’t think of anything else we’d rather do with a few days off than settle in with a delicious new read. But with so many books being published every month, it’s hard to know which titles are worth purchasing from your local bookstore, downloading on your eReader, or waiting for at the library. Read It Forward to the rescue! We’ve collected ten of our favorite books—a healthy mix of fiction, non-fiction and memoir—all of which we devoured in the past month.

So, if you’re stumped about what to read while you’re diving into Thanksgiving leftovers, see the heaping platefuls of books we’ve been loving this month—and click on the images to shop our picks. Then let us know in the comments what you’ve been reading and why you’re enjoying it!

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

The Things I’m Thankful For

The wonderful thing about Thanksgiving—apart from the delicious food and time with family—is having a few days off to reflect on the things I’m thankful for. Often, it’s not until I deviate from the breakneck pace of my everyday schedule that the blessings in my life crystallize and come into focus and I’m able to slow down enough to remember not to take them for granted—to savor each one and appreciate it, as if holding a Hershey’s Kiss in the hollow of my cheek and letting it slowly melt.

My father died six weeks ago in early October. He had been battling cancer valiantly for four years, and so, while it wasn’t unexpected, it was sudden—it seemed as if he was at home picking up my lunchtime phone call one day, and gone the next. My heart is heavy with grief and I keep trying to swallow the lump in my throat that emerges every time I think about him. I feel like I’ve spent the past month in a daze, my sadness hanging on me like an invisible backpack filled with rocks—unseen by the casual passerby, but felt acutely and constantly, deep within my muscles and bones.

In the days that followed my father’s death, two friends, who had each dealt with their own devastating losses in the past year, gave me books that had helped them during their grieving processes. One, titled Good Grief, and the other, Healing After Loss: Daily Meditations for Working Through Grief, were thrust in my hands almost like a life ring tossed to the flailing arms of someone who’s just fallen overboard. These books had acted as floatation devices for my friends as they sunk into their own bottomless chasms of grief, and they wanted the wisdom from the pages to help me float as well.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

Our Favorite Bookish Tweets

With the rise of social media, and especially Twitter, reading has become even more performative. We use hashtags like #amreading, #FridayReads and #BookNerdConfessions to talk about our own habits, and start movements with #ReadWomen2014 and #WeNeedDiverseBooks. The new weekly chat on Thursdays with librarians (#AskALibrarian) has filled our TBR piles to overflowing. Furthermore, Twitter brings us closer to our favorite authors and famous readers. We’re always retweeting and favoriting the bon mots from literary heavyweights, clever cultural commentators, and even fellow readers who attain brief fame when they hit a book-related nerve.

Here we’ve rounded up 42 of our favorite bookish tweets that made us laugh, nod furiously in agreement and click *retweet.*

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

The Best Literary Decor Ever

All of us know that true book lovers love to be surrounded by books. But sometimes, when money is tight and you can’t buy more books, or you’ve run out of shelf-space, or your apartment is small, or your roommates are seriously weird and don’t let you keep books anywhere but in your room… well, if any of that is true, you still need to figure out a way to have books around you in some form or another. So here at Read It Forward, we’ve gathered some of the best DIY or buy decor for your enthusiastically bookish personal space.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

Are People Judging You By Your Book’s Cover?

When my mother and father met—early in their respective college careers—my father had established a gimmick for picking up girls, or at least for projecting a cool, intellectual image (which, to be fair, he owned): He carried around a copy of Martin Buber’s “I And Thou.” (His method proved effective, if my parents’ long marriage is any indicator.)

Years later, when I was in college, I was intrigued by my eventual boyfriend’s passion for Albert Camus’ “The Stranger.” (That may have been a red flag, come to think of it.) And, still later, my now husband captivated me by dissecting “The Iliad” (which he still does from time to time).

These days, perhaps a Philip Roth book, rare graphic novel or Jonathan Safran Foer haggadah would serve the same purpose. (So might the right esoteric concert t-shirt and limited-edition sneakers.) Clearly, regardless of the decade, a book has the power to endow its readers with qualities of intellectual rigor and even sense of humor. When we expose a book on our desk at work, throughout our subway commute or even during dinner discussions, we are conscious of its power to define and categorize us in other peoples’ eyes. For better or worse.

It’s not that we pretend to appreciate books that, in fact, we have not. Rather, there are books we are proud to have read and absorbed (don’t get me started on Italo Calvino’s “If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler”), and books we only buy while wearing sunglasses and read under the cover of night or on an innocuous e-reader (see: my Jude Deveraux stash).

I, for one, am a hi-lo reader, for lack of a better term. Just as my wardrobe is equal parts Isabel Marant and TopShop (well, I wish), and my TV viewing ranges from “The Good Wife” to “Survivor,” I tend to alternate between genre fiction like mysteries and more critically-acclaimed “highbrow” reads. Even the books I write seem to straddle the commercial and literary. It makes sense: Juxtaposition is the nature of our entire culture these days. And I’m not sure one has more merit than another.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

Ink on Books: A Few of Our Favorite Literary Tattoos

Books tattoo themselves on our hearts—but these special tributes are inked into the skin, lasting reminders of their hold on us.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Pete Townshend’s “Tattoo,” a sweet, goofy song about self-definition from “The Who Sell Out” (1967). The chorus is especially fun:

“Welcome to my life, tattoo!
We’ve a long time together, me and you.
I expect I’ll regret you, but the skin graft man won’t get you;
You’ll be there when I die.

I also have a soft spot (probably the back of my neck, where I expect to get something David-Foster-Wallace-related someday) for literary tattoos; nothing says “that story stuck with me” quite like sticking yourself with a story. Meet 10 folks who have done just that—and tell us in the comments what your ideal ink about ink would be!

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

The Moment I Went From Adolescent Reader to Adult Reader

If I had to pinpoint the moment in which I transitioned from an adolescent reader to a more adult one, it would be summer of 2008, the first summer after my freshmen year of college. I was home in California from NYU, working at a magazine internship in San Francisco. My meager paycheck mostly went into commuting from Marin County to the city via ferry—standing out on the prow with the water whipping into your face makes for a great wake-up—and buying lunch. Every few days, before catching the evening ferry, I would take a detour to the San Francisco Public Library and pick up a new book.

What made this my summer of “adult” reading wasn’t just the fact that I was self-sufficient in pay and navigating the city, but the content of my reading; this was the summer that I discovered Kathryn Harrison’s body of work.

I wish I remember exactly how I first heard of Harrison, but it was through her most controversial book: The Kiss, a memoir about her affair with her father. Nowadays, you hear more stories about adult incest, or Genetic Sexual Attraction, but part of the appeal of Harrison’s book—which must have popped up on a message board or listserv somewhere—was that such a topic was alluringly taboo, the kind of thing you just didn’t see being published. I decided that I had to read it.