I’ve always been a big book nerd. Growing up, my parents had an extensive book collection that took up one entire wall of the office in our house. Their library consisted of everything from literary classics to contemporary murder mysteries, and I remember spending afternoons pulling books down from the shelves just to smell them and spread them out around me. I was convinced that if I read them all, I’d be able to unlock the unused part of my brain and finally begin honing my telekinetic powers like in the movie Matilda.
While I never read every book in my parents’ library or (sadly) developed the ability to move things with my mind, I did continue to deepen my love of literature and cultivate my own personal library. And, although I have many authors in my personal library, there are a few who stand out as being my favorite. One of which is Jonathan Safran Foer.
I first encountered Jonathan Safran Foer my senior year of high school when I read Everything is Illuminated, which, at the time, had also recently been made into a movie starring Elijah Wood. Until that point in my life, I had never read anything that I connected with as much as I did to his words. I read and reread that first novel, underlining passages and making notes to myself in the margins as I cried, laughed, and took moments to pause and reflect on the meaning behind the words in the text.
I then moved on to read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, a story that follows a young boy on his search for meaning after his father dies in the World Trade Center on September 11. As with his first novel, Jonathan Safran Foer intricately weaves tragedy with poetry in a way that simultaneously provided me with a very grounded and existential experience. Again, as I read this book, I felt as though every word had been carefully chosen and as I reread certain passages, it seemed as though I was peeling back a new layer of understanding.
When Foer branched out into non-fiction writing with his book Eating Animals, I unintentionally became a vegetarian for the next two years. The ethical and moral arguments he posed in that book are ones I still ponder over as I sit down to plan out my grocery list for the week’s meals.
All of this is to say, when I recently found out that he came out with Here I Am in the fall of 2016 (I’m obviously not the most obsessive of fans), I immediately ordered it. I’m only halfway through it right now, but, as with his other novels, I was hooked within the first few pages. As Foer’s stories often deal with discovering or coming to terms with one’s identity, I feel as though I couldn’t have begun this book at a better time in my life: I’m in the last year of my twenties, I’m about to get married, I’m constantly wondering if the job I’m doing now will become a career or whether it will simply be a job I did for a few years before moving on to something else. I think one of the things I like about Foer’s writing is that he quietly invites his readers to examine themselves within the context of the story he’s telling, creating a space that is honest yet free of judgement. And, while I may not find the answers to the questions I have about my own life by the end of this novel, I’m positive I’ll have plenty to think about it because of it.
I’m curious to know, who are your favorite authors?