I can’t believe it’s October already and that I’ve been back at my school library job since the end of August. This school year has been as chaotic as I expected, but it’s also been good, albeit consistently busy. I feel as if I barely have time to take a breath some days, but it’s nice being back.
I intended to read a lot over the summer, but it didn’t happen. I was busier than I anticipated, but honestly, I didn’t want to read some days. And when I did want to pick up a book again, I found myself in a dreadful reading slump. Thankfully, I’ve recovered. Today I’m sharing the books I read in August and September along with some other things that have been bringing me joy.
What I Read
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead Rating: 5/5
The Nickel Boys centers on Elwood, a young black man growing up in the 1960s who has a bright future ahead of him. One mistake costs him that future, though, and sends him to the Nickel Academy, a brutal reform school. The things that happen to Ellwood and his new friends at this “school” are horrifying, especially considering this book is based on a real place. This novel tells a dark but essential story that reveals the heartbreaking consequences of the shameful Jim Crow South.
Tenth of December by George Saunders Rating: 4/5
I finished The Nickel Boys on August 6th and finished this on September 21st. In between, I started and stopped several books, but nothing held my interest. A friend recommended I read two specific stories in this collection, and I liked them so much that I quickly devoured the whole book. (George Saunders, thank you for ending my reading slump.) Tenth of December is witty, surprising, and unlike any story collection I’ve ever read. “The Semplica-Girl Diaries” is the star of the show and one of the best pieces of short fiction I’ve read in a long time.
A Nearly Normal Family by M. T. Edvardsson; translated by Rachel Willson-Broyles Rating: 3/5
Stella is a teen girl getting ready to head out into the world on a trip she’s been planning for a long time. Everything changes, though, when she’s arrested and accused of murdering a man. Like any parents, hers are willing to do whatever it takes to prove their daughter’s innocence. A Nearly Normal Family is a solid thriller, but parts of the story didn’t ring true for me. Despite that, the ending pulled things together in a satisfying way, so I’m glad I finished this one.
Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style by Benjamin Dryer Rating: 4/5
This book is an absolute delight. I understand that a book about grammar might not sound like the most exciting reading material, but Dreyer’s English is as funny as it is helpful. If you want to brush up on your writing skills, look no further. It’s as if David Sedaris wrote a book especially for nerdy English majors.
Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love by Jonathan Van Ness Rating: 4/5
I love people who are unabashedly themselves, and Jonathan Van Ness is precisely that. In this memoir, the Queer Eye star discusses his life as a bullied child, an addict, and reveals his HIV status, yet Over the Top isn’t a sad book. Van Ness narrates the audiobook himself, and I laughed out loud many times while listening. His joy for life is infectious, and his devotion to his mom is beautiful.
What I Loved
DRINK: Canada Dry Diet Ginger Ale Lemonade
Jamie B. Golden of the Popcast recommended this drink, and since I trust Jamie’s makeup and skincare recommendations, I assumed she has good taste in beverages, too. She does. This drink is delicious in every way. It’s refreshing and light, and I’m sad I’m not drinking it right now.
PODCAST: Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend
Conan is one of my favorite comedians, so it makes sense that I’d love his podcast. Each week, Conan interviews a guest. Many are fellow comedians, but he’s spoken with Michelle Obama and Lyndon Johnson’s biographer, too. Every episode is hilarious and leaves me wanting more. The show is on hiatus right now, and I can’t wait until the next season kicks off. By the way, don’t miss the Stephen Colbert and Bob Newhart episodes.
MUSIC: Lover by Taylor Swift
I fell in love with Taylor Swift’s 1989 album, but never enjoyed her followup, Reputation. Because of that, I had low expectations for Lover, but it won me over upon first listen. It’s been on repeat since its release, particularly the tracks “Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince” and “You Need to Calm Down.”
DRINK: Pumpkin Sweet Cream Cold Brew
I have loved pumpkin spice lattes since I was in the womb (or so it seems). I don’t care that there’s no pumpkin to be found in a PSL. I don’t care that drinking one makes me “basic.” All I care about is pumpkiny goodness. Well, this year, Starbucks has given me more than I could have ever wanted or deserved: the pumpkin sweet cream cold brew. I drink iced coffees amid blizzards, so this drink is right up my alley as the temperature begins to cool. It’s not too sweet, yet it still gives me the autumnal flavor I need. (LIFE HACK: If you’re like me and have given up caffeine, order a decaf iced Americano and asked for the pumpkin cream on top. You’re welcome.)
I hope this was at least mildly entertaining. If it wasn’t, don’t tell me. But do tell me what you’ve been reading lately.
This month marks my fourteenth anniversary of library work. In that time, I’ve shelved, shifted, repaired, cataloged, purchased, and weeded a lot of books between my public and school library jobs. People (including myself at times) can think of books as precious treasures to be valued forever, but not all books deserve that type of adoration.
One of my favorite websites is the delightful Awful Library Books. (Their tagline is “Hoarding is not collection development.” Amen!) I’ve enjoyed this site and the book covers they feature for a long time, and I realized recently I have my own collection of awful library books to share with the world.
