A couple years ago I discovered the magical hold function at the library, and I’ve since taken out an embarrassing amount of books. I haven’t read nearly as many, or as quickly, as I’d like to (I recently paid the library $200 in overdue fines!), so I’m stretching my list beyond 2021 to include books I read in 2020.
I’ll call it my Pandemic Reading List. My favourites are marked with a 📚 .
A book where every sentence was so beautiful I had to read it twice:
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong 📚
Fiction I couldn’t put down:
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon
Fiction written before the pandemic that predicted our current moment:
Severance by Ling Ma 📚
A children’s book I wish existed when I was a girl:
Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park 📚
Fiction that transported me to another world:
How Much Of These Hills Is Gold by Pam C. Zhang
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
A collection of critical essays that speaks to the times:
Can’t Even: How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation by Anne Helen Petersen 📚
Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino
The Lonely City by Olivia Laing
A collection of personal essays that speaks to the times:
Intimations by Zadie Smith
Goodbye, Again: Essays, Reflections, and Illustrations by Jonny Sun
Having and Being Had by Eula Biss 📚
A collection of critical-meets-personal essays that changed the way I think:
Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong 📚
Books that encouraged me to slow down:
How To Do Nothing: Resisting The Attention Economy by Jenny Odell
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
Stories about grief and mother-daughter relationships:
Crying in H Mart: A Memoir by Michelle Zauner 📚
All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung
The Last Story of Mina Lee: A Novel by Nancy Jooyoun Kim
Memoirs with food as the backdrop:
Hunger by Roxane Gay
Eat A Peach by David Chang
Books I wanted to get into but didn’t finish:
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
My Year Abroad by Chang Rae Lee
Stories that made me rethink (dis)ability:
What Can A Body Do? How We Meet The Built World by Sara Hendren
Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories From The Twenty-First Century by Alice Wong
Stories about eating disorders and queer relationships that impressed me:
Milk Fed by Melissa Broder
Binary Star by Sarah Gerard 📚
Books that encouraged me to love myself:
Women Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything by Geneen Roth
The Body Is Not An Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love by Sonya Renee Taylor
All About Love by Bell Hooks
A YA graphic novel that resonates with adults:
Lighter Than My Shadow by Katie Green
A graphic novel for adults:
Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations by Mira Jacob
Books that challenged my relationship to food (in a good way):
The Eating Instinct: Food Culture, Body Image, and Guilt in America by Virginia Sole-Smith 📚
The Secret Life of Groceries: The Dark Miracle Of The American Supermarket by Benjamin Lorr 📚
Discriminating Taste : How Class Anxiety Created The American Food Revolution by S. Margot Finn
Hungry: Avocado Toast, Instagram Influencers, and The Modern Search For Connection And Meaning by Eve Turow-Paul
Dystopian science fiction for people who don’t like science fiction:
The Atmospherians by Alex McElroy
An overrated book I couldn’t help but finish:
Normal People by Sally Rooney
Books I didn’t want to end:
Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi 📚
How To Write An Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee 📚
What did I miss? What books got your through the pandemic? I’d love to know what you’ve been reading.
Of all the characters in The White Lotus, I related to journalist Rachel the most. She worries about her career as a lifestyle journalism, which her husband Shane (Jake Lacy) is quick to dismiss due to the “fluffy” nature of her stories. On their honeymoon, she already feels trapped in her marriage and the wealth bubble of her husband’s family. Alexandra Daddario tells me she drew from personal experience to help inform her role as Rachel.
“I know what it's like to be trapped in a situation that you don't have the self-confidence to get out of. Those feelings of confusion that Rachel has—the constant over-thinking of ‘oh everything is ok, this is somehow my fault,’ and oscillating between that and ‘I have to get out and I have to make the other person understand how I feel,’ only to realize you're up against a wall—those are very familiar to me, and very painful.” - Alexandra Daddario.
The White Lotus aside, the actress also shares her skincare routine, pandemic fashion choices and thoughts on not returning to the popular Percy Jackson series in my interview.
I’m not one for dating reality TV shows but the premise of Single’s Inferno is so unique, I’m hooked. A group of Korean men and women are dropped on “Inferno” island where they share glamping tents and have to cook and fetch water for themselves. Every night, each contestant checks their mailbox (yes, a physical mailbox) to see if any of the other contestants have left them a postcard to express their interest. Mutual pairings get to escape the Inferno to a luxury resort on “Paradise” island, where they get wined and dined for a day. Meanwhile, a random panel of Koreans provide commentary as the drama unfolds.
It’s painfully delightful to watch those without suitors get left behind on Inferno island, and to see this arguably spoiled group of millennials face physical challenges where the reward is a fancy meal or iced Americano. It’s Survivor meets The Bachelor meets Squid Game (the game announcers on both Korean shows are interchangeable). But where The Bachelor and Survivor feel super American, I love noticing the cultural nuances of Single’s Inferno, like how the men suggest applying face masks and care about being well dressed, or on a more negative note—the colorism that still prevails among younger generations. I’ve heard it being compared to Too Hot To Handle (which also just had a new season drop this week), but it’s no where near as trashy.
Local Valley is Jose Gonzalez’s first new album in seven years. When I heard the first single “El Invento”—his first Spanish-language release—I knew this album was going to be a departure from his past work. It feels like he’s come into his own, creating music that speaks to him, rather than caters to what we want to hear. But it still has the gentle, soothing quality that made me fall in love with songs like “Heartbeats” and “Crosses.”
If you know me you know I’ve struggled with sleep for years (decades?), and so you’d rarely catch me up in the morning. But over the past two months I’ve been getting up shockingly early, and as a result, I’ve grown to really love breakfast.
When I’d wake up late, breakfast was always rushed. Now, it’s a part of the precious time I carve out for myself before starting work each day. But it still needs to be fast. So I rounded up some of the quickest breakfasts that are super nutritious (and delicious!) in my latest for Forbes.