Can you believe a year ago is when things started to go ABSOLUTELY NUTS? The world shut down and consequently, our lives did, too. And still, here we are. *sighs*
I haven’t taken up a new hobby or accomplished some great, productive feat during the pandemic-necessitated lockdown, but I have been significantly increasing my reading-for-pleasure time and discovering some absolute must-reads.
If you, like me, have needed the escapism of books this year, I present: five books you HAVE to read. Like, now.
(And if you need something to carry your books in, I sell adorable book-sleeves over at Longhand Pencils!)
6. Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson
This book is an important, essential read for all. It’s honest and thought-provoking, with masterful storytelling from acclaimed author Renee Watson. Piecing Me Together offers a powerful story about a girl striving for success in a world that too often seems like it’s trying to break her.
Jade believes she must get out of her poor neighborhood if she’s ever going to succeed. Her mother tells her to take advantage of every opportunity that comes her way. And Jade has: every day she rides the bus away from her friends and to the private school where she feels like an outsider, but where she has plenty of opportunities. But some opportunities she doesn’t really welcome, like an invitation to join Women to Women, a mentorship program for “at-risk” girls. Just because her mentor is black and graduated from the same high school doesn’t mean she understands where Jade is coming from. She’s tired of being singled out as someone who needs help, someone people want to fix. Jade wants to speak, to create, to express her joys and sorrows, her pain and her hope. Maybe there are some things she could show other women about understanding the world and finding ways to be real, to make a difference.
5. What Kind of Woman by Kate Baer
Kate Baer’s debut poetry collection is stunning. It made me ache and exhale and feel completely known and understood.
It’s honest crafting about the beauty and hardships in being a mother, a wife, and a woman.
Through poems that are as unforgettably beautiful as they are accessible, Kate proves herself to truly be an exemplary voice in modern poetry. As easy to post on Instagram as they are to print out and frame, Kate’s words make women feel seen in their own bodies, in their own marriages, and in their own lives. Her poems are those you share with your mother, your daughter, your sister, and your friends.
Also, you’ll want to follow Kate on Instagram. She turns troll messages into the most breathtaking poetry. A personal fave?
This is a collection you’ll pick up again and again.
4. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
This book is truly unforgettable. It’s a book that left me feeling wrecked–in the best way. Magically weaving time and place and history into an inverted-Peter-Pan-esque tale, the journey will grip you until the very end. (Then, like me, you’ll need to lie down on the couch for a while about it.)
It begins in France, 1714. In a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever–and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets. Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world. But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.
EEEEK! I get chills just thinking about how good this book is, and also much sadness at not being able to experience it for the first time again. Sigh. The duality of reading great books.
3. The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon
I am truly a RLS devotee. She is one of my favorite authors, an absolute auto-buy for each new release. And in her first adult romance, she absolutely nails it.
The Ex Talk features public radio co-hosts who navigate mixed signals in a sparkling romantic comedy debut.
Shay Goldstein has been a producer at her Seattle public radio station for nearly a decade, and she can’t imagine working anywhere else. But lately it’s been a constant clash between her and her newest colleague, Dominic Yun, who’s fresh off a journalism master’s program and convinced he knows everything about public radio.
When the struggling station needs a new concept, Shay proposes a show that her boss green-lights with excitement. On The Ex Talk, two exes will deliver relationship advice live, on air. Their boss decides Shay and Dominic are the perfect co-hosts, given how much they already despise each other. Neither loves the idea of lying to listeners, but it’s this or unemployment. Their audience gets invested fast, and it’s not long before The Ex Talk becomes a must-listen in Seattle and climbs podcast charts.
As the show gets bigger, so does their deception, especially when Shay and Dominic start to fall for each other. In an industry that values truth, getting caught could mean the end of more than just their careers.
Public radio (uhm, hello fellow NPR nerds), allll the banter, and FOREARMS. (Holy forearms, Batman!) A hilarious–seriously, you’ll be CACKLING–sexy, and smart must-read.
2. A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus
This book has already made my “Best of 2021” list, full stop. It’s a book I will try and persuade everyone to read: friends, family, neighbors, random people in the grocery store, virtual friends on the interweb. It’s that good.
A Place to Hang the Moon is the tale of three orphaned siblings who are evacuated from London to live in the countryside with the secret hope of finding a permanent family.
It is 1940 and William, 12, Edmund, 11, and Anna, 9, aren’t terribly upset by the death of the not-so-grandmotherly grandmother who has taken care of them since their parents died. But the children do need a guardian, and in the dark days of World War II London, those are in short supply, especially if they hope to stay together. Could the mass wartime evacuation of children from London to the countryside be the answer?
It’s a preposterous plan, but off they go— keeping their predicament a secret, and hoping to be placed in a temporary home that ends up lasting forever. Moving from one billet to another, the children suffer the cruel trickery of foster brothers, the cold realities of outdoor toilets and the hollowness of empty stomachs. They find comfort in the village lending library, whose kind librarian, Nora Müller, seems an excellent choice of billet, except that her German husband’s whereabouts are currently unknown, and some of the villagers consider her unsuitable.
A Place to Hang the Moon is a story about the dire importance of family: the one you’re given, and the one you choose.
Equal parts heartbreaking and heartwarming (with just the most luscious resolution), this funny and smart and tender story is one I’ve added to my all-time-favorites list. You’ll treasure it.
1. The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
Likely, you’ve seen me screaming about this all over social media (and on my business page), so it’s no surprise that this has been my #1 recommendation for literally everyone in my life. Published in early 2020, this masterpiece is the literary hug we all desperately need through the anguish of the last 12 months.
The story follows Linus Baker, a rule-following case worker in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth — DICOMY, for short. His job? Determining whether six dangerous magical children are likely to bring about the end of the world.
Arthur Parnassus is the master of the orphanage. He would do anything to keep the children safe, even if it means the world will burn. And his secrets will come to light. (*cue the oooooooh*)
The House in the Cerulean Sea is an enchanting love story (beautifully done, btw), masterfully told, about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours. FOUND FAMILY TROPE FTW. (Also, for you Netflix bingers, there’s definitely some “Umbrella Academy” ~vibes~.)
Once I started this book, I couldn’t put it down. Give yourself time to finish it in one sitting. Trust me. You’ll laugh, you”ll clutch your swelling heart (seriously, it’ll grow three size, Grinch-style), and you’ll definitely want to have a box of Kleenex ready. It’s a buy-in-all-formats and read over-and-over again kind of book. Do yourself a favor, and add this book to the top of your TBR immediately. (Then buy the pencil set!)
Note: after reading this, I immediately devoured the rest of Klune’s backlist, and I bet you will, too. I especially loved The Extraordinaries and the Green Creek series.
What book is your latest must-read?