All Amanda requires out of the books she reads is that they display vulnerability, humor, deep emotional intelligence, and articulate aspects of the human experience in new and unusual ways. And kissing. She likes books with kissing.
Trying to jumpstart your reading in 2023? Might I humbly suggest a novella? Specifically, The Cook! This story about a young chef's coming-of-age reads like poetry, has amazing food writing and such a strong sense of place it will having you asking your friends, "Should I move to Paris and become a chef?" by the end. You've been warned.
A lovely book that travels forward and backward through time and place as the narrator, on a plane from Bilbao to New York, attempts to unravel his family history and how it intersects with the Basque geography. I'll admit, parts of this book sometimes went over my head, but when that happened I just let the gorgeous language and imagery wash over me and I never felt adrift.
This book is a delight! The author’s voice feels like that of a mischievous boy writing about naughty things and swearing a lot and apparently that is right up my alley. That being said, he writes very compellingly about the importance and power of comedy. Part travelogue of Athens, part memoir of a writers life, part classics lesson and lots of fun.
I'm so happy this book is finally out in the world because I have been talking about it for months! A funny, sweet story about the joys of intergenerational friendship and the benefits of keeping your heart open.
A funny, sad, vulnerable, spiky book about being young and being a woman and New York City in the summer and figuring shit out. This book owned my heart and mind from the first page; sometimes it felt like the narrator had situated herself in my mind and was articulating thoughts I had yet to have in language that felt like a poem. This is a book that will linger with you long after you finish reading.
Make no mistake when picking up this book: It's a tearjerker. You'll cry, pull yourself together, read a page, and cry some more. But despite being about love and loss and grief, the book is also joyous and sweet and perfectly captures the sensations of falling in love or hearing your favorite song for the first time or, even better, the experience of both things happening simultaneously. And when you're done reading I guarantee the first thing you'll want to say to someone special in your life is, "I'll make you a tape!"
"I wish I could describe more clearly the spell this book cast on me but I can't. All I can say is Fitzgerald, in examining his not always happy and not always easy personal history, works,some magic. His voice is funny and charming and angry and justified but I think what stood out was how magnanimous this book felt; Fitzgerald's generosity toward himself and others was overwhelming in the best of ways. Reading this book made me feel incandescent."
"An empathetic, angry, loving memoir about finding and creating and finding and creating oneself in geographic and emotional locations that are not always open and welcoming. Jones is a poet and this memoir often reads as poetry but what I responded to most was a beautiful generosity of spirit, for himself and others, that Jones weaves throughout the book."
"A memoir that reads like a poem, E.J. Koh's The Magical Language of Others is a compassionate, vulnerable, sad and loving book about mother-daughter relationships and the restorative power of poetry. This is a book that has haunted me since I read it and I return to it again."
"A lovely picture book about the relationship between a grandmother and granddaughter who live on different sides of the world. A tear-jerker but you'll be crying tears of joy!"
A gorgeous, undefinable book that perfectly articulates the loneliness of the pandemic lockdown in beautiful language and observations. It's rare that a book written in the moment manages to capture the moment with authenticity but Panpocalypse does by voicing the most desperate of pandemic questions: When will I able allowed to touch again?
A beautiful book about friendship and love and having the courage to share your feelings! Perfect for Valentine's Day! Perfect for any day!
This book was an unexpected delight. The writing is both dreamily impressionistic and extraordinarily precise in how it describes the main character's illness and her attempts to make her voice heard by the medical establishment as she searches for a cure. This is a very cerebral book but it is not without heart and it lingered with me long after I finished reading it.
This book broke my heart and put it back together again page after page with it's brutally honest look at marriage and motherhood. It is funny and angry and sad (the last sentence is devastating!) and perfectly captures the sensation of holding two competing desires in your head and heart. And the writing subtle and gorgeous. Read it and then let's talk!
A funny, sweet picture book about a Viking scared of the sea trying to get to his true love. (And there *might* be a message in there about overcoming your fears. And there also might be kittens involved.) Perfect for adults or children to read alone or together!
A sweet, hopeful, funny, romantic, New York holiday book that will keep you warm throughout the winter every time you think about it.
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An unabashedly sentimental, beautifully illustrated picture book that sends love and light into the world. Perfect for best friends! Perfect for mothers! Perfect for kids!
A sweet, beautifully illustrated picture book about the ways we can show love to the people in our lives who we can't see as frequently as we'd like. Prepare to shed some tears before you give your best friend a call and tell them how much you miss them and want to give them a big hug!
Part memoir, part literary biography and entirely original, this book somehow defies description. Ni Ghriofa attempts to reclaim the female texts of the past (read: writing about women's domestic work) that were either erased or never written as a way of making sense of her own history. The momentum of the book -- unrelenting, exhausting -- is a perfect meeting of form and function; the fatigue feel after reading this book is the fatigue of women at the end of every day. A bewitching, infuriating book.
