The WBUR Read-In: Books from the newsroom – WBUR News
We’ve made it to the end of 2022. This year felt long, although not as lengthy as the last two. And despite the currently cold and dreary weather in our part of the world, this season feels particularly optimistic. This year, I started the Read-In because I wanted to create a place for deeper reading into current events. As a journalist, I often pride myself on being a quick study, but the reality—especially considering how robust the news cycle is today—is that it’s important to make a point to slow down and genuinely absorb information. I believe this can help transform our perspectives and that intentional reading is one of the best ways to do so.
This series began with the importance of bearing witness, which goes beyond passively watching. We read about the climate crisis, including the floods in Eastern Kentucky and the unbearably hot summer across the U. S. We perused Lou Sullivan’s diary during pride month and Doug Most’s historical retelling of New York and Boston’s railway system rivalry during the shutdown of the Orange line. We even read classic Persian poetry by women dating back to the 10th century.
In this year-end installment, we’re taking a look back at what we read in our downtime while we were working on reporting the news. Rather than a list highlighting the best releases of the last 12 months, members from WBUR’s newsroom chose books published at any time that have lingered in their minds. The education desk’s Suevon Lee selected work from Jhumpa Lahiri, an author who helped her settle into her new city. Meagan McGinnes from our newsletter team selected a book that’s helped her recognize small moments of joy in the colder months plus newsroom fellow Aimee Moon read a collection of stories that reflects on loneliness. From fantasy to romance and memoir, here’s a look in to our newsroom’s year in books.
By Emmanuel Carrère
What begins as one man’s attempt at “an upbeat, subtle little book on yoga” turns into an account of a ruinous mental breakdown. Emmanuel Carrère, celebrated for his “nonfiction novels, ” does something special with this one. He admits off the cuff that, despite the title, this book is not about yoga, at least not entirely. The first portion of the book takes place at a strict Vipassana retreat inside France, where attendees must take a vow of silence and cease all contact with the outside world. At first, Carrère spends time pondering the lives of the others at the center and imparts intriguing nuggets of information about meditation, yoga and tai chi, along with the ways the practices have affected his personal life. However , the bubble of the retreat is pierced by the Charlie Hebdo shooting, the 2015 terrorist attack on a French satirical weekly newspaper, which claimed the life of 12 people, including one of his friends. From that point on, the author spirals. It feels cliché (and perhaps incorrect, due to the book’s fluid implementation of fiction) to call the work honest, but that’s what has lingered for me. When it’s not definitively factual, it’s truthful in feeling, sometimes to the point of discomfort. “Yoga” is clever, sincere, and surprisingly, quite funny. It’s been a long time since I’ve go through anything like it. —Lauren Williams, Arts Reporting Fellow
By Marlon James
I’m not a big reader of fantasy. But having adored James’ “A Brief History of Seven Killings, ” I picked up his 2019 “Black Leopard, Red Wolf” with a fair amount of excitement. James does not so much as introduce you to the particular world-building of his Dark Star Trilogy as heave you into it, with its omnipresent violence, blazing voice plus unforgettable characters. Among the latter is Sogolon, the Moon Witch, of his next installment published this year. A later arrival in the first book, here she controls the narrative, a retelling of the central quest that will propels both books. The particular series is haunting and beautiful. I can’t wait to read how it ends. —Dan Mauzy, Executive Editor
By Curtis Sittenfeld
Whenever the events of the world feel wildly out of control, I turn to my comfort books plus reread the stories I’ve read countless times before. Knowing there’s a happy ending in store keeps me turning the page through the tense or sad moments, and while I’m getting lost in the relationships of a fictional world, I’m able to quell the anxiety for a while. At the top of my comfort-read stack is usually author Curtis Sittenfeld’s “Eligible, ” a 21st-century retelling of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice. ” There have been many authors who have adapted the Darcy-Elizabeth love story, but the humor Sittenfeld infuses into her work and the way she turns all of the members of the Bennet family into three-dimensional characters, with flaws even for our dear protagonist, has kept me personally returning time and time again. (I think I read eligible five times during the chaos and uncertainty of 2020, and this year – with a bit more stability – just once. ) Sittenfeld recently announced she has a new book coming in April 2023, “Romantic Comedy, ” that has me making space on my shelf already. Succinctly summed up on the particular Random House website, “A comedy writer thinks she’s sworn off love, until a dreamy pop star flips the script upon all her assumptions. ” I’m sold. —Dianna Bell, Arts plus Culture Editor
By Choi Eunyoung, Translated by Sung Ryu
Choi Eunyoung’s collection of short stories is a world tour associated with diasporic longing and a reflection on the loneliness of women. Specifically, Choi writes about Korean women who find themselves physically and emotionally far from home — in Tokyo, St . Petersburg, and Antarctica, to name a few. My favorite is “Xin Chào, Xin Chào, ” a daughter’s tale of bonds formed among immigrant families in Berlin. Each vignette builds on the 1 before, culminating in two short stories about the sinking of the Sewol Ferry that killed 250 high school students in 2014. Choi dares to revisit a national tragedy through the eyes of the victims’ mothers, in order to give voice to those on society’s margins.
