One of the best parts of reading is when a book is so impactful that it changes your personality in some way. It can alter your thoughts, or the way you look at the world. The words hit you so that you want to remember them in the form of a tattoo or artwork. Maybe it’s a book that you carried around so often that it basically becomes a staple of your wardrobe. We got started talking about books that wrecked or moved or thrilled us until they essentially became part of our personality—and so, here is your window into our souls.
Kerry’s Pick: My mom had no idea that when she showed eleven-year-old me the 1974 adaptation of THE GREAT GATSBY that it would be a pivotal moment for her daughter. The next thing she knew I was devouring F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece—even though most of the symbolism went straight over my head. More than twenty years later, I’ve reread THE GREAT GATSBY more times than I remember, become a casual expert in all things Fitzgerald, shared his short stories with my friends, took a capstone class on him for my degree, attended Jazz Age festivals, visited the mansions that were used for the films, and even tried writing in his distinct style. All because my mom went through her own Fitzgerald phase in high school and wanted to share him with me.
Some consider it “the great American novel.” The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his powerful love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan is an exquisitely crafted tale that has been essential reading since it was published.
Read the full review here.
Emily’s Pick #1: I’ll admit it: I can sometimes obsess over petty little grievances, but I like to think that Count Alexander Rostov made me able to see life a little bit more pleasantly sometimes. In 1922 Moscow, due to his writing a slightly combatant poem, he is sentenced to house arrest in a grand hotel. Habituated to a life of grandeur, he is now relegated to a small attic room and stripped of his usual luxuries. Instead, he reinvents his sense of luxury, finding purpose in the hotel lobby and the delightful cast of characters that rotate in and out, and through them learning about the world outside over the next thirty years. He embraces his newly constricted life with such charm and generosity, and that mind-set has been honestly a gift to turn to during this pandemic.
Emily’s Pick #2: In THE IDIOT, it’s the 1990s and Selin is beginning her freshman year at Harvard—exploring the frontiers of the Internet, falling in love, and making new friends. That’s pretty much the plot of the book, but what resonated with me were the words. Selin’s quirky, insightful observations on everything, from inconsistencies in her linguistics classes to her roommate’s Einstein poster to cryptic emails to her crush, are so astute and specific that you can tell Batuman pulled largely from her own experience. I always thought about keeping a journal, and THE IDIOT is possibly the one book that convinced me to start, because this book proved there is no end to the things that one can write about their daily experiences.
Molly’s Pick: You wouldn’t know it by the way I’m constantly recommending Christina Lauren books to everyone I know, but I was late to the party. Although Christina Lauren, a writing duo composed of two best friends, have been publishing books for years, the first time I read one of their books was in 2019. I started with THE UNHONEYMOONERS, seduced by the bright yellow cover and description of an enemies-to-lovers plotline. I. Was. Hooked. In THE UNHONEYMOONERS, we meet Olive, who is the unlucky counterpart to her perennially lucky twin sister, Ami. Everything always seems to go Ami’s way, including winning every sweepstakes to pay for her upcoming wedding. But Ami cruelly (and hilariously) learns the hard way that nothing comes without a cost when everyone at her wedding gets food poisoning. Everyone except for Olive and Ethan, Ami’s new brother-in-law and Olive’s nemesis. Too sick to go on her own honeymoon, Ami insists Olive take the trip to Maui for her . . . along with Ethan. The two must pretend to be newlyweds, and the charade is easier to pull off than Olive ever expected. It’s sexy and funny and will make you want to read the rest of Christina Lauren’s catalog, which is exactly what I did.
THE INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER!
Starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews * Publishers Weekly * Library Journal
Named a “Must-Read” by TODAY, Us Weekly, Bustle, BuzzFeed, Goodreads, Entertainment Weekly, Publishers Weekly, Southern Living, Book Riot, Woman’s Day, The Toronto Star, and more!
For two sworn enemies, anything can happen during the Hawaiian trip of a lifetime—maybe even love—in this romantic comedy from the New York Times bestselling authors of Roomies.
Olive Torres is used to being the unlucky twin: from inexplicable mishaps to a recent layoff, her life seems to be almost comically jinxed. By contrast, her sister Ami is an eternal champion . . . she even managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a slew of contests. Unfortunately for Olive, the only thing worse than constant bad luck is having to spend the wedding day with the best man (and her nemesis), Ethan Thomas.
Olive braces herself for wedding hell, determined to put on a brave face, but when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. Suddenly there’s a free honeymoon up for grabs, and Olive will be damned if Ethan gets to enjoy paradise solo.
Agreeing to a temporary truce, the pair head for Maui. After all, ten days of bliss is worth having to assume the role of loving newlyweds, right? But the weird thing is . . . Olive doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, the more she pretends to be the luckiest woman alive, the more it feels like she might be.
With Christina Lauren’s “uniquely hilarious and touching voice” (Entertainment Weekly), The Unhoneymooners is a romance for anyone who has ever felt unlucky in love.
Jordyn’s Pick: This book will forever comfort me with the vibes of hot summers, pancakes and syrup, and cassette tapes with ’70s rock. And although I’ve only been to NYC twice, I have a newfound nostalgia for the city as I lived there vicariously through this book. In the weeks after reading ONE LAST STOP, I found myself looking around the subway in Toronto, watching for my mysterious love interest rocking a leather jacket and old school headphones. To be honest, the subway in Toronto is not nearly as romantic as the Q train, and I made way too much eye contact with people for a subway ride. And then there’s the fact that I am indeed already married, so it’d end up being a big ol’ mess if I found a second soulmate on my train! So, I guess it’s too late for me, but I love keeping an eye out to see if I can spot any meet cutes in the making.
