It’s Paperback Release Day for In the Kingdom of the Sick!

It’s hard to believe it’s been over a year since In the Kingdom of the Sick was published. It’s been a busy spring and summer with book-related speaking events, teaching summer classes, and some medical stuff, and somehow it’s the release date for the paperback version already.

I’m really excited, and I hope that the book will reach a new audience. The issues the book raises are evergreen, and the questions I receive at panels and events and e-mails I respond to continue to advance the conversation about chronic illness in this country.

Writing a book is such an emotionally volatile process—you toil away for years, send your book out into the wide world, and if you’re lucky you get some good pub date exposure…and then life very much goes on as it was before. Well, that’s not totally accurate; I am certainly getting more sleep and sunlight now that the writing and editing and intense promotion is over, but it’s very much a process of detachment. I poured everything into each stage of the process, and now it’s out there, and I am here, teaching, writing, mothering.

I am extremely grateful for all the support the book received when it was published, from appearing on Fresh Air, getting reviewed in the Wall Street Journal, being named an Editor’s Choice for Adult Books 2013 by Booklist, to all the writers and bloggers who took the time to feature the book and post reviews and interviews. A more complete list of reviews and interviews can be found here. I am also thrilled with the opportunities I continue to receive to talk and write about gender and pain, rare diseases, prevention and public health, etc., and hope the conversations about chronic illness and the ways in which culture, science, and technology shape the experience of being a patient will keep going.

I’d love the paperback to reach new readers, and so I’m asking for a little bit of help. If you can, will you:

1. Share this post on Twitter, FB, and other sites
2. “Like” the FB page for the book to stay updated on events and relevant articles
3. Follow me on Twitter
4. If you’re read In the Kingdom of the Sick, it would be great if you posted a review on Amazon. It is important exposure, especially as the paperback debuts…

Thanks so much for your continued support, and if you pick up a paperback copy, I’d love to hear from you!

PS–Incredibly, this month marks six years since my first book, Life Disrupted, published, and it’s awesome to hear from readers regularly and know that the issues surrounding chronic illness and young adults still resonate. Thank you!

Battle for Grace

It’s already a big spring for books about illness. I’ve written about The Last Best Cure and In Sickness As in Health, and now I’d like to introduce you to Cynthia Toussaint.

In the course of writing about gender and pain for In the Kingdom of the Sick, I interviewed Cynthia Toussaint several times. A former dancer whose life was turned upside down when a ballet injury turned into a serious, debilitating pain condition, Toussaint is the founder of For Grace, a nonprofit for women in pain. Her experiences having her pain dismissed and her suffering ignored, as well as her incredible story of unconditional love, make for a compelling read in Battle for Grace, her new memoir. In fact, Battle for Grace launched on Maria Shriver’s Architects of Change site.

Here is some more official information about Cynthia, as well as Battle for Grace:

“Cynthia Toussaint is the founder and spokesperson of For Grace (, an organization that fights to ensure the ethical and equal treatment of all women in pain. She has fostered two California Senate hearings on thunder-treatment of and gender bias toward women in pain and gave testimony at both events. Toussaint has appeared on more than 75 local and national television shows and featured in over 200 news stories, including ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, PBS, Discovery Health, The Learning Channel plus the New York Times and Newsweek, among many others. A recent media highlight was an invitation from Maria Shriver to launch Battle for Grace on her Architects of Change website. Toussaint lives in Los Angeles, CA, with her beloved John…

Toussaint takes readers on an extraordinary 30-year journey where a crippling mystery illness triggered uncontrolled violence that almost destroyed her. The story begins with a minor ballet injury at age 21 that grew into the chronic pain disease, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. Her pain went undiagnosed for 13 years as doctors told her it was all in her head. Bedridden for a decade, she was unable to speak for five of those years and was often reduced to the violence that attacked both herself and John Garrett, the love of her life. John has remained at her side for 33 years. She lost the career she’d dreamed of as an actor, dancer, singer, the chance to have a child and very nearly John as well…But Cynthia somehow stuck with it, refusing to be a victim. In her battle to survive, she’s taken on the role of activist and aggressively challenges HMOs and pharmaceutical companies that put the unholy dollar ahead of patient care…”

I am grateful for Cynthia’s insights in my own book, and pleased to share the details of her new memoir.

