Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion - The thing about Joan Didion's prose is that even when I'm not particularly interested in the subject, she makes whatever it is so beautiful and so tangible that I become interested. Slouching Towards Bethlehem is a collection of essays, mostly written in and about the 1960s. Didion captures drug culture in San Francisco, a potential homicide by car fire in the California desert, and the beauty of Mexico. Definitely worth a read.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery - This book. It took me a little bit of time to get into it, but by the end I was utterly captivated. Renee is the concierge in a posh Paris apartment building, but she is so much more than that. She reads Marx, devours books on the great artists, and her true love is Russian literature. In order not to upset the class status quo, she pretends to be simple in order not to upset her wealthy clientele. That is, until Ozu, a wealthy Japanese man moves into the building and discovers who Renee truly is. Also living in the building is Paloma, a bright twelve-year-old girl who has decided to kill herself. These three unlikely characters find each other, each interaction more wonderful than the next. Read this now.
The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud - Nora is 37 years old and has become the woman upstairs. She is an elementary school teacher, always there to help her colleagues or her elderly father, and perfectly reliable to the world around her. When Reza Shahid joins her class, her world erupts in possibility. Reza's mother is an artist and the two of them end up sharing a studio space. Reza's father is an academic, smart and thoughtful. Nora is drawn in each of them individually and as a family. She falls in love with all of them, she becomes obsessed with all of them. So well-written and so brilliant, Messud captures the hope and subsequently, the anger, that lives in each of us.
Evening by Susan Minot - Ann is dying. She lies in her bed, knowing that she is in the evening of her life. These passages are interspersed with flashbacks to Ann's life: her three marriages, her children, her many lives. Most importantly, there are more fleshed out looks to one specific time - the wedding of a friend of hers when Ann was 24 years old. There, Ann meets a man and what follows appears to be a pivotal moment in her life. I'm not quite done with this one yet, but I'm loving it and can't wait to pick it up again.