10 Books We Can’t (and Won’t) Stop Talking About
If you ask an Off the Shelf writer “What’s your favorite book?” don’t expect to get a short answer. We have, and will continue to, evangelize about all the books we’re currently in love with until you beg us to stop. But, if you’re into that kinda stuff, we’ll always be here for you.
Here are 10 authors we’re currently crazy about, characters whose honor we will defend until death, and the well-worn books we will forever keep on our shelves—because…you just never know when you will need it, okay?
1Mermaids in Paradise
Who wants to hear about someone’s honeymoon? Ugh, not me. Unless it’s the story of how Lydia Millet’s Deb and Chip began their wedded bliss spotting mermaids in the Caribbean. Oddly heartwarming and super hilarious, this is an unmissable voice-driven novel about keeping it real in the face of absurdity. —Elizabeth
2Based on a True Story
The former “SNL” Weekend Update host and arguably one of the best stand-up comedians of all time shares a fictionalized account of his life, including a hilarious chapter where he fulfills a Make-A-Wish kid’s request to kill a baby seal. I’ve never laughed so hard while reading a book—especially at a dedication page: “To Charles Manson (No not that one!).” —Chris
3Why We Came to the City
I’m a huge fan of what I call “group novels”—books that focus on a few people, usually friends, in a specific place and over a specific period of time. Mary McCarthy, Meg Wolitzer, and Kathleen Alcott are among my favorites, and this past year, Kristopher Jansma joined the fray. Set in New York in the early years of the financial crisis, WHY WE CAME TO THE CITY follows a group of college friends after graduation, and presents some of the most honest and beautiful portraits of relationships I’ve ever read (just read the first chapter—it’s insane). This novel is an unflinching, heartbreaking, and somehow uplifting story about how people change your life as everything else changes around you, and about how a place can do the same. —Julianna
Eleanor Catton’s gorgeous, vivid writing makes the scenes in this masterpiece—like the one in which 12 men secretly gather to discuss a series of baffling events—unforgettable. Rich and utterly absorbing, THE LUMINARIES is an incredible tale of fortunes and fates set amid New Zealand’s gold rush. —Taylor
5The Complete Cosmicomics
A delicious mix of magical realism, science fiction, fantastical whimsy, and absolutely gorgeous writing, this short-story collection is unlike any other. My favorite story tells of the moon being so close to the Earth that we can climb there on a ladder. The thought of it still makes me cry, and I first read it almost 40 years ago! —Allison
6The Power of the Heart
I am not one for self-help books generally. I veer toward fiction for solace and for personal enjoyment. But there is something about this book that makes me feel warm every time I pick it up. It's more than a guide. It's science behind the human spirit with an emphasis on the heart. There are facts, poems, sayings, and personal stories all centered on the physical organ of the heart and the emotional strength of the idea of love. It will inspire even the stealthiest humbug. —Stuart
7A Place to Stand
In my strong opinion, Jimmy Santiago Baca is one of the best poets of our time—but what makes his poetry all the more engaging is the powerful story behind it. At age 21, Baca was illiterate and facing five to ten years behind bars for selling drugs. A PLACE TO STAND is his humbling and beautiful memoir that includes his time in a maximum-security prison, where he discovered literature and a love for poetry that would lead to his success following the end of his sentence. —Erin
At the dawn of the hip-hop revolution—galvanized by the first-ever all-hip-hop radio station Hot 97—Angie Martinez wasn’t just there, she was a major figure in many of its historic moments and controversies. Reading about her experiences with artists such as Puff Daddy, Jay Z, and Tupac is fascinating. But what I love most about her memoir, MY VOICE, is learning that it wasn’t a college degree or a professional recommendation that led to Martinez becoming the radio icon she is today—her success was borne of sheer passion for the music genre. —Tolani
9Domino: The Book of Decorating
My rented NYC studio apartment does not give me much opportunity for interior design projects, so I love flipping through the glossy pages of this book created by the editors of Domino magazine. Looking through pages and pages of gorgeous interiors and advice for picking everything from furniture to paint is a delicious kind of escapism. —Sarah Jane
10Consider This, Señora
This is the book I read and reread when I need to fall into the poetry of memory and landscape and language. The novel follows four expatriates who relocated to rural Mexico in 1962 and find themselves in a village of a thousand souls in adobe homes on the barren mesa. The magic of this novel is how it slips between cultures, language, memory, and time. I reread it because it hits all the right notes for me about otherness and acceptance, of blossoming and withering, of possibility and love. And yet, it always remains fresh in its own magical way. —Wendy
Read our review of CONSIDER THIS, SEÑORA here.