Both my husband and my mother-in-law think I read depressing books. My mother-in-law and I often joke about how we have such different tastes in books, yet we talk about books often anyway because, well, we both love them. But depressing books? I have to disagree.
Here is what I do love. I love books that are honest and true, books that expose a writer’s triumphs as well as shortfalls. I love books that expose those uglier parts of life artfully, meaningfully, with some sort of probing that writhes in search of answers.
I love these sorts of books because they remind me: we all have struggles, and despite what our lives look like on the surface, they are never perfect. Not one.
With that, I am anxious to read Joan Didion’s latest, Blue Nights. I picked it up at a Barnes and Noble the other day, just to read the front and back cover. (Hubby and I were both without our wallets, er, intentionally, so I could not buy it just right then. You wait, though. Pretty soon I will return to B&N with a $20 bill.)
Here is a paragraph from the book’s back cover: “Blue Nights—the long, light evening hours that signal the summer solstice, ‘the opposite of the dying of the brightness, but also its warning’—like The Year of Magical Thinking before it, is an iconic book of incisive and electric honesty, haunting and profoundly moving.”
Um, how could I not be intrigued?
Didion herself comments on the meaning of the book’s title, claiming that so much of her life in these past years has focused on illness and death. Indeed, having lost both a husband and a daughter in the span of two years, how could she not dwell on these grim topics? She refers to blue nights as a dwindling of days, the end of promise.
If you choose to look at it that way.
But I choose to see it as something more. Like Jacob’s wrestling with God in the Bible, books like Blue Nights represent much more than sad and painful stories. They represent a deep-seated search for meaning, in both our own lives and others’.
And that is the kind of writing I love for.
Read a review of Didion’s latest work here.
What types of books do you enjoy reading, and why?