The Bookends column in Sunday’s New York Times Book Review asked sixteen authors what was the best book, new or old, he or she read this year. Only two of the books listed stood out to me.
The first one was Outline by Rachel Cusk. It’s about a woman writer who goes to Athens in the summer to teach a creative writing class. Not only do I love reading stories about writers, I also enjoy reading about places I’m either familiar with or curious about it. Although its only an hour and half away from where I live, I’ve never been to Athens. I think it would be cool to read the book and then spend the day in Athens. But the last line of Siddhartha Deb’s explanation for why he loved the book hooked me. He wrote, “The last word in this amazing novel is “solitude.” Who wouldn’t want to read a book that is described that way?
The second book is Fierce Attachments by Vivian Gornick. It’s about the complicated relationship between mothers and daughters. I wrote about this issue in my still-not-revised first novel. I thought it might provide much-needed insight into the subject. And as an added bonus, it might be just the motivation I need to revise my novel.
Reading the article made me look back over the books I read this year in order to determine which one was the best. The Alchemist wins hands down. The last twenty or so pages in my book are filled with asterisk, underlines and comments. The passages spoke directly to my heart, which only seems fitting since the book was really about following your heart in pursuit of your dreams. I had planned to go back to those notes and write about them once I finished book. But you know how that is.
In the margin of one page, I wrote a question: what is my heart saying? I wasn’t able to answer the question. My heart just ached from losing Matt. Fortunately, I see a wonderful acupuncturist, who recommended that I rub rose oil over my heart every morning. She said it would help to lift some of the heaviness I was carrying just after the one year anniversary of Matt’s death. Throughout history, rose oil has been used to relieve symptoms of depression. Now, every morning after I get out of the shower, I rub rose oil over my heart. That simple act has helped me become better at listening to my heart.
All that from a novel. It truly was the best book I’ve read this year.