As a bookworm and publishing professional, there’s one thing I know for sure: there is never nothing to read. Throughout the years, my TBR has grown to include hundreds of books. It’s completely daunting to think of all the books I want to read that I may never get the chance to! And like so many other readers, this means that I’ve bought oodles of books that sat unopened on my shelf for years. Recently, I’ve developed a system for tackling my endless TBR that has actually led to me reading more of the books that are on it. Rather than looking at endless stacks of books, instead I create a TBR pile that is no more than 10 books high. In this stack, I try to pull in books of all genres, creating a balance that helps keep things feeling fresh and exciting. It’s been so helpful for me, and I wanted to share it with everyone at Off the Shelf!
The Nonfiction Selection
I’ve always been a fiction reader, but in recent years I’ve been trying to bring more nonfiction into my bookshelf. Each time I pull together a TBR list, I try to include at least one nonfiction title. After learning that I loved Susan Orlean’s THE LIBRARY BOOK, I was recommended to read Mary Roach, a popular science writer. I read STIFF recently, and after being totally enamored with Mary Roach’s storytelling, I decided to add GULP to my TBR. In GULP, Roach explores the alimentary canal and seeks to answer questions that I didn’t even think to ask about human taste and the digestive system. It’s a completely fascinating and educating read.
The Backlist Selection
Once I finish my nonfiction selection, I reward myself by diving into something I think I’m going to adore. In recent years, I was introduced to the writing of Alice Hoffman. Starting with FAITHFUL back in 2016, I have since eagerly awaited and read each of her new releases. But Alice Hoffman is a prolific writer who has well over 30 books published—which means I have a lot of catching up to do. For this TBR pile, I chose to add in THE MUSEUM OF EXTRAORDINARY THINGS. This novel follows a young woman named Coralie, whose father is behind a Coney Island “freak show.” One night Coralie meets a young photographer named Eddie, a runaway Russian immigrant who soon becomes involved in a mystery surrounding a missing young woman. Like many Hoffman novels, this one weaves magic and love in a spellbinding tale.
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Coralie Sardie’s father runs a Coney Island freak show where she appears as “the Mermaid,” alongside performers like the Wolfman, the Butterfly Girl, and a one-hundred-year-old turtle. When she meets Eddie Cohen, a Russian immigrant photographer, they become embroiled in a moving story of young love in tumultuous times.
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The Thriller Selection
I’ll be following up Alice Hoffman with a thriller. I like to throw a thriller into my reading list because I can be sure to find a fast-paced and compulsively readable story that I will just fly through. This round, I’ve chosen FULL DISCLOSURE, a legal thriller from Canada’s former Chief Justice. I wanted to read this book before DENIAL, the sequel, comes out in the Fall. FULL DISCLOSURE follows Jilly Truit—a rising young lawyer—as she takes on the case of Vincent Trussardi, accused of murdering his own wife, Laura. Jilly is determined to prove that Vincent is innocent, but as she investigates the case, she discovers a web of lies that she must unravel.
#1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER
SHORTLISTED FOR THE ARTHUR ELLIS AWARDS
From the former Chief Justice of Canada comes a riveting thriller starring Jilly Truitt, a rising, young defense attorney faced with a case that hits close to home.
When everyone has something to hide, the truth is the only defense.
There’s nothing Jilly Truitt likes more than winning a case, especially against her former mentor, prosecutor Cy Kenge. Jilly has baggage, the residue of a dark time in a series of foster homes, but that’s in the past. Now she’s building her own criminal defense firm and making a name for herself as a tough-as-nails lawyer willing to take risks in the courtroom.
When the affluent and enigmatic Vincent Trussardi is accused of his wife Laura’s murder, Jilly agrees to defend him, despite predictions that the case is a sure loser and warnings from those close to her to stay away from the Trussardi family. Determined to prove everyone wrong, Jilly investigates Laura’s death, hoping to discover a shred of evidence that might give the jury a reasonable doubt. Instead, she is confronted by damning evidence and uncooperative witnesses at every turn. Someone isn’t telling the truth, but who?
