Happy Birthday to Us!
Today, Off the Shelf turns one year old! To celebrate, each of our staff members has selected a favorite book, and one lucky reader will win the whole stack of these wonderful reads (each inscribed by the Off-the-Shelfer who loves it). See them all below.
Thank you for making our first year such a smashing success. We’re thrilled and honored that you enjoy reading the reviews of our favorite books, perusing our reading lists, and interacting with us on social media. We look forward to another year of bringing you great books by the people who love them. Thank you for loving Off the Shelf as much as we do!
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER/WIN. Sweepstakes begins 3/3/15 and ends 3/20/15. Open to legal residents of any 1 of the 50 US or DC who are at least 18 years old. Void where prohibited by law. Subject to full Official Rules in Terms and Conditions above. Total ARV of all prizes: $159. Odds of winning depends on the # of eligible entries received. Sponsor: Simon & Schuster, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020.
1We Learn Nothing
“A laugh-out-loud funny, sad, and strange book, all at the same time.” —Etinosa Agbonlahor (Read Etinosa’s review of We Learn Nothing here.)
2Full Dark, No Stars
“This collection of short stories (long short stories—some could be called novellas) is a quintessential example of so many things I love about my favorite writer. His work is literary and very well written, but also compulsively readable and accessible. These stories are chilling, macabre, and suspenseful, and yet they transcend all of the expectations that come with the genre and have truly perceptive and keenly observed insights into the human psyche. For me, this was unputdownable.” —Sarah Jane Abbott
3Because They Wanted To
“I found Mary Gaitskill the way I’ve found a lot of my favorite authors over the past two years: via my roommate’s bookshelf. Gaitskill’s stories are dark, unsettling, and unflinching; they mostly revolve around masochistic female characters trying to get a grip on their sex lives; and trust me, you will rip through them. Because They Wanted To isn’t her best-known book, but I love the title and I particularly love a story titled “The Dentist,” about a woman who becomes completely obsessed with her bland, totally normal dentist, who extracted one of her wisdom teeth. If you’re looking for something entertaining that will suck you in, that you can probably read in a day and a half, but has actual literary value and cultural cred so you don’t feel wasted—this is a good one. And then Gaitskill’s Bad Behavior; Two Girls, Fat and Thin; and Veronica after that.” —Meg Miller
5A Happy Marriage
“Both intimate and expansive, A Happy Marriage follows the arc of a thirty-year marriage of true partners. Revisiting each stage of Margaret and Enrique’s enduring relationship with precision and candor, this acclaimed novel chronicles the imperfect ways we love—with pleasure and pride, hurt and betrayal, loyalty and dedication. It is the moving portrait of what it means to spend a lifetime together. And it made me cry.” —Wendy Sheanin
“My grandfather had Alzheimer’s, and I was afraid of him because of it. I’m embarrassed and a little ashamed to admit that. When I read this, I started to understand how scared and frustrated someone with Alzheimer’s can feel. I believe this understanding is critical as we learn how to care, how to treat, and how to cure this insidious disease in modern times.” —Kevin Myers (Read Kevin’s review of Still Alice here.)
7Carry the One
Through friendships and love affairs, marriage and divorce, parenthood and family holidays, the modest calamities and triumphs of ordinary days, Carry the One shows how one life affects another, and how those who thrive and those who self-destruct are closer to each other than we’d expect.
8Blueprints for Building Better Girls
“Blueprints for Building Better Girls was the first short story/essay collection I read for fun and really loved. It goes from the late 1970s to present day, following a cast of archetypal female characters that we see in both books and in life. There’s a good girl, a bad girl, a college girl, an artistic girl, a woman who wants to have a child but cannot, and a mother who was reluctant to become one. All of these women have their own distinct voice, but all manage to be funny, poignant, passionate, and unapologetic. The last line says it all: ‘Don’t be a fool, there is no such thing as just a girl.’ For me and the many friends—both male and female—I’ve recommended it to, it’s a must-read!” —Julianna Haubner (Read our review of Blueprints for Building Better Girls here.)
9Darkness at Noon
“This seminal work of twentieth-century literature is the powerful and haunting portrait of a Bolshevik revolutionary caught in the vicious fray of Stalin’s show trials. Deeply intellectual, dramatically riveting, and written in prose as austere as a Soviet prison, Darkness at Noon is an uncompromising vision of the mechanisms and human impact of dictatorship.” —Caitlin Kleinschmidt
11Invisible Acts of Power
“Having the courage to perform acts of kindness and compassion (with no expectation in return) for friends, strangers, and family transforms our lives in ways we would never imagine. This book brings to light the power that we all have to make a difference in others’ lives.” —Gail Gonzalez
“I chose Paul Fussell’s Class for many reasons. It is a book lost to history. It is rarely, if at all, discussed today. I myself stumbled upon it by chance. It is also dated: it satirizes the post-war era of American class relations, and identifies tropes indicative of that era. However, the persnickety observations, the sly, often patrician tone of the writer, and his comic shrewdness make this book, in my eyes, a timeless work of creative nonfiction. And it is as biting as it is true. I’ve read nothing else like it. A diamond in the rough just waiting, demanding to be rediscovered.” —Pronoy Sarkar (Read Pronoy's review of Class here.)