Over the years, I’ve taken snapshots or have written down titles of books that have, for whatever reason, made me laugh. Today I’m sharing some of my “favorites” with you. These are books I’ve actually seen in person, either in a public or school library. I’m not commenting on the quality of these books, just pointing out that the title and/or cover cracks me up. I think you’ll see why.
I remember seeing this book during Jimmy Fallon’s Do Not Read segment a few years back. Imagine my delight when it showed up at the public library. I’ve shown it to multiple coworkers and live in constant fear of it getting weeded. It makes me happy every time I see it on the shelf.
I have several questions:
Are anteaters violent?
Why did this anteater presumably murder someone?
Why did Betty Webb choose to write a book about anteaters?
I feel sad that my brother and I have never taken a similar photo.
I like cats. I like the occasional craft. What I definitely don’t like are crafts made from cat hair.
On one hand, they definitely should have gone with another cover. But on the other hand, I love this one so much.
I saw this romance novel on the shelf many years ago, but have never forgotten it. Why is the wife so innocent? Who’s going to help the poor shame-filled baby? Is there hope for mother and baby to have a flourishing relationship someday? Fingers crossed.
Computer issues are indeed a bummer, man.
Surely any other photo of a potato–and I mean any–would have been better than this one. Whoever signed off on this cover was having a rough day and just wanted to get out of the office ASAP.
Joanna Rohrback, you’re a legend. You’re living your best life and I’m here for it, though I don’t totally understand why there are two of you and a horse on this book cover. (To see prancercise in action, click here.)
Who knew world peace was sew simple? (I’m sorry.)
This book was on the shelf in a high school library. In 2012. It had to go, but not before I savored this cover. (The man sort of looks like Stephen Colbert, right?)
What are the books that have made you laugh, roll your eyes, cringe, or all three? I’d love to know about your awful library books!
After taking a blogging break in July, I’m happy to be back in this space. I haven’t read nearly as much this summer as I had intended, but I’m okay with that. Relaxing through other activities has been a nice change of pace.
Falling behind on my reading got me thinking about the idea for this post, though. Something all book lovers know is that it’s impossible to keep up with all the books that are published every week. I know I’m not alone in buying books faster than I can read them or checking out way too many from the library at one time. The sad truth for all readers is that we’ll never be able to read everything we’d like. Because of that, it’s easy to miss out on great books and authors.
Today I want to highlight a few books that deserve more love. It’s not as if these books haven’t had success, but I don’t hear them talked about as much in blogs or on Instagram as I do other titles. I’d love to hear what books make your list.
I Want to Show You More by Jamie Quatro
I read this book of short stories back in 2013, and I’m still thinking about it. Jamie Quatro is a gifted, lyrical writer who produces stories about our deepest emotions and beliefs. Quatro gets underneath the surface of things and creates characters who are confronting darkness head-on. The stories in this collection are distinctive and potent, touching on things like marriage, death, theology, and family bonds. If you like short stories, don’t miss this collection. (Quatro’s novel, Fire Sermon, is also fantastic.)
Night Film by Marisha Pessl
I’ve talked about this book on the blog before (here, here, and here), and I’ll keep talking about it until more people fall in love with Marisha Pessl. I’ve read a lot of mysteries and thrillers, but I’ve never read anything like Night Film. It’s long, but it never feels long. It’s dark, creepy, and twisted, but isn’t too grisly for my sensitive self. It’s fiction, but thanks to the inclusion of articles, screenshots, and photos, it seems like real life. I was astounded by this novel about a mysterious death when I read it, and I think you’ll feel the same.
This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America by Morgan Jerkins
Two facts about this book amaze me. One is that it’s a debut and the other is that the author is only in her twenties. This collection of essays feels like the work of someone who’s been writing for decades. Each essay is full of vulnerability and fierce precision. Jerkins is a natural storyteller who addresses hard topics but makes it look easy. Jerkins narrates the audio version of this book, and listening to her read her work made my reading experience even more powerful and authentic.
What We Lost by Sara Zarr
Young adult author Sara Zarr has received critical acclaim, yet she’s not nearly as popular as many other writers in the YA world. I’ve enjoyed all of her books, but this one is my favorite. It tells the story of Samara, a pastor’s kid whose world is falling apart. Her mom just got a DUI, her dad spends more time at church than he does at home, and a girl gets kidnapped in Samara’s town. As Samara’s family crumbles and her worldview shifts, Zarr explores her faith evolution with tenderness and honesty. That’s one of the qualities that makes her work so unique and special to me.
Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe
This charming book about a father/daughter duo on an overseas trip is just fantastic. Vera is a teen girl who recently suffered a psychotic break at a party. Her dad is just beginning to get involved in her life and decides what she needs is a change of scenery. The two head to Lithuania for the summer, the homeland of Vera’s great-grandmother. On their trip they encounter family secrets that have long been buried, proving that you can’t run from your problems. This book is a gem.
What books do you think deserve a wider audience? What are some underrated favorites? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
I’m finally on summer vacation from work. So far, my days have included a lot of sleeping, lounging, reading, TV-watching, and general laziness. I cannot recommend these things enough.
