There was certainly no shortage of book recommendations this year. We spent 2018 talking about our favorite thrillers, historical novels, award-winners—and even recommended books for fans of our favorite TV shows and movies! Here are the book lists you responded to most.
If you haven’t guessed by now, Reese Witherspoon is the Hollywood authority on good books. Not only is she the star of the upcoming film adaption of A WRINKLE IN TIME and the HBO miniseries BIG LITTLE LIES, but she’ll also be producing adaptations of ARE YOU SLEEPING, LUCKIEST GIRL ALIVE, and TRULY MADLY GUILTY. When she’s not producing, acting, designing clothes, and winning in every facet of life, Reese is devouring books and recommending great reads for her RW Book Club. We’ve been able to keep up with her book recs on Instagram and can confirm these books are worth reading. Here are some of our favorite Reese-approved books.
I squealed with joy when I heard that Netflix was making the beloved novel THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL SOCIETY into a movie. Then I watched the trailer and realized many of these cast members also appeared in Downton Abbey. Excited doesn’t begin to cover how I felt! But it also made me yearn for more remarkable stories with spirited heroines, acts of bravery, and ordinary people in extraordinary times. So voila! Here are eight books to read if you love THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY as much as I do.
“I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.” January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….
Proving to us that we can indeed have nice things in 2018, Barack Obama recently released his list of favorite books (and songs) of the past year. A semi-annual tradition from his time in office (and here at Off the Shelf), the bestselling author and former leader of the free world created the collection to “reflect on the works that resonated with me and lift up authors and artists from around the world.” This year’s picks range from transportive historical tales and contemporary fiction to big biographies and blistering social commentary—so get reading!
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.
Powerful family dramas. Heartwarming love stories. Uplifting accounts of second chances. Triumphant tales of overcoming. Charming and endearing characters. We’ve got it all. Here are 13 novels that will make you feel good—about the world and yourself—long after you finish reading.
Someone asked me recently what new music I liked and I completely drew a blank. Because, although I wear headphones or stream sound during most of my waking hours, I’m almost never listening to songs. Whether out for a run or washing dishes or mailing books from our office, I’m always listening to podcasts. And the show I’m constantly hitting play on is My Favorite Murder, the unexpected hit true crime comedy podcast from Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark.
Now a cult phenomenon, the show began as a living-room project between two friends after discovering they shared a hidden passion for true crime, Dateline, and diving into Internet wormholes of serial killers, “I Survived” stories, and psychopathic murderers. It’s more than a macabre fascination with the darker side of humanity—it’s a celebration of survival, friendship, individuality, and mental well-being. So if you’re a murderino like me, here are a few books to read while waiting for their next episode.
Whenever I recommend a favorite mystery series to another reader, I always advise starting at the beginning. While all good authors improve over time, that initial offering can be so pivotal to a full understanding and appreciation of the development of character and sense of place in later works. The 10 debut novels I’ve chosen come from series that have given me great pleasure because the authors are pretty good at doing three things that make a story sing for me: grounding a reader in the natural beauty of a remarkable, usually wild, area; creating characters who are richly drawn and wonderfully complex; and, of course, spinning a fine, compelling mystery.
I joined my first book club when I was in the second grade. My teacher pulled me and a few other students who’d already read through everything on the class library shelves and arranged for us to skip recess and talk about Matilda’s powers or Charlotte’s curly-tailed best friend. Now I’m in a number of book groups (fun fact: people in publishing will usually find any excuse to turn a social occasion into a chance to talk about what they’re reading), toasting with a very different kind of grape juice and even taking gatherings online. I participate in the long tweet book club, Facebook Live discussions, and one of my favorites, the monthly in-person meetups with the women I’ve met through the online newsletter Girls Night In. Considering how my whole life sometimes feels like a book club, I wanted to share a few of the best books to spark discussion.
“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.)
Here at Off the Shelf, we strongly believe that every time of day is the perfect time to lose yourself in a good book. Can’t decide what to read? These books will keep your reading from dawn till dusk.
Every episode of Netflix’s Queer Eye reboot features exceptional fashion advice and enviable wardrobe makeovers, but one particular article of clothing caught my attention: chef Antoni Porowski’s t-shirt that says “Jude & JB & Willem & Malcolm.” For those of you who don’t know, these are the central characters of Hanya Yanagihara’s beloved novel A LITTLE LIFE. Could it be that the Fab Five’s food and wine expert has as great an eye for books as he does for Instagram-worthy dinners? We did a little research to find six books off Porowski's shelf—check these out while you wait for Queer Eye’s second season!
I’m not exaggerating at all when I say I cried for 700 pages of this 832-page masterpiece. I have never loved a character more deeply than I love Jude, the main character in this ode to male friendship, who is scarred and broken from an unspeakable trauma. Reading about Jude’s ever-changing relationships with his three best friends from college was one of the best experiences I’ve had as a reader—and certainly as a crier.
Do you ever have days where you just want to put away your to-do list and settle in with a good book instead? Well today is the perfect excuse to do just that, because it’s Drop Everything and Read day! This nationwide holiday honoring Beverly Cleary’s birthday is the perfect excuse to throw your responsibilities out the window and pick up a new book. Here are the books we’re dropping everything to read.