Staff Reads: March 8

Staff Reads: March 8

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 Spring Previews for a look at the best books of the season.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

In all my years of loving books, I never found the window I needed to dive into the audiobook world… until Michelle Obama wrote and then narrated Becoming. I knew I couldn’t just read this book, I needed to hear her experiences—and it’s a privilege to have her confident and powerful voice fill my home. Through Michelle’s life stories, but also her tone and patient speech, she creates a vivid and accessible picture of how she has, and continues to, live a purposeful life. I highly recommend reading or listening to this beautiful memoir—I guarantee you will walk away feeling empowered by her strength and humanity. —Tarah

The Art of Losing by Lizzy Mason

Lizzy Mason’s moving debut opens at a hospital. Harley’s boyfriend Mike and sister Audrey were involved in a car accident, but no one knows that earlier that evening Harley caught the two making out. Now her sister is in a coma, and her boyfriend is being sent to rehab. There were so many things I loved about this book. Mason’s portrayal of a girl grappling with conflicting emotions rings true, and as a character, Harley is allowed to feel angry, heartbroken, guilty, and relieved all at once. I particularly loved Mason’s exploration of responsibility. Harley learns that she can’t absolve someone else’s sins, she can’t change their behavior, and that it is not her job to to carry someone else’s burden. Her story is an excellent reminder that it isn’t selfish to prioritize your own life and mental health. It’s the kind of message I wish I had as a teenager, and one that I believe will resonate strongly with YA readers. The cherry on top of this reading experience was getting to interview Mason. The Art of Losing draws on Mason’s past, and it’s that openness and honesty that hit me hardest as a reader. It’s a deeply personal novel, and one that makes me excited to see what Mason does next! —Kelly

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

I read The Kiss Quotient from start to finish on one Saturday and it was a great day indeed. This story follows Stella, a thirty year old woman with Asperger’s syndrome who is a workaholic econometrician. Stella’s mother has set her up on many bad blind dates, and Stella is ready to call it quits when a male coworker says she probably needs more practice. She decides to hire an escort to help her become better at pleasing men. Michael, the escort she hires, is taken off guard by Stella and how different she is from any other client. He’s very reluctant to tutor her in sex, but he needs the money and wants to protect her from a man who might take advantage of her. Helen Hoang’s own voices story is so important. Stella is different, but never perceived as less-than by Michael. I was completely hooked on their love story. I really loved how Hoang mixed the quirky sweetness of the story with the heat you really want from a romance. This book is definitely hyped for a reason and I highly recommend it. Just know that if you start reading you probably won’t put it down until you finish it! —Dana

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney

With the US edition of Sally Rooney’s second novel, Normal People, coming out in the spring, I took the time to read her stunning debut. Conversations with Friends is about a university student, Frances; her best friend, creative collaborator, and ex-girlfriend, Bobbi; Melissa, an established writer; and Melissa’s husband Nick, a moderately successful actor, with whom Frances begins an affair. What ensues is a deeply modern and observant novel about love, sex, power, intellect, and capitalism, told through a narrator with a capacity for both self-deception and unflinching introspection. The four characters shift around each other, sleep with each other, write about each other, and talk about all of it together. Through it all, Frances tries to maintain her sense of herself as a closed emotional system—nonreactive, impenetrable, unknowable. I didn’t expect to be so gutted by Frances’s insistence that she can intellectualize her way out of vulnerability, but there I was finishing the last few pages, tearing up over a glass of wine at the bar. —Nina

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

I read Riley Sager’s forthcoming thriller in about two sittings this week. Lock Every Door tells the story of a young, down-on-her-luck woman named Jules who accepts an unusual job offer. All she has to do is live in a beautiful apartment in a storied NYC building, and she’ll collect a thousand dollars a week for her trouble. Of course, there’s a catch. I loved Sager’s descriptions of Central Park: I left New York City last summer and I smiled reading about the trees and paths in my very favorite park. That said, I’m now thoroughly creeped out about any nighttime noises in my apartment and am heeding the advice in this book’s title. —Elizabeth

Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan

I recently read All the Light We Cannot See, a historical novel set during WWII, and many people recommended that I read Beneath a Scarlet Sky next. It follows a girl-crazy 17-year old named Pino Lella living in Milan during the Nazi occupation. Pino’s father sends him and his younger brother to a Catholic camp in the northern mountains right on the border of Switzerland. It’s not long before the priest in charge tasks Pino with guiding small groups of Jewish people up through the mountain trails to freedom in Switzerland. Beneath a Scarlet Sky is a work of historical fiction, but the author spent a lot of time with the real Pino Lella. Sullivan’s storytelling is so intriguing that I’m sad each time I have to set the book down. —Amanda

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

The Everlasting Rose just landed on my doorstep and that means it’s time for a Belles reread. This YA fantasy series follows Camellia Beauregard who, along with her sisters, seeks the coveted position of the favorite of the Queen of Orléans. Camellia longs to use her gifts as a Belle to serve the royal family, and I remember loving her ambition during my first read. The glittering world she inhabits hides dark secrets, and in this reread I’m looking forward to catching hints that I may have missed the first time around. Clayton’s descriptions are scrumptious; everything from gowns to makeup is compared to food. It made me hungry on my last read, so this time I’m going in prepared with some sweet treats on hand. —Kelly

Orlando by Virginia Woolf

Orlando is my absolute favorite book. I’ve read it probably ten times, for three different academic classes throughout my undergraduate and graduate school coursework and have picked it back up again. Virginia Woolf can be intimidating to a lot of readers, which I understand. But Orlando is a relatively straightforward read, at least in terms of prose. It is maybe less so in terms of content…Orlando is a fake biography of Orlando, an extremely handsome aristocratic British writer. Orlando has great legs, loves dogs, becomes a woman halfway through the novel, and lives for at least 400 years. It’s very matter-of-fact about the queer elements of the plot, which is delightful (especially for a book published in 1928). And for my money, it’s maybe the most radical narrative of gender transformation. It’s a lushly written jaunt through history, the travails of being a biographer, and writerly moodiness, and it captures how extraordinary it is to move through time and experience the present. —Nina

A Nordic King by Karina Halle

I’m a sucker for a good romance that features royalty, and A Nordic King reminded me of all the Hallmark movies that I watched this holiday season. Aurora is hired to be the nanny for the princesses of Denmark and her relationship with the king gets off to a rocky start. What follows is lots of crazy chemistry between Aurora and King Aksel, who both have tortured pasts and secrets. Over time they begin to heal together. If you’re in need of a fun pick-me-up kind of romance, Karina Halle’s Royal Romance series is just that! These books are all standalones in which the other characters pop up from time to time. I’ve already picked up The Swedish Prince! —Dana

Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut

I finished Mother Night and found it to be an elegant study on morality and a challenge to one’s own rationalization engine. The book asks the question “do the ends justify the means?” and it elegantly brings this tricky topic into focus. I see the ending of the book as Vonnegut’s opinion on the question. It’s a very relevant topic today, just as it was when the story took place (World War II), and when it was written in the 1980s. His works are all so timeless: If anyone was an undercover time traveler, it may very well have been Kurt Vonnegut. —Jon

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