With her reputation and Vincent’s life on the line, Jilly tries to unravel the web of secrets surrounding Laura’s murder. As she digs deeper, she uncovers a startling revelation that will change not only the case, but her life forever.
From the gritty streets of Vancouver to the fateful halls of justice, Full Disclosure is a razor-sharp thriller that pulses with authenticity and intrigue.
The Historical Fiction Selection
And once I’ve finished my thriller read, I plan to return to my bookworm roots. Historical fiction is one of my go-to genres. Ever since I was a child reading the Royal Diaries series, I’ve always found myself coming back to historical fiction. I love to dig into a book set in another time that can teach me something about the past. Genevieve Graham has been a favorite of mine for a few years now—I love the way she brings history to light. LETTERS ACROSS THE SEA is her most recent novel, and it follows two young neighbors in 1930s Toronto as anti-Semitism begins sweeping the globe and one hateful incident tears the almost-couple apart. It’s certainly a book that takes on very serious topics, but as with all of Graham’s books, it reminds you that love can be found even in the darkest of times.
Inspired by a little-known chapter of World War II history, a young Protestant girl and her Jewish neighbour are caught up in the terrible wave of hate sweeping the globe on the eve of war in this powerful love story that’s perfect for fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.
If you’re reading this letter, that means I’m dead. I had obviously hoped to see you again, to explain in person, but fate had other plans.
At eighteen years old, Molly Ryan dreams of becoming a journalist, but instead she spends her days working any job she can to help her family through the Depression crippling her city. The one bright spot in her life is watching baseball with her best friend, Hannah Dreyfus, and sneaking glances at Hannah’s handsome older brother, Max.
But as the summer unfolds, more and more of Hitler’s hateful ideas cross the sea and “Swastika Clubs” and “No Jews Allowed” signs spring up around Toronto, a city already simmering with mass unemployment, protests, and unrest. When tensions between the Irish and Jewish communities erupt in a riot one smouldering day in August, Molly and Max are caught in the middle, with devastating consequences for both their families.
Six years later, the Depression has eased and Molly is a reporter at her local paper. But a new war is on the horizon, putting everyone she cares about most in peril. As letters trickle in from overseas, Molly is forced to confront what happened all those years ago, but is it too late to make things right?
From the desperate streets of Toronto to the embattled shores of Hong Kong, Letters Across the Sea is a poignant novel about the enduring power of love to cross dangerous divides even in the darkest of times—from the #1 bestselling author of The Forgotten Home Child.
The Classics Selection
And here it is. My dirty bookworm confession. I don’t read the classics. I mean, I’ve read some of the classics (what English major hasn’t?). But when I speak to other bookworms, so many of them talk about their love of Austen and the Brontë’s, and how those books shaped them as readers. And I simply . . . can’t relate. It’s part circumstance—as a younger reader, no one had ever handed me a classic novel—but it’s also by choice. Around the age of fifteen, I bought a copy of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. I started reading it, hit the ten-ish or so page mark, and gave up. And the book has been haunting me on my bookshelf ever since. I’ve brought it with me in every move, convinced that each year that followed would be the year I’d finally finish this beloved classic. And so now I am determined that I will not move on from this stack of books until I read the story of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy and discover why their love has inspired so many of my peers. (And I’m putting it in writing here so that everyone will be forced to hold me accountable.)
Enriched Classics offer readers accessible editions of great works of literature enhanced by helpful notes and commentary. Each book includes educational tools alongside the text, enabling students and readers alike to gain a deeper and more developed understanding of the writer and their work.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
The first sentence of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is among the most quoted in literature, and sets up the humorous and ultimately timeless tale of proper English society, unspoken intentions, and true love acquired. Pride and Prejudice is a classic that adeptly traces the intricacies of social status, manners, and relationship rituals in nineteenth-century England, through which all the love between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy eventually blossoms.