This novel-in-verse, about a young girl growing up in Bushwick in the 90s, is so full of compassion, grace, sadness, humor, and hope that it will resonate in your heart, mind, and body long after you finish reading it.
I can't stop thinking about this book. This is an uncomfortable, funny, sad, well-researched, compassionate, and very, very angry collection of essays. No one comes out unscathed, including the author. If you’ve ever wondered why people seem to really dig Holocaust novels Horn has a compelling (and totally disheartening!) theory. Or read it for the essay where she and her ten year old son listen to a production of The Merchant of Venice because ohmigosh that play. It is my heartfelt and fervent wish that this book reaches a wide variety of readers.
This book owned my heart from the first page. It tackles very heavy topics (addiction, grief, the contentious American political landscape) in such quiet, delicate, and graceful ways that my heart sang when I read it. It also has some of the most amazing nature writing I've read in a while. (Think Olivia Laing, Annie Dillard, Wendell Berry.) This is a love letter to the Tennessee landscape, a beautiful story about love and friendship, and perfectly captures the fear and excitement of being on the precipice of great change.
Open on the shores of Lake Michigan: Two writers, who were former college rivals, end up as neighbors one summer. Will they become friends...or something more? Yes! They totally will and it's awesome! This book is funny and charming and steamy.
"A beautifully written and illustrated memoir that both captures what it means to be a teenager and what it means to be an immigrant with sensitivity and nuance. This book lingered with me long after I finished reading it."
"What a dreamy, odd, beautiful book. I wanted to linger inside these essays forever. Slate writes with such vulnerability and honesty at times it felt like I was experiencing heartbreak in real-time with hope, always hope and gentleness."
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"Many of the stories in EVERY HUMAN LOVE grapple with the darker corners of love and motherhood, using speculative elements to expose deep, sometimes unspeakable, fears about domestic life. These stories are deeply unsettling--Pearson defiantly resists happy endings--but they also ring true, as if Pearson has crawled into the recesses of my brain to pry out the scary thoughts that keep me up at night."
"The writing and language of BEYOND BABYLON was so remarkable and unique I felt like I was reading a novel for the first time. But in addition to the beautiful prose this is a novel that is deeply empathetic toward complicated mother/daughter relationships and toward those who feel like outsiders in their communities and in their own skin."
"This book is so elegantly written and the author so enthusiastic about his subject that even if you occasionally get lost in the physics of it all the beauty of the language will carry you along."
"A book that manages to be impossibly sad and impossibly hopeful at the same time. And the illustrations are divine."
"To The River is a remarkable piece of nature writing, but, at its core, it is a book about a heart mending itself and the unwieldiness of memory. Part memoir, part nature writing, part literary biography, this just might be the perfect book."
"Pippa Park Raises Her Game is not only a fun and zippy read but is a book that tackles big issues with nuance and sensitivity. Pippa is a funny and smart heroine who sometimes makes mistakes, sometimes doesn’t behave in ways that she feels proud of, but who always learns from her experiences, and whose heart is always in the right place. I couldn’t help but wish as I was reading this book that I had a friend like Pippa when I was in middle school!"
"A great New York City set mystery for fans of FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER."
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"This book has all the elements of winning the title of "Saddest Book In The World" but stick with it and you'll be rewarded with a beautiful, hopeful story, empathetic story about perseverance and love."
"Eagerly awaiting a new Aciman novel post-Find Me? Check out this 2017 to satiate yourself! The novel tells the story of a man named Paul through five interconnected short stories but the real subjects of this book is desire in all its forms."
"A coming-of-age story set against a backdrop of political resistance, DISORIENTAL moves forward and backward in time as the protagonist reflects on her life in Iran and Paris. There's a lot going on in this book and at times I wondered where the author was taking me but the evocative writing and twisty structure eventually swept me up and left me feeling unsettled and changed in the best of ways."
"I went through 8 years of schooling (8 YEARS!) being called the wrong name by one particular teacher. SIDEWAYS STORIES FROM THE WAYSIDE school perfectly captures these kinds of elementary school absurdities. Also, it's hilarious. A great book to read together!"
I cannot recommend this book enough! The third in a biographical trilogy, Dumpling Days tells the story of the summer Grace Lin and her family spent in Taiwan learning about Taiwanese culture, art, and her family's personal history. Lin's reflections on what it means to live between two cultures is beautifully nuanced and moving. And finally, the food writing is DELICIOUS. Be prepared to crave dumpling for the duration of the book!
The experimental, first-person style of Milkman evokes the paranoia and discomfort that goes hand-in-hand with being constantly monitored, judged, and watched. This books comes out swinging and is unrelenting in how it interrogates what it means to be a girl in an environment where difference is punished by unwanted attention. Not a comfortable read but a significant one.
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This sweet little book is a reminder to keep an open mind and an accepting heart. Perfect for Halloween and beyond!
This book has an enjoyable wildness of style. Let yourself be swept up in the rhythms of Kingston's writing.
