At the beginning of 2020, I set a goal for myself: read more books. There is no doubt that all Penn students read hundreds of pages a week for their classes, but I couldn’t remember the last time I picked up a book for fun or for myself. So, I visited the library and my favorite bookstores and have been able to learn so much from the books that I’ve found. Below are three of my favorites that I’ve read so far:
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Little Fires Everywhere follows a mother (Mia) and her daughter (Pearl) as they move into a new town called Shaker Heights. They meet the Richardsons who seem to be the perfect family constantly living by order and the status quo. A custody battle erupts and Mia and the Richardsons find themselves on different sides of the argument. This leads to Elena Richardson digging up and revealing many of Mia’s secrets that were buried in her past. All of the characters in this story are so well developed and captivating. It’s even a series on Hulu starring Reese Witherspoon right now!
Educated by Tara Westover
Tara Westover’s parents were survivalists in Idaho. She was “homeschooled,” never taken to a hospital for an injury, and worked on a junkyard with her father and brothers everyday. She was seventeen when she first entered a classroom. Her hunger and passion for learning led her to achieve diplomas from Brigham Young, Cambridge, and Harvard. However, as she wanders farther down her “quest for knowledge,” she realizes that an essential part of herself has been missing: her family. Westover writes beautifully; each sentence is so well crafted that I often had to go back to reread it. Although her story is unique, she tackles the pain in growing up and leaving home that all of us can relate to to some degree.
Just Kids by Patti Smith
Patti Smith, the revolutionary poet and singer, reminisces on her relationship with famed photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. The backdrop is The Chelsea Hotel in New York City in its dynamic late 60s and 70s. The two young artists navigate their lives together, discovering unknown aspects of themselves and chasing dreams of writing, singing, and painting. Along this journey, they interact with notable members of the New York art scene like Jimi Hendrix and Andy Warhol. Smith reflects genuinely on her friendship and love for Mapplethorpe. Just Kids is an inspiring story that captures the essence of their art, creativity, freedom, and youth.