Staff Reads: December 21

Staff Reads: December 21

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.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

My mom has always been a big reader, and I remember her raving about this novel years ago when she first read it. It recently came up again in a conversation, and I decided to go ahead and pick it up. Last night I took this novel to my favorite cocktail bar, ordered my usual drink, and completely lost track of the time. So far, Bel Canto tells the story of a lavish birthday party that turns into a hostage situation. I’m hoping to set aside a few hours tonight to sit by the Christmas tree and dive back in to Patchett’s vivid tale. —Elizabeth

How the Dukes Stole Christmas by Tessa Dare, Sarah MacLean, Sophie Jordan, Joanna Shupe

To me, December truly is the most wonderful time of the year. I bake dozens and dozens cookies, I hunt down the perfect gifts for the people I love, and I spend my nights relaxing with holiday-themed books and movies. This year brought the gift of a new historical romance anthology from four of my favorite authors. These tales kept me captivated from the first page to the last—each following a couple’s journey to finding each other, and just in time for Christmas. Packed with all of my favorite winter tropes, this anthology was the perfect heartwarming read on a frosty night. I’d highly recommend picking it up, and (for even more holiday fun!) checking out the conversation I had with the authors where they share their own favorite traditions, cookies, and the character they’d most like to meet under the mistletoe! —Kelly

My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, and Brodi Ashton

I’m a sucker for anything Jane Eyreinspired and My Plain Jane is no exception! This series of paranormal historical retellings is hysterical and completely unique. In this take on the classic Jane Eyre, ghosts are real and there are people who can see them. Jane is one of them. There is also a paranormal society whose purpose is to get rid of spirits, which is where Alexander Blackwood comes in as he tries to convince Jane (who is a beacon for ghosts) to join the society. He befriends Charlotte Brontë, Jane’s writer friend from the Lowood School, as they attempt to get Jane to leave Thornfield Hall. This book was so much fun, from the ghosts to the dialogue, and I laughed out loud so many times! There were a few points where the English major in me was disgruntled by the changes made in the retelling, however I think the authors really aimed to update the story in a way that was empowering and romantically healthy for 2018 teen readers. If you’re in the mood for a wacky historical romp with some ghosts, this will be right up your alley! —Dana

My Boyfriend is a Bear by Pamela Ribon

My Boyfriend is a Bear is about exactly what you think it’s about. Nora, sick of dating mansplain-y guys who break her heart and belittle her, starts dating a literal bear. He is bear-sized, breaks things all the time, communicates in growls, and squeezes himself into old Arcade Fire t-shirts when he goes out in public. Nora has to field her family and friends’ anxieties about her choice of date. But they have a great time together: Bear is sweet to Nora, cuddles her cat, and is helpful around the house. While it’s all well and good in the summertime, winter rolls around, which means hibernation. For anyone who has ever pined for a long-distance darling, hibernation turns out to be a truly apt metaphor. My Boyfriend is a Bear is a portrait of a sweet and loving relationship, illustrated beautifully. In the scenes when Nora leaps into her bear’s arms, you can feel her joy and the rush of energy. —Nina

In the Woods by Tana French

I’m doing it! I’m finally taking Kelly’s advice and reading a Tana French book. I’ve only just started listening to the audiobook of In the Woods, but I’m already hooked. One of my favorite things to do is take long walks and listen to books, and I’m happily anticipating my next literary stroll. I’m impressed by the depth of French’s characterizations (this isn’t one of those mysteries where the plot is the draw and the characters don’t really matter), and enjoying reading about the dynamic between detectives Rob Ryan and Cassie Maddox. —Elizabeth

My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren

Christina Lauren’s latest takes a hilarious and honest look at online dating (it’s also one of our must-reads of the season!). The story follows a group of friends as they join a dating app together. The men receive messages from beautiful multilingual scuba divers, while the heroine’s inbox fills with messages of the weird and objectifying variety. She decides to create a new profile that obscures her face as a way to both avoid the creepy messages and to push herself to be more open (which she rarely is, even with her friends). Imagine her surprise when her new profile matches with her close friend Reid’s. As someone who has her own share of online dating horror stories, I loved the book’s dive into how different the experience of online dating can be based on your gender. As I tweeted, it made me wish that the ever-witty CLo could write my own dating profile. But what truly struck a chord with me was the heroine Millie Morris and the exploration of how hard it can be to be your most vulnerable self, even to the people you care about. Seeing yourself in a character can be inspiring, but seeing your own flaws in a character—your bad habits, the parts of yourself that may stand in the way of your own happiness—can feel both beautiful and terrifying. The experience was a reminder that we’re all human and we all have the capacity to change. Millie’s stayed with me since I closed the book, and I imagine that she’ll stay with me long after. —Kelly

The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing

After so many months of waiting that I almost forgot about it, I finally got my hands on a copy of The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing. Nominally, it’s about matsutake mushrooms, but really it’s about a lot more. Matsutake mushrooms thrive in the places where forests have been cut down by human intervention. They were anecdotally the first living things to grow in the wake of the Atomic bomb in Hiroshima. They represent the unexpected proliferation of life in the midst of ruin, and unexpected partnerships across species. The Mushroom at the End of the World deals with how we think of the relationship between ourselves and the rest of the natural world, the overly simplistic historic narrative of “progress,” and how we might change where we put our attention. Highly recommended, especially if you like A Paradise Built in Hell by Rebecca Solnit, “A Cyborg Manifesto” by Donna Haraway or Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown. Plus, it makes me happy to get a book after a long library wait—it feels like I’m in a secret book club conspiracy! —Nina

Ball Lightning by Cixin Liu

On his 14th birthday, Chen’s father gives him some advice: To live a wonderful life, “choose a tough, world-class problem, one that requires only a sheet of paper and a pencil,” and devote yourself to it. Moments later, a ball of lightning floats casually into the room and incinerates both of Chen’s parents before his eyes. He eventually devotes himself completely to the study of ball lightning, eventually unlocking an entirely new area of scientific exploration as well as significant ethical questions. —Derek


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