Spring Preview: In the Kingdom of the Sick Pub Date, Book Events, and More

in-the-kingdomAs you know, I wrote another book.

You might not know that its release date is right around the corner: APRIL 9, 2013.

I am pretty excited to share this with you.

In the Kingdom of the Sick: A Social History of Chronic Illness In America
is available on pre-order now, and you can read more about in this starred review from Booklist.

If you’re local to the Boston area, I want to share two key author events. I would love to see you there!

1. On April 11, I will be doing a Meet the Author discussion and book signing at Northeastern University at noon. (I teach at Northeastern, so this is especially cool for me.)

2. On April 17, I will doing a reading at Brookline Booksmith at 7pm. This is one of my favorite bookstores around, and I can’t wait.

I am also really excited to announce that from late March throughout April, I am doing a virtual book tour with interviews, reviews, giveaways, and other events on different sites across the Internet, so no matter where you are, you can still be involved. I have some seriously amazing, insightful, and gracious people involved in this, and I will link to all of it from this blog.

I will also be posting events, reviews, and other press on my new Facebook page and on Twitter, so you can follow me there, too. The book explores patient rights, gender and pain, social media and patient advocacy, as well as the influence of science, technology, and culture on the experience of chronic illness (and more), and after all this time, I can’t wait to see it out in print and in readers’ hands.

Stay tuned!

On Writing

It occurs to me that I haven’t written about writing in awhile.

Partly, this is because the whole writing-about-writing thing can be a bit too meta unless you’re sitting in a graduate writing workshop surrounded by people who do nothing but write, too.

But mostly, it’s because for awhile now I have been too busy with the writing I do for a living to do much else (except mothering, which comes first, of course). Case in point: it is almost 10 pm on a Friday night and I’m taking a quick break from The Book but expect another hour or two of work before it’s a night. It’s glamorous, the writing life, no?

(And with Le Plague circa May 2011 forging a vengeful comeback, it’s even more glamorous. But I digress…)

It’s been awhile since I’ve been wrapped up this intensely in one project, since I’ve had this much focus. It’s much harder fought than the last time around, or when I was in graduate school, when I wasn’t a full-time lecturer or mother to an infant, so each moment I do carve out for writing is that much more precious.

It’s been good for me to step beyond the role of writing instructor and really dig into the writing process myself in such an all-encompassing way. I’ve re-learned some important things:

1. Know when to walk away: Last summer, when I tried to get as much done as I could before my health imploded and my baby arrived, I was stuck in the “I must write X amount of words per day” rut. This might be good for discipline, but it’s terrible for creativity and for development of ideas. Sometimes, I am really “on” and I can write several thousand words in one chunk of time. Other days, it’s hard going to get more than a few paragraphs. When that happens, when I am forcing each sentence and not saying what I want to say, the best thing to do is step away—sometimes for an early lunch, sometimes for a short walk, sometimes for a few hours. See, ideas need to marinate a little bit, and I need time to figure out what I want to say about what I’ve just written. Usually, it’s when I am walking with the baby or driving the car or making dinner that I solve the problem or make the connection I couldn’t do earlier.

2. Remember the audience: For real, I teach a whole class on writing for different audiences (in the health sciences) and talk about audience so much during the semester I tire of hearing the word. But with a project as big as the one I am working on now, I need to drill that into my brain as much as my students need to hear it. Nowhere is audience more important than in terms of scope—I am doing a ton of research and I always need to stop and ask myself how much context and background I can reasonably expect my audience to have; in class, we call this audience analysis. This dictates how much detail and backstory I fill in, and it is a constant negotiation, probably one of the most difficult parts of writing for me. I have so much information, now how can I organize it? Figuring out what my readers need to know is a huge step.

3. Tell a good story: From novels and short stories to memoirs and serious nonfiction projects, each genre of writing needs to meet this very basic but oh-so-important criterion. The writer needs to engage the readers, to entertain them and make them want to keep reading. This does not change if the subject matter is serious and the research is intense—every writer still needs to make it a good story. I know when I am getting glassy-eyed with what I am writing that it is time to switch gears (or walk away). You can be informative and still be interesting. It is not always an easy thing to balance, but if you’re genuinely interested in the subject matter, that will come through. I always tell my students to think carefully before committing to a research topic—if after a few weeks, they are bored with it and bored with writing it, I will be able to tell that from reading it.

