This week, devour a new thriller, weigh in on an important conversation, chill out with some short stories, and embed yourself in a three-part family saga.
On your Kindle
Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
When summer first started, I recommended a book whose description piqued my interest before it was available for purchase: Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn. Over 400 captivating pages later, I reiterate my recommendation wholeheartedly.
The novel, which begins on Nick and Amy’s fifth wedding anniversary, shifts in time and style by chapter, alternating between Nick’s real-time narrative and excerpts from Amy’s diary, which highlights selections from their courtship and the early years of their marriage. The plot centers around the question of what’s happened to Amy, who vanishes on this anniversary day, and as the book goes on, the reader learns more about Nick, Amy, and their love, which has faded over the years. Flynn psychoanalyzes her characters perfectly, and the reader is never quite sure whom she should trust. Pick up this thriller for a long commute—once you’ve started, it will be hard to put down.
On Your Smartphone
In Praise of Downtime, by Ellen Ruppel Shell
Anne-Marie Slaughter’s recent Atlantic piece about “Having it All” has prompted conversation in various discussion groups—among women, among parents, among workers striving for success. This partial reaction focuses on a gender-neutral issue that came to the author’s attention when reading Slaughter’s piece: the long, jam-packed working hours that have become normal for “successful” men and women in American corporate culture.
In this piece, Shell questions the American standard of working long hours both in and out of the office, citing the discrepancy between increased hours spent at work and decreased levels of pay and potential for upward mobility. Read and weigh in with your thoughts: Do Americans need to schedule more downtime in order to have a better shot at “having it all?”
On a Podcast
A short story is something wonderful to listen to in these lazy, hazy days of summer. When your attention span is short and you want to be pampered, check out Selected Shorts, which releases new hour-long podcasts every Monday. Each episode features several short stories; tune in for as many as you like for a fun new way to start your workday.
Three Junes, by Julia Glass
If you’re looking for an engrossing, emotional book to read on the subway or on the beach, look no further than this 2002 National Book Award winner for fiction. The story is told in three separate Junes: first in 1989 in Greece, then in 1995 in Scotland, and finally in 1999 in New York. It focuses on the McLeods, a Scottish family struggling with life, death, and love. The sections are interwoven beautifully, existing independently and yet relying on their counterparts for fuller clarity. The characters are intricate as they grapple with grief and joy in separate measure.
The novel begins as Paul McLeod vacations in Greece shortly after his wife Maureen’s death. The time he spends there—and his fascination with Fern, an American traveler in Greece—causes him to ruminate on his relationship with his wife and his feelings about her death. And no character goes unaccounted for: in the narration of subsequent sections, Paul’s son Fenno picks up where his father left off, and the subject of coping with grief transfers from father to son.