I’m excited to share what I read in June, but I’ve decided to switch up these monthly recaps a bit. In addition to the books I read, I also want to include things I loved throughout the month, whether it’s a podcast or a recipe. I’d love for you to share your favorite things too in the comments below.
Let’s get going.
What I Read
The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan Rating: 4/5
When Irish detective Cormac Reilly first started his career twenty years ago, he was called to a house in the middle of nowhere in which he found a woman who had overdosed on heroin. She left behind two kids, Maude and Jack. When The Ruin opens, Jack has just committed suicide, but his sister and girlfriend don’t believe that’s true. With the past resurfacing, Reilly is told to re-open the investigation of Jack’s mother’s death, which also might not be what it seems.
I enjoyed this dark and twisty crime story. Reilly is an engaging, well-developed character who never forgot Maude and Jack and what they went through. The blurb on the cover of this book says it’s perfect for fans of Tana French, and I agree. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in this series.
The Night Before by Wendy Walker Rating: 2/5
Laura was devastated by an awful breakup, which led her to leave her life in New York City to move in with Rosie, her sister, and brother-in-law. Laura decides to give online dating a try, but when she doesn’t come home from a date, Rosie knows something is wrong and sets out to find her. Due to an incident in Laura’s past, Rosie doesn’t know whether Laura might be a victim or a perpetrator.
Though this book is entertaining, it lacks depth and nuance. I like thrillers that have well-rounded characters and believable twists, and I don’t think The Night Before has either.
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware Rating: 3/5
Lo is a travel journalist who finally has a good assignment: she gets to spend a week on a new luxury cruise that offers beautiful scenery, pampering, and fine dining. One night in her cabin, Lo hears what sounds like a scream and a body thrown over the side of the ship. She looks outside and sees blood on a partition next to her room. When she reports what happened, the head of security doubts her story. All the guests are present, the blood has been cleaned up, and Lo has a few reasons why she might not be the most reliable witness.
The Woman in Cabin 10 is a fun read that’s perfect for summer. The novel has solid pacing and just enough creepiness to keep things interesting.
Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy Rating: 4/5
Though I read three thrillers in June, this nonfiction book was the most gripping page-turner I read all month. Beth Macy’s account of America’s opioid epidemic is utterly fascinating. She weaves together threads of poverty, addiction, politics, and a corrupt pharmaceutical company and presents a story as compelling as it is heartbreaking. If you’re looking for a better understanding of opioid addiction, this book is a must-read.
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh Rating: 4/5
This novel’s protagonist has a life many young women envy. She’s a young, thin, beautiful blonde who is living in NYC, thanks to her inheritance. She works at an art gallery and has an older man who’s interested in her. She’s unsatisfied and unmotivated, though, and begins seeing a psychiatrist who gives her exactly what she wants: the ability to numb everything she doesn’t want to feel and the chance to just sleep for a year.
My Year of Rest and Relaxation is worth all the hype it’s received. This novel is an absolute delight and one I wish I would have read sooner. (If you like this book, check out The New Me by Halle Butler. It has a similar theme and tone.)
Journalist Neil Strauss hosts this show which investigates the disappearance of Adea Shabani, a beautiful 25-year-old aspiring actress who came to Hollywood to chase her dreams. This true-crime podcast is the first I’ve ever binge-listened. (Is that a thing? I think it’s a thing.)
Jack has been trying to get his music career off the ground for over ten years with no luck. As he’s heading home one night after a gig, the entire world loses power for twelve seconds, and something strange happens: certain things that were once beloved no longer exist. Jack remembers the Beatles, but no one else does. He knows this is his chance to make it big, so he passes off their music as his own and quickly becomes the most famous musician in the world.
I liked this film even more than I thought I would, even though the plotline has a few holes. I’ve loved the Beatles ever since I was a little kid, and this movie reminded me of why.
I LOVE THIS LITTLE CHOPPER SO MUCH. I’m not a good or fast chopper, so I use this a lot. Even though it’s not motorized, it’s fast and powerful. It can handle crunchy carrots just as well as it handles hardboiled eggs. This is one of my most used kitchen tools.
My summer break officially begins on Friday, and I cannot wait. People have been asking me what I plan to do over the summer, and my answer is absolutely nothing, which actually means sitting in front of a fan and reading a large stack of books.
One of my summer reading goals is to read a lot of the stuff that’s on my shelves already. I’ve owned some books for years and need to either read them or pass them on. I was excited about this plan, and then I realized how many library holds I’ve placed for books coming out over the next couple of months. Summer hasn’t even started yet, and I’m already buried in summer reading choices.
Today I want to share 15 new books that I’m excited to read this summer. My list includes mysteries, thrillers, essays, historical fiction, and some quirky novels. The first two books on my list have already been released, but the rest come out over the next few months. I know I won’t get to all of them by the time I go back to work in August, but I’m certainly going to try.
All summaries are from Goodreads.