This is an incomplete list, for sure, but it’s a start. Writers and bloggers out there, what can you add?

Virtual Book Tour: Chocolate & Vicodin

I am pleased to participate in the virtual book tour for Jennette Fulda’s new book, Chocolate & Vicodin. It is a humorous and insightful look into living with chronic pain and the popular blogger and author’s journey to reclaim her identity as more than a patient with invisible illness. Jennette and I did a Q&A, which I hope you’ll enjoy. Be sure to check out the book’s site and watch her trailer, too!

1. I wrote Life Disrupted because I didn’t feel there were enough resources out there specifically for young adults with chronic illness. What prompted you to write Chocolate and Vicodin? What did you hope to add to the literature on pain and illness?

Initially, my motivations were fairly selfish. I had decided to write the book regardless of whether it sold or not because writing has always helped me understand my life in a way I never can before I’ve started typing on my laptop. Writing about my headache helped me find meaning in an otherwise meaningless experience of endless, pointless pain.

Once I’d finished the book, I realized the narrative arc followed me from the initial appearance of my illness, through denial, anger, depression, binge eating, illicit drug use, yelling at my blog readers and finally to acceptance that my life had changed. Ultimately it’s about learning to move on with my new life instead of waiting for my old life to reappear. I hope readers with chronic illness gain a measure of strength and hope from that, and readers who aren’t sick can understand what people who are chronically ill go through emotionally.

I also hope the story is funny and compelling enough to attract readers who don’t deal with chronic illness and thus increase awareness of invisible diseases. I purposely didn’t try to cram it full of facts and information about headaches and chronic pain, and focused more on the human experience. I think that’s something anyone can relate to if they’ve faced an unwanted challenge in life.

2. Like your memoir, Half-Assed, Chocolate and Vicodin deals with serious issues yet is seriously funny. How important is humor in terms of living with chronic pain or illness? How long did it take you to get to the point where you could view this journey with some humor?

A sense of humor is a great asset for life in general, not to mention when dealing with illness. I think life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we choose to respond to that. If you’ve got a negative attitude, nothing will ever be good enough to make you happy. If you keep a positive outlook and remember how to laugh at yourself, you’ll be much happier even if things are crappy. I’ve always viewed life with a sense of humor. It seems to be my default setting. I think I was just raised that way. Blame my parents.

3. One of the hardest part of living with pain and/or illness is the isolation it can cause. What advice can you give readers in terms of moving beyond that (perhaps inevitable) stage?

We’re lucky that there are lots of resources and communities available online. Even if you have a rare or unusual illness, like a headache that doesn’t go away, there are other people in the world who have it, too, along with an Internet connection. I’ve gotten lots of emails from other headache sufferers because I’ve blogged about my illness. We’re able to commiserate, compare treatments, and laugh at the weird advice some people give us. If you reach out, it’s likely that someone else will reach back. So, keep reaching out, even if your arm is really, really tired.

4. I know you tried a lot of doctors and a lot of different treatments before you finally experienced some relief. What do you think finally made a difference for you?

I wish there was one magical, miracle cure I could refer to because it would make my answer much shorter. In reality, it’s a combination of many things. After 18 months, my neurologist and I have finally found a mix of medications that’s keeping my headache down to a 1 out of 5 on the pain scale most days. I also stopped drinking two cups of coffee in the mornings, and I limit my caffeine intake in general. I started using real sugar instead of artificial sweeteners, which I found to be scary since I’d already gained so much weight. Surprisingly, it hasn’t caused me to gain any more pounds. I also try to keep a regular sleep schedule because waking up even one hour earlier will give me an awful headache for the rest of the day. It’s my most reliable trigger, but at least I have a medically valid reason to sleep in.

5. Patients with chronic pain often face skepticism or dismissal from doctors who either can’t diagnose or can’t effectively treat/manage their pain. How much of a role do you think gender plays in this? Was it a factor in your journey, do you think? And lastly, what insights do you have for patients still looking for that right fit with a doctor or a diagnosis?

