I bought BAD FEMINIST in a bookstore in Woodstock on November 6, 2016. The lady behind the counter smiled and slipped a “Pussy Grabs BACK!” sticker in the bag with my receipt. I smiled back, as if to say “We got this!” and skipped out of the store clutching the bright pink book across my chest. When I opened BAD FEMINIST on November 9, the day after the election, I dove into Roxane Gay’s writing, wrapping it around me piece by piece like armor.
Whenever I’m asked to name my favorite books, I go into a whirlwind of indecision. Should I list my favorite books written by women? Or make a list of my favorite books in a category—historical novels, adventure, autobiography, crime, mystery, thriller, or food? Maybe the list should be made up of the books on my nightstand, because surely what I have still ahead of me to read will be my absolute favorites. Or maybe it should be books by those writers who influenced me the most when I was growing up or have made me laugh or cry. You see? A whirlwind of indecision. The 13 books on this list are my favorites from a variety of categories, and here’s what they’ve meant to me.
I was 15 when I first read THE FIRE NEXT TIME by James Baldwin. A tiny volume first published in 1962, THE FIRE’s incendiary look at racial injustice in mid-century America excoriates the American dream as “a nightmare, on the private, domestic, and international levels.” It is personal memoir. It is literary essay. It is unflinching report. It is passionate letter addressed to black boys who are making the transition to black men in race-dominated America. It is searing testament. It is blazing pain.
There are certain characters that are so ubiquitous that it’s hard to imagine our lives without them. Princess Leia is one such character for me.
To avoid this review becoming a diatribe of Leia’s significance in my life, I will simply say that there has been no character that has inspired, strengthened, and just plain wowed me as Princess Leia has.
With the success of Netflix’s The Crown and Masterpiece’s Victoria, it’s obvious that the complex, dazzling, and often-scandalous lives of royal women fascinate us. While those from the British royal family may be the most well known, there are and have been countless fascinating tales of royalty from around the world. Below are a collection of novels and biographies about some of the most compelling royal women of all time.
A friend of mine recently told me about his relationship with a girl more than 300 miles away. They met by exchanging glances at a party while she was in town for a wedding. He impulsively gave her his address, but they parted ways with him wondering if he’d just turned himself into a punchline by asking her to write to him. He was happily surprised on opening his mailbox two weeks later.
I’m losing my mind over the amazing crop of new novels slated for publication in 2017. The excitement over highly anticipated new novels from Paula Hawkins, Celeste Ng, and Nickolas Butler may actually induce heart palpitations. But I shouldn’t get ahead of myself. While some of these books are already out, we still have months to wait before most hit bookstores. To quell your impatience, make sure you’ve read the dazzling debut novels and story collections that first introduced these writers to the world.
It’s that time of year again—Off the Shelf is celebrating another birthday, and of course you, our readers, get the presents. We can’t think of a better way to spend our third birthday than with some cake and 13 of our favorite books. You’re invited to celebrate with us, and you could win all of the books below.
Being a lover of troubled and complex characters, I want to share a list of books I love that have unreliable narrators. Uncertain of their world, they have all reshaped it in their own ways, often with startling and disturbing results. Their voices are intimate, quirky, unique; their motivations unfathomable. We may not always like these darkly ingenious creations, and yet their stories pursue us from the page, and more often than not, into our dreams…
The SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON’s treehouse, the hidden flowers of THE SECRET GARDEN, Pemberly’s portrait-filled halls in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE—I could list a hundred bookish settings I’ve used to furnish my daydreams. When not imagining myself between the pages of these stories, I would repeatedly rewind (on a VHS tape nonetheless) the scenes of first exploration in their film versions, wishing myself into each character’s footsteps and their expressions of awe. But of all the literary walls to fancy yourself between, top of the list has to be the library in Disney’s animated “Beauty and the Beast.” With shelves filled with colorful spines, spiral staircases, and a massive fireplace to read by, the most wonderful element by far was its feeling of marvel and discovery (I can only hope the library in the live-action remake—in theaters March 17—is just as marvelous). If you share a fascination with libraries, you’ll find even more bibliophile inspiration in these titles.