Believe it or not, sometimes our very own staff has trouble resisting the book recommendations Off the Shelf has to offer. Thankfully, we’ve got a great feature to keep track of our ever-growing TBR. The “Your Shelf” feature allows you (and us) to create reading lists from the books you find on OfftheShelf.com.
To start building “Your Shelf,” simply sign up for an Off the Shelf account. Then, when you see a book you want to add to your reading list, click “Add to Your Shelf” below the book cover, and we’ll save your favorites for you.
Here’s a peek at our most recently shelved books.
I recently finished an advance copy of Ariel Lawhon's historical suspense novel I WAS ANASTASIA, which revisits the last days of the Romanov family and the controversy of whether the youngest daughter survived, and now I'm in a total Russian history reading hole. Thankfully, our own Taylor Noel has a great list of books to read under that umbrella. On it—and now on my to-read list—is Simon Sebag Montefiore’s THE ROMANOVS, an epic and sweeping history of the family, spanning 20 tsars and tsarinas, that reads just like a novel. —Julianna
An intimate and heartrending true account of Russia’s 20 tsars and tsarinas as they turned a war-ruined principality into one of the greatest empires, only to lose it all, THE ROMANOVS’ cast of characters includes Ivan the Terrible, Tolstoy, Pushkin, Bismarck, Lincoln, Queen Victoria, and Lenin. Simon Sebag Montefiore’s dazzling epic reveals their secret world of unlimited power and ruthless empire-building, overshadowed by palace conspiracy, family rivalries, sexual decadence, and wild extravagance.
I happen to love dogs and artistically pleasing covers, so safe to say, LILY AND THE OCTOPUS caught my eye. Now add the promise of some magical realism and illuminating, emotional prose and this one just got bumped up on my to-read list. —Nikki
Ted and his elderly dachshund are at the center of this story of steadfast companionship, loss, and longing that will break your heart and put it back together again. The two share a comfortable life spent chatting about boys, playing board games, and ordering pizza just so Lily can bark at the delivery boy. But then the Octopus arrives and their simple little world begins to change. By turns hilarious and poignant, LILY AND THE OCTOPUS is a book you’ll never stop talking (and crying) about.
Though I don’t read much dystopian fiction, ON SUCH A FULL SEA has all the elements I generally love in fiction: a mysterious disappearance, a strong heroine who sets out in search of the missing person, and masterful storytelling. Against a vividly imagined future America, Chang-rae Lee tells a stunning, surprising, and riveting story that explores identity, culture, work, and love. I added this to my shelf hoping to finally conquer a genre that I care for only on the silver screen. —Tolani
Against a vividly imagined future, ON SUCH A FULL SEA tells the stunning and surprising story of a long-declining American society strictly stratified by class. Using a deeply ethereal voice, Chang-Rae Lee tells the story of Fan, a fish-tank diver, who leaves her home in the B-Mor settlement (once known as Baltimore) when the man she loves mysteriously disappears.
I’m always on the lookout for new, diverse authors, so I found myself adding almost every book from the “14 Books by Diverse Authors You Need to Read Right Now” list earlier this year. UNDER THE UDALA TREES particularly drew my interest. Two girls—both displaced by the civil war in Nigeria—fall in love in a culture where prejudice against same-sex relationships is still rampant. I can’t wait to read this one. —Erin
Inspired by Nigeria’s folktales as well as its war, UNDER THE UDALA TREES is a powerful novel about a girl who is sent away to safety and falls in love with another displaced girl. Neither of their ethnic communities accepts their love and they are forced to learn the price of living a lie.
I’ve been lucky enough to spend a lot of time in Napa Valley with my wine-loving father. Though I can sniff and twirl wine in goblet, I can’t readily identify flavors or vintages. I put CORK DORK on my shelf because I’m fascinated with the wine world. I want to learn more so I will be ready for my next trip to Napa! —Wendy
I added ENCYCLOPEDIA OF AN ORDINARY LIFE to my shelf as soon as I read the incredibly selling Off the Shelf review. In her 2005 memoir, Amy Krouse Rosenthal alphabetizes her thoughts and experiences to tell the story of her ordinary life, including lists, charts, and time lines. This charming and wholly relatable book exposes the magic in the mundane and shows how extraordinary an ordinary life can be. —Taylor
I saw The Room, the movie at the center of this behind-the-scenes story, years ago, but still quote it to this day. It was a movie written, produced, directed by, and starring a spellbinding figure named Tommy Wiseau. I’ve long wondered what drove him to get this movie made. Did he truly think this would be the greatest movie ever? I’m sure that the author’s account of how it actually happened is FAR more bizarre than I can even imagine. —Chris D.
Hailed by The Huffington Post as “possibly the most important piece of literature ever printed,” The Disaster Artist is the hilarious, behind-the-scenes story of a deliciously awful cinematic phenomenon as well as the story of an odd and inspiring Hollywood friendship. Greg Sestero, Tommy’s costar, recounts the film’s bizarre journey to infamy, explaining how the movie’s many nonsensical scenes and bits of dialogue came to be and unraveling the mystery of Tommy Wiseau himself. But more than just a riotously funny story about cinematic hubris, “The Disaster Artist is one of the most honest books about friendship I’ve read in years” (Los Angeles Times).
I have avoided this book for years. Every last one of my friends read this book on some iteration of a Fire Island vacation during the summer, and I missed the boat. When we all gathered together for ciders in the pubs this fall, it was all they would talk about, and I was stuck in a corner fending for myself. I vowed then and there never to read this nemesis of a title that had ruined Pumpkin Spice season for me. Then I read Rakesh Satyal’s beautiful review and was re-inspired to get into this book before the world saw the film. I just picked it up from the library and can already see what all the fussy fuss was about. —Stu
A while back, a friend pointed out a likeness of Audrey Munson to me—a golden statue at the top of a New York City building. A Gilded Age actress and model, she served as muse for many pieces of art around the city. Then, lo and behold, Off the Shelf offered up a biography of her, which delves into the darkness underneath the glitz and glamour of her life: forbidden romance, murder, suicide, and madness. I can’t wait to read it! —Sarah Jane
It usually takes a couple of reviews to truly get me motivated for a new novel, but the attraction was immediate with A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW. An introspective man of privilege confined to isolation in a luxury hotel is enough to entice me, but place that hotel across the street from the Kremlin, and I’m already reading. —Chris G.
Read with a Moscow Mule
Maybe it’s the copper cup or the alliteration in the name that attracts us to this beverage again and again. And the perfect companion is A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW, set in the beautiful Metropol hotel in Moscow. Amor Towles spins the immersing story of Count Alexander Rostov, who is sentenced to house arrest after being deemed an unrepentant aristocrat.
Kerry’s review of THE BEAUTIFUL CIGAR GIRL convinced me I must read this “mysterious and odd” murder mystery that inspired Edgar Allan Poe to create one of the first fictional stories based on a true crime. It takes place in New York City in the 1800s, always a draw for me, and speaks to both political and social issues of the time. The tragic and unsolved case of “The Beautiful Cigar Girl” led to much-needed change in this city, and I’m eager to read all about it. —Allison
I love witches. I also love the internet. Imagine my surprise when I discovered a book that combined the two. The English translation of this acclaimed Dutch novel follows a quaint town that is haunted by the terrifying specter of a witch who spends nights beside children’s beds. The teenagers of the town are determined to let the world know the truth of their small town and take to the web, only to release a chilling and deadly series of events. —Kerry