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.
If you’re a fan of science fiction and magical realism, I’ve likely already recommended Lauren Beukes’ novels to you. They’re twisty, imaginative, horrifying, and unputdownable. Her latest release (on shelves November 29) is a collection of short stories and essays. I’m only a few stories in, but already hanging on Beukes’ every word. The early stories blend science fiction and reality in clever and creative ways. They’re grim, wry, and have left me wanting more. Beukes is an author who is doing great things, and only getting better. If you aren’t already reading her, you should be. —Kelly
This is a great book on the Revolutionary War for those who might usually steer clear of the much-discussed period. Lafayette in the Somewhat United States focuses mostly on the French involvement in the American Revolutionary War (including that young, idealistic, and titular Frenchman), as well as the politics surrounding army leadership positions, the major logistical failings of the Continental Army, and the general disunity that Sarah Vowell sees as the “through line in the national plot.” The book is peppered with Vowell’s own adventures as she researches the characters and events she describes, and she doesn’t hold back from sharing her opinions throughout either. For all those who have written off the Revolutionary War as an over-glorified piece of American history, Lafayette in the Somewhat United States is a fun way to look at it all with fresh eyes. Or ears, as it were, because the audiobook is great, with Vowell herself reading the majority of the text and a handful of talented actors popping in to read the quotations in character. (Who wouldn’t want Nick Offerman to voice George Washington?) —Kimberly
This book was highly recommended to me by one of my colleagues at NetGalley. She said I would probably finish it in one sitting. At 178 pages, at first, I thought she might be right. But it took me a while to get into this book. Based on the strength of the recommendation and the reputation of the author, I struggled well past my normal hang-in-there limit of 100 pages. It was worth it.
This is a fantasy story set in the southeast of England in the 1960s. The narrator returns to a place filled with strong memories from his childhood, and he relives them in the pages of this novel. I had never read anything by Neil Gaiman before, and was very pleased with his highly efficient style. You have to read every word or risk missing an important element or twist. While I found the novel difficult to get into, once I was in, I was all the way in. It was hard to put down, and, while it ended precisely where it should have, I was clearly hungry for it to go on longer. This book is an excellent read for all demographic categories. The story can be related to by young or old, male or female. Even though parts of the story were dark and scary, I was left with some part of me wishing I could have been the little boy at the center of the story. —Fran
I’ll be lacing up my shoes to race the TCS New York City Marathon this weekend, and have been rereading Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running in preparation. I’m a big fan of Murakami’s short fiction, and love that his careful, meditative prose translates so nicely to nonfiction. —Elizabeth
I picked up The Secret Life of Souls after seeing it on a Halloween-themed creepy psychological thrillers list. Although the book wasn’t creepy, or psychological, or a thriller, I still enjoyed it. It’s a quick read about an 11-year-old girl, her twin brother, their dog, and their terrible parents. Without giving too much away, the girl and her dog have a very special relationship, which leads to a very dramatic action-filled conclusion of the novel. I’m always hesitant to read books where dogs are the main character—I am still traumatized from reading Shiloh in 5th grade—but I dove in anyway. I was extra happy to read in the epilogue that one of the characters moved to an insanely small town in Sussex County, NJ where I grew up! —Amanda
Change of pace this week. I wanted a quick read with a gripping real-life story and I’ve found it with Fast Girl, a memoir by three-time Olympian Suzy Favor Hamilton, a middle-distance runner from my home state of Wisconsin. When I was younger, Suzy Favor dominated local sports pages for years—the greatest runner our state has produced. But her story took the strangest of twists after her Olympic career ended. A wife and mother working a 9-to-5 job in Madison, WI, she developed a double life as a thousand-dollar-a-night escort in Las Vegas. What a stunner! Blonde and fresh-faced, she parlayed her looks and fitness into an occupation that had her much in demand, and she craved more and more of the stimulation it afforded. Her memoir explores this experience, then moves on to the next phase of her life, when she got help with her bipolar mental condition, and began repairing her life and reputation. —Phil
A very fun mash-up of true historical events, a lot of not-so-true historical events, and a little bit of magic, My Lady Jane is the YA witty historical fantasy that we’ve all been waiting for. The book chronicles the tricky period of succession following Henry VIII’s death, when Protestant/Catholic tensions were at an all-time high in Britain… except in this story the tension is between shapeshifters (Eðians) and other humans (Verities). This humorous tale is told by three young narrators—Edward, Jane, and G—as they all try their hardest not to die when history says they did. The teen voices are authentic, sweet, and funny, and they do their best as teenagers to muddle through the complicated issues of royal duties, attempted murder, arranged marriage, treasonous plots, shapeshifting, and just trying to have a first kiss before an untimely death. My Lady Jane is such a unique combination of elements that it’s hard to compare to anything else, but it’s easy to recommend. —Kimberly
As an avid boater, I’m always moved by the unofficial Coast Guard motto: You have to go out, but you don’t have to come back. While we lounge idly in our warm homes during the worst storms and blizzards, the Coast Guard is inevitably heading out into the maelstrom to rescue some poor souls. I picked up this book because my family often cruises our boat in the very waters where this rescue mission unfolded in 1952. I can only imagine the debilitating cold and mountainous waves encountered by these rescuers and their survivors. This book is well written and carries the reader along through the personal journeys of the key players in the complex narrative of two separate but identical tankers that broke in half a mere 40 miles off Cape Cod. Survivors were stranded on all four halves of these broken ships, and our heroes headed out to save them in impossible conditions. This book was released as motion picture this year—which I will watch after the last page! —Doug
I return to Julia Cameron‘s The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity whenever I need a metaphorical kick in my writing pants. The first couple of times I tried to follow this 12-step program for those who are feeling blocked from achieving creativity, I was unsuccessful. But the last time I did (which was after a long dry spell), I planted the seeds for what became one of my favorite creative writing projects. Right now I’m in the same place of having been unable to focus at my desk and be vulnerable on the page, which is what Cameron and this book help me to do. This book offers advice that is both practical and otherworldly, as you follow Cameron’s steps, exercises, and guidance from week to week. The part of this practice that has worked best for me is the morning pages. What you do with morning pages is write longhand for three pages the first thing when you get up. You do not censor yourself. You do not edit. You do not write anything that you intend to ever share with anyone (not even yourself as you aren’t really meant to read these pages again). Basically, you just spew whatever comes to your mind for however long it takes you to write three pages. Doing this often makes me feel better, clearer for the rest of the day and definitely opens up my writing brain for whatever wants to penetrate it. This book isn’t just for writers, though; it’s for anyone attempting to follow a desired path and yet feeling stuck along the way. —Myf
One of my recent acquisitions is a wonderful coloring book. Though it is not technically a book you can read, I’m finding it very enjoyable and thought-provoking just the same. This is The Coloring Book You Always Wanted! by Frost Newton, a talented commercial and surrealist artist. This work is fanciful and a delight to color. The pages are very sturdy and can be used with paints as well as crayons and pencils. There are prints for all levels of artist. Some page are very detailed and require a longer time to complete. All in all, a fun book. —Barb