Personalized Reading Lists: Marriage Stories

For the librarians on the Personalized Reading List team, making custom lists is one of the best parts of our job! We've been going strong for over a year now and, to date, we've completed over 400 personalized lists for our customers. Each list is unique, consisting of titles hand-selected by a librarian based on that customer's preferences. If you haven't requested your list yet, we want you to know what you're missing! Each month in this new column, we'll feature a recently-created list to give you a taste of what to expect from this new service.

Our online form asks you to list some favorite titles and authors, but you are free to give us whatever details you like in order to get a more tailored list. This customer was seeking books on a specific theme: "I am looking for stories/poems about long-term relationships and the tension innate to those commitments, which both keeps them held together and yet is also a source of continuous strife.  I'm thinking old married couples, couples who find themselves in a newly-strained place after a change, couples who know each other too well - anything along those lines."

Here's the list our librarian sent her:

About Alice by Calvin Trillin. This may not be exactly what you're looking for because it is a widower’s account of the woman that he loved, but I think you will get the sense of a long term relationship, the gives and takes and also experience Trillin’s love. After having written of Alice humorously for years, and perhaps never quite being honest about her, in this memoir Trillin attempts to be clear-eyed about the love of his life, spare and beautiful.

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill. In this brand new novel, “The Wife” narrates the minutiae of her marriage, the whisper fights, the subtle intimacies, the joy and pain and beauty of a marriage. Short, pithy, well written. Like a zoetrope of a marriage--flickering images that make up a whole.

The Odds by Stewart O’Nan. Art and Marion Fowler have been married for thirty years. They have had ups and downs, affairs and children, a house and now a looming bankruptcy. In a last ditch effort to save their marriage and themselves, they return to Niagara Falls to re-enact their honeymoon. Art is hoping to reignite the flames of love while Marion is hoping for a final send off before they say goodbye. This couple is dancing around each other, but they seem to have forgotten long ago that they were once dancing with one another. Will the odds be in their favor?

One Hundred Names for Love: A Stroke, A Marriage, and the Language of Healing by Diane Ackerman. I cannot recommend highly enough anything and everything written by Diane Ackerman. Her writing is superb, her research above par. The care that she brings to her subjects is obvious in the tales she tells. In this most recent offering, Ackerman recounts for readers the difficult journey she and her husband faced after he suffered a terrible stroke. He lost some vision and the strength in his hands but most awful was the loss of language. He was left with only the sound "mem" to stand for all words. This is an amazing story of a couple who overcame astounding odds. It is funny, heart-wrenching, enlightening and inspiring--Ackerman at the top of her game.

Stag’s Leap by Sharon Olds. This book of poetry covers the dissolution of Olds’ marriage. At times raunchy, at others funny or grim, this is a great collection that thinks about what happens to the individual people in a couple. For a longer list of potential poets dealing with this subject, check out this link to the Academy of American Poets page.

A Year by the Sea by Joan Anderson. After raising a family and being in a marriage for so long, Joan Anderson lost sight of herself. So when her sons moved off to college and her husband got a great new job that will move them across the nation, Joan puts her foot down and says, “No, it’s time to find out who I AM.” So she stays in the family cottage on the Cape and sets about finding out who Joan Anderson is. Working odd jobs, discovering new passions and dusting off old ones, Anderson does a great job of tackling what it means to find yourself after you allowed your marriage to subsume you.

So there you have it! If you want to see what titles we can find just for you, fill out our online form and you can expect your very own reading list within about a week. Happy reading!

Written by Brett on March 6, 2014

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