Lit Crush: Books We've Read this Year (2019)

Here at Grub HQ, we're always talking about the novels keeping us up at night, the poems that call to us over our morning coffees, and those unputdownable memoirs you'll find us reading while walking through four lanes of traffic [Ed.'s note: all walk-reading is performed by Grub's trained extreme readers; do not try this at home]. To round out the year, we're sharing the GrubStreet community’s latest literary obsessions to add to your own never-ending reading list.


 (From left to right: WITA Fellow Unglid Paul, Instructor Ethan Gilsdorf, and Capital Campaign Manager Kat Read)


"I find the characters incredibly intriguing. They are so in tune with their wants and needs and their stories are so simply and beautifully told that when the plot kicks into high gear, it touches you as a human being to see their lives get uprooted. Also, the Nigerian Civil War was not something I was familiar with, and I felt like I was reading a story being told by my grandmother instead of a story based on the history books. It's breathtaking." WITA Fellow Unglid Paul shares why Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun means so much to her.


"This is a compelling memoir about an unlikely relationship between a Chinese-American teacher and her incarcerated, African-American former student, set in a poor community in the Deep South. It's thoughtfully and dramatically written, and touches on issues of race and class, and inequities of the educational and judicial systems in our country. I also happen to be using it as my "textbook" in this summer's Master Memoir workshop." Instructor Ethan Gilsdorf shares the importance and relevance of Michelle Kuo's Reading with Patrick: A Teacher, a Student, and a Life-Changing Friendship.


"The narrator is a college freshman who is brilliant and observant and obsessed with language. She's also perpetually waiting for a dude she likes to email her back, which was very much my vibe when I was 19." Capital Campaign Manager Kat Read looks back as she reads The Idiot by Elif Batuman.


(From left to right: Instructor Dorian FoxDevelopment Associate & Boston Writers of Color Group Coordinator Serina Gousby, and Instructor E.B. Bartels)


"One thing I found intriguing––and powerful––about Laymon's memoir is how directly he speaks to racism and sexism and shame in America, even as he keeps the personal narrative rolling along. He shows how a writer can be a gripping storyteller and a social critic at the same time." Instructor Dorian Fox shares the importance of Kiese Laymon's Heavy in today's American society.


"I've been dreaming to start a podcast since last March, but I needed help in planning and organizing all of the ideas I have. This is such a perfect guide that breaks down everything! Find your audience, write out a format, listen to other podcasts for inspiration, writing a script, and so much more. I'm only 1/3 into the book, and I feel more confident to start a podcast than I did a week ago." Development Associate & Boston Writers of Color Group Coordinator Serina Gousby shares her current read So You Want to Start a Podcast by Kristen Meinzer.


"Usually I fly through books but I have been taking my time with this one. The Queen of the Night is the only book of Alexander Chee’s that I haven't already read, and I want to savor it, because when I am done I will be out of Alexander Chee books! (Until he writes more.) I love the way he weaves historical and cultural research into his stories––something he does so well in both fiction and nonfiction." GrubStreet instructor E.B. Bartels shares her love for Alexander Chee books.


(From left to right: Finance & Operations Coordinator Matt LitchfieldNeighborhood Programs Fellow Quentin Lucas, and Director of Core Programs and Faculty Dariel Suarez)


"As a two-time resident of France, I'm fascinated by narratives of people living in foreign countries. The feelings of isolation and longing for connection and identity that stories like Lee Miller's evoke are intimately familiar to me. These stories––and experiences––are important today because they help us relate to the people around us that feel out of place even as they pursue their dreams." Finance & Operations Coordinator Matt Litchfield shares his affinity with Whitney Scharer’s The Age of Light.


"Presently, I'm reading the lesbian vampire story The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez. And what I find intriguing about the book is the breadth of its setting. It starts in the 19th century with a runaway enslaved girl being helped by a woman who takes her into her family and it moves well into America's future. I'm still in the early pages but I'm enjoying it so far." - Quentin Lucas, Neighborhood Programs Fellow.


