What We’re Reading: December 9

What We’re Reading: December 9

Here are the Bookish staff’s personal weekend reading recommendations; have you read any of them? Tell us in the comments what you’ll be reading this weekend! If you’re still looking for some inspiration, check out our Winter Previews for a look at the best books of the season.

The Bear and the Nightingale

If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times: I’m a sucker for fairy tales. This novel by Katherine Arden truly reads like folklore that has been passed down for generations. Though I’m usually reading it on my phone on a packed subway car, this book makes me feel as though I’m by a crackling fire listening to a storyteller. Set in Russia during the 14th century, The Bear and the Nightingale centers on a girl named Vasya and her role in keeping the ancient spirits of her world alive when a priest comes to exorcise them. If seeing it on our Winter SFF Preview wasn’t enough to sway you, then I’m telling you now: Folklore lovers, read this book. —Kelly

Cooked

I love Michael Pollan’s writing and the way he blends narrative with science and history. After staring at Cooked on my shelf for months, I’ve finally decided to pick it up. In it, Pollan educates readers about four major ways humans have traditionally transformed their foods via cooking. I’m particularly excited to get to the chapters on fermentation, which I’ve heard are fascinating! —Elizabeth


BUY

More Than This

This eerie YA novel starts out with the death of the main character, 16-year-old Seth, and it only gets weirder from there. Seth tries to navigate his way through his strange new reality, which appears to be the small town he grew up in, a continent and an ocean away from where he died. As he explores the seemingly deserted town, Seth meets up with a few others like him. As they try to evade someone—or something—that seems intent on capturing them, the kids wonder which of their lives is the real one, the one where they died, or this? Patrick Ness does a wonderful job of meshing the trials and tribulations of teenage life and strife with the spooky peculiarity of the world where Seth finds himself after his death. For a scaredy-cat like me, this book was not a great one to read before bed, and yet I was so curious about the “truth” of Seth’s situation that I couldn’t put it down. More Than This is a little bit of teen drama, with some mysterious sci-fi elements, and an exploration of what is real and what people live for. If someone lives a miserable life in reality, is that really any better than a happy life that’s an illusion? This book leaves you with more questions than it answers, and honestly, it’s better for it. —Kimberly

Searching for John Hughes

As someone who spent years in Los Angeles as a young writer working on a biopic of Texas author Katherine Anne Porter, I was instantly drawn to Jason Diamond’s new memoir. Diamond, too, had an epic early project—a biography of prolific Hollywood director John Hughes—and like my biopic, it eventually came to naught. Searching for John Hughes is terrific simply as an account of an apprentice scribe coming to New York City burning with passion and a big idea, then facing the various realities that confront any NYC aspirant unless they arrive a trustafarian with wunderkind talent. But Searching is more than this. It’s an extraordinarily moving account of someone who overcame a painful, abusive childhood, thanks in part to some Chicagoans with great goodness in their hearts, including a high-school English teacher who gave shelter to a homeless Diamond and helped fire his love for literature. The book put tears in my eyes more than once and—at the risk of being corny—helped fill me with holiday spirit, with hope, at a time when I needed it. Funny, smart, and down to earth, filled with observations conjuring Chicago’s North Shore—Hughes country—Searching is also a treat for any fans of John Hughes and his many memorable movies. —Phil

The Bone Labyrinth

I love to read James Rollins when I’m looking for a fanciful escape. His books are always an enjoyable ride of little-known science facts and swashbuckling protagonists. And I always love to read the afterword that explains what is truth and what is fiction.

The Bone Labyrinth explores the question of how humans got to be so intelligent. There was a “Great Leap Forward” in our intelligence that happened 40,000 years ago and separated us from all other species. Was it crossbreeding between Neanderthals and other hominid species? Was it aliens? How does faith in God play into all of this? What if we could engineer another “Great Leap Forward”?

These are all questions that this thrilling novel attempts to tease out. All of the Sigma Force novels are fun and exciting, and this one is no exception. —Fran

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