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
In 1940, nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris has just been kicked out of Vassar College, owing to her lackluster freshman-year performance. Her affluent parents send her to Manhattan to live with her Aunt Peg, who owns a flamboyant, crumbling midtown theater called the Lily Playhouse. There Vivian is introduced to an entire cosmos of unconventional and charismatic characters, from the fun-chasing showgirls to a sexy male actor, a grand-dame actress, a lady-killer writer, and no-nonsense stage manager. But when Vivian makes a personal mistake that results in professional scandal, it turns her new world upside down in ways that it will take her years to fully understand. Ultimately, though, it leads her to a new understanding of the kind of life she craves-and the kind of freedom it takes to pursue it. It will also lead to the love of her life, a love that stands out from all the rest.
Now ninety-five years old and telling her story at last, Vivian recalls how the events of those years altered the course of her life – and the gusto and autonomy with which she approached it.
Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett
One morning, Jessa-Lynn Morton walks into the family taxidermy shop to find that her father has committed suicide, right there on one of the metal tables. Shocked and grieving, Jessa steps up to manage the failing business, while the rest of the Morton family crumbles. Her mother starts sneaking into the shop to make aggressively lewd art with the taxidermied animals. Her brother Milo withdraws, struggling to function. And Brynn, Milo’s wife—and the only person Jessa’s ever been in love with—walks out without a word. As Jessa seeks out less-than-legal ways of generating income, her mother’s art escalates—picture a figure of her dead husband and a stuffed buffalo in an uncomfortably sexual pose—and the Mortons reach a tipping point. For the first time, Jessa has no choice but to learn who these people truly are, and ultimately how she fits alongside them.
Fake Like Me by Barbara Bourland Release Date: June 18
After a fire decimates her studio, including the seven billboard-size paintings for her next show, a young, no-name painter is left with an impossible task: recreate her art in three months-or ruin her fledgling career.
Homeless and desperate, she flees to an exclusive retreat in upstate New York famous for its outrageous revelries and glamorous artists. And notorious as the place where brilliant young artist Carey Logan-one of her idols-drowned in the lake.
But when she arrives, the retreat is a ghost of its former self. No one shares their work. No parties light up the deck. No one speaks of Carey, though her death haunts the cabins and the black lake, lurking beneath the surface like a shipwreck. As the young painter works obsessively in Carey’s former studio, uncovers strange secrets and starts to fall–hard and fast–for Carey’s mysterious boyfriend, it’s as if she’s taking her place.
But one thought shadows her every move: What really happened to Carey Logan?
Fleishman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
Release date: June 18
Recently separated Toby Fleishman is suddenly, somehow–and at age forty-one, short as ever–surrounded by women who want him: women who are self-actualized, women who are smart and interesting, women who don’t mind his height, women who are eager to take him for a test drive with just the swipe of an app. Toby doesn’t mind being used in this way; it’s a welcome change from the thirteen years he spent as a married man, the thirteen years of emotional neglect and contempt he’s just endured. Anthropologically speaking, it’s like nothing he ever experienced before, particularly back in the 1990s, when he first began dating and became used to swimming in the murky waters of rejection.
But Toby’s new life–liver specialist by day, kids every other weekend, rabid somewhat anonymous sex at night–is interrupted when his ex-wife suddenly disappears. Either on a vision quest or a nervous breakdown, Toby doesn’t know–she won’t answer his texts or calls.
Is Toby’s ex just angry, like always? Is she punishing him, yet again, for not being the bread winner she was? As he desperately searches for her while juggling his job and parenting their two unraveling children, Toby is forced to reckon with the real reasons his marriage fell apart, and to ask if the story he has been telling himself all this time is true.
I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution by Emily Nussbaum
Release date: June 25
From her creation of the first “Approval Matrix” in New York magazine in 2004 to her Pulitzer Prize–winning columns for The New Yorker, Emily Nussbaum has known all along that what we watch is who we are. In this collection, including two never-before-published essays, Nussbaum writes about her passion for television that began with stumbling upon “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”—a show that was so much more than it appeared—while she was a graduate student studying Victorian literature. What followed was a love affair with television, an education, and a fierce debate about whose work gets to be called “great” that led Nussbaum to a trailblazing career as a critic whose reviews said so much more about our culture than just what’s good on television. Through these pieces, she traces the evolution of female protagonists over the last decade, the complex role of sexual violence on TV, and what to do about art when the artist is revealed to be a monster. And she explores the links between the television antihero and the rise of Donald Trump.
The book is more than a collection of essays. With each piece, Nussbaum recounts her fervent search, over fifteen years, for a new kind of criticism that resists the false hierarchy that elevates one form of culture over another. It traces her own struggle to punch through stifling notions of “prestige television,” searching for a wilder and freer and more varied idea of artistic ambition—one that acknowledges many types of beauty and complexity, and that opens to more varied voices. It’s a book that celebrates television as television, even as each year warps the definition of just what that might mean.
Lock Every Door by Riley Sager
Release date: July 2
No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen’s new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s most high-profile and mysterious buildings. Recently heartbroken and just plain broke, Jules is taken in by the splendor of her surroundings and accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.
As she gets to know the residents and staff of the Bartholomew, Jules finds herself drawn to fellow apartment sitter Ingrid, who comfortingly, disturbingly reminds her of the sister she lost eight years ago. When Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her, Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story . . . until the next day, when Ingrid disappears.