Fortunately, my pain was never met with skepticism. However, I did sometimes feel neglected by my medical professionals and left without guidance. I saw one neurologist to evaluate a venous angioma on my MRI films, and after he told me I was fine he didn’t recommend what I should do or who I should see next. It was like his part in the drama of my life was over and he was off to cash his check at central casting. I had another neurologist who recommended Botox treatment for me and submitted paperwork for approval from my insurance company, and then I never heard back from him again. I’m not sure if he even noticed I never came back.

I have a friend who’s in medical school, so I know that doctors have crazy schedules. They also have to see a certain amount of patients a day or bill a certain amount of treatments a month to stay in business. I think they’re overworked and it makes it difficult to give every patient the high level of care they deserve. That’s not an excuse, just an explanation.

Before my headache, I tended to view doctors as God’s representatives here on earth, wise and infallible. These days I see them as people with good intentions, but still just people. I used to give them all the power in the patient/doctor relationship, but now I see us as equals working on the same problem together as partners. If I don’t like what they’re recommending or feel they’re not listening, I know I can speak up or go elsewhere. The easiest way to give up power is to think you don’t have any. You do have power. Use it.

Thanks, Jennette! Next stop on the tour is This Mama Cooks, so click on over tomorrow for more good conversation.

And speaking of books, don’t forget there is one more day to leave a comment here about a positive food allergy/love story and be eligible to win a copy of Allergic Girl.

Getting Out of My Own Way

I’ve noticed a pattern the past couple of weeks.

I have a lot to say. From following up on the issue of chronic illness and parenting to re-visiting that lofty January goal of balance to so many others things, I do not suffer from lack of ideas.

And yet, whenever it’s time to settle down and crank out a post, I end up reading. Sometimes it’s Penelope Trunk or Dawn Friedman, sometimes it’s Kairol Rostenthal or Duncan Cross or Sick Momma.

What can I say? I’m eclectic.

It’s not an issue of being too sick to write, like I am sometimes, nor is it an issue of competing priorities. (I think I’ve forsaken the idea of negotiating them right now, anyway.)

Instead, it’s idea overload.

And in a much more exaggerated way, the same thing is happening with what appears in my mind as full caps, the much longed-for and equally feared BOOK 2.

I’ve discovered something: I really love research. Getting lost in journals, tracking down archived information, furiously annotating books (and books, and books). Of course I love the writing part, but that was a given. The more research I do, the more I want to write, the more the ideas develop and complicate each other in ways I didn’t foresee.

But the past couple of weeks I’ve found that I’ve used research as a distraction, something tangible I can say I’m doing for the oh-so-demanding BOOK 2, something I know is important to the overall process.

But deep down I know I’m doing it because I have so many ideas in my head, so many images of what material I’ll add to which paragraph and which interviews will flow best, that I’m running in circles.

Now, I’ve tried to be proactive about this. I diligently schedule in daily chunks of writing time, even if it means pulling back-to-back 7-8 hour workdays on the weekend. I precisely list the topics I need to address on a particular day.

I even recently hired a research assistant, who is fabulous and competent and efficient. I make lists for her, and she skillfully completes the tasks and gets me the information I need.

(I know! It’s the best.thing.ever.)

And yet I remain trapped in my own head, word counts taunting me and stacks of research beckoning me.

One of my students wrote recently that the hardest part is the doing—after free-writing and just seeing what comes about is the best way she can eventually get around to her point.

I think that could be the solution. I’m so immersed in ideas that I’m hemming myself in. I need to let go and see what happens, with less analyzing what I need to write or should write and more barebones writing.

Letting go is never easy for me. (Seriously. Ask my husband when it’s midnight and I’m obsessing about something.)

So, deep breath. Write now, worry about structure and voice and perfection later.

At least I got this piece done. It’s a start.

Writers, researchers, and kindred control freaks everywhere, any other tips?

What Better Gift Than a Good Book?

Last night at my writing group, a friend asked what we would do if Christmas was a time where we had permission to buy what we really want for ourselves. What, she queried, would we buy?

“Books,” I replied, without a second’s hesitation. Literally, it was the first thing that flew out of my mouth.

