4 Thought-Provoking Books To Curl Up With This Fall

Now that midterm season has rolled around, I have so much less time to dedicate to one of my favorite hobbies: reading. The other day, scrolling through my GoodReads account while waiting for the train back to Boston after a weekend at home, I realized it’d been almost a month since I last finished a book. I quickly dug my copy of How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell out of my backpack, determined to finish it before having to get back to the weekday grind. I did finish it, and it was so mind-blowingly insightful that I immediately wanted to throw it in the hands of all my friends and family members. It’s also the inspiration for this piece about my recent favorite reads, because if I don’t have time to finish a book these days, maybe someone else does, and luckily I still have some time to write about them! So, here are four books you should curl up in bed with on the next chilly autumn day:

  1. 1. Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino

    Tolentino, best known for being a culture and entertainment writer at The New Yorker, has an enviable talent for synthesizing current events and trends in ways that make you think more deeply and critically about them. In Trick Mirror, her first essay collection, Tolentino writers about issues like the insidiousness of commodity feminism and #GirlBoss culture, her strange experience as a teen reality TV show star in the ‘90s, and her obsession and repulsion with weddings. At the heart of Trick Mirror is an issue every person living in the digital age must confront: is what you put out and what you consume on the internet reality or a carefully constructed façade, and if it’s the latter, why? Tolentino masterfully illustrates this cognitive dissonance most of us have experienced while confronting her own egoism and obsession with the life she lives out on the internet.

  2. 2. How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell

    Similarly to Trick Mirror, in How to Do Nothing, Jenny Odell heavily criticizes social media for sinking us into a world of meaningless and distracting us from our true purposes in life. Odell characterizes Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook as places devoid of context and meaning, echo chambers filled with a cacophony of voices eternally trying to outshout one another. She explains that social media allows advertising corporations and digital media companies to profit off our voices, and most of the time we’re not even aware of it. To log off of these sites would be, in the eyes of those corporations and capitalist society, “doing nothing” – aka refusing to build a brand out of oneself. To Odell, “doing nothing” rather means turning your attention to doing more meaningful work, such as engaging more in our communities and connecting with the natural world around us. Odell’s heavily researched book is a goldmine of resources for anyone trying to escape social media’s stranglehold, as well a helpful and hopeful reminder that there is something more outside of our screens. 

  3. 3. Normal People by Sally Rooney

    Rooney’s critically acclaimed sophomore novel Normal People was a smash hit this summer, earning a nomination for the Man Booker Prize and winning “Irish Novel of the Year” at the Irish Book Awards. The novel bounces back and forth between the points of view of Connell and Marianne as they grow from childhood friends to first lovers. As they grow into adults, their relationship is complicated by their own personal problems and communication breakdowns. This frustratingly good read is a page-turner, as it keeps you wanting to find out whether Connell and Marianne were ever able to understand each other and have a good relationship together. Rooney has a major talent for examining human relationships in their finest detail and getting at the heart of our most personal traumas, often hiding it beneath simple prose. 

  4. 4. Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk

    In a small town on the border of Poland and Czechoslovakia, prominent local figures suddenly begin to be killed off in mysterious ways — the townspeople seemingly discover a new body every day. The one similarity connecting all of the victims? They were all hunters. Polish writer Tokarczuk, who recently received the Nobel Prize for Literature, weaves an intriguing tale about Janina Duszejko, a schoolteacher and militant environmentalist who believes that the animals are finally taking revenge on the hunters. The story constantly keeps you on your toes with a strange cast of characters and a wrench seemingly always being thrown into the storyline at critical moments. You’re left asking the question, “Who and what is to be believed?”

If you happen to find yourself with free time between the mountains of assignments this semester is throwing at you, relax with one of these excellent reads!

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