Searching for the truth about Ingrid’s disappearance, Jules digs deeper into the Bartholomew’s dark past and into the secrets kept within its walls. Her discovery that Ingrid is not the first apartment sitter to go missing at the Bartholomew pits Jules against the clock as she races to unmask a killer, expose the building’s hidden past, and escape the Bartholomew before her temporary status becomes permanent.
Whisper Network by Chandler Baker
Release date: July 2
Sloane, Ardie, Grace, and Rosalita are four women who have worked at Truviv, Inc., for years. The sudden death of Truviv’s CEO means their boss, Ames, will likely take over the entire company. Ames is a complicated man, a man they’ve all known for a long time, a man who’s always been surrounded by…whispers. Whispers that have always been ignored by those in charge. But the world has changed, and the women are watching Ames’s latest promotion differently. This time, they’ve decided enough is enough.
Sloane and her colleagues set in motion a catastrophic shift within every floor and department of the Truviv offices. All four women’s lives—as women, colleagues, mothers, wives, friends, even adversaries—will change dramatically as a result.
“If only you had listened to us,” they tell us on page one, “none of this would have happened.”
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Release date: July 16
As the Civil Rights movement begins to reach the black enclave of Frenchtown in segregated Tallahassee, Elwood Curtis takes the words of Dr. Martin Luther King to heart: He is “as good as anyone.” Abandoned by his parents, but kept on the straight and narrow by his grandmother, Elwood is about to enroll in the local black college. But for a black boy in the Jim Crow South in the early 1960s, one innocent mistake is enough to destroy the future. Elwood is sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called The Nickel Academy, whose mission statement says it provides “physical, intellectual and moral training” so the delinquent boys in their charge can become “honorable and honest men.”
In reality, The Nickel Academy is a grotesque chamber of horrors, where the sadistic staff beats and sexually abuses the students, corrupt officials and locals steal food and supplies, and any boy who resists is likely to disappear “out back.” Stunned to find himself in such a vicious environment, Elwood tries to hold on to Dr. King’s ringing assertion “Throw us in jail and we will still love you.” His friend Turner thinks Elwood is worse than naive, that the world is crooked and the only way to survive is to scheme and avoid trouble.
The tension between Elwood’s ideals and Turner’s skepticism leads to a decision whose repercussions will echo down the decades. Formed in the crucible of the evils Jim Crow wrought, the boys’ fates will be determined by what they endured at The Nickel Academy.
Based on the real story of a reform school in Florida that operated for one hundred and eleven years and warped the lives of thousands of children, The Nickel Boys is a devastating, driven narrative.
Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman
Release date: July 23
In 1966, Baltimore is a city of secrets that everyone seems to know–everyone, that is, except Madeline “Maddie” Schwartz. Last year, she was a happy, even pampered housewife. This year, she’s bolted from her marriage of almost twenty years, determined to make good on her youthful ambitions to live a passionate, meaningful life.
Maddie wants to matter, to leave her mark on a swiftly changing world. Drawing on her own secrets, she helps Baltimore police find a murdered girl–assistance that leads to a job at the city’s afternoon newspaper, the Star. Working at the newspaper offers Maddie the opportunity to make her name, and she has found just the story to do it: a missing woman whose body was discovered in the fountain of a city park lake.
Cleo Sherwood was a young African-American woman who liked to have a good time. No one seems to know or care why she was killed except Maddie–and the dead woman herself. Maddie’s going to find the truth about Cleo’s life and death. Cleo’s ghost, privy to Maddie’s poking and prying, wants to be left alone.
Maddie’s investigation brings her into contact with people that used to be on the periphery of her life–a jewelery store clerk, a waitress, a rising star on the Baltimore Orioles, a patrol cop, a hardened female reporter, a lonely man in a movie theater. But for all her ambition and drive, Maddie often fails to see the people right in front of her. Her inability to look beyond her own needs will lead to tragedy and turmoil for all sorts of people–including the man who shares her bed, a black police officer who cares for Maddie more than she knows.
Speaking of Summer by Kalisha Buckhanon
Release date: July 30
On a cold December evening, Autumn Spencer’s twin sister Summer walks to the roof of their shared Harlem brownstone and is never seen again—the door to the roof is locked, and no footsteps are found. Faced with authorities indifferent to another missing woman, Autumn must pursue answers on her own, all while grieving her mother’s recent death.
With her friends and neighbors, Autumn pretends to hold up through the crisis. She falls into an affair with Summer’s boyfriend to cope with the disappearance of a woman they both loved. But the loss becomes too great, the mystery too inexplicable, and Autumn starts to unravel, all the while becoming obsessed with murdered women and the men who kill them.
In Speaking of Summer, critically acclaimed author Kalisha Buckhanon has created a postmodern, fast-paced story of urban peril and victim invisibility, and the fight to discover truth at any cost.
Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino Release date: August 6
Trick Mirror is an enlightening, unforgettable trip through the river of self-delusion that surges just beneath the surface of our lives. This is a book about the incentives that shape us, and about how hard it is to see ourselves clearly in a culture that revolves around the self. In each essay, Jia writes about the cultural prisms that have shaped her: the rise of the nightmare social internet; the American scammer as millennial hero; the literary heroine’s journey from brave to blank to bitter; the mandate that everything, including our bodies, should always be getting more efficient and beautiful until we die. text
The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom
Release date: August 13
In 1961, Sarah M. Broom’s mother Ivory Mae bought a shotgun house in the then-promising neighborhood of New Orleans East and built her world inside of it. It was the height of the Space Race and the neighborhood was home to a major NASA plant–the postwar optimism seemed assured. Widowed, Ivory Mae remarried Sarah’s father Simon Broom; their combined family would eventually number twelve children. But after Simon died, six months after Sarah’s birth, the Yellow House would become Ivory Mae’s thirteenth and most unruly child.
A book of great ambition, Sarah M. Broom’s The Yellow Housetells a hundred years of her family and their relationship to home in a neglected area of one of America’s most mythologized cities. This is the story of a mother’s struggle against a house’s entropy, and that of a prodigal daughter who left home only to reckon with the pull that home exerts, even after the Yellow House was wiped off the map after Hurricane Katrina. The Yellow House expands the map of New Orleans to include the stories of its lesser known natives, guided deftly by one of its native daughters, to demonstrate how enduring drives of clan, pride, and familial love resist and defy erasure. Located in the gap between the “Big Easy” of tourist guides and the New Orleans in which Broom was raised, The Yellow House is a brilliant memoir of place, class, race, the seeping rot of inequality, and the internalized shame that often follows. It is a transformative, deeply moving story from an unparalleled new voice of startling clarity, authority, and power.
Coventry by Rachel Cusk
Release date: August 20
Rachel Cusk gathers a selection of her nonfiction writings that both offers new insights on the themes at the heart of her fiction and forges a startling critical voice on some of our most personal, social, and artistic questions. Coventry encompasses memoir, cultural criticism, and writing about literature, with pieces on family life, gender, and politics, and on D. H. Lawrence, Francoise Sagan, and Elena Ferrante. Named for an essay in Granta (“Every so often, for offences actual or hypothetical, my mother and father stop speaking to me. There’s a funny phrase for this phenomenon in England: it’s called being sent to Coventry”), this collection is pure Cusk and essential reading for our age: fearless, unrepentantly erudite, and dazzling to behold.
Savage Appetites: Four True Stories of Women, Crime, and Obsession by Rachel Monroe
Release date: August 20
In this illuminating exploration of women, violence, and obsession, Rachel Monroe interrogates the appeal of true crime through four narratives of fixation. In the 1940s, a bored heiress began creating dollhouse crime scenes depicting murders, suicides, and accidental deaths. Known as the “Mother of Forensic Science,” she revolutionized the field of what was then called legal medicine. In the aftermath of the Manson Family murders, a young woman moved into Sharon Tate’s guesthouse and, over the next two decades, entwined herself with the Tate family. In the mid-nineties, a landscape architect in Brooklyn fell in love with a convicted murderer, the supposed ringleader of the West Memphis Three, through an intense series of letters. After they married, she devoted her life to getting him freed from death row. And in 2015, a teenager deeply involved in the online fandom for the Columbine killers planned a mass shooting of her own.
Each woman, Monroe argues, represents and identifies with a particular archetype that provides an entryway into true crime. Through these four cases, she traces the history of American crime through the growth of forensic science, the evolving role of victims, the Satanic Panic, the rise of online detectives, and the long shadow of the Columbine shooting. In a combination of personal narrative, reportage, and a sociological examination of violence and media in the twentieth and twenty-first century, Savage Appetites scrupulously explores empathy, justice, and the persistent appeal of violence.
Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson
Release date: September 17
Two families from different social classes are joined together by an unexpected pregnancy and the child that it produces. Moving forward and backward in time, with the power of poetry and the emotional richness of a narrative ten times its length, Jacqueline Woodson’s extraordinary new novel uncovers the role that history and community have played in the experiences, decisions, and relationships of these families, and in the life of this child.
As the book opens in 2001, it is the evening of sixteen-year-old Melody’s birthday celebration in her grandparent’s Brooklyn brownstone. Watched lovingly by her relatives and friends, escorted by her father to the soundtrack of Prince, she wears a special, custom-made dress. But the event is not without poignancy. Sixteen years earlier, that very dress was measured and sewn for a different wearer: Melody’s mother, for her own sixteenth birthday party and a celebration which ultimately never took place.
Unfurling the history of Melody’s parents and grandparents to show how they all arrived at this moment, Woodson considers not just their ambitions and successes but also the costs, the tolls they’ve paid for striving to overcome expectations and escape the pull of history. As it explores sexual desire and identity, ambition, gentrification, education, class and status, and the life-altering facts of parenthood, Red at the Bone most strikingly looks at the ways in which young people must so often make long-lasting decisions about their lives—even before they have begun to figure out who they are and what they want to be.
