Staff Reads: October 26

Staff Reads: October 26

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

Educated by Tara Westover

Like many of my NetGalley and Bookish colleagues, I sank my teeth into Tara Westover’s memoir, Educated. It’s a story of a young girl raised in a cultlike home, as the daughter of a prepper. She spends her time hauling junk with her father and brothers, and assisting her mother with midwifery in a deeply rural part of Idaho. Compelling in an almost prurient way, Westover describes the gruesome injuries she and her family members sustained that were treated only with salves as well as the moment she learned what the Holocaust was (it was in college). At its heart, Educated traces its roots back to some of the earliest American literature—the captivity narrative. It is one of a long line of stories about women held captive outside of the sphere of civilization, and what it means for them to try to (re)enter that space. —Nina

Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Vicious is written by V.E. Schwab, author of the Shades of Magic trilogy, which I loved. The book was recently re-released with a beautiful new cover from Will Staehle, the same artist who created the art for A Darker Shade of Magic and its follow ups. While Vicious is set in a more realistic world, its characters fall into the “ExtraOrdinary” category. The story follows Victor and Eli’s trajectory from brilliant and arrogant pre-med students, to adjusting to life with powers, to coming to terms with their differing understandings of the root and result of their power. It is part origin story, part revenge story, and very violent. I just started reading the sequel, Vengeful, and am looking forward to seeing what’s next for this series. —Kristina

Pride by Ibi Zoboi

It is a truth universally acknowledged that I love Pride & Prejudice retellings most ardently. Ibi Zoboi’s young adult novel takes the familiar story and transports it to Bushwick, where Afro-Latino poet Zuri Benitez is butting heads with Darius Darcy, whose wealthy family recently moved into the newly renovated mini-mansions across the street from her apartment building. Pride captures the spirit of Austen’s story, while still standing firmly on its own. There are clear parallels to the original, but Zoboi builds on Austen’s themes in clever and nuanced ways, particularly in her exploration of gentrification and black identity. I also loved the book’s focus on the definition of home. Zuri knows that her family is more important than anything, but she’s still given room to mourn and rage over the loss of the neighborhood as she knew it. This is a book I can’t wait to recommend to high school teachers and teens. —Kelly

I’ll Be Gone In the Dark by Michelle McNamara

I just finished reading I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, a book chronicling a string of seemingly related crimes in California in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. At the time Michelle McNamara was writing the book, the Golden State Killer, as she dubbed him, was still not caught and his identity remained a mystery. Sadly, the author passed away while writing this book and was not alive to see the GSK finally get caught a few weeks after the book was published. Though I’ll Be Gone in the Dark was completed with the help of her editor and research partners, it makes for a very unique true crime read. At the time of publication, the crimes were still unsolved, so rather than being a biography about a killer and their crimes—such as The Only Living Witness, about Ted Bundy, which I read earlier this year—this book is very much a record of the crimes, analysis of evidence, and scientific developments between the 60s when the crimes began and the present. The GSK was ultimately brought down by matching DNA on a free DNA ancestry site, which the author goes into detail about in her final chapters, not knowing how close she is to getting it right. One of the most fascinating parts of the book was how detailed her own research was, and how closely she worked with the cold case investigators in the last few years of her life. I was happy that in addition to writing a fantastic book, McNamara was also able to give back to the investigation. It was a surreal experience for me to read the book, knowing the author passed away in the midst of writing it and knowing the man was finally caught and will pay for his many crimes. I actually think I enjoyed it more because it was written with so many unknowns, and it certainly kept me up very late analyzing every little noise my house made. —Amanda

We Have Always Lived In the Castle by Shirley Jackson

You could say I am somewhat susceptible to peer pressure. After spending time with Jimmy Cajoleas’ piece for Bookish this week about his love for Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle, I knew I would have to check Jackson’s novel out for myself. I remember being thoroughly creeped out when I first read “The Lottery,” and I suspect I’m going to have a similarly spooky experience with this book. I’m going camping this weekend, and can’t wait to curl up in my sleeping bag with this book and a flashlight. —Elizabeth

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao

Now that I’ve gotten a bit of a grip on romance novels, thanks to Bookish editor Kelly’s recommendations, I’m now working on closing another gap in my reading diet: YA. Kelly is still giving me my reading lists, though. Most recently, I picked up Julie C. Dao’s Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. It starts off like a lot of fairytales and YA novels do—a beautiful but poor girl with big dreams and a vague sense of prophecy sets off to the big city/palace where it’s all happening. Our hero, Xifeng, even has the requisite lunk of a guy who is muscled, handsome, and extremely devoted to her (similar to other guys like this from teen-centered pop culture—the boys from Hunger Games or Riley from Buffy). But then, the story starts taking darker and bloodier twists as you begin to see exactly which fairytale Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is a retelling of, and from whose perspective. This is a great Halloween read. —Nina

The Little Red Wolf by Amélie Fléchais

If you’re looking for a quick read this Halloween, I’d recommend spending the evening with The Little Red Wolf. This picture book reverses the roles of the famous “Little Red Riding Hood” story and features a young wolf who finds himself at the mercy of a hunter and his daughter. Fans of Grimm’s fairytales or Leigh Bardugo’s A Language of Thorns will love both the stunning imagery and the clever twists and turns that play off the reader’s knowledge of the original tale. This is fairytale retelling at its finest—the ideal eerie and sinister read for this spooky holiday. —Kelly

Grim Lovelies by Megan Shepherd

Grim Lovelies is the first book in a new YA fantasy series, and Megan Shepherd’s new mythology is addictive. Anouk is a “beastie”—an animal turned human—and her life is at the whim of Mada Vittora, the witch that made her. But when Mada Vittora is murdered, Anouk must navigate the threats of the Haute (an underground society that controls Paris) and the goblins who want to use her, all while protecting her small family of other beasties and discovering her own power. —Kristina

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