In Conclusion, Don't Worry About it, by Lauren Graham
I received this book with my ticket to this 92Y talk with my fantasy best friends Lauren Graham and Mae Whitman. I love Graham and her first two books—Someday, Someday Maybe and Talking As Fast As I Can—but I don't know if I would have intentionally paid money for this teeny tiny book. It's basically an expanded version of a commencement speech that she gave at her alma mater and I read it in fifteen minutes one night before bed. She does pack a lot of worthwhile advice into this tiny package and it would be a good "stocking stuffer" for a new graduate or anyone who is currently feeling stuck in their life.
Meaty: Essays, by Samantha Irby
I love, love, loved We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, so I was excited to find a copy of Irby's first book of essays, Meaty, at Goodwill for a dollar. She's currently promoting its re-release so I've been seeing it everywhere—the cover is new, but I think the insides are essentially the same. I think I may have even liked it more than her second collection, if that's possible, and I laughed out loud while reading it on the bus more times that I'd like to admit. Her candor on everything from sex to periods to dating to eating habits is so incredibly refreshing and addicting. I will be passing this book along to my friends and referring to my body as a pre-corpse forever thanks to Irby.
Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
This book was recommended to me, and I reserved it at the library despite having no interest in post-apocalyptic stories. It's a good thing that I ignored my bias, however, because I loved this book so much. Mandel's story is post-apocalyptic—detailing what happens both before and after most of civilization is quickly wiped out by the Georgian Flu—but it's not soul-crushingly bleak like The Road. Station Eleven follows several different characters and their lives all intersect in some way or another. Once I reached the halfway point I raced to the finish, and I appreciate that the story didn't wrap up nicely or end with a bang. Station Eleven is one of those novels that creeps up on you with its profundity and I can't wait to see what Mandel writes next.
The Ghosts of Rathburn Park, by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
Zilpha Keatley Snyder was my favorite author when I was a kid, and I devoured The Headless Cupid, The Egypt Game and The Witches of Worm. I picked up this book at the Strand for a dollar hoping to recapture some of that magic I felt for reading Snyder's books, but either I'm too old or The Ghosts of Rathburn Park just wasn't that magical. It was a quick, mostly enjoyable read, and I did get brief jolts of the feelings I used to have while reading similar stories.
The "ghosts" of Rathburn Park may or may not be real, but Matthew Hamilton's taste for freedom and exploration was definitely something with which I will always identify. I was actually asked by a person on the train about the location of Rathburn Park—I felt bad telling him that it was fiction, and I realized that a part of me also wished that I could visit the park's crumbling, (supposedly) haunted ruins in real life.
Hollywood Obscura: Death, Murder and the Paranormal Aftermath, by Brian Clune
My friend Jim, who moved to LA last year, gave me this book for Christmas. I suspect that it was a ploy to make visiting the West Coast more attractive to me, and it totally worked. Clune writes about 12 notorious California murder (and suicide) cases, including The Black Dahlia, The Los Feliz murders, Natalie Wood, George Reeves and the Manson murders. Some of the cases I knew about, and some were new to me but the short vignettes contained enough backstory and description to pique my interest.
I could have done without the sections on paranormal activity but some of the sightings were interesting even if I don't really believe in spirits (but I want to!). I will definitely be enlisting Jim to take me to some of the sites mentioned—including the Chateau Marmont, where John Belushi met his untimely end and El Coyote where Sharon Tate ate her last meal—but I'll forever be upset that I didn't make it to the abandoned Los Feliz mansion, preserved inside since the night of the murders, before it was cleaned out and put up for sale.