Staff Reads: February 15

Staff Reads: February 15

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.

Where’d You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple

I’m rereading Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. I read it years ago, so most of what I remembered was that there was something about architecture and wealthy Seattle moms. I forgot about the delightful switches in perspective and the ways that emails, medical bills, and other ephemera give us a rich portrait not only of Bernadette Fox, but the people around her. It’s a funny, rich, and touching story that’s not without some real bite. Also, I’m an absolute sucker for petty stories about the idle rich, and the mothers at Galen Street certainly fit the bill. If you haven’t gotten a chance to read it yet, I highly recommend it, especially before the movie comes out! —Nina

The Art of Losing by Lizzy Mason

Lizzy Mason’s powerful debut The Art of Losing follows Harley after her life is turned upside when her boyfriend, Mike, and sister, Audrey, end up in a car accident after leaving a party. Her boyfriend was driving drunk and Harley had seen the two of them kissing earlier in the evening. Harley’s sister is left in a coma for the rest of the summer and Harley has to deal with the aftermath. She realizes that she wasn’t always there for her sister in the way she needed. This book navigates teen addiction, underage drinking, and alcoholism, as Mike attends court-mandated rehab. While all of this is happening, Harley begins to spend more time with her old friend and neighbor, Raf, who has recently gone to rehab. Harley is able to cope with her emotions concerning Mike by learning about Raf’s circumstances and addiction. We don’t often see YA novels that discuss addiction and drinking in a such a realistic way, and I really have to applaud Mason for that. Now that I’m done reading, I can check out Mason’s interview with our editor Kelly! —Dana

No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

I didn’t really mean to read this book. I have a water-damaged paperback version of it that’s been sitting on my shelves for years, and I threw it into my purse one afternoon this week on my way out of the house (like Rory Gilmore, I rarely go anywhere without a book). I assumed it would bounce around in my bag for a few weeks and then I’d return it to its usual spot on my bookshelf. Wrong! I fell into this book after reading the first few pages and accidentally devoured it over the course of a few hours. My feelings about this novel are complicated: I don’t know if it would be right to say that I “liked” it. I felt it was gratuitously violent and the prose style took some getting used to. On the other hand, No Country for Old Men was intoxicatingly atmospheric from the beginning. The dread and dust came off of the pages in waves, and I had a hard time putting it down. I’ll be thinking about this one for a while, and in the meantime, I’ll likely pick up some of McCarthy’s other work. Elizabeth

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

My coworker Elizabeth has never steered me wrong when it comes to book recommendations, and when she wouldn’t stop raving about Tayari Jones’ An American Marriage I knew I had to read it. The book follows Celestial and Roy, a newly married couple who are torn apart when Roy is incarcerated for a crime he didn’t commit. What follows is a heartbreaking and deeply emotional story about the ways people grow together and grow apart, and the things love alone can and cannot fix. I closed the book feeling as though the characters were friends I’d known for years—their voices, personalities, and experiences so clear in my mind. There’s a particular scene in the book, featuring Roy’s father and a shovel, that continues to linger in my mind even days later. I listened to the audiobook, and can’t recommend it enough. The narrators were fantastic, as was this incredible novel. —Kelly

My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren

It has been well documented in the annals of these staff reads that I’ve been taking Kelly’s advice on any and all romance novels. She hooked me on Christina Lauren with Roomies and then I gobbled up The Unhoneymooners as fast as I could. And now, I’m going into the archives with My Favorite Half-Night Stand, mainly because Kelly listed it as one of her 15 favorites. Millie and Reid are both young academics with way more free time and way less anxiety than any academic I’ve ever met. They sign up for a dating app called IRL and end up falling for each other. Or, rather, Reid falls for Catherine, Millie’s more emotionally vulnerable avatar. I’m especially grateful for the compassionate portrayal of Millie as the emotionally closed-off one of the pair, which is a nice way to gender swap the trope and also a subtle way to talk about why it’s so hard for women to really say what they want. —Nina

Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

The Prince & Me meets Chasing Liberty in this enemies-to-lovers romance following the U.S. President’s bisexual son who falls for the gay prince of England. This book is the gay rom-com you’ve always wanted. But it also deals with more serious discussions of racism, sexual assault, and mental health. Alex and Henry have a whirlwind romance, but it takes a toll on both of them to keep it a secret because neither are out to their families. For Henry, being a part of the British monarchy comes with a lot of expectations, and he feels conflicted about who he is. This is going to be the romance novel that everyone will be buzzing about this spring and I will definitely be pushing it on everyone I know. Casey McQuiston has combined so many addicting romantic tropes in a such a fun way that it’s hard to put this book down. I really want more new adult romance handled just like Red, White, and Royal Blue. —Dana

Maid by Stephanie Land

This week, I read Stephanie Land’s account of working minimum wage (or near-minimum wage) jobs as a maid to support herself and her daughter, Mia. Land’s resilience and love for her daughter are writ large on every page of this book, and I was heartbroken to read about the hardships she endured. I emerged from this book with a much better understanding of what it’s like to be a single parent struggling with poverty, and I suspect Land’s story will open a lot of readers’ eyes to that reality. Elizabeth

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

The news is out! Earlier this week we debuted a brand new feature on Bookish called Kelly’s Pick, where I’ll be selecting a single book each season (with the help of the rest of the Bookish team!) that I feel sparks a great book club discussion. The very first pick is Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams, a book about a 25-year-old journalist whose life begins to spiral after a breakup with her boyfriend. Though the cover is stunning and bright, the story takes readers to some dark places as Queenie grapples with events from her past, debilitating anxiety, and the microaggressions and racism that black women deal with each and every day. Like all of us, she’s a character who is juggling problems big and small, seen and unseen. The levity in the book comes in the form of Queenie’s friends, who catch up through a group chat titled the Corgis. As a reader, you feel like an honorary member. Queenie’s a novel that hooked me with its unique opening (which I won’t spoil here) and kept our book club talking well past the scheduled meeting time about women’s healthcare, sexism in the workplace, and what our own group chat should be titled. This book won’t be out until March, but readers can get a sneak peek over at BookishFirst. —Kelly

Heavy by Kiese Laymon

I just started listening to the audiobook version of Heavy by Kiese Laymon. This book has been on my TBR list for a while, and I had heard that the audiobook (which is narrated by the author himself) was especially great. I’m only about 15 minutes in so far, but I’m really looking forward to the hours I’ll spend with Laymon and his words this weekend. Elizabeth

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

Down Among the Sticks and Bones is the second in the Wayward Children series of fantasy novellas and follows Jack and Jill, who readers met in Every Heart a Doorway. If you haven’t heard about Every Heart a Doorway, it follows teens who have come back from magical worlds (think Narnia) and tackles the consequences of having to live in the regular world again. This prequel shows you how these characters developed into who they were in the first book, which was so interesting. Jack and Jill are twins girls whose parents only wanted children because society expected that of them. They wanted a boy and a girl, so they forced one of their daughters to take on stereotypically masculine traits. When these two girls find a doorway to another world, they both find their true selves. I listened to this on audiobook and loved that it was narrated by the author who was able to really interpret the story and characters the way she imagined them. If you’re a fantasy fan who grew up loving Narnia and Wonderland you need to read this series. —Dana

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