Staff Reads: January 25

Staff Reads: January 25

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.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

This is a darkly funny story about an unnamed protagonist who just wants to opt out of life for a while. She is emotionally detached, young, thin, blond, beautiful, rich, and works at an art gallery in Chelsea. But all she wants to do is enter a medically-induced sleep. She doesn’t want to die, just sleep through her life until she feels better (although who knows when that will be). She finds an ethically dubious doctor, Dr. Tuttle, to provide her with shocking amounts of sleep-inducing medicines that have increasingly disturbing side effects. It’s a sharp portrait of a woman adrift in the early 2000s in New York, both very fun and very sad. —Nina

Broken Harbor by Tana French

If you’ve been keeping an eye on Staff Reads, you know I’ve been reading roughly one Tana French Dublin Murder Squad novel per week. I’ve just moved on to the fourth in the series, Broken Harbor, about an attack on a family living in a down-on-its-luck subdevelopment outside of Dublin. Stay tuned next week to see if I can keep the streak going! —Elizabeth

The Wicked King by Holly Black

I’ve loved Holly Black’s books for a long time. She is an incredible world builder with a beautiful and lyrical writing style. When The Cruel Prince came out there was so much immediate hype that I didn’t want to be disappointed. I am so sad that it took me so long to get to it, but I read it in one day and have been dying to get my hands on the sequel ever since. The Wicked King takes place shortly after the explosive ending of the first book and has a slow beginning with even more court intrigue than its predecessor. I love that this book focused on the fact that it is easy to grab power, but harder to maintain it. Jude and Cardan’s glorious tension was ramped up even more in this book. Jude was stretched so thin trying to balance her new position as right hand to the king that the small moments with Cardan were even more riveting. Their dynamic is so interesting given Jude’s control over Cardan, and the ensuing give and take because of it. The Wicked King was definitely darker than The Cruel Prince, and it explored the morally questionable characters and world of Elfhame even more. My jaw dropped at the way this book ended and now I don’t know how to wait a year for The Queen of Nothing. —Dana

A Notorious Vow by Joanna Shupe

This is the first book I’ve read by Joanna Shupe, though it’s actually the third in her Four Hundred series. Set during New York City’s Gilded Age, the story centers on Lady Christina Barclay and Oliver Hawkes. When Christina’s parents pressure her into marriage with a man who frightens her, Christina runs into the arms of her handsome neighbor Oliver. Oliver, who is deaf and chooses to focus on his work rather than engage with society, agrees to a marriage of convenience to help Christina. They agree to remain married for only a year, though each day spent together makes them wonder if a year is long enough. Both leads have painful histories, and my favorite part of this reading experience was watching as they slowly learned to trust each other and open their hearts to love. I’m already looking forward to reading the rest of the books in this series! —Kelly

Dracula by Bram Stoker

I am reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula for the first time. What a revelation! Not only is the book completely gripping, but when I started digging into Stoker’s personal history, I found myself caught up as well. I began the book with a lifetime of Dracula characters and caricatures at my disposal, but none of these actually prepared me for the book, which is utterly readable. Even though not much happens in the first few paragraphs, the book is a page-turner as the tension builds in an almost torturous way. We know something bad is going to happen to Jonathan Harker, and even he seems to know it. But just as he is held captive, so too are we as readers. —Myf

Worth It by Amanda Steinberg

I’ve only just begun reading, but already this book is so helpful and empowering! Steinberg encourages female readersthrough conversational narrative filled with real-life stories and examples from herself as well as othersto dig deep and discover their personal “money story”: what they’ve subconsciously been telling themselves and believing about spending, saving, earning potential, etc. This includes a little quiz (really a short writing exercise) that’s deceptively simple but incredibly effective at getting clarity, and releasing any shame or guilt about how you do (or don’t) think about money and financial well-being. The book is extremely approachable even for readers who may not know any financial terms. I look forward to reading more, and I’ll be recommending it widely! —Lindsey

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

Dhonielle Clayton has created the most lush and decadent world with The Belles. This story follows Camellia, a Belle, whose purpose in life is to perform magic on the people of Orléans to give them color and beauty. The Belles are raised as sisters and they have been trained to compete against each other for placements with the highest ranking becoming the favorite who gets to work in the palace. But Camellia quickly realizes that she has been sheltered from the world and doesn’t know everything about the Belles. I love that this story showed an ambitious girl who wanted to be the best and have it all. Of course Camellia hated competing with her sisters, but she still sought out greatness. This story also features a range of skin colors so that anyone reading can see themselves represented in this fantasy novel. Plus there was a great young female villain. One of my hang-ups with YA fantasy is the fact that the majority of villains are older characters who aren’t well matched for the protagonist, or they are always humanized to the point that you forget why they are evil. I enjoyed seeing a young evil girl as the villain. I can’t wait to see what comes next in this series! —Dana

Aquicorn Cove by Katie O’Neill

Katie O’Neill’s graphic novels are wildly enchanting. The art is warm and expressive, and the stories are sensitive and heartfelt. In this book, a young girl named Lana and her father return to the coastal beach village that her late mother loved to help her aunt Mae rebuild after a storm. While there, Lana discovers a magical world hidden deep beneath the ocean waves. The theme of recovery ties the book together—from rebuilding broken relationships to supporting a community, from healing after loss to the responsibility to fix damage done to the natural world. It’s a quiet and moving tale, and one that left me wanting to know even more about characters like Mae and Aure. It’s a book that I think will inspire young readers to be kind to the world they live in and to daydream about the magical wonders that may be hidden just out of sight. —Kelly

Endure by Alex Hutchinson

I just started reading Endure for my running club’s inaugural book club meeting, and I’m loving it so far. There’s an introduction by Malcolm Gladwell that talks about both the joy and the mystery of anomalous races where you miraculously destroy your previous record (I’m looking at you, 2017 Chicago Marathon), and it was fun to read about another runner’s experience with that phenomenon. This book promises to provide me with a deeper look into the science and psychology of human endurance, and I can’t wait to discuss it with my fellow runners! —Elizabeth

Vacationland by John Hodgman

It’s been such a pleasure to listen to the audiobook version of Vacationland, written and narrated by John Hodgman. Authors aren’t always the best people to narrate their own books, but Hodgman nails it—his elocution is a perfect match for his funny, occasionally melancholy, observations about Massachusetts, Maine, and middle age. For someone who lived in New England (however briefly), this has been a lovely way to revisit some of its regions and their attendant peculiarities. I also really love the beautiful way in which he addresses grief and aging, childrearing and privilege. Oh, and who doesn’t love a good story about Black Francis? —Annie


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