Staff Reads: November 30

Staff Reads: November 30

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 need reading inspiration, check out our Fall Previews for a look at the best books of the season.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

I am in the middle of An American Marriage, and so far, I have been completely blown away. The characters have such strong, distinctive voices that I feel as though they are real people I know rather than fictional beings I’m encountering on the page. This book really is as good as everyone says. Elizabeth

The Other Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn

Confession time: I’ve never read Julia Quinn. Her books have been on my TBR list for years—especially those about the widely beloved and soon-to-be Netflix famous Bridgerton family. With this new book coming out, I decided to finally take the plunge and I’m so glad I did The Other Miss Bridgerton follows Poppy Bridgerton as she’s kidnapped by pirates privateers and taken across the sea to Portugal. To save her reputation, she remains below deck where she’s bored silly—except during the moments when Captain Andrew descends below to join her. Poppy is a fantastic heroine: endlessly curious, spunky, and brave even in moments of darkness. Andrew is an equally wonderful hero, one who is torn up over the secrets he must keep to protect the people he cares about (including Poppy). The flirting here is top notch, and I found myself sneaking pages at every possible opportunity. I’m thrilled that there are so many other Bridgerton (and Rokesby!) books to explore. —Kelly

The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

I just finished reading The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh. The publisher has called this “The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Virgin Suicides” and even Margaret Atwood got in on the praise, calling it, “A gripping, sinister fable!” I tend to agree—I couldn’t put it down, despite the knots of discomfort it put in my stomach. It touches on escapism and ritual, the bonds of family and desire of all kinds. It’s like a violent storm breaking a heat wave. —Kristina

An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole

This is a steamy and high-stakes historical romance set during the Civil War. Elle is a free black woman posing as a slave to gather information using her incredible ability for perfect recall. Malcolm is a white man posing as a soldier in the Confederate army for the same spy network. Their paths cross and their attraction is undeniable. But, for their espionage to be successful, Malcolm must treat Elle as property and Elle must keep her mouth shut as she survives the abuses and traumas of slavery. The plot is exciting, the chemistry palpable, but the best part of this book is its understanding of racism. The biggest impediment to their relationship is not the war, not some scheming ex, not the evil Southern belle vying for Malcolm’s affections; it’s structural racism. Elle has every reason to distrust white men, including white men who are for the Union. Because, in her experience, even if they don’t support slavery, they don’t see black people as equal to white people. The two of them live in a world where black women are treated as chattel and as objects, and where white men get to move in the world with impunity. It’s great to see the two of them forge something lovely out of these societal conditions. —Nina

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker

The Dreamers is a novel about a small California town struck down by a mysterious sleeping sickness. The story is as haunting as the dreams that the sick experience, and Walker’s language is powerful as she explores individual characters’ responses to the threat of falling asleep. This is both a harrowing view at a town in crisis and an intimate look at how relationships fare through it all. —Kristina

Beautiful Sinner by Sophie Jordan

Sophie Jordan knows how to write romance. To me, a great romance novel is one you start reading and then realize hours have passed. That is what happened when I read Beautiful Sinner. This story follows aspiring journalist Gabriella, who was bullied all throughout high school because of her weight, as she returns home to help take care of her grandmother. She is reunited with her high school crush bad boy Cruz Walsh, who was recently exonerated for the murder of her cousin. This forbidden love affair is heightened when the two get locked in a janitor’s closet overnight and things get very hot and heavy. I really enjoyed Jordan’s attention to character development for both Gabriella and Cruz, which made the romance more of a slow burn. If you’re in the mood for an addicting trope-filled romance, Beautiful Sinner will not disappoint.  —Dana

