I recently read The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, by Abbi Waxman. If you or someone you know struggles with anxiety and/or shows strong introverted traits, this book is for you. It’s an entertaining, irrevererent, embarrassing, hopeful and yet thruthful look at anxiety, introversion, and book lovers. Stick it out past the long details and seemingly unimportant circular descriptions and you’ll be happy you did. I wish I had taken more time to enjoy the first part of the book, rather than wondering where it was all going to lead. If you’re interested in reading this book, check out my review below and let me know what you think.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, by Abbi Waxman, is a novel about an introverted woman in her late ’20s, who works at an independent book store in a quiet corner of LA. Nina Hill struggles with sometimes debilitating anxiety and typically prefers books to people. She leads a quiet, organized, and controlled life until she discovers she is part of a large, complicated family and that she may be inheriting a large sum of money. To further complicate matters, Nina discovers she is attracted to the team captain of a rival trivia team, which is indeed a horrifying thought. She feels she doesn’t have time or emotional strength to deal with all these new people in her life and would prefer to shut them all out to retreat to the comfort of a good book in her quiet reading chair.
At first, I struggled to get into this book. I found Waxman’s language too verbose and circular for this type of book (what I thought was a light and entertaining read). Additionally, I felt the first third of the book moved too slow, with overly complicated descriptions of everything.
However, thankfully for me, I stuck it out and began to understand why the author chose to include such long and seemingly unimportant details in the first third of the book. They help the reader understand the underlying causes of Nina’s anxiety and serve as a frame of reference for later in the book. I often found myself referring back to the first few chapters to clarify Nina’s new-found family’s complicated structure.
I also liked how the author used Nina’s planner–both in illustration and description–to progress the plot and Nina’s growth as a character. I found myself grimacing as I related to Nina’s hyper-organization and frequent inflexibility with her schedule. In one comical scene, Nina declined a date with the guy she liked because she had scheduled “nothing” as a calendar entry and loathed to change her plans. I hope I wouldn’t do something like that but, still, the point hits home.
Additionally, I found it interesting how the author subtly employed satire to highlight the clashes of various sub-cultures, economic status, and generations in Los Angeles. At first, I felt that Waxman hit the reader a little too hard over the head with it, especially about Millenials and their habits. However, as the book progressed, I delighted in how she used satire in Nina’s vivid imagination, as well as in describing events that unfolded in front of the beloved independent bookstore. I was surprised, though, that the author omitted satire from the Reader’s Guide topics at the end of the book. It seems to be a missed opportunity for readers to discuss the clever and subtle points the author makes.
Finally, having an anxious and introverted child, I appreciated that the author created a character who displays realistic anxious traits and lets the reader into Nina’s deepest thoughts so the reader might understand how anxiety feels. I liked how Waxman normalizes the disorder while paying tribute to its crippling effects; all the while dealing with this heavy topic in a lighter, more hopeful way. It’s a book I will give my child to read when a little older. I think my child will be able to relate to Nina Hill and her struggles with anxiety.
In the end, I became fully engrossed in The Bookish Life of Nina Hill. I thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to reading it again, though next time, I will slow down to enjoy the details and descriptions from the beginning of the book.