Staff Reads: May 18

Staff Reads: May 18

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.

The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

This novel has been on my radar since I started hearing buzz while working on Bookish’s Spring Previews earlier this year. I’m thrilled I’ve finally gotten around to picking it up. I’ve been reading it before bed and I find myself looking forward to the half-hour I get to spend inside Romy Hall’s head each evening. The story follows Romy’s time at Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility in California. I’ve just started this book, and so far, it is dark and very hard to put down. I have a feeling I’ll be consistently missing my bedtime until I finish this one. —Elizabeth

The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall

I’m currently reading through Jeanne Birdsall’s Penderwicks series. In this second installment, the family is back home and setting into a new school year. There’s a strong sense of nostalgia that permeates this series, and every time I read it I’m reminded of my own childhood adventures with my siblings (who played soccer with the same ferocity that Skye and Jane do). The girls are unique, but I have to admit that I find Mr. Penderwick’s arc in this book the most relatable. His sister is pushing him to start dating again and he (spoiler alert!) lies about going on dates so he can read alone in his office in peace. Oh, Mr. Penderwick, you little bookworm. —Kelly

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Frankenstein is way weirder than I remembered it. Maybe because most of what I remember about Frankenstein is actually from Young Frankenstein, which is a beast of a different type. Its nested narrative structure layers different men’s power trips—power over nature, power over people, power over science, power over reproduction—in such fascinating ways. Frankenstein’s monster has a deeply compelling and fraught relationship with human society: He is desperate to be accepted by his maker and the people he meets along the way, disappointed when humans fail to live up to the values of their art and culture, and vengeful when he is condemned to a lonely life on the margins of society. Read it for its historical value, for its feminist interrogations into reproduction, or for a good creepy scare in the night. Few classics remain this entertaining, sharp, and relevant. —Nina

From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein

Well, this is certainly a dishy and fun memoir. It’s about one of President Barack Obama’s stenographers. Beck has been out of work for a few months when she responds to an ad on Craigslist (of all places!) and gets called on an interview. The job listing makes no mention of where she’ll be working, just that she’s got to be a good typist. And she is one and so she easily gets the job. She flies through her background check because she had previously worked at Sidwell Friends School (and even bumped into one of the Obama girls by accident at one point). Right now I’m at her first day of work and she has yet to meet President Obama. I honestly can’t wait to find out what happens when she does. —Myf

Breathless by Beverly Jenkins

I’m making my way through Beverly Jenkins’ Old West series, admittedly backwards. I started with the last book in the series, Tempest, and now I’m moving onto the second. Set in the Arizona Territory, this book focuses on the romance between Portia, a bookkeeper, and Kent, a cowboy. The two first met years ago, and when they reconnect, sparks begin to fly. Their romance is sweet and satisfying, and I loved getting to reunite with a few characters from Tempest. With its descriptions of warm days and long, slow horse rides, this book has me longing for summer. I’ll definitely be adding the first book in this series to my summer TBR pile. —Kelly

The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Emily Wilson

I haven’t picked up The Odyssey since I was 14 years old, but I’m thrilled to dive in to Emily Wilson’s new translation of the epic poem. Hers is the first major translation by a woman, which in the poem’s millenia-long history is both long overdue and incredibly welcome. The translation is direct and completely engaging. The Robert Fitzgerald translation, which I read in high school began, ” Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story / of that man skilled in all ways of contending / the wanderer.” Wilson’s translation begins simply, “Tell me about a complicated man.” Sign me up! —Nina

Fall of Giants by Ken Follett

This is the first book in the Century trilogy by Ken Follett. I read the last book, Edge of Eternity, first, but it’s not necessary that you read them in order as the characters do change. This first book is mainly about World War I. Follett follows five families in different countries (England, Germany, Russia, and the United States) and the experiences they had during that time period. This story also includes the struggle for women’s right to vote, the miners strike in Wales, and the Bolshevik Revolution. It is a huge book but the print is large and easy to read. I found it just as enjoyable as Edge of Eternity, and I’m learning a lot that I didn’t already know. —Barb

The Boy and His Ribbon by Pepper Winters

I’m a sucker for anything Pepper Winters writes. She originally drew me in with her multiple dark romantic suspense series. The Boy and His Ribbon is unlike most of her well-known works, though it’s similar to one of my all-time favorites, Unseen Messages, which also features characters surviving in the wilderness. This scenario speaks to my wanderlust soul and moves me like no other. The Boy and His Ribbon follows Ren and Della, two children who escape abuse and a fate worse than any child should endure. Alone and fending for themselves, this pair grows up uneducated, unsocialized, and learning from each other. For children so young, they have such fierce love, devotion and determination. We’ve all had to deal with the ups and downs of growing up. Imagine facing your teenage years (which come with messy feelings and changes) without any guidance or expectations. Like every other Pepper Winters title in the past, I devoured this book. It tore my heart out. The ending left me in suspense, and I’m looking forward to the release of the second book in the Ribbon Series, The Girl and Her Ren, this June. —Alicia







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