Where the Wild Birds Are

The tiny country of Belize packs a lot into its 9,000 square miles—an area about the size of New Jersey. The Central American nation boasts stunning Mayan ruins, a vast network of caves, extensive undeveloped regions (more than 60 percent of the country is forested, and much of that area is protected), extraordinarily diverse wildlife and human culture, beautiful beaches, and the second-largest barrier reef in the world. Belize is also home to the scarlet macaw, considered by many to be the most beautiful bird in the world.

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12 Overlooked Novels with Southern Roots

I love living in New York, but sometimes I need a little fix of Southern comfort. Books are cheaper than airfare, and there is no shortage of nationally acclaimed literature from the South. Of course y’all have all heard of the classics—GONE WITH THE WIND, THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN, UNCLE TOM’S CABIN, or BELOVEDbut the well of amazing and provocative Southern novels runs much deeper. So go pour yourself an ice cold sweet tea, sit back in your rocker, and crack open one of these lesser known novels set below the Mason Dixon line.

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13 Page-Turning Murder Mysteries Recommended by Off the Shelf Readers

Plot twist! Today’s list of page-turning murder mysteries is straight off the shelves of our very own Off the Shelf readers. We asked you on Facebook about your favorite mystery books and were overwhelmed (and delighted) with your responses. We sifted through your picks and here are just a few of the spine-tingling books we can’t wait to dive into.

Thanks for the recommendations!

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My Favorite Novel for a Shot of Inspiration

My job sends me to a lot of comic book conventions, so I’ve spent many hours in a 10×10 booth chatting with science fiction, fantasy, and horror enthusiasts. Whenever someone raises the subject of “favorite author,” my Comic-Con friends are usually surprised by my answer: Anne Tyler, author of so-called “family novels” and “marriage novels” like DINNER AT THE HOMESICK RESTAURANT, BREATHING LESSONS, and A SPOOL OF BLUE THREAD. She’s my go-to writer any time I need a shot of inspiration; I’ll just open any of her books and start reading, and within 30 minutes I am fully recharged. There’s something about her style and voice that I find irresistible.

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The Art of Finding Yourself in a Foreign Land

Two years ago, I packed up my suitcase and flew halfway across the world to live in Beijing for a summer. While I experienced all the classic tourist moments, what most struck me was that my time abroad revealed to me how much of my identity is based on my being an American. I became part of the local expat scene, frequenting joints known for their western crowds. I lived in Beijing, but specifically within a small, privileged sect of Beijing that was paradoxically both international and isolated at the same time. In her novel THE EXPATRIATES, Janice Y. K. Lee perfectly captures this strange sense of community and life in a foreign, yet oddly familiar, culture.

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Strauss Waltzes & Tight Corsets: The Life of an Accidental Empress

I’m a sucker for smart historical fiction that dives into the heart and mind of a woman who fights to become the heroine of her own life. THE ACCIDENTAL EMPRESS, Allison Pataki’s stunning jewel of a novel, does just that. Set against the lush, epic backdrop of Viennese splendor, the glitter of the Hapsburg Court, and the political chaos of an empire about to erupt, this immensely readable novel is the true story of Austria’s last empress—“a girl who, having seen nothing of people or the world, had believed that love was all one needed to be happy.”

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Water Cooler Book Club: 14 Books About Life in a Cubicle

The office can be a strange place, from office politics to meetings that could have just been an e-mail to water-cooler gossip to conflicts over who ate whose yogurt in the communal fridge. It’s no wonder that shows like “The Office” and comic strips like “Dilbert” are so popular as a humorous outlet for office dwellers, reflecting the camaraderie as well as the drudgery of workplace life.

For those of us who spend a large portion of our lives behind cubicle walls, here are some fictional offices to make us feel better about our real ones, parodies to make us laugh about the daily workplace grind, and guides that provide real-life tips to survive and thrive in the office.

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A Molotov Cocktail of a Book

I just finished rereading THE LAST SAMURAI, an excellent novel by Helen DeWitt about a genius grad-school dropout named Sibylla, who is raising a genius, her son Ludo. Because Ludo has no father, Sibylla brings him up on repeat viewings of Akira Kurosawa’s film “Seven Samurai,” figuring Ludo might as well be exposed to the best male influences, if any at all.

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The 13 Best Suspense Novels by Women: From Agatha Christie to Gillian Flynn

From Gillian Flynn to Agatha Christie, some of the best-loved authors of the greatest dark psychological thrillers have been women. Yet until recently, the works of female authors were often overlooked in favor of their male compatriots. We want to celebrate our favorite women behind the most ominous and suspenseful novels with this list of shivery thrillers. Be sure to read these with the lights on.

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