Now that you’ve lived a little, it’s time to reflect on what got you here, what’s coming next, and how to live a more fulfilling life. In alphabetical order by title.
Always in Vogue, by Edna Woolman Chase
Before there was The Devil Wears Prada, there was Always in Vogue, a memoir by the editor of the magazine from 1914 to 1952. It was a different time in many ways — women didn’t even have the right to vote when she took the job — but she was also way ahead of her time: She was an ambitious working mother who put her career first, a rarity in those days. If you loved The Best of Everything when you were just starting out, Always in Vogue is the perfect 1950s text for that point in your career when you are trying to figure out what’s next. Plus, her descriptions of magazine life, New York, and fashion in the first half of the century alone make tracking down this out-of-print book worthwhile. —D.S.
American Primitive, by Mary Oliver
Mary Oliver is arguably one of America’s most important poets, and her collection American Primitive proves why: Illuminating and stunningly lyrical, Oliver’s poems perfectly capture the wilderness that exists both inside of and around us. Lines that flow in and out of each other transport the reader into the very heart of the natural world and the divinity that lies there. Powerful, tender, and deeply wise, American Primitive celebrates the quiet beauty of humanity’s symbiosis with nature and showcases Oliver as a master of language. —Jarry Lee
Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This is the story of Ifemelu, a Nigerian woman who immigrates to the U.S. and finds life there to be complicated in ways she never anticipated. After years of struggle, she eventually becomes a widely read blogger (“Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black”) and wins a fellowship to Princeton; her tale is paralleled by the experience of her high school boyfriend, Obinze, who immigrates to the U.K. and subsequently returns to Nigeria and becomes fabulously wealthy. Americanah is a funny, heartbreaking, and keenly observed social critique of both Nigeria and the U.S. —D.S.