"Ted Chiang's collection is really compelling, smart, and haunting. It has been a welcome break from the more realist work I normally read. It engages you emotionally and intellectually. The writing is outstanding. And for those who might not know, 'Story of Your Life' was the basis for the excellent Sci-Fi film Arrival." - Dariel Suarez, Director of Core Programs and Faculty.


(From left to right: Neighborhood Programs Fellow Vero González, Grub Student Adesuwa Olumhense, and Senior Development Manager Alyssa Mazzarella Lutts)


Neighborhood Programs Fellow Vero González is currently crushing on Hoodwitch: Poems by Faylita Hicks.


Grub student and former programs co-op Adesuwa Olumhense urges everyone to pick up Ocean Vuong's On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. When we asked Adesuwa what stood out to her, she replied, "Everything. The whole premise of the book. The fact that this entire novel is a letter from a son to his mother is just breathtaking. You need to read it."


Sondra Helene's novel Appearances "gives a stunning portrait of the grief and devotion that can surround losing a loved one to cancer, and closely examines the complex bonds that evolve within families." - Alyssa Mazzarella Lutts, Senior Development Manager


(From left to right: Instructor Zyanya Avila Louis, YAWP Intern Jesús Ruelas Garcia, and Instructor Tatiana MR Johnson)


GrubStreet Instructor Zyanya Avila Louis is currently reading two books, Valeria Luiselli's La historia de mis dientes and Bassey Ikpi's I'm Telling the Truth, but I'm Lying. She's "loving both, but in particular Luiselli's is funny, and Ikpi's has a really interesting way of weaving us into the story."


"Did you know that India is the second most populated English-speaking country in the world? There should be an enormous literary presence from this country, but I unfortunately have encountered only a handful of texts during my entire education. Unforgettable Kalimpong by Monila De has given me the opportunity to view India through an unbiased lens, which is incredibly refreshing given the long history of perverted and misguided representations." - Jesús Ruelas Garcia, YAWP Intern.


"This collection of poetry is the type of collection I wish I had in high school when I was first exposed to poetry. Porsha's work dances with form, identity and visibility to display a full, lived, vibrant and important experience. This collection makes me feel seen and I cherish it deeply." Poet and instructor Tatiana MR Johnson shares her love for Porsha Olayiwola's I Shimmer Sometimes, Too.


(From left to right: Poet and educator Stephanie Yue DuhemSenior Communications Manager Sean Van Deuren, and Instructor Ursula DeYoung)


"It's just a stunning collection of quietly elegant, sensuous poems about the speaker's Asian-American heritage, growing up in Hawaii, and her love for family. I'd recommend reading this on a rainy afternoon with a hot beverage...or really anytime, anywhere!" Poet and educator Stephanie Yue Duhem is currently crushing on Cathy Song's Picture Bride.


Zadie Smith is one of my favorite writers/thinkers/humans ever. For me, every time she publishes is a cause for celebration and this new story collection is no exception. It's a fun mix of both experimental and traditional styles of stories. One of my favorites is titled "Lazy River" and it's about tourists floating around a lazy river in an all-inclusive hotel in Spain. I love her response when asked about her inspiration for writing the piece: "I was in one this summer with my family, and other families, and although only two of us were writers we all made the same joke: This is definitely a metaphor for something. The question became: For what? I thought of death immediately, but then I always think of death immediately." - Sean Van Deuren, Senior Communications Manager.


“This is my first time rereading Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God since I was assigned to read it in high school, and I'm blown away by the eloquence and power of Hurston's prose! Sentence by sentence, she's one of the best writers I've ever encountered, and I'm looking forward to reading more of her novels. I also love the book's theme of a woman finding her own identity and forging a path for herself in a world dominated by men.” - Ursula DeYoung, author and GrubStreet instructor.

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About the Author

Florann Estiler is GrubStreet's Marketing Coordinator. She has a strong background in social media management, content creation, and online advertisement. She holds a BA in Media Studies from Hunter College. Prior to joining the team, Florann had the opportunity to work in the beauty, tech, and music industries, where she developed a passion for photography, videography, and writing. During her free time, Florann likes to watch horror films, read mystery novels, and experiment in the kitchen.

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