Sure, it’s fun to talk about a book. But it’s also enormously fun to talk about the magical sequence of events that led us to said book in the first place. Basically, this is our staff’s spot to talk about the most recent books we acquired in a book haul, whether it was a spontaneous purchase at a bookstore, a friend or coworker rec, a good deal at a used bookstore, something in the pop culture universe, and so on.
Book Haul: 9 New Additions to Our Shelves and Why We Chose Them
Emily’s Pick #1: I like to listen to podcasts while cleaning but have found myself in a podcast lull lately. And so I’ve decided to try out a few audiobooks to fill up the audio space (plus maybe it’ll help me achieve my reading goals for the year). After talking with my coworker Aimee about my audiobook search, she suggested FAIRY TALE by Stephen King, and her rec sold me. She was raving about how good the narrator was, and so far I can say I absolutely agree (and it just so happened to win an Audie Award this year!). The audio narrator’s captivating voice is perfectly suited for this equally bewitching story about a teen boy who enters a portal into another world and sets out on your classic fantasy story filled with grand adventures through castles, dungeons, royalty, and more!
Legendary storyteller Stephen King goes into the deepest well of his imagination in this spellbinding novel about a seventeen-year-old boy who inherits the keys to a parallel world where good and evil are at war, and the stakes could not be higher—for that world or ours.
Charlie Reade looks like a regular high school kid, great at baseball and football, a decent student. But he carries a heavy load. His mom was killed in a hit-and-run accident when he was ten, and grief drove his dad to drink. Charlie learned how to take care of himself—and his dad. When Charlie is seventeen, he meets a dog named Radar and her aging master, Howard Bowditch, a recluse in a big house at the top of a big hill, with a locked shed in the backyard. Sometimes strange sounds emerge from it.
Charlie starts doing jobs for Mr. Bowditch and loses his heart to Radar. Then, when Bowditch dies, he leaves Charlie a cassette tape telling a story no one would believe. What Bowditch knows, and has kept secret all his long life, is that inside the shed is a portal to another world.
King’s storytelling in Fairy Tale soars. This is a magnificent and terrifying tale in which good is pitted against overwhelming evil, and a heroic boy—and his dog—must lead the battle.
Early in the Pandemic, King asked himself: “What could you write that would make you happy?”
“As if my imagination had been waiting for the question to be asked, I saw a vast deserted city—deserted but alive. I saw the empty streets, the haunted buildings, a gargoyle head lying overturned in the street. I saw smashed statues (of what I didn’t know, but I eventually found out). I saw a huge, sprawling palace with glass towers so high their tips pierced the clouds. Those images released the story I wanted to tell.”
Emily’s Pick #2: It’s not often that a Goodreads review convinces me (I use it more to find similar opinions after I’ve finished the book), but popular Goodreads reviewer Emily May wrote a rave review of STRANGE SALLY DIAMOND where she said, “I’d be very surprised if this doesn’t end up being one of the most popular books of 2023,” and that was all I needed to get me to pick up this book. That and the fact that I just so happened to magically find a galley in the office within the same week. Sally Diamond is a recluse, dealing with trauma from her past, who emerges from her isolated Ireland home when curious messages from a stranger arrive. As she journeys onward, the world reveals itself in all its beauty and darkness—she finds friends and enemies, learns how to trust, and uncovers secrets of her past and the strangers that are quickly adding up and entering her life.
The internationally bestselling author of the “dark, captivating psychological thriller” (People) Lying in Wait returns with a wickedly dark, twisted, and brilliantly observed new novel about an enigmatic woman confronting her unknown past.
Reclusive Sally Diamond causes outrage by trying to incinerate her dead father. Now she’s the center of attention, not only from the hungry media and police detectives, but also a sinister voice from a past she does not remember. As she begins to discover the horrors of her early childhood, Sally steps into the world for the first time, making new friends, big decisions, and learning that people don’t always mean what they say.
But who is the man observing Sally from the other side of the world, and why does he call her Mary? And why does her new neighbor seem to be obsessed with her? Sally’s trust issues are about to be severely challenged…
Sara’s Pick: I have been a fan of Becky Chambers since I first cracked the cover on her debut novel. So, when I saw the first in her latest series sitting on the shelf, it was all but sealed that the book was coming home with me. A PSALM FOR THE WILD-BUILT is the start of her new Monk and Robot series, and it’s as imaginative as all her other sci-fi works have been. When the robots of Panga develop sentience, they leave en masse into the wild, disappearing without a trace. Hundreds of years later, one robot returns on a mission: to answer the seemingly simple (but insanely complex) question “what do people need?” Finding a tea monk named Dex, the two go forth on a journey to answer philosophical questions and develop a friendship along the way. Thoughtful, engaging, and down-right beautiful, this short but powerful book is perfect for traveling or just relaxing with a cup of tea.
Kerry’s Pick #1: Race has been a part of the horror genre since the first spooky story was ever told. But it has only been relatively recently that we began analyzing how the horror genre has portrayed race politics, and this in-depth work of scholarship is a fresh and integral addition to the conversation. Last Halloween, I watched the eye-opening documentary Horror Noire (which I highly recommend) and became familiar with the work of Dr. Robin R. Means Coleman and Mark H. Harris. When I discovered they had written a new, seminal look into how horror has used Blackness since 1968, I knew I had to get my hands on it. From Night of the Living Dead to Tales from the Hood and more recently Nope, these unforgettable films are explored with insight and deep love. Even if you’re just a casual fan who prefers to watch scary movies through your fingers, you’ll find THE BLACK GUY DIES FIRST an engaging and revolutionary read that will have you streaming your own horror marathon.
A definitive and surprising exploration of the history of Black horror films, after the rising success of Get Out, Candyman, and Lovecraft Country from creators behind the acclaimed documentary, Horror Noire.
The Black Guy Dies First explores the Black journey in modern horror cinema, from the fodder epitomized by Spider Baby to the Oscar-winning cinematic heights of Get Out and beyond. This eye-opening book delves into the themes, tropes, and traits that have come to characterize Black roles in horror since 1968, a year in which race made national headlines in iconic moments from the enactment of the 1968 Civil Rights Act and Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in April. This timely book is a must-read for cinema and horror fans alike.
Kerry’s Pick #2: I have a hyper fixation habit that whenever I become interested in a subject, I must devour any and all information on it as soon as possible. One of my latest examples is when the trailer for Christopher Nolan’s upcoming film Oppenheimer dropped, I immediately picked up and read this Pulitzer Prize–winning biography about the man behind the atomