Staff Reads: December 14

Staff Reads: December 14

Staff Reads

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. Here are the Bookish staff’s personal weekend reading recommendations. Tell us what you think in the comments!

If you’re still looking for some inspiration, check out our Winter Previews for a look at the best books of the season.

Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements, edited by adrienne maree brown and Walidah Imarisha

This has been the year of Octavia Butler and her legacy for me. I have never considered myself much of a science fiction reader because I don’t care about the names of gizmos or how space parliaments work. But Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements, edited by adrienne maree brown and Walidah Imarisha, might just change me. The editors frame this collection of stories as visionary fiction and argue that all science fiction is political: It is about imagining a future beyond what we have today. And if you are sick of dystopias and need a reminder of the human capacity for bravery, care, optimism, and collective action, I couldn’t recommend this collection more highly. I especially loved reading Alexis Pauline Gumbs’ “Evidence,” where a young girl from a future utopia writes a letter to her ancestors (who are our contemporaries), thanking them for keeping faith and being brave even when they had no idea that they would win. Honestly, I’m tearing up again now. —Nina

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

As a huge fan of both Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera, I knew I was going to love What If It’s Us and it didn’t disappoint. The inciting incident of the novel is a far-fetched “meet cute” moment that leads Arthur to search for a mystery boy, Ben. The two meet when Ben is trying to mail a box of his ex-boyfriend’s belongings back to him. What follows is the story of two people trying to discover if they are right for each other. When I started this story, I was curious to see how the light, upbeat tone of Albertalli, author of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, and the serious and at times cynical tone of Silvera, author of They Both Die at the End, would work together, but they balance each other perfectly. Arthur is a newly out gay teen who is spending is summer in NYC and discovering a lot for the first time. I thought he would be my favorite character because he is so light and funny, but Ben really stole my heart. Ben’s personal journey is much more introspective and he is conflicted in his own friendships, culture, and self-worth. Based on the books by Adam Silvera that I’ve read and what I know about him from his online presence, Ben feels like a character that is representative of the person writing him. Not every teen romance novel feels like an authentic development of what is likely to happen after a perfect “meet cute,” but this one shows the fluctuating nature of being young. Most teen relationships don’t last and that is perfectly healthy. The ending is once again the perfect mashup of Albertalli and Silvera, because while it may not be the happily ever after Albertalli fans would love, it has a hopefulness that you don’t always get at the end of a Silvera novel. —Dana

The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye

I’m reading The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye. This historical thriller is set in Prohibition-era Portland, Oregon and follows Alice “Nobody” from a deal gone wrong in Harlem to the all-black Paragon Hotel. Needless to say, the lodgers at the hotel aren’t too happy about a white lady with a bullet hole in her staying at their hotel. Especially since the town isn’t too friendly, and the Ku Klux Klan is rearing its hooded head. I was a little wary of the book when I started reading the prologue—the voice turned me off a little—but once I started the first chapter I couldn’t put it down. This book is listed as a thriller but what I find even more engaging than the mystery is getting to know each of the characters. —Kristina

Goldie Vance by Hope Larson, illustrated by Brittney Williams

Hope Larson charms me every time. I absolutely love her graphic novels and recently had the pleasure of picking up the first volume of Goldie Vance. The book follows Goldie Vance, a 16-year-old aspiring detective with a sharp eye and the determination to solve even the toughest cases. When the in-house detective at the resort her father manages finds himself stumped, Goldie leaps into action and manages to save the day with the help of her friends. With bright and eye-catching illustrations, a lovable cast, and a plucky heroine you can’t help but root for, this book was a winner. I can’t wait to get my hands on volume two. —Kelly

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

I am rereading In Cold Blood with a friend who is reading it for the first time. I’ve read this book many times and each time I reread it, I try and get someone new hooked with me. I read a lot of true crime, and Truman Capote’s “true crime novel” is absolutely my favorite. As if the story of a random act of violence against an entire household isn’t compelling enough, Capote’s storytelling and phrasing and settings are so descriptive and so beautifully written you are instantly transported right to Middle America in the late 1950s and feel completely at home there. This is not a murder mystery or a typical true crime book at all. It really reads more like a novel, full of (admittedly embellished) dialogue and a full cast of characters you almost forget were actually real people. You know who committed the crime right from the start, yet still read open-jawed as the story progresses. The thing that keeps me coming back to this one over and over again has to be his characterizations. Every single person who appears in this book is such a real person, someone you feel like you know even after a single sentence of description–from the cafe owner, the postmistress, all the way to the deceased family and the criminals. This is certainly not a book for everyone, but I recommend it to anyone looking for a really unique true crime book with the most gorgeous writing I have ever read. —Amanda

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

This incredible debut novel left me staring into the void, processing. After reading an excerpt, I was hooked and every page sucked me in deeper. Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who was drawn to Alicia Berenson’s case from the beginning. A new job gives him the opportunity to help work on it, and he is hopeful he can have a breakthrough. Alicia was found with her husband dead at her feet, and has mostly been forgotten. She is no longer front-page news, and is instead tucked away in a psychiatric facility facing closure. This book touches on so many difficult topics—mental health, love, and betrayal. The author did a fabulous job of building the story and then twisting it in a way I never would have seen coming! I can’t wait to see more from this new author. —Alicia

 

(Psst: Read the first three chapters over on BookishFirst!)

Roomies by Christina Lauren

Perfect for a week full of a lot of traveling, Roomies is a modern romance that starts with something a lot of New Yorkers can relate to: a casual crush on someone you see out and about all the time. In this case, it’s a busker named Calvin. But, in a turn of events that only really makes sense in the world of romance novels, the busker ends up starring in a Broadway play that our heroine, Holland, also works on. And, because of some visa issues, the pair end up married and living together. The best part about Roomies is how well it combines the swoony tropes of romance novels (hot, talented, and roguish Irishmen who are utterly devoted to you) with some of the very realistic pains of being a mid-20s woman in New York, bumbling through early career steps, dating, and friendships. — Nina

You’re on an Airplane: A Self-Mythologizing Memoir by Parker Posey

Who doesn’t love Parker Posey? I’m halfway through her memoir, You’re on an Airplane, which winds a quirky trail through indie film sets in the 90s, Texas in the 70s, Hollywood in the aughts, and a million other odd things in between. It’s lovely and engaging and as self-effacing as a memoir can be, and has me revisiting her film catalog during reading breaks. —Annie

And I Darken by Kiersten White

Kiersten White’s gender-bent historical young adult take on Vlad the Impaler was not at all what I was expecting! I was expecting an action-packed book filled with battles and murder, told from a morally questionable perspective. But I quickly realized that this book’s pacing would challenge those expectations, as it’s mainly about the descent towards darkness. This book was much slower than I expected and more about the politics and court intrigue of the Ottoman empire. I found the Ottoman aspects to be so interesting because I didn’t know much about that culture going in. Lada, the Vlad character, is definitely a physically strong female character, but we also saw her vulnerable side in her romantic interest. Radu, Lada’s younger brother, was much more fascinating to me because of his complex feelings about his sister and his conflicted love for his best friend. They both have feelings for someone who is forbidden for a multitude of reasons—making this one of the most compelling love triangles I have ever read. While I definitely wished this book moved a little faster, I think the story is going to pick up in the sequel which I plan to read soon. —Dana

The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo: The Monster Mall by Drew Weing

This middle grade graphic novel series follows a monster mediator known as Margo Maloo and her friend Charles Thompson, a kid reporter. The first book introduced readers (and Charles) to the hidden world of monsters, and this second installment dives in even deeper as Margo and Charles investigate a human infestation at an abandoned mall—a local vampire hangout. Margo is the coolest kid on the block, and my middle grade self would’ve idolized her. We learn more about her in this book, and I loved getting a glimpse into her home life and the figure she may have inherited her monster mediator role from. If you’re looking for a not-so-spooky fantasy adventure for the young reader in your life, I’d highly recommend picking this series up! —Kelly

The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn

Anna Fox puts Gladys Kravitz to shame. Well versed in peering through windows, Anna knows everything about her neighbors… what else are you supposed to do when you’re unable to venture outside? Her everyday habit leads her to see something she shouldn’t… but was it real or her imagination? I’m about halfway through this book and have enjoyed learning about why Anna is housebound and the everyday struggles that bind her. I’m intrigued to find out what happens in the last half of Anna’s story. —Lauren

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