As any voracious reader knows, there are so many books out there, it can be hard to choose just what to read next. So what could be better than a hand-picked recommendation from someone in the know? Every Wednesday the XOXOAD team likes to find out what some of its favorite authors are reading. This week, we’ve asked Elizabeth Meyer, author of Good Mourning, what she’s got to recommend.
I was recently traveling with a friend who mistakenly grabbed my Kindle, thinking it was hers. “EWWW you read nothing but death-y books!” she gasped while browsing the library and quickly realizing her mistake. “I know you’re into this stuff, Lizzie, but you really should read something… well… enjoyable once in a while.” What my dear friend didn’t realize was that I truly love reading about the funeral industry; as an academic, I take pride in being knowledgeable in my field. And since there is so little written on this unpopular topic, I cherish anything I could get my hands on. It did, however, occur to me that before I become that person, I should probably broaden my horizons. Although there is one “death-y” book on this list, here are the (tangible) books currently in my bag.
In an attempt to “bring me back to the living,” my South Asian friend suggested a book that she could not put down, The Forty Rules of Love: A Novel of Rumi, by Elif Shakak. This fabulous novel reminded me how much I love being completely immersed in a fictional story. Although the initial introduction may not appeal to everyone, leading the reader into the Eastern teachings of Rumi, I beg you to give this a try. The famous Turkish writer manages to seamlessly merge East and West by telling two parallel stories that take place centuries apart. She does this by first introducing us to Ella, an unhappily married American mom who lacks spirituality and gets through her days just perfecting monotonous tasks. Through her job as an editor, she is exposed to a manuscript that tells the story of the 13th century poet, Rumi, his platonic relationship with a Sufi dervish named Shams, and how this relationship was the cause of his subsequent spiritual evolution that lead to the creation of his brilliantly poetic words. Reading about Sufism and the aforementioned relationship causes Ella to reflect upon her own life, her relationships with her husband and family, and the meaning of happiness. Rather than attempt to list my favorite quotes, I implore you to give this a read! Perhaps his words will have as dramatic an effect on you as they did on the main character.
Although Natchez Burning by Greg Iles is heavy (at nearly 800 pages, I mean that both literally and figuratively—and, it’s the first of a trilogy!) I was so captivated that I found myself toting it everywhere, hoping I might have a few minutes to uncover more of the story. The book starts in the 1960’s, exposing us to inhumane incidents of racial injustice that took place in the American South. After discussing the historic racial brutality, the book jumps to post-Katrina Louisiana. There, we meet the protagonist, Mayor Penn Cage, who is working to prove his father’s innocence in the aforementioned heinous acts of the 1960’s. Unable to get an acceptable story from his dad, he is forced to go back to his roots and face the dilemma of whether to side with his beloved father or the truth. Word is, this trilogy is set to become a scripted TV show, so I highly recommend you start now to finish before its debut!
There was no way I could completely forgo my “death-y” books. Having a morbid fixation is not necessary to love Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory, by Caitlin Doughty. Many lump me and Caitlin together, as two young ladies pulling the veil off this secretive industry. The connection, however, is much deeper than that. At similar ages, we both found ourselves out of place, working in an industry that most try to ignore. In an attempt to make our stories more palpable, we instill humor when tackling the dirty topic of dead bodies and the profound conversations of death. I am honored to be referenced in the same sentence as this precocious, witty, and entertaining author who also wants to share her experience in hopes of removing the taboo of funerals. For anyone who (like me) wants more knowledge of the inner workings of a crematory, this is an easy and entertaining read.
Thanks to a dear friend, I was able to expand my horizons and read some truly wonderful novels. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.