This fall, amid all of the chaos and holiday parties, we’re committed to making time for quieter moments. And is there any more rewarding way to spend a still moment than with a great read? (No. The answer is no.) Inspired by Halloween, a day when we all dress up in costumes, we gathered five books we're reading this autumn that explore disguises and/or identity.
'Logical Family,' by Armistead Maupin
"Tales of the City," fans rejoice! Armistead Maupin has finally written a memoir. It details Maupin’s experience growing up in a conservative family in 1950s North Carolina – a time and place where being a gay man was a nonstarter – and finding the courage to leave. Maupin winds up in 1970s San Francisco, where he finds his people, his "Logical Family," and ultimately becomes a gay rights icon. His story will resonate with anyone who has found their own unlikely family and inspire those who are still searching for theirs.
'My Year of Rest and Relaxation,' by Ottessa Moshfegh
Ottessa Moshfegh's latest novel, "My Year of Rest and Relaxation," has an admittedly peculiar premise: a woman in her 20s decides that in lieu of living her life, which she finds unbearable, she will take meds to effectively hibernate for an extended period of time. And while the protagonists’s life looks beautiful, shiny and even envy-inducing from the outside, she feels empty and unsettled inside. But don’t worry – this novel isn’t a bummer; it’s a darkly funny satire of the ways we all retreat from the world when we’re in pain and ultimately, hopefully, re-engage with it.
'Tao Te Ching: A New English Version,' by Stephen Mitchell
Perhaps the protagonist of "My Year of Rest and Relaxation," could have skipped a year of sleep if she had read "Tao Te Ching." Lao Tzu’s iconic “Book of the Way,” is essentially a spiritual guide to understanding your place in the universe and navigating your relationships with yourself and others. There are countless translations of the ancient Chinese text, originally written circa 6th-century BC, but Stephen Mitchell’s rendering is our pick thanks to rave reviews on Tim Ferris’ podcast. The book is broken into 81 short chapters so that it can easily be pondered piecemeal, before you head to work or drift off to sleep.
'Fashion Climbing: A Memoir with Photographs,' by Bill Cunningham
One of the principal ways we all express our personal identities is through our clothing – and New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham was the foremost chronicler of everyday New Yorker street style. As the longtime photographer of the On the Street and Evening Hours columns, Cunningham’s fascination with all things sartorial was on full display, and now, his posthumously published memoir, "Fashion Climbing," celebrates that same lifelong love with a collection of photos and recollections. Read it, get inspired and have a little more fun getting dressed today. For a double dose of Cunningham, check out the 2011 documentary on the beloved photographer, Bill Cunningham New York.
'The Talented Mr. Ripley,' by Patricia Highsmith
In author Patricia Highsmith’s psychological thrillers, identity is more than just a theme and "The Talented Mr. Ripley," is no exception. We won’t give too much away, because the less you know, the better; but, in it, three Americans meet in Italy where friendship quickly morphs into obsession. If you have already read the book, (or seen the 1999 film adaptation) don’t worry; "The Talented Mr. Ripley," is the first in a five-book series! So order the next four and prepare for a thoroughly unsettling and utterly enjoyable, identity-fluid adventure. Highsmith even dabbled in identity obfuscation herself, publishing "The Price of Salt," under a pseudonym in 1952 because it depicted a lesbian relationship. This book was later adapted into the 2015 feature film Carol.