Ada Calhoun's Off-Topic Reads

October 29th, 2017

Journalist Ada Calhoun is the author of two books published by W.W. Norton & Co.: the New York history St. Marks Is Dead: The Many Lives of America’s Hippest Street (2015) and the essay collection Wedding Toasts I'll Never Give (2017). Wedding Toasts I'll Never Give is an unflinching but also loving portrait of her marriage prompted by her popular 2015 Modern Love essay, one of the most-read stories in the New York Times that year. Reviews have called it “realistic, loving, laugh-out-loud funny” (Publishers Weekly); “graceful, hilarious” (Library Journal); “engaging, wise, lovely” (Kirkus); “original, engrossing” (New York Times Book Review); and “warm-hearted, Ephron-esque” (Washington Post). She lives in New York City with her husband and son. Ada will discuss Wedding Toasts I'll Never Give Sunday, 11/5, 3pm at 57th Street Books.

Beloved, off-topic books:

A Street Through Time, by Anne Millard - Taking the long view helps with marriage, and frankly with any endeavor requiring empathy. When I was working on my New York City history St. Marks Is Dead, I thought a lot about this children's book, especially the ways in which bits of the past filter into the present, like the guy mystified by a shield he finds, and that we know was discarded by a former inhabitant pages and centuries earlier.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari - Revolutionary rethinking of our history as human beings, and powerful defense of the benefits of gossiping. Again, I find thinking expansively about people really helps put day-to-day annoyances in perspective.

Here If You Need Me, by Kate Braestrup - This moving memoir by a woman who loses her husband in an accident and becomes a minister to game wardens in Maine helps remind us not to take loved ones for granted. Braetrup also evokes the Mister Rogers mantra to, when faced with crisis, always stay focused on the helpers.

About Wedding Toasts I'll Never GiveInspired by her viral New York Times “Modern Love” essay “The Wedding Toast I’ll Never Give”, Ada Calhoun’s memoir is a witty, poignant exploration of the beautiful complexity of marriage. We hear plenty about whether or not to get married, but much less about what it takes to stay married. Clichés around marriage—eternal bliss, domestic harmony, soul mates—leave out the real stuff. After marriage you may still want to sleep with other people. Sometimes your partner will bore the hell out of you. And when stuck paying for your spouse’s mistakes, you might miss being single. In Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give, Ada Calhoun presents an unflinching but also loving portrait of her own marriage, opening a long-overdue conversation about the institution as it truly is: not the happy ending of a love story or a relic doomed by high divorce rates, but the beginning of a challenging new chapter of which “the first twenty years are the hardest.” Calhoun’s funny, poignant personal essays explore the bedrooms of modern coupledom for a nuanced discussion of infidelity, existential anxiety, and the many other obstacles to staying together. Both realistic and openhearted, Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give offers a refreshing new way to think about marriage as a brave, tough, creative decision to stay with another person for the rest of your life. “What a burden,” Calhoun calls marriage, “and what a gift.”

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