Choi takes care with her heroines, sharing their heartrending stories of loss in artful and spare prose. Blink, and you may miss the detail of a tattered hem or a quiet smile that gives you permission to meet them, and reminds you that many such women have really lived—and through it all, are survivors. —Aimee Celestial satellite, Newsroom Fellow
By Anne Tyler
Families can be a complicated mess from which beauty emerges and takes your breath away, even as you are still shaking your head over why those folks are like that. This dynamic is one reason I appreciate the novels of Anne Tyler. Her latest book, published this year, is “French Braid” and it explores one set of Baltimore relatives over decades — illuminating some mysteries associated with kinship and love plus weirdness. If you’re looking for edgy, then look elsewhere. But you’re likely to enjoy this if you’re a fan of literary fiction imbued along with warmth, depth and wit. —Sharon Brody, News Anchor
By Katherine May
One of the best books I read, well, listened to, in 2022 was “Wintering” by Katherine Might. I’ve lived in Greater Boston my whole life, but I’ve never enjoyed the winter. I detest the cold; I’ve never learned in order to ski; I hate the darkness of mornings and early evenings; I hate when the inconvenience of snow ruins my plans. Yet reading this, at the start of winter no less, has completely changed my mindset. This beautiful book forced me to evolve my thinking around slowing down. I have lots of energy plus schedule most hours of my day. I feel guilty when I’m not doing something productive, but as May writes, it’s important to “forcibly pull our minds away from ruminating on the past or future, or tilling over an endless to-do list. We had to tend to our bodies right there, right then, ever watchful that the cold did not encroach too far. ” Rest is not a luxury but an essential need. We will all face winters in our lives, literal and figurative, but how we navigate them is everything. This winter, I’m trying to give myself grace to rest, take care of myself and find small moments of joy amid the cold. —Meagan McGinnes, Assistant Managing Editor of Newsletters
By Jhumpa Lahiri
Readers familiar with Jhumpa Lahiri know many of her works are set in and around Boston, where the author spent much time living, studying plus teaching. As a Boston newcomer this year, I picked up Lahiri’s 2008 collection of short tales, “Unaccustomed Earth, ” to immerse myself in the girl lyrical writing. The intimate stories that unfold in this captivating collection span cross-cultural and intergenerational themes associated with Indian American identity because her characters, many approaching middle age, navigate relationships with parents, siblings, partners and children. Grounded within locations around Boston, Cambridge and beyond, the guide evokes a strong sense of place, with characters’ perspectives often shifting mid-story. Lahiri’s power as a storyteller will be conveyed in stories like “Hell-Heaven, ” a daughter’s account of her mother’s unrequited love for a family friend that grips a person until the very last line. —Suevon Lee, Assistant Managing Editor associated with Education
- A long read about the complex Bataclan trial that took place this summer in France.
- Truth is stranger than fiction in this investigation into 2 families’ claims over a child.
- A sobering look at rising rates of suicide among American youth.