Do you wonder what the Bookish team is reading? Do you want to take a peek at our bookshelves? You’ve come to the right place. Check out the best books we read this month, and share your favorite in the comments!
If you’re still looking for some reading inspiration, check out our Fall Previews for the books we named as this season’s must-reads.
If you’re looking for a satisfying romance this fall, I’d recommend Adriana Herrera’s latest. American Love Story has it all: heart, humor, heat, and heroes you won’t soon forget. Newly appointed Ivy League professor Patrice Denis isn’t looking for a distraction, but he can’t seem to avoid bumping into former hookup Easton Archer, the local assistant district attorney. Despite the attraction between them, Patrice is wary of getting involved, especially when local police officers beginning racially profiling boys of color in the community. As an activist, Patrice is quick to condemn the traffic stops, and he’s disheartened when Easton won’t do the same, despite their agreement of a clear bias and prejudice being present on the force. As someone who is dating in the hellscape that is 2019, I felt strong resonance with Patrice’s desire to find love that didn’t compromise his values and ethics. I particularly loved the balance Herrera struck between Patrice staying true to himself and moments when he made excuses because he struggled to believe he deserved to be happy. It was Patrice’s convictions, growth, and heart that truly made this book a standout for me. Herrera portrays a realistic relationship where love alone doesn’t solve problems and both partners need to work to listen, share openly and honestly, and compromise. With so much to love, is it any surprise this is one of our must-read fall romances? This is the third book in the Dreamers series, and (now that I’ve gotten my hands on the first two) I’m eagerly looking forward to falling in love with the rest of Herrera’s characters and stories.
Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu
This enchanting graphic novel about a witch and a werewolf who battle a demon and fall in love was the perfect spooky season read. Nonbinary werewolf Tam returns to town and reunites with their childhood friend Nova, a witch who uses hearing aids and lives with her grandmothers. Tam doesn’t want to bring danger into Nova’s life, but they eventually confess that they’ve been battling a demon in the forest. Nova, who is dealing with some troubles of her own, vows to help Tam do whatever it takes to defeat it. The growing love between them is sweet, soft, and will delight readers. The art is colorful, engaging, and perfectly matched with this magical story. Plus Nova’s wardrobe is absolutely fantastic–and I wish I could raid her closet. I hope to see more from this writing duo in the future! And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Wendy Xu’s work in Dream Daddy, an adorable graphic novel anthology that also stole my heart this month.
This last book might be an obvious one (after all it is the fall 2019 Kelly’s Pick), but I’ve now read Wild Game twice and I continue to be amazed at how captivating Adrienne Brodeur’s memoir is. She recounts the details of her mother’s affair with a family friend and how helping her mother keep the romance a secret impacted their own relationship and both of their lives. I particularly love the way Brodeur shows the ever-present struggle between wanting her mother’s love and approval and wanting to make her own choices. I had the joy of reading this with our Bookish team book club, and I highly recommend readers do the same–there isn’t a chance you’ll finish this book without wanting to talk about what you’ve read. We even have a helpful book club kit–complete with recipes inspired by Brodeur’s mother.
Lisa Taddeo digs deep in this dishy, daring, frank, and often sad exploration of the private lives of three women and what they desire (four women if you include the stunning introduction in which Taddeo recounts stories of her own mother). The woman I was most drawn to was Maggie (who was the only one whose real name was used) and her ripped-from-the-headlines story of her relationship with her high school teacher. The narrative follows Maggie’s story through her teacher’s grooming of her, to their sexual encounters, through their abrupt breakup, and culminating with Maggie’s chance to tell her story in front of a jury of her peers.
Evie Dunmore’s debut historical romance Bringing Down the Duke is smart, funny, and steamy. This novel follows Annabelle, a suffragette in Victorian England studying at Oxford, who is tasked with bringing Sebastian, the Duke of Montgomery, over to the cause. I’m a sucker for a great enemies-to-lovers romance and I couldn’t put this one down. Dunmore even users one of my favorite Pride and Prejudice tropes: running out in the rain, getting sick, and then having to recover at the hero’s home. The scenes of forced proximity between Sebastian and Annabelle at his estate were *chef’s kiss*. I also loved how in depth Dunmore went in exploring the political movements of the time. I can’t wait to read whatever Evie Dunmore publishes next! If you love historical romances, here we paired our favorites with historical TV shows.
Katie O’Neill’s graphic novels are heartwarming gems that I can’t get enough of. I picked up Princess Princess Ever After at New York Comic Con and devoured it in one sitting. This middle grade graphic novel starts out reminiscent of “Rapunzel,” but turns the fairytale on its head when the rescuer is a princess looking to save the day and the princess in the tower doesn’t want to be saved. Katie O’Neill always includes important themes in her graphic novels and I loved how she incorporated staying true to oneself into Princess Princess Ever After. While there is a happily ever after at the end of the story, both characters have their own journeys to take before they get there. This cute graphic novel follows the traditional happily ever after with queer feminist protagonists making it a perfect modern fairytale read.
