We live in a world that seems to be more self-directed than ever before, but that navel-gazing appears to be primarily for public consumption. Is it really self-reflection if it鈥檚 posted in a performative capacity for everyone to read? Regardless of your answer, there鈥檚 something to be said for quiet internal contemplation of the world around us. The three new books in this week鈥檚 book club celebrate the inner world of thought, the possibilities of imagination, and the highly pleasant activity of 鈥渨asting鈥 a day in solitude.

1. The Girl Who Never Read Noam Chomsky by Jana Casale ($28): College-aged Leda, the main character of Casale鈥檚 debut novel, is first shown reflecting on the adult feeling that comes from sitting in a coffee shop: 鈥淲hat she loved most about sitting at the coffee shop was not the coffee or the shop but the brief, listless feeling it gave her of having her life together. She could sit beside the richness and warmth and see herself as something so divinely competent. This is what it is to be an independent person, and she鈥檇 take a sip. This is what it is to be a cosmopolitan person, and she鈥檇 take a sip鈥t least I know that I don鈥檛 really have my life together. At least I know that I don鈥檛 know, she thought.鈥

She notices a young man in a Boston University sweatshirt, reading Chomsky鈥檚 American Power and the New Mandarins. After a completely botched attempt at flirting, she picks up a copy of her own, for reasons she convinces herself have nothing to do with the encounter. She never reads it. Leda is shown reflecting through her life as the years pass by in this collection of important moments in everyday life. We find out what she wanted and what actually happened, tiny turning points: the only time she ate two scones in one day, the most unintentionally erotic New Year鈥檚 kiss she would ever receive. What do you do when you鈥檙e not reading Chomsky?

Everything around her is sharply observed as well; Leda is adept at reading the behavior of others, and gauging their emotional states; 鈥Here we are all alone pretending to have time together,鈥 she thinks, looking around at a party. The book asks us to think about what is meaningful, and to realize that these personal, quiet moments are important 鈥 that women鈥檚 everyday stories are important. It treats with equal reverence lost loves and lost gloves, raising a child, and raising a point. Overall, it paints a picture of a life that somehow adds up to more than the sum of its parts.

2. The Art of the Wasted Day by Patricia Hampl ($26): Hampl loves to daydream; she calls this making sense of things by seeing them from all sorts of different, reflective angles. In her memoir, she looks back at this inward, solitary journey, waxing poetic on the rewards of relaxed contemplation and differentiating between solitude and loneliness. In childhood, Hampl was floored to find out that the Church considered daydreaming to be a sin, because she thought it was a beautiful thing. It was that beauty, that ownership of each thought that passes through one鈥檚 head that she concluded must mean 鈥渢he imagination is up to no good.鈥

鈥淲hen you close your eyes, you see and hear things you didn鈥檛 notice before, though they must have been there all along. It鈥檚 not that you make things up 鈥 you notice things. Maybe that鈥檚 a kind of making up? Hard to say,鈥 Hampl writes. 鈥淲ords are partly thoughts, but mostly they鈥檙e music, deep down. Thinking itself is, perhaps, orchestral, the mind conducting the world. Conducting it, constructing it. I sense this instinctively. There is no language for this, not then, not even now, this inner glide, articulation of the wordless, plotless truth of existence.鈥 If daydreaming is a sin, Hampl embraced it wholeheartedly; as a child, and for the rest of her life.

The Art of the Wasted Day explores the lives and homes of people who exemplified the theory of restful retreat, from the pea plant breeder/geneticist Gregor Mendel to Michel Montaigne, the inventor of the personal essay (and patron saint of the personally contemplative). She describes America鈥檚 penchant for striving, while defending the concept of leisure as essential to personal development.

3. Every Other Weekend by Zulema Renee Summerfield ($26): 鈥淣enny lives in two houses. The first one is haunted. The second house is not haunted, but still: some nights she lies awake in bed and cannot sleep.鈥 Summerfield鈥檚 book shows the potential dark side of a little too much inner thought, as for young Nenny, it manifests itself in anxiety and catastrophizing premonitions that seem unlikely to actually come true.

It鈥檚 1988, and America appears on the precipice of all sorts of terrifying threats, eagerly reported on by the daily news. Eight-year-old Nenny鈥檚 parents have divorced, riding what seems to be a cultural wave of splitting up. Nenny has moved with her two brothers into her mom鈥檚 new place, which comes with a new stepfather (Rick, a Vietnam War veteran) and his two children. The titular 鈥渆very other weekend鈥 is spent at her dad鈥檚 apartment. She has more than a little trouble adjusting, and her anxieties over her new situation mesh with a precocious child鈥檚 conception of world events to form colorful nightmare scenarios. 鈥淵ou could make a catalog of these fears and sell it for a pretty penny. Give it a nice shiny cover with a drawing of a girl trembling and sweating and with her fingers crammed in her mouth. Call it something like When a Child Suffers the Inevitability of Doom.鈥

Nenny worries about natural disasters, violent crimes, and even being conscripted by Mikhail Gorbachev; when an actual disaster finally strikes, it鈥檚 far different from anything she鈥檚 imagined. 鈥淢om tilts her head and half smiles, half frowns with a look that means it鈥檚 time to get real, and she stops petting but still holds Nenny鈥檚 hand and says, 鈥榃hat鈥檚 been on your mind?鈥 鈥楨verything,鈥 Nenny says, because it鈥檚 true. It鈥檚 always true.鈥

What books are on your mind? Tag us in your next introspective read @BritandCo.

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