What We’re Reading: November 18

What We’re Reading: November 18

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

Still Life

A coworker recommended Louise Pennys Still Life to me. I was immediately drawn in by the beautifully written opening (beautiful even though it opens with a murder). I’m intrigued by the setting, a place I am familiar with, having spent my formative years in Quebec and northern New York. This book has me hooked and I wish I had more time in the day so that I could sit and read it straight through. —Myf

The Paper Menagerie

I’m about halfway through Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu. This collection of sci-fi and fantasy short stories is mesmerizing! Book lovers will especially love the first story—”The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species.” So far, my personal favorite is the second story: “State Change.” Whether he’s describing the vastness of the universe, or a microscopic race, Liu’s stories connect the reader with all types of humanity across space and time. The book includes one never-before-published story, as well as a selection of some of his “best” short fiction (read: lots of awards like the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award). —Kristina

The Magicians

I started reading Lev Grossman’s The Magicians trilogy after countless friends recommended it to me. There’s also a new SyFy TV series based on the books that is getting great reviews, but I wanted to read the series before watching. I’m about a third of the way into the first book and I’m finding it hard to put down. Grossman plops you into a magical American college, reminiscent of Hogwarts—in fact, there are a few Quidditch jokes thrown in—but for adults, like me! This is definitely a great read for the Harry Potter generation, readers like myself who have grown up but are still itching to escape into a magical world. After a few pages, the reader no longer questions how things are possible or what things mean because the answer is always “magic is real.” I’m excited to finish this book and move on to the next two! —Amanda


A “Beauty and the Beast”-inspired YA novel where Beauty is a trans girl? Sign me up! Our readers know that I am a sucker for any kind of “B&B” retelling, and since November is Transgender Awareness Month, this title feels particularly fitting to pick up right now. I’m only a few chapters in, but I’m loving Dylan (our Beast) and his charming, self-deprecating humor. Life isn’t going too well for him right now, and I can’t wait for the moment that he meets Jamie, falls in love, and his whole world is turned upside down. —Kelly

Good Night Stories For Rebel Girls

I’m overwhelmed by this book—completely and utterly overwhelmed. This was a labor of love created by two extraordinary women, Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo, who were tired of gender stereotyping in children’s books, and saw a lack of books celebrating strong women. So, they took it upon themselves to create a bedtime story collection highlighting 100 historically important women, paired with gorgeous illustrations, created by female artists from around the world. They launched the book on Kickstarter, with a goal of $40,000 and they hit that within 24 hours, and collected more than $650,0000. The book obviously resonated with a lot of people. I’ll be reading it myself and to my niece but recommend it for everyone (boys and girls). —Tarah

The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606

Ever since the election, I’ve been thinking about William Shakespeare. I’ve felt a need to revisit what the Bard made art out of political turmoil, ego-driven leaders, the way vaulting ambition, a lust for power (and other things). That led me to James Shapiro’s book The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606. 1606 was the year Shakespeare wrote a trio of great tragedies: King Lear, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra. Writing with style and verve, this Columbia professor with an accessible touch looks at how Shakespeare produced such masterful work in part by ingeniously responding to what was going on at the time: England’s new leader, the thwarted Gunpowder Plot (which would have wiped out the royal family, top clergy, and others, had the explosion occurred), outbreaks of plague, and more. The book grabbed me from the get-go, and has me wanting to read Shapiro’s previous acclaimed books on Shakespeare, Contesting Will and 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare. —Phil


My dad and sister have both read Kon-Tiki and gave it glowing reviews. After reading very similar YA books over the last couple of months, I decided I needed to stray from my usual reads and give this nonfiction adventure book a shot. Not having read a lot of nonfiction stories, I was pleasantly surprised at how well Thor Heyerdahl relayed his tale in a unique and exciting way. Heyerdahl went against the scientific community in order to prove that his theory of the origination of the Polynesians was correct. His persistence and motivation are inspiring and provide a very important underlying message for all readers. Heyerdahl perfectly balances factual information with his personal experiences aboard the Kon-Tiki in a way that captivates the reader and leaves them wanting more. Personally, this story was definitely a gateway novel for the nonfiction adventure genre for me, and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in reading about this man’s journey into the unknown. —Jillian

Missy Piggle-Wiggle and the Whatever Cure

I have fond memories of reading the original Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books so many years ago, and it’s been a pleasure to re-read them with my five-year-old daughter over the past year. (Of course, reading them nowadays makes you realize how much less PC they are, and how much the world has changed since their original publication!) So we were very excited to discover this new series—and what a perfect idea, to use Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s niece as the main character while still remaining in the same world as the originals—but I’ll admit that I was a tiny bit worried that it wouldn’t hold a candle to the stories we know and love. I’m so glad that was not the case! We loved Missy Piggle-Wiggle, and my daughter got so much joy out of recognizing and remembering the previous Piggle-Wiggle stories as they were referenced in the first chapter (not to mention, of course, the hilarious pets in Lester the pig and Penelope the parrot). She said she liked Missy Piggle-Wiggle as much as the old books, and in particular her favorite is the Gum-Smacking Cure chapter. Each night—as is the true testament to a child’s love for a book—she begged me to read just one more chapter. And as the adult, there was much to love too: I was thrilled that even though this is being billed as middle grade it was still completely suitable to read with my five year old, and I enjoyed the just-subtle-enough beginnings of romance between Missy and local bookstore owner Harold. The entire book was charming from start to finish, and stayed incredibly close to the originals in tone and detail. No doubt this series will be enjoyable for new readers too, but it’s especially delightful for us longtime fans. —Lindsey







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