Enriched Classics enhance your engagement by introducing and explaining the historical and cultural significance of the work, the author’s personal history, and what impact this book had on subsequent scholarship. Each book includes discussion questions that help clarify and reinforce major themes and reading recommendations for further research.
Read with confidence.
The Rom Com Selection
And because I’m expecting PRIDE AND PREJUDICE to be a slightly more difficult read for me, I want to offset that with a book I know I will devour. Romantic comedies are always my reward books—I read them when I truly feel like I need or deserve a treat. Going on vacation? Grab a rom-com. Had a tough week? Curl up over the weekend with a rom-com. Finally finished that book you’ve been trying to read for over a decade? GRAB A ROM-COM. Mhairi McFarlane is one of my auto-buy authors, and I was so excited when I saw that she published another book this year. JUST LAST NIGHT follows Eve, whose life changes on a night out with her lifelong friends. In the aftermath of that night, Eve discovers that she didn’t know her friends as well as she thought she did. And when someone from her past comes back into her life (rom-com radar going !!!!!!!!), Eve finds herself on an unexpected new path.
The New(ish) Release
And then, finally, a new release I’ve been wanting to read. I adored Zeyn Joukhadar’s debut novel, THE MAP OF SALT AND STARS, and I’ve been eagerly anticipating his next book. I’m finishing off this TBR list with the book I’ve been excited to read for many months now—THE THIRTY NAMES OF NIGHT. This is a coming-of-age novel that follows a young man living in Manhattan’s Little Syria when he discovers a tattered journal from an artist who had disappeared more than sixty years ago, and whom he soon discovers is closely tied to his family. I am so excited to dive into this promised-to-be magical tale, and I think it will be the perfect way to end my next TBR pile—haha, let’s be honest, it never ends.
Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2020 by PopSugar and The Millions
The author of the “vivid and urgent…important and timely” (The New York Times Book Review) debut The Map of Salt and Stars returns with this remarkably moving and lyrical novel following three generations of Syrian Americans who are linked by a mysterious species of bird and the truths they carry close to their hearts.
Five years after a suspicious fire killed his ornithologist mother, a closeted Syrian American trans boy sheds his birth name and searches for a new one. He has been unable to paint since his mother’s ghost has begun to visit him each evening. As his grandmother’s sole caretaker, he spends his days cooped up in their apartment, avoiding his neighborhood masjid, his estranged sister, and even his best friend (who also happens to be his longtime crush). The only time he feels truly free is when he slips out at night to paint murals on buildings in the once-thriving Manhattan neighborhood known as Little Syria.
One night, he enters the abandoned community house and finds the tattered journal of a Syrian American artist named Laila Z, who dedicated her career to painting the birds of North America. She famously and mysteriously disappeared more than sixty years before, but her journal contains proof that both his mother and Laila Z encountered the same rare bird before their deaths. In fact, Laila Z’s past is intimately tied to his mother’s—and his grandmother’s—in ways he never could have expected. Even more surprising, Laila Z’s story reveals the histories of queer and transgender people within his own community that he never knew. Realizing that he isn’t and has never been alone, he has the courage to officially claim a new name: Nadir, an Arabic name meaning rare.
As unprecedented numbers of birds are mysteriously drawn to the New York City skies, Nadir enlists the help of his family and friends to unravel what happened to Laila Z and the rare bird his mother died trying to save. Following his mother’s ghost, he uncovers the silences kept in the name of survival by his own community, his own family, and within himself, and discovers the family that was there all along.
Featuring Zeyn Joukhadar’s signature “magical and heart-wrenching” (The Christian Science Monitor) storytelling, The Thirty Names of Night is a timely exploration of how we all search for and ultimately embrace who we are.
Photo credit: iStock / naroniq