The Scary, Strangely Enticing Future

I love reading dystopias. I love the worlds that authors create out of one aspect of our society, and I love that, by the end, I am so relieved to look up and be grateful that I live in a first-world country. But Dave Eggers is not interested in disconnecting you from the world with The Circle. And let me tell you, without any kind of gore, violence, or weapons, this is one of the scariest things I’ve ever read.

Read More

10 Revered Writers Honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom

In 2007, forty-seven years after the original publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, President George W. Bush awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, to Harper Lee for her monumental contribution to American literature.

The award itself dates back to 1963 and recognizes “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” As the 2015 recipients are honored today in a special ceremony, let’s celebrate some of the writers who have been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Read More

Straight Off the Shelf: 9 Favorites from the Shelf of a Treasured Author

Judith Viorst’s children’s classic Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is one of our all-time favorite books. (It makes a perfect gift for grown-ups, too, in case you know someone who could use a pick-me-up.) Wait for Me: And Other Poems About the Irritations and Consolations of a Long Marriage is her new collection of poetry—complete with charming illustrations. Judith Viorst was kind enough to share with us nine of her favorite books—and we’ve added short descriptions for each of them below.

Read More

A History Written with Heart Illuminates the War in Vietnam

As fall arrived in 1967, America began to rattle with unrest. The war in Vietnam was a clear failure. Stateside, an emergent counterculture revolted. The body count soared. Washington machinated. Conspiracy and paranoia entered daily life.

A few days in October of that year birthed two events representative of that era’s political and cultural maelstrom. A disastrous battle north of Saigon raged in Vietnam while the campus at the University of Wisconsin erupted in protests. In They Marched Into Sunlight, David Maraniss intertwines the stories of both.

Read More

A Novel About Finding Strength Amidst Tragedy

While based in London, Australian-American journalist Geraldine Brooks often explored the English countryside. It was on one such journey that she came across a sign indicating the direction of the “Plague Village,” a discovery which led to her first novel, The Year of Wonders, an intense, horrifying, and beautiful read.

Read More

7 Books that Celebrate the Beauty of Language

I am fascinated by language. Whether diagramming sentences, reciting the appropriate participle in my Catholic school days, or delving into the case systems of Latin and Russian, I’ve always been uncommonly excited by the rules and regulations of the written word. I appreciate that I’m one of a select few for whom the mere mention of morphemes causes the pulse to race, but the beauty of language has a wide, loyal following—with the books to prove it. The titles below are just a few of many worthy overtures to language. To anyone who has balked at “their” in place of “there” or wondered about the origins of their mother tongue, these books are for you.

Read More

Bookstores, Babies, and Moments That Make Up a Storied Life

We all like the familiar. As often as people chant “Change is good,” we really only like to make small deviations in an otherwise static existence. I’m the first to admit that I am stubborn and can easily get stuck in my ways, but I can’t hold a candle to A. J. Fikry and his stable, steady life at the beginning of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. And this book, charming and loving and warm, reminded me why change, scary as it may be, is ultimately and usually a good thing.

Read More

15 Remarkable Stories to Celebrate Jewish Book Month

In 1925 Fanny Goldstein, a librarian in Boston, set up an exhibit of Judaic books and began what she called Jewish Book Week. Over the years, this celebration has reached across the country, and November is now officially Jewish Book Month. Here at Off the Shelf, we are celebrating 90 years of Jewish Book Month by showcasing some of our favorite novels and memoirs by Jewish writers.

Read More

Your Shelf

We've made it easy to create your own reading list from books you find on this site. Just click "|+| Add to Your Shelf" and we'll save them for you. If you're like us, those shelves will fill up fast!

Login or register to get started.

Get Book