One of my favorite things to do as a school library clerk is to process books. When I process books, I get to touch them and look at them and flip through them and silently fangirl about how pretty they are. I split my time between a high school and two elementary schools, and while I love researching and selecting young adult books, picture books hold a special place in my book-loving heart. Today I want to share 20 of my favorites with you. I’d be glad to give any of these to the kids in my life.
All descriptions are from Goodreads.
A Bike Like Sergio’s Written by Maribeth Boelts; illustrated by Noah Z. Jones
Ruben feels like he is the only kid without a bike. His friend Sergio reminds him that his birthday is coming, but Ruben knows that the kinds of birthday gifts he and Sergio receive are not the same. After all, when Ruben’s mom sends him to Sonny’s corner store for groceries, sometimes she doesn’t have enough money for everything on the list. So when Ruben sees a dollar bill fall out of someone’s purse, he picks it up and puts it in his pocket. But when he gets home, he discovers it’s not one dollar or even five or ten—it’s a hundred-dollar bill, more than enough for a new bike just like Sergio’s! But what about the crossed-off groceries? And what about the woman who lost her money?
The Book with No Pictures Written by B. J. Novak
A book with no pictures? What could be fun about that? After all, if a book has no pictures, there’s nothing to look at but the words on the page.
Words that might make you say silly sounds. . .In ridiculous voices. . .
Hey, what kind of book is this, anyway?
At once disarmingly simple and ingeniously imaginative, The Book With No Pictures inspires laughter every time it is opened, creating a warm and joyous experience to share–and introducing young children to the powerful idea that the written word can be an unending source of mischief and delight.
The Boy Who Was Raised by Librarians Written by Carla Morris; illustrated by Brad Sneed
Every day after school Melvin goes to the library. Everything has its place in the library and Melvin likes it that way. And his favorite people—Marge, Betty, and Leola—are always in their place, behind the reference desk. When a subject interests Melvin, his librarian friends help him find lots and lots of books on the subject. When he collects creepy bugs in a jar, they help him identify, classify and catalog the insects. When he is cast as an Enormous Eggplant in the school play Betty reads aloud from Organic Gardening Magazine to help him find his motivation. As the years pass, Melvin can always find the answers to his questions and a lot of fun in the library. Then one day he goes off to college to learn new things and read new books. Will he leave the library and his friends behind forever?
A Child of Books Written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston
A little girl sails her raft across a sea of words, arriving at the house of a small boy. She invites him to go away with her on an adventure into the world of stories where, with only a little imagination, anything at all can happen.
Each Kindness Written by Jacqueline Woodson; illustrated by E. B. Lewis
Chloe and her friends won’t play with the new girl, Maya. Maya is different–she wears hand-me-downs and plays with old-fashioned toys. Every time Maya tries to join Chloe and her gang, they reject her. Eventually, Maya plays alone, and then stops coming to school altogether. When Chloe’s teacher gives a lesson about how even small acts of kindness can change the world, Chloe is stung by the lost opportunity for friendship, and thinks about how much better it could have been if she’d shown a little kindness toward Maya.
Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear Written by Lindsay Mattick; illustrated by Sophie Blackall
In 1914, during World War I, Captain Harry Colebourn, a Canadian veterinarian on his way to serve with cavalry units in Europe, rescued a bear cub in White River, Ontario. He named the bear Winnie, after his hometown of Winnipeg, and he took the bear to war.
Harry Colebourn’s real-life great-granddaughter Lindsay Mattick recounts their incredible journey, from a northern Canadian town to a convoy across the ocean to an army base in England . . . and finally to the London Zoo, where Winnie made a new friend: a boy named Christopher Robin. Gentle yet haunting illustrations by acclaimed illustrator Sophie Blackall bring the wartime era to life, and are complemented by photographs and ephemera from the Colebourn family archives. Here is the remarkable true story of the bear who inspired Winnie-the-Pooh.
Flora and the Flamingo Written and illustrated by Molly Idle
In this innovative wordless picture book with interactive flaps, Flora and her graceful flamingo friend explore the trials and joys of friendship through an elaborate synchronized dance. With a twist, a turn, and even a flop, these unlikely friends learn at last how to dance together in perfect harmony. Full of humor and heart, this stunning performance (and splashy ending!) will have readers clapping for more!
Gaston Written by Kelly DiPucchio; illustrated by Christian Robinson
This is the story of four puppies: Fi-Fi, Foo-Foo, Ooh-La-La, and Gaston. Gaston works the hardest at his lessons on how to be a proper pooch. He sips – never slobbers! He yips – never yaps! And he walks with grace – never races! Gaston fits right in with his poodle sisters. But a chance encounter with a bulldog family in the park-Rocky, Ricky, Bruno, and Antoinette-reveals there’s been a mix-up, and so Gaston and Antoinette switch places. The new families look right, but they don’t feel right. Can these puppies follow their noses-and their hearts-to find where they belong?
Hello Lighthouse Written and illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Watch the days and seasons pass as the wind blows, the fog rolls in, and icebergs drift by. Outside, there is water all around. Inside, the daily life of a lighthouse keeper and his family unfolds as the keeper boils water for tea, lights the lamp’s wick, and writes every detail in his logbook.
