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This week
One of the side effects of wringing thousands of words out of my brain to create a book is that I have become an unreliable critic. Other people's words have never been more magical to me. I have read fewer books this year than most in recent memory, but I've been wowed by almost every book I've read. Sure, it's plausible that I have simply read some very good writing in 2019. But I suspect it has something to do with the fact that this is the year I became intimate with what it takes to write a book, and how hard it is to write a good one. In contrast to my own words, everyone else's seem to sparkle. On no fewer than two occasions, I have whipped a book across the room because I was angry at how good it was. (I know you want to know: The books were Susan Choi's Trust Exercise and Carmen Maria Machado's In the Dream House.)

This is not a complaint. Books have always been my religion, and it feels good to be wowed by words in new ways. A recommitment to the faith, even as each new draft of my own work makes me question my piety. 

Anyway, this seemed like some important context to share with you because today's episode of the podcast is about what we're reading this fall—featuring interviews with Mary H.K. Choi and Liana Finck. If I sound a little too effusive, know it's sincere.

I'm reading
How does the human soul survive atrocity? On Ukrainians, abusive relationships, and us. In the UK, several women MPs are not seeking re-election because of the abuse they faced. The massacre that spawned the alt-right. Teens in Pakistan are demanding more breathable air. An ode to strawberry pretzel salad. The joys of Bon Appetit cinematic universe. The great Japanese-American novel. On the power of vacation photos, and swimming through writers block in Iceland. Tales from a teenage telemarketer. The porch pirate who started off stealing Amazon packages and then entered a surveillance vortex. The six-decade odyssey of Kurt Cobain's "Unplugged" cardigan. A group for men who want to explore their feelings. What gender, sex toys, rodents, and climate change have in common. On grief and mealtimes. The cost of living with a disability. On stuttering. Trisha Low on her summer of mental-health crisis. A Mormon mommyblogger's conversion to feminism. Phoebe Waller-Bridge keeps her ideas in a draft email. On fertility-tracking apps and the return of abstinence education. Miscarriages change our bodies as much as childbirth. A menopause guide for all ages. A multifaith refuge for women only. Are you calling me a mean girl?  "Sure."


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GIFspiration
A reminder after a week of not-horrible U.S. electoral news: Land doesn't vote. People do. (Also, a plug for Sister District, and all orgs that are working at the state level to make longterm change.)

I endorse
Pome is back! This is huge news for my poetry consumption. 

Beijing recs?
I am headed to Beijing next week! I'll be solo, and mostly staying in the city (not traveling elsewhere in China, except for a day trip to a more remote section of the Great Wall). If you are familiar with Beijing, I would love your suggestions. Things I like:
  • Wandering. Which means I love to hear about good neighborhoods or places for walking around.
  • Eating vegetable-centric things, packaged snacks from grocery stores and convenience stores, and also foods I can't get anywhere else. 
  • Seeing and doing things that are not guidebook-style "sightseeing," but are particular to that place. (For example, in Los Angeles I would never take someone to the Hollywood sign, but I would take them to the abandoned zoo, the Korean spa, the cowboy bar, the flea market.)
  • Learning one phrase of hyperlocal slang that I can use in addition to "hello" and "thank you." 
Which neighborhoods? Which snacks? Which sights? What slang? I would love to know! This is a last-minute and under-researched trip, so I am happy to accept any and all recommendations.  

The Classifieds

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Ann Friedman
AF WEEKLY

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