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Five Favorite Books for Venus Magazine

October 13th, 2008

the lover

I almost always read for inspiration. I’m on a perpetual hunt for books that make me want to sit down and write my own. I can’t believe they are so hard to find—there are millions of books, after all. But to find my books, the ones that call my name, is a major deal. Once found, I read these books in bed at two in the morning, take them on airplanes again and again, and get teary-eyed remembering who I was the first time I cracked their pages.

Here are a few examples from the shelf of my life:

The Captain’s Verses, by Pablo Neruda

I love this book so much I can’t read it anymore because the profundity of Neruda’s devotion to his woman and his homeland makes me want to get on a plane and fly to a rain forest and swim in pristine waters until I get back to my soul mate, the one who lived a thousand years ago and waits for me, on a riverbank in the jungle.

The Prisoner’s Wife, asha bandele

Okay, asha is like my sister, but this memoir about falling in love with a man in prison, marrying him in prison, and conceiving a child with him in prison on a conjugal visit, is truly perfect in every way. It’s hard and soft, real and yielding. Asha is so very generous, and so very courageous. Genius.

The White Album, Joan Didion

When I was thinking of books for this list, I pulled The White Album off the shelf. The book fell open to Didion’s infamous essay on the women’s movement. Published over thirty years ago, it’s smart, gorgeous, and as relevant today as when it was published, possibly even more so. A classic.

The Lover, Marguerite Duras

Of course this book is problematic—a white woman and her exotic “other/ lover.” But the language, the pauses, the drama! She’s on a boat in the Mekong. She’s wearing stockings. Someone says her face is ravaged. I love this book because it is unapologetically erotic, sad, complicated. I also like that it’s short. Concentrated. Potent.

The final for today is a toss-up between Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin, Drown by Junot Diaz, and…

Style Statement by Carrie McCarthy and Danielle LaPorte

And since I haven’t included an explicitly motivational book, I’m going to go with Style Statement, a workbook for the excavation of personal style. Through dozens of questions, Style Statement helps identify who you are at your core, and encourages you to create your personal environment accordingly. It’s a book about our aspiration for self-knowledge, masquerading as a self-help book about beauty.

The best.





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