A thought-provoking book that uses speculative elements to tell a love story set against the backdrops of war and migration. Subtle and nuanced, funny and sad.
Cambridge, MA, art, literature, virtual reality, young love. All are elements of this beautiful, empathetic novel but in the end Goodman is ultimately asking us to consider what it means to see and be seen in the world when reality is often so less appealing than virtual worlds. Consider this staff pick the kick-off to my campaign to make Allegra Goodman more of a household name.
Mary Shelley was tackling the perils of STEM without the mediating influence of the humanities and vice versa in 1818. A Gothic masterpiece and a cautionary tale. Let's revist and discuss.
Well-written and well-reported fast-moving book reveals the dark heart of Silicon Valley. A tough read but worth it.
Brazen out the winter months with Colwin's delicious recipes and beautiful and moving essays about family, friends, and New York City.
"A funny, sad, sometimes frustrating look at the intersection of motherhood and creativity. This books is claustrophobic in the best of ways and expresses in excruciating detail the varying, sometimes not socially acceptable, feelings that accompany the raising of tiny humans."
"Woodson does so much with so little in this middle -grade book that tackles issues like race, class, death, and incarceration with nuance and empathy. Be prepared to cry at this beautiful book!"
"Another beautiful book by Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson about the keeping an open mind and open heart."
"Is it odd to say that a book about loneliness is a delightfully fun and zippy read? So be it! This book is a funny, personal, vulnerable, and important look at the growing epidemic of loneliness in the U.S. Call your friends! Call your mother!"
"This is a sweet, thoughtful middle-grade novel that sensitively deals with tough topics such as racism and bullying through the eyes of a young Indian-American girl who learns how to honor and enjoy all the different parts of her life and culture."
"A picture book that perfectly captures the sensations one feels when a good friend moves away but you stay behind. Yes, this book sad, but it is also a love letter to enduring childhood friendships. Read this book with a box of tissues nearby!"
"This dreamy, funny, impressionistic romance is *the* book to help you re-enter the world after a year indoors. Ruthie is 25 and has been working and living on-site at a retirement village since she was 19; she has no plans to leave her job. Ever. The outside world scares her. Forgetting to lock doors sends her into a panic. But then she meets Teddy, one of the greatest romantic leads in history. And makes an unlikely friend in Melanie, one of the sweetest best friends I've ever read. The perfect book to inspire us to brazen out in-person socialization again."
"A sweet, funny, steamy Brooklyn-set romance perfect for the summer (or anytime.) This is the story of August and Jane as they fall in love on the Q train but it is also a love letter to the messy, beautiful infuriating NYC subway system."
"I would read this book for the evocative, descriptive language alone. I don't want to use the word haunting because...you know...but this book haunted me long after I finished it; the author manages to capture a very specific type of uncomfortable female friendship in a way that is both painful and nostalgic."
"This books was a total delight from beginning to end! Kat and Stevie, best friends and seniors living in Connecticut, decide to go into New York City by themselves for the first time unbeknownst to their parents. They get into a fight, lose their phones, get separated and the story is then told from both points of view. But this book is more than just a novel about high school antics and a night gone wrong (although it does have some very charming screwball moments); rather it's about that time in your life when you're figure out who you want to be after high school and who you want to bring with you into this new phase of life."
I feel that whatever I write about this book will not do justice to the beauty of the language nor the nuance of the story nor the compelling voice of the narrator. A young woman longs for a room of her own and financial stability in London again the backdrop of the Brexit vote only to discover that no matter how modest her desires are she is thwarted. Sometimes this book felt like a scream into the void and sometimes it felt like a good cry in the shower, but it always felt authentic and empathetic.
After an incident at her all girls boarding school in Texas, Lucy Clark is suspended by her mean and evil headmistress and sent to Manhattan to take care of an older woman in need of assistance. However, when she gets there she learns that the woman is doing perfectly fine on her own except for the fact that she thinks someone is trying to murder her! Murder, friendship, first love--this book has it all. Lucy Clark is a great character because she shows how you can be a good person even when you sometimes do things you aren’t proud of. And it’s a fun murder-mystery that isn’t too scary for younger readers...like me.
-Lucy Cristol, age 11 (with approval from her mother, Amanda)
Halle Levitt is a famous cupcake-book blogger who goes by the pseudonym Kels and has tons of (online) friends. Her best friend online is Nash, a graphic novelist, who thinks she is great at talking, making friends and being social, online and off. But when she moves in with her widowed grandfather for her senior year of high school she suddenly has to learn how to act around the REAL Nash (who is everywhere) and confront her fears of not being the person she made herself out to be on the Internet. Also, Halle is a Jewish girl who never really was very religious but after living with her grandfather she finds the joy in going to services and being connected with her religion. A clean, YA romance that’s good for tween and teens alike.
- Lucy Cristol, age 11 (with approval from her mother, Amanda)