I’ve been thinking about this post for a long time now, trying to decide what I wanted to say about turning 40 – about how it feels like it should be a huge milestone but doesn’t really. About how huge it really does feel, and our childlessness, and my mother’s death. . . I think I have a lot to say, but I think I’ll save it for the actual day. (November 11th, in case you’re curious.) Today, instead, I want to talk about about the books I want to read before I turn 40.
First, there’s this whole category of books that I don’t know about, I expect – books about women in their late 30s or early 40s that are not about their marriages or about their children but are about them as strong, confident women. Bossypants by Tina Fey comes to mind as does The Season of Second Chances by Diane Meier. Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed has good wisdom from and to women in this age range. . . Anne Lamott’s latest books (Her new book, Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace comes out the day before my birthday.). But beyond these, I’m coming up short. I expect books like this are out there – books with women protagonists who love their lives, have to struggle through hard things still, whose identity is grounded in their own person, not just in their families. . . but I’m having a hard time thinking of any. Maybe you can recommend some titles?
But there are some titles I do know I want to read, and this afternoon, I’m going to head to the local library to pick a couple up. I was inspired, in part, by this great list Random House in Canada, and then a few other titles came to mind.
So here are the 10 books I want to read by the time I turn 40:
1. Daring Greatly – Ever since I saw Brene Brown’s TED talk, I’ve been enthralled with this idea of vulnerability as strength. It’s a lesson my father has taught me all my life, and it’s one I’m eager to understand more.
2. The Portrait of a Lady – In college, I had a great conversation with a man named Erik about how this book changed his life, and I carried the book with me for years. I’ve since given away my copy, but I”m going to pick one up again and give this a read.
3. Faithful Place – So I’m adding this third book in Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series as a kind of cheater’s way to prioritize it. I read the first two and fell in love with French’s writing and her ability to weave the hints of the supernatural with a good ole murder mystery.
4. Little Women – I know. The fact that I haven’t read Alcott’s classic yet probably means I have to give back my English major club card, but it’s true. Stlil, I feel like maybe now is the time. . . what do you think? (By the way, the Kindle version is just $.99 right now.)
5. Lila – Okay, so I’m cheating a bit with this one, too. Marilynne Robinson is one of my all-time favorite writers, and everything I hear about her new book is stellar.
6. The Goldfinch – A Pulitzer. Lots of recommendations. Intriguing comments about length and plot from friends. So while I may be busting my hopes of actually reading all these in 3 weeks, Tartt’s novel goes on the list.
7. A Mercy – I’ve picked up Toni Morrison’s latest novel several times, and I find it rich and hard and beautiful. So now, I commit.
8. The Woman Upstairs – I’ve wanted to read this book since Poets and Writers profiled Messud. But then when the critique of the protagonist as unlikeable come out, I wanted to read it even more.
10. ???? What title would you recommend I add to this “turning 40” reading list? Is there a book you think I should have in myself at this milestone? The Feminine Mystique, perhaps? Something that changed you profoundly? A light read that settled your spirit during a big change? I’d love your recommendations.