Well… the first year of the Rory Gilmore Reading List Challenge hasn’t gone quite as planned. The past year I dove into a number of books but only four happened to be on the list. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to cheat my original challenge rules, like crossing off books where I’ve seen the movie. But nope – no cheating! However, being one that likes to buy my books, I was fortunate enough to come across a great book sale where I acquired eleven books on my list. Now… to just get cracking.
Oh, and to answer the lingering question, no, the list has not been expanded to include the books referenced in the Gilmore Girls special on Netflix that premiered last year. If I were to add those in, I’d need another five years.
Rory Gilmore is the most well-read person I know. I came out of high school thinking I was a total bookworm and then I met Rory Gilmore and was demoted to book-ish. The number of references made to books in the show Gilmore Girls was way over my head. Granted, yes, I get most of the references because I’m connected to literary pop culture. However, I’ve always really wanted to dive into this world of references.
I’ve decided now is the time to leap in. Buzzfeed has an article listing the 339 books that have been referenced in the Gilmore Girls series. I’ve added the list here and will be ticking off the books as I make my way through them.
To be fair, I haven’t marked off books that I have only seen the movie version of or have only read excerpts. For example, I’ve never read The Canterbury Tales in its entirety. So despite having read a chapter and portrayed it for English in high school, it doesn’t count. Also, I did not mark off books where I don’t remember the major plot points or main characters. That just means that I sped through it and didn’t really absorb myself in that world.
There’s no timeline for this list. Though within the next 5 years would be awesome. Maybe I’ll shoot for that!
Brooklyn by Colm Toibin was the first book I read this year. I had never heard of it nor the movie but it was prominently displayed on the “Critically Acclaimed” shelf at Barnes & Noble so I decided to give it a shot.
The story centers around a young Irish woman named Ellis Lacey whose life takes her from her native home to Brooklyn, New York in the 1950’s. She experiences the challenges of homesickness and being a foreign country without a support system – like family. As she begins to adjust to American life, she finds characteristics within her personality that she truly thought she was without. Without giving away too much, the novel is a beautiful coming of age narrative. Yes, there’s a love story and then there’s a love triangle. There are questionable situations and hilarious anecdotes. Overall, wonderful.
Brooklyn, aside from being a tale about a girl, is also a wonderful cultural piece about New York and Ireland in the 1950’s. The cultures were wildly different at the time and Ellis’s struggle to balance her Irish upbringing with her American freedom is worth noting. As Americans, we often view the 1950’s as restrictive and would not often say women were independent. That is until you examine Ellis’s life in Ireland. I was excited to experience her empowerment with her.
Also worth noting is Colm Toibin’s writing style. This is your official warning that it’s different. His writing is best described as conversational. The novel reads as if you’re sitting by the fire hearing a long story. Dialogue is not written formally. The reader often gets summaries of conversations rather than word-for-word exchanges. Every aspect of Ellis’s mood is not analyzed for the reader. Toibin assumes you know how she feels about certain experiences and leaves it to you to absorb her emotions. All of these elements lead to a very swift read. I will be honest that reading his writing was uncomfortable at first. I had never read anything like it. But, if I can get through Hemingway, I knew I could get through this. By the end of the book, I was very fond of it.
This book was recently made into an Oscar-nominated movie. I haven’t seen it yet, but I would assume the movie would have no issue respecting the book’s storyline. Regardless, this is a really nice light, quick read. Enjoy!
The Darlings by Cristina Alger is one of my favorite books I’ve read in the past few years. The story centers around a family in crisis. As we all know, when business and family mix, odds are things will not end well. This family happens to be a New York City powerhouse that heads up one of the largest investment firms in the city. Suddenly, the firm is under investigation by the feds and loyalties are tested.
Alger’s writing style is superb. Reading like a cross between a thriller and a soap opera, she only gives you enough to keep the pages turning. Full of intrigue and odd character connections, I found myself wondering “Who dunnit?” even though it’s not a murder mystery. In reality, the novel is a giant puzzle and you have to piece together the implications between all the relationships.
The best part of the book is it felt real. Having lived through the 2008 financial crisis, the book feels familiar at every turn. The characters could easily be profiles we read on the front page of The New York Times. Incredibly intriguing and too good to put down.
Michael Callahan’s new novel Searching for Grace Kelly follows the lives of three unlikely friends in 1950’s New York City attempting to navigate romance, friendships and all the challenges in between. Laura, Dolly and Vivian encounter very different types of men, turning their ambitions, goals and life perspectives on end.
Callahan paints a beautiful environment with his descriptions of 1950’s New York City. The entire feel of the book is glamorous and lush. While I felt he tried a little too hard in the first few chapters to set the stage (too much name dropping), it was an education on the time and effective.
The tone of the book was… quiet. Don’t take that to mean slow or boring. What I mean is the pace was on point with the movement of drama at the time and it progressed with ease – in a tantalizing way. Callahan has a way of building suspense without writing a thriller or being overly dramatic. The novel felt real and accurate. True to the time and the people is was meant to represent.
And the ending… was shocking. There’s no other word for it but shocking.