by a contributor
from Hope Bordeaux, author of Forced Humanity:
- Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers. Sayers was a religious scholar and academic who translated Dante and a popular mystery novelist in interwar Britain, best known for her detective Lord Peter Wimsey. Gaudy Night features Harriet Vane, Sayers’ stand-in, a prickly novelist and early graduate of a women’s college at Oxford. Some people find Sayers too dense, but I love that she is not afraid to burden her characters with opinions, flaws, and most of all, a love of education. One part whodunit, one part meditation on feminism, spliced with a 1930s English setting to please any Downton Abbey fanatic.
- Perfumes: The Guide by Tania Sanchez and Luca Turin. Turin, a European scientist known for his work on scent, was prominently featured in Chandler Burr’s (equally great) non-fiction book about the mysteries of smell, The Emperor of Scent. The Guide is a collection of perfume reviews co-authored by Turin and Sanchez, a fellow perfume enthusiast and writer; the couple’s assessments of individual perfumes are alternatingly humorous and poetic: “smells exactly like the synthetic flavor used in codeine syrup, but induces a hacking cough instead of relieving it.”
- I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being A Woman by Nora Ephron. If you’ve ever wondered why late ’90s Meg Ryan was America’s Sweetheart, look to Ephron, also the writer of You’ve Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle, and When Harry Met Sally. In this essay collection, Ephron writes about food, books, and Bill Clinton. See also: her follow-up collection on aging, I Remember Nothing.
- My Man Jeeves by PG Wodehouse. Understated hilarity and ridiculousness at its best.
- Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding. Fielding’s use of an epistolary format and the distinctive voice of her famously dysfunctional character is really funny—and difficult to pull off.