The Hidden Witch by Molly Knox Ostertag

Halloween may be long over, but I like to keep things witchy throughout the entire fall season. Last year I read and loved Molly Knox Ostertag’s The Witch Boy, so I was thrilled to pick up a copy of the sequel The Hidden Witch. This book picks up shortly after the last left off with Aster beginning to learn the art of witchcraft and struggling to prove himself. When a new witch comes to town and her powers threaten his friend Charlie, Aster must use all of his newfound knowledge to save her. Both books in this series focus on the idea that people who are hurting often lash out and hurt others. Their behavior is never excused: They’re held accountable for their actions, but they’re never treated as irredeemable villains. They’re given support and understanding and second chances—something this new witch desperately needs. I love the way Ostertag handles this theme, and I can’t wait to see where the next book in this series leads! —Kelly

Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds by adrienne maree brown

adrienne maree brown is one of the wisest and sharpest folks thinking about how to build a better future. Emergent Strategy takes its name from the scientific concept of emergence, where living organisms organize themselves collectively without clear hierarchy and leadership. Emergence is how starlings can fly together in big swooping clouds without bumping into each other or hurting one another. adrienne maree brown describes the way that nature organizes itself to grow and thrive (how mushrooms transmit nutrients and energy across a vast, decentralized network, for example) and uses it as a roadmap for how humans can think about thriving together in an uncertain future and in a present full of violence and inequality. It’s a book of thoughts, tools, spells, and ideas that are strategic, practical, optimistic, and rigorous. I am looking forward to seeing how it changes the way I move in the world. —Nina

The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

As a huge Jack Reacher fan, I was immediately intrigued hearing that The Escape Room by Megan Goldin was one of Lee Child’s favorite books of the year. I decided I had to read it, and I’m so glad I did. I devoured this book in about three hours last weekend. I simply could not put it down! Four Wall Street finance executives participate in a required corporate team building exercise that has them trying to escape a locked elevator. When nerves start to flare and everyone ends up on edge, secrets start to come out and a murderer is exposed. This is hands down one of the best psychological thrillers I’ve read this year! —Alicia

The Darkest Star by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Jennifer L. Armentrout is my most read author with a whopping 21 books under my reading belt. This latest release is a spin-off to her bestselling Lux series, which were the first books that I read by her. In anticipation of The Darkest Star, I reread the entire alien paranormal romance series and I couldn’t put it down. I remembered right away why I loved it in the first place. The characters are funny, the romance is swoony, and the plot is action-packed. As a result of my reread, the original story was at the forefront of my mind as I went into this new story in the same universe, which unfortunately didn’t live up to the Lux series for me. I loved seeing Luc, a standout of the first series, as the main character of this story. It was interesting to see the conflicts that arose after the alien invasion of the final book Opposition. There were plenty of great nods to Daemon and Katy that I wanted to see in the spin-off. However, I found the main character Evie to be bland and not compelling. The plot was very predictable, which wouldn’t bother me if there was more going on in the story but it wasn’t overly complex so it was obvious what the twist was. I did really enjoy the chemistry between Luc and Evie. I wish we got more of the romance in this first book, which makes me inclined to pick up the sequel to see where Armentrout takes these characters and this world. —Dana

The Reckoning by Sharon Kay Penman

This novel tells the story of Wales and its relationship to the English crown in the 13th century. Fraught with intrigue and subterfuge, this book is a great look into medieval history. It follows the Welsh as they fight to keep their independence. Tired of the battles against the English hoards and arguments amongst his own men, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, the last Prince of Wales, decides to make peace. Surrounded by those plotting against him, Llywelyn’s only happy moments are those spent with his bride, Eleanor de Montfort. Though this is the third installment in Penman’s trilogy, this book can stand alone and is a great read for history buffs. —Barbara

Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut

I picked this one up for my book club. This story is the fictional memoir of Howard W. Campbell Jr., an American who lived in Nazi Germany and is writing while awaiting trial for war crimes. He tells the story of his life, from his days as a famous playwright to his time as a double agent and American spy while working as a Nazi propagandist. This is my first Vonnegut novel and I totally am hooked. —Kirsten

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