And it’s true, though with a caveat. I’d also like time, time to wander through my local independent bookstores. I’d linger over the new nonfiction titles and the paperback originals, I’d wander past the front-of-store displays and hit the aisles, looking for new names and titles.

(I’d also check out the health section to see Life Disrupted, because I’ll be honest, the thrill of seeing it is still there, and I’d try to guess what shelf will someday house Book #2 .)

I’d buy more narrative medicine books, and the engrossing narrative nonfiction titles I love so much. I’d select the breezy, snarky novels I can tear through in an hour, and the literary fiction books I re-read over and over before I go to sleep at night.

And then once I had as many books as I could carry by myself, I’d hunker down with my dogs and the afghan my grandmother (the most avid reader I’ve known) knitted for me, and I’d do nothing but read. No Internet. No clients. No writing. Just time to savor other people’s writing.

So consider this ode to books (and bookstores) a friendly holiday reminder that books make wonderful gifts. Last year, I gave you some personal picks and Best-of lists to consider, and for those of you who haven’t purchased all your presents yet, I thought I’d do so again.

NPR’s Best Books of 2009 is an extensive and eclectic resource, and it includes the Top Picks From Indie Booksellers.

I got my MFA in Nonfiction Writing and am a self-avowed nonfiction junkie, so I was excited to see Salon’s Salon’s Best Nonfiction Books of 2009. Still, I often need a break from true stories, so Salon’s Best Fiction of 2009 was another must-read.

The Wall Street Journal’s Best Health Books of 2009 is another great list to consider.

As for my own list? I’ll own it: end of term grades, client work, research detours, looming word counts, and Christmas-related chaos have all conspired to slow me down, but I’m working on it, and will try to post it soon.

(Don’t forget Life Disrupted is an affordable gift for anyone you know living with chronic illness, or anyone trying to understand what their friends/family members are going through. Okay, obligatory holiday plug finished.)

Do you have any fiction or nonfiction titles you recommend? I’d love to hear them, especially since I haven’t started my holiday shopping yet!


Women and Health Care: Are We Feeling Better Yet?

Since writing and publishing Life Disrupted, I’ve paid special attention to books and anthologies that deal with the patient narrative. (I have a more in-depth exploration of narrative medicine and a list of suggested titles if you’re interested.) This spring I reviewed Everything Changes, a book about young adult cancer patients, and found the similarities between young cancer patients and young adults with chronic illness compelling.

More recently I had the chance to read
Are We Feeling Better Yet? Women Speak About Health Care in America
, edited by Colleen McKee and Amanda Stiebel. With a forward written by my friend and colleague Jenni Prokopy of ChronicBabe and a submission from one of my favorites, Paula Kamen, I was especially excited to jump into this diverse collection of essays. Here again I found the universal questions and insights that came out of very different experiences with illness and health care to resonate the most.

When I hear the phrase “health care in America,” I instinctively expect a lot of facts and figures: how much chronic disease costs have risen, insurance premiums and co-pays, political debates over mandates or Medicare reimbursements, how many Americans remain uninsured or underinsured. Let’s face it, the system is confusing quagmire of contradiction and disparities, and much of what we read about is analysis or opinion about these issues.

While facts and figures are seminal to health care reform, I have always believed in the equally compelling power of the personal narrative. Regardless of differences in diagnoses, treatments, ethnicity or geography, these women’s stories all reveal frustrations, challenges, and insights that speak to the central question linking these 21 essays together: Are we feeling better yet? As the editors write in the introduction, “To even to begin to answer that question, the patient’s voice has to join the conversation. She can’t be entirely spoken for by charts, case studies, shiny magazine, politicians, physicians, pharmaceutical reps. For genuine healing, we must tell our stories—and hear them—in a way that is honest and real, even when the truth is ugly, unladylike, and sometimes, not even nice.”

It was with that expectation of unflinching narrative that I dove into the essays, and as a patient and a writer, I was not disappointed. I’ve come to expect topics like poverty, racism and health disparities, and inefficiency and bureaucratic stalemates to be a large part of the patient experience and a necessary part of any discussion. However, I was glad to see this (unfortunately all too familiar) terrain handled so well, revealing nuances to these universal problems that remain in my mind.