Nicole’s Pick: When I first got my hands on an ARC of LEGENDBORN, it was all I could talk about. Then the book published, and it was all I could talk about. And now, shortly after the paperback release (with new Sel content!), is yet again all I can talk about. Am I obsessed with the Legendborn universe? I just might be.
Bree Matthews begins the Early College program at the University of North Carolina with grief in her heart. After her mother dies in a tragic car accident, all Bree wants to do is leave home, where the reminders of her mother are plentiful. But then Bree witnesses a magical attack on campus. A teenage mage attempts to wipe Bree’s memory of the events of that night, but when he fails, Bree’s unique magic is revealed. She’s able to remember that on the night of her mother’s accident, another mage attempted the very same memory wipe. Determined to get to the bottom of her mother’s death, Bree finds herself embroiled in the Legendborn secret society. It’s a world of scions and oaths and the descendants of King Arthur’s really, really old white legacy. But I think it’s a disservice to call LEGENDBORN simply a twist on the King Arthur legend. It’s so, so much more than that. LEGENDBORN is a powerful look at institutionalized racism in the South, the whitewashing and gatekeeping of history, Black girl magic, and what legacy truly means. I hope you will find yourself as immersed in the lore and the magic system as I am!
An Instant New York Times Bestseller!
Winner of the Coretta Scott King - John Steptoe for New Talent Author Award
Filled with mystery and an intriguingly rich magic system, Tracy Deonn’s YA contemporary fantasy reinvents the King Arthur legend and “braids together Southern folk traditions and Black Girl Magic into a searing modern tale of grief, power, and self-discovery” (Dhonielle Clayton, New York Times bestselling author of The Belles).
After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants nothing to do with her family memories or childhood home. A residential program for bright high schoolers at UNC–Chapel Hill seems like the perfect escape—until Bree witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus.
A flying demon feeding on human energies.
A secret society of so called “Legendborn” students that hunt the creatures down.
And a mysterious teenage mage who calls himself a “Merlin” and who attempts—and fails—to wipe Bree’s memory of everything she saw.
The mage’s failure unlocks Bree’s own unique magic and a buried memory with a hidden connection: the night her mother died, another Merlin was at the hospital. Now that Bree knows there’s more to her mother’s death than what’s on the police report, she’ll do whatever it takes to find out the truth, even if that means infiltrating the Legendborn as one of their initiates.
She recruits Nick, a self-exiled Legendborn with his own grudge against the group, and their reluctant partnership pulls them deeper into the society’s secrets—and closer to each other. But when the Legendborn reveal themselves as the descendants of King Arthur’s knights and explain that a magical war is coming, Bree has to decide how far she’ll go for the truth and whether she should use her magic to take the society down—or join the fight.
This paperback edition of Legendborn contains a teaser to the thrilling sequel, Bloodmarked, as well as an exclusive short story from Selwyn Kane's perspective!
Holly’s Pick: Scoot PERCY JACKSON and HARRY POTTER over on your shelves. There’s a new middle grade magical adventure novel ready to take over your entire personality. Skandar, our hero, is a thirteen-year-old boy who dreams of passing his Hatchery exam and becoming a unicorn rider. But Skandar’s journey to becoming a rider is far more epic than he ever imagined. Skandar quickly learns that a rider’s job isn’t just bonding with a mystical unicorn and taking part in epic sky battles. Off the Mainland, there’s a villain backed by an army of bloodthirsty evil unicorns, threatening to take over the world. And whether Skandar likes it or not, his powers are vital to defeating the army. As Skandar grows close to other riders and understands his part in the world of unicorns, he learns valuable lessons about friendship, strength, and courage. I got completely lost in this exciting realm following along with Skandar’s engrossing story.
Soar into a breathtaking world of heroes and unicorns as you’ve never seen them before in this fantastical middle grade debut perfect for fans of the Percy Jackson and Eragon series!
Skandar Smith has always yearned to leave the Mainland and escape to the secretive Island, where wild unicorns roam free. He’s spent years studying for his Hatchery exam, the annual test that selects a handful of Mainlander thirteen-year-olds to train to become unicorn riders. But on the day of Skandar’s exam, things go horribly wrong, and his hopes are shattered…until a mysterious figure knocks on his door at midnight, bearing a message: the Island is in peril and Skandar must answer its call.
Skandar is thrust into a world of epic sky battles, dangerous clashes with wild unicorns, and rumors of a shadowy villain amassing a unicorn army. And the closer Skandar grows to his newfound friends and community of riders, the harder it becomes to keep his secrets—especially when he discovers their lives may all be in graver danger than he ever imagined.
Kaitie’s Pick: Oh man, EVERY SUMMER AFTER is one of my favorite books that I’ve ever read. I could not put this sweeping love story down and was absolutely wrecked by it. This incredible debut follows Persephone and Sam’s love story over the course of six years and one weekend, proving that sometimes you can go home again. With notes of Sarah Dessen and Christina Lauren’s LOVE AND OTHER WORDS, I cannot recommend this book enough.
Photo credit: iStock / NataGolubnycha