On a panel at the Morristown Festival of Books, author Tessa Bailey recommended Parallel–saying that she was up all night reading it and couldn’t put down. I immediately bought the book and then proceeded to read the whole thing that night. The novel follows Quinn, who has dreamt about a doctor named Nick ever since she was a girl. One day, Quinn blacks out and wakes up to find the man from her dreams is her neurologist. Both Quinn and Nick know intimate details about each other, despite the fact that they’ve never met. But how? The mystery of this book had me on the edge of my seat and the chemistry between Nick and Quinn was insane. After I finished reading, I picked up the sequel. Fans of The Time Traveler’s Wife will adore this one!
With Halloween around the corner and my upcoming trip to New Orleans on the horizon, I was desperately in the mood for vampire books this month. Author Zoraida Córdova recommended The Casquette Girls for its portrayal of an authentic New Orleans and I couldn’t agree more. This novel begins with Adele returning to New Orleans after living with her mother in Paris. Strange things start to happen once she arrives: She’s attacked by a crow, she discovers a body drained of blood, and she seems to possess the ability to move things with her mind. Adele isn’t the only new arrival in the city, though. My favorite part of this novel was the atmosphere of it: I felt like I was in New Orleans. It was absolutely magical and exciting. I loved the fantastical elements of The Casquette Girls because while this is a paranormal story it is very much grounded in reality. The pacing and length of the book allowed Arden time to develop the world and characters, and the last 200 pages really blew me away! The cliffhanger left a great opening for the next books to be even bigger and better. I can’t wait to dive into the sequel.
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk
Olga Tokarczuk’s Flights is one of the finest books I’ve read over the last few years, but it took a little while for me to get around to Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead. I really don’t know what kept me. This is atmospheric, dark, brilliantly unsettling stuff, and perfect for the coming winter nights. Olga Tokarczuk recently won the Nobel Prize for Literature, and on this basis, there is no one more deserving.
I just finished reading The Girl Before You by Nicola Rayner. It’s a quick, exciting read reminiscent of Alexandra Burt‘s Little Girl Gone and Mary Kubica‘s The Good Girl. The Girl Before You focuses on the mysterious disappearance and (assumed) drowning of college student Ruth Walker. It jumps between the stories of three women who were all connected to Ruth: her sister Naomi, her college frenemy Kat, and her abusive ex-boyfriend’s current wife Alice. These points of view give readers insight into Ruth’s college years and present day, when weird relics from Ruth’s past are showing up and making Naomi and Alice question everything they thought they knew about Ruth’s disappearance 15 years ago. Though not a typical whodunit, The Girl Before You is full of suspense. It’s a great mystery novel that you can tear through in one sitting.
I recently tore through Recursion by Blake Crouch. I don’t usually read science fiction, and I even more infrequently enjoy, understand, or follow time travel novels, but this book had me hooked from the first chapter. The story follows two main characters: Barry and Helena, and it spans multiple years, timelines, and lifetimes. This novel is thought-provoking, intelligent, and very sentimental. It will make a sci-fi lover out of anyone. With a complex plot, this book is great for people who like weird technology-inspired storylines, like those in Black Mirror. I haven’t read Crouch’s Dark Matter, but now it’s at the top of my TBR pile!
The Art of Losing by Lizzy Mason is a YA debut that touches on sisterhood, addiction, and loss. Harley’s whole life changes when her sister is in a car accident, leaving her in a coma. Even worse—Harley’s boyfriend was driving… and he was drunk. Even worse than that—Harley had just stormed out of the party they were at after she caught the two of them hooking up. Lizzy Mason shares this story with earnestness and care, exploring the challenges that Harley faces as she feels anger and guilt, and struggles with whether to forgive. Even without having had similar experiences, this book brought me right back to my teenage years, where every emotion was like electricity, and every decision a mountain.
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
If you like the subtle ways that books like The New Me and My Year of Rest and Relaxation handle the dreams that capitalism sells to women, featuring heroines who half-want those fantasies and find themselves deeply bored by their own lives, pick up Madame Bovary. Emma Bovary is surrounded by stories about what will make women happy: religious devotion, marriage, sweeping romance. She goes for them all to try and feel something and sadly, things do not go well. If you like reading about frustrated and complicated women, deeply mediocre men, and the confinements of both patriarchy and capitalism, I couldn’t recommend this classic more highly!
Katherine Angel’s book-length essay Daddy Issues hooked me with one simple intellectual twist: Why do we call it daddy issues, Angel asks, and not daughter issues? When we talk about the fraught relationships between fathers and daughters, we only talk about it in terms of the daughter’s desire. But what about the father? What about his desire for sexualized ownership over his daughter? With references from Virginia Woolf to D.W. Winnicott to the Ben Stiller movie Meet the Parents, Angel makes the case that feminists still need to be thinking about this primal relationship. For me, it was a sharp romp through cultural studies and a great reminder of what a pop culture close reading looks like.
This is a fabulously simple book on meditation that truly anyone can gain insight from. As a true beginner myself, Liza Kindred made incorporating meditation into anyone’s life as easy as humanly possible with small baby steps that anyone can do. Whether you only have a minute or an unlimited amount of time to take for yourself, this book is all you need! I loved that it not only shared positive, helpful meditation tips and practices, but mindful messages, and shared tips on how to use small moments in your day to help create and experience joy. There were so many useful messages and in a fun, easy-to-read format. Eff This! Meditation is a perfect book for anyone looking for a moment of peace.