Last Stop on Market Street Writtern by Matt de la Pena; illustrated by Christian Robinson
Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town. But today, CJ wonders why they don’t own a car like his friend Colby. Why doesn’t he have an iPod like the boys on the bus? How come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? Each question is met with an encouraging answer from grandma, who helps him see the beauty—and fun—in their routine and the world around them.
Library Lion Written by Michelle Knudsen; illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
Miss Merriweather, the head librarian, is very particular about rules in the library. No running allowed. And you must be quiet. But when a lion comes to the library one day, no one is sure what to do. There aren’t any rules about lions in the library. And, as it turns out, this lion seems very well suited to library visiting. His big feet are quiet on the library floor. He makes a comfy backrest for the children at story hour. And he never roars in the library, at least not anymore. But when something terrible happens, the lion quickly comes to the rescue in the only way he knows how.
Library Mouse Written and illustrated by Daniel Kirk
A shy mouse who lives in the library decides to write and illustrate his own tales. When he’s done, he put his books on the shelves. But when the children read the stories, they all wanted to meet the author. Will the library mouse finally share his secrets with his fans?
Llama Llama Red Pajama Written and illustrated by Anna Dewdney
Llama, Llama red pajama waiting, waiting for his mama. Mama isn’t coming yet. Baby Llama starts to fret. In this infectious rhyming read-aloud, Baby Llama turns bedtime into an all-out llama drama! Tucked into bed by his mama, Baby Llama immediately starts worrying when she goes downstairs, and his soft whimpers turn to hollers when she doesn’t come right back. But just in time, Mama returns to set things right. Children will relate to Baby Llama’s need for comfort, as much as parents will appreciate Mama Llama’s reassuring message.
Maddi’s Fridge Written by Lois Brandt; illustrated by Vin Vogel
Best friends Sofia and Maddi live in the same neighborhood, go to the same school, and play in the same park, but while Sofia’s fridge at home is full of nutritious food, the fridge at Maddi’s house is empty. Sofia learns that Maddi’s family doesn’t have enough money to fill their fridge and promises Maddi she’ll keep this discovery a secret. But because Sofia wants to help her friend, she’s faced with a difficult decision: to keep her promise or tell her parents about Maddi’s empty fridge.
Filled with colorful artwork, this storybook addresses issues of poverty with honesty and sensitivity while instilling important lessons in friendship, empathy, trust, and helping others.
Madeline Written and illustrated by Ludwig Bemelmans
Madeline is one of the best-loved characters in children’s literature. Set in picturesque Paris, this tale of a brave little girl’s trip to the hospital was a Caldecott Honor Book in 1940 and has as much appeal today as it did then. The combination of a spirited heroine, timelessly appealing art, cheerful humor, and rhythmic text makes Madeline a perennial favorite with children of all ages.
The Name Jar Written and illustrated by Yangsook Choi
Being the new kid in school is hard enough, but what about when nobody can pronounce your name? Having just moved from Korea, Unhei is anxious that American kids will like her. So instead of introducing herself on the first day of school, she tells the class that she will choose a name by the following week. Her new classmates are fascinated by this no-name girl and decide to help out by filling a glass jar with names for her to pick from. But while Unhei practices being a Suzy, Laura, or Amanda, one of her classmates comes to her neighborhood and discovers her real name and its special meaning. On the day of her name choosing, the name jar has mysteriously disappeared. Encouraged by her new friends, Unhei chooses her own Korean name and helps everyone pronounce it—Yoon-Hey.
Say Something! Written and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
In this empowering new picture book, beloved author Peter H. Reynolds explores the many ways that a single voice can make a difference. Each of us, each and every day, have the chance to say something: with our actions, our words, and our voices. Perfect for kid activists everywhere, this timely story reminds readers of the undeniable importance and power of their voice.
She Persisted: 13 Amazing Women who Changed the World Written by Chelsea Clinton; illustrated by Alexander Boiger
Throughout American history, there have always been women who have spoken out for what’s right, even when they have to fight to be heard. In early 2017, Senator Elizabeth Warren’s refusal to be silenced in the Senate inspired a spontaneous celebration of women who persevered in the face of adversity. In this book, Chelsea Clinton celebrates thirteen American women who helped shape our country through their tenacity, sometimes through speaking out, sometimes by staying seated, sometimes by captivating an audience. They all certainly persisted.
This Is Not My Hat Written and illustrated by Jon Klassen
When a tiny fish shoots into view wearing a round blue topper (which happens to fit him perfectly), trouble could be following close behind. So it’s a good thing that enormous fish won’t wake up. And even if he does, it’s not like he’ll ever know what happened. . .
When God Made You Written by Matthew Paul Turner; illustrated by David Catrow
From early on, children are looking to discover their place in the world and longing to understand how their personalities, traits, and talents fit in. The assurance that they are deeply loved and a unique creation in our big universe is certain to help them spread their wings and fly.
Through playful, charming rhyme and vivid, fantastical illustrations, When God Made You inspires young readers to learn about their own special gifts and how they fit into God’s divine plan as they grow, explore, and begin to create for themselves.
What picture books did you love as a child? What picture books do you love now? Leave a comment below!