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6/12 Books: The Year of Magical Thinking

joan didionThis was not an easy book to read.  Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking sounds like it might be about fairies or princesses, but it’s actually about the shifting mental stability and swirling chaos of having lost your life partner.  It’s raw and unapologetic and terribly frank.

The book traces Joan Didion’s first year after having lost her husband to a heart attack.  She seems to hold it together well enough for everyone, but at the same time is really falling apart.  The fascinating thing is that she’s able to analyze her emotions and mental shortcomings with a clarity that is almost insane.  For instance, at one point in the book she discusses being unable to throw out her husband’s shoes.  “He will need them when he comes back,” she says.  Then proceeds to explain that she understands this is a ridiculous statement but that understanding does not even remotely help her discard his belongings.

Honestly, this book terrified me.  I spend enough time as it is worrying that something terrible will befall George and I’ll be left alone.  Didion holds nothing back here, letting you feel the full force of her loss.  She does this without letting you feel she’s being weak or pitiful.

Would I recommend this book?  Yes, heartily.  She’s a brilliant writer and has done a terrific job letting you into her private experience.  Just make sure your husband isn’t out of town when you read it.

12 Books

This post comes to you as part of E‘s 12 books in 12 months project.  The goal is to read 12 books in a year – 12 books that we might not ordinarily be too motivated to read, but that have been on our to-read list.  We’re getting down to the wire here so I think it’s safe to say I’m not going to make it.  On the plus side, I did get halfway through!

1. Story of O, Pauline Reage
2. The Four Hour Workweek, Tim Ferris
3. Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality, Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá
4. The One-Week Job Project, Sean Aiken
5. Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace
6. Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman?, Richard Feynman

7. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce
8. Light in August, William Faulkner
9. For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway
10. At least one book from my photography collection, TBD.
11. Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion
12. A Scanner Darkly, Philip K. Dick

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