Terri Griffith’s wry rumination on “free care”—a merry-go-round of pushing papers and passing the buck that left her without therapy for depression and wasted a lot of time and resources, made me clench my teeth in frustration for her. The staggering wait times (up to eight hours) and dilapidated conditions Birgit Nielsen witnessed at a Los Angeles county clinic for women was bad enough; the shocking racism her doctor displayed towards Spanish-speaking immigrants and the preferential treatment her white skin afforded her was worse. Based on these experiences, we certainly have a ways to go in terms of providing quality care to everyone.

In “A Slight Case of Hypomania,” Anita Darcel Talyor writes about living with mental illness and the constant choice between paying for treatment or paying to live her life, between remaining untreated or living in an overly medicated, dulled state. But her personal negotiations give rise to larger questions:

“Sometimes I wonder if normal isn’t a myth, a state of magical realism, a place of the imagination against the backdrop of lies. Is normal a thing of the middle class suburban family? Is it as chic as the gay city dweller? Is it middle American red or coastal blue? Is normal the adjective of the elusive mainstream? Can I be normal with a diagnosis? Is it normal to be educationally elite yet live in poverty? Can I be normal if I am fat?” (58).

Moments like these, when the many universal complexities of the patient experience are laid bare, are the ones that resonate most with me. I’ve heard the policy wonks, I’ve read the Op-Eds, and I’ve and stared at the numbers. They are important, but they don’t get at my core like these moments do. Whether it’s receiving a life-altering diagnosis or a delayed diagnosis, having to choose between personal belief systems and those of the medical establishment, or being privy to the insider survival tricks and processes of cancer treatment, the personal insights these writers provide do much to illustrate where we are—and more importantly, where we have to go.

Some essays speak more directly to the question of “Are we feeling better yet?” than others, and personally those are the ones I enjoyed the most. I started the book wondering if it was merely a foregone conclusion that we can’t really be feeling all that better yet; after all, if the system was working well we wouldn’t need analysis and Op-Eds and consensus talks. But I finished it feeling encouraged. These stories aren’t always pleasant or easy to read, and that’s exactly why we need them. We can learn from them and draw from them as empowered patients and advocates…and that’s certainly a step in the right direction.

It’s Always the Season for Books, Part 2

So I’ve talked here about why books make great holiday gifts. To help give you some ideas, Moon Rat has a fantastic, detailed list of “best-ever” titles over at Editorial Ass. You can also consult Salon’s Best of 2008 book list, or the NYT’s 100 notable books of 2008, among many others.

So what’s my contribution to the book-buying suggestions? I thought I’d try out a different approach. My very random, totally un-scientific, un-researched and completely off-the-cuff list of suggested titles is just that—books that immediately come to mind, with no consulting my bedroom bookcases or bestseller lists. It’s neither exhaustive nor exclusive, but maybe that’s a good thing. After all, if these titles are at the front of my mind right now, with 700 pages of student writing to comment on, freelance deadlines, and a respiratory infection, they must be memorable, right?

Nonfiction (memoir and narrative):
The Obvious: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas
The Sky Isn’t Visible from Here by Felicia Sullivan
Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder
Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman
I Remember Running by Darcy Wakefield
All in My Head by Paula Kamen
Marley and Me by John Grogan

(Note: Though a couple of titles cross over, please see my previous post on narrative medicine if you are interested in a more complete list of books about medicine, illness, etc.)

The Obvious: In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl
The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten
Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser
Beef: The Untold Story of How Milk, Meat, and Muscle Shaped the World by Andrew Rimas and Evan Fraser (Note: I have only just started this, but the author is local and a friend of mine so it’s on my mind)

Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss
Freakonomics by Steven Levitt

The Obvious: The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Emperor’s Childrenby Claire Messud
Runaway by Alice Munro
Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
Kissing in Manhattan by David Shickler
The World According to Garp by John Irving
Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld
Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
Little Earthquakes by Jennifer Weiner
Lost City Radio by Daniel Alarcón

Someday, I’ll be good and post a more complete list with commentary and all that, but right now a different stack of writing awaits me. Please feel free to throw in your favorite or current reads in the comments section, and remember—books make wonderful gifts!