Staff Reads: June 21

Staff Reads: June 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 Summer Previews for a look at the best books of the season.

The New Me by Halle Butler

I devoured Halle Butler’s novel The New Me in about two sittings after reading Jia Tolentino’s piece about it in The New Yorker. It’s a dark little novel about a temp worker named Millie who is struggling at a meaningless job that she hates but nonetheless must tolerate for the sake of paying her bills and moving towards a more hopeful future as a permanent employee. Millie is deeply lonely after the breakup of her last relationship, and save for a single unfulfilling friendship, her life is a fairly solitary one. Butler manages to write a story that is simultaneously existentially devastating (not an understatement) and funny. I’d especially recommend this to anyone who enjoyed My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Otessa Moshfegh. —Elizabeth

The Avant-Guards by Carly Usdin, illustrated by Noah Hayes

I snagged some pretty great books at this year’s BookExpo and BookCon, but the best I’ve read so far is The Avant-Guards. The series follows Charlie, a transfer student at Georgia O’Keeffe College of Arts. One of the first people she meets is Liv, a bubbly, confident, and very persuasive student who is attempting to start the school’s very first basketball team and wants Charlie to join. As feelings start to develop between the two, Charlie also meets the rest of the players and starts to confront the anxiety that led her to leaving the last team she was on. I loved reading along as Charlie started to open up, but for me Liv was the real star. She’s basically Leslie Knope, one of my all-time favorite fictional women. I love the enthusiasm Liv puts into everything she does, and I relate to her over-the-top impulses when showing she cares. I can’t wait until the second volume comes out so I can get to know the rest of the team better, especially puppy-loving Jay. For readers looking for a gorgeous graphic novel about friendship, love, and finding yourself, this is a slam dunk! –Kelly

Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

Samira Ahmed’s debut novel is a new favorite of mine. This YA contemporary novel explores Islamophobia and cultural differences, so when I started reading it I expected a very dark book. However, Ahmed perfectly balances a sweet and romantic coming-of-age story similar to books by Sandhya Menon and Nisha Sharma with serious undertones of racism and terrorism. The main character, Maya Aziz, is an Indian-Muslim 17-year-old applying to college. She finds herself at a crossroads with her parents’ beliefs and expectations. Maya develops feelings for a boy who is white and on the football team. As Maya starts to figure out her future and her love life, tragedy strikes in the form of a terrorist attack and the main suspect is a Muslim man with the same last name as her. This throws her whole life and family for a loop, and they begin receiving hate from their community.I highly recommend this powerful read. —Dana

I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya

I’ve been reading Vivek Shraya’s I’m Afraid of Men, a quick and punchy read about Shraya’s experience and journey as a queer transwoman. I say “I’ve been reading,” because although I finished this in just a few hours, I find I keep coming back to certain passages again and again. Shraya puts into words the feeling that many women have about our relationships with men, and the fear we can experience just walking out our door. I’m Afraid of Men is more than just a memoir of fear, though. From assessing what it means to be a “good man” (and how that label sets us all up for failure!) to sweet stories about a relationship started by secret baked goods at a bar, I found Shraya’s writing to be entertaining and accessible, while confronting hard truths about a world that loves to exist in binaries. I think I’ll be reading this one for years to come. —Katie

My Life as a Goddess by Guy Branum

I think I’ve found my sweet spot for audiobooks: authors who are really great at reading their own words. It’s rare, but it’s good. Guy Branum’s essay collection, My Life as a Goddess, is a series of charming anecdotes about growing up in unglamorous California farm country, learning about life from sitcoms, and his path from farm boy to law student to comedy writer. The most affecting essay, though, is about gay voices (you can read an adaptation here). What sticks with me the most is his love for the men who came before him, men with distinctly gay voices who gave him a roadmap for being in the world outside of the strains of heteronormative cultural demands. These voices gave him people to look up to, and the unique phrasing and timbre a way to find other gay men in the world. For Branum, plumage is just as necessary an adaptation as camouflage. —Nina

Paper Girls, Vol. 5 by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Cliff Chiang and Matthew Wilson

The fifth volume of the Paper Girls graphic novel series takes the main group of girls to the future. With each new volume this world that Brian K. Vaughan has written grows even more interesting. The threads from each story arc are slowly coming together, and it was great to learn more about who the old timers are and how the girls are connected. This volume felt more serious than previous ones, and tackled the question of what happens if your future self dies. One of the girls grapples with her fate after learning she dies of cancer. I also really loved the small moments in this volume where the girls deal with identity, love, and finding their own voices within the group. I really enjoy this series and can’t wait to read the next volume when it comes out. —Dana

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

I’m a few years late to the party but I finally read The Handmaid’s Tale. This is a book that’s been on my to-read list for years and I recently decided to rectify that by listening to the audiobook, narrated by Claire Danes. The performance by Danes was excellent, though it’s definitely an audiobook you need to be paying close attention to. I admittedly struggled at points to keep track of Offred’s time and place due to the way Margaret Atwood weaves flashbacks and false memories into the narrative. If I let my mind wander for a second, I’d often need to rewind to be certain of what was happening. Perhaps due to its prominence in our media at this time, the book didn’t shock me in the way I expected it to, but it’s prompted a lot of conversations. The best part of the reading experience has been discussing the book with fellow readers and diving deeper into the book’s cultural impact and how reading it in 2019 affected my experience. Now that I’ve finished it, I’m looking forward to starting the Hulu series. –Kelly

No Visible Bruises by Rachel Louise Snyder

I am reading Rachel Louise Snyder’s latest book, No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us. In this book, Snyder provides a thorough journalistic investigation of domestic violence in America. Above and beyond defining domestic violence and exploring the myths surrounding it, Snyder puts a human face on this world-wide epidemic. Specifically, she obliterates the notion of simply leaving the abuse to make it stop, as she shows how so often when a woman makes a move to end her abuse, she is in the most danger of bodily harm and death. It’s not an easy read for sure, but it’s an important book and I urge everyone to read it, men and women, to understand what we don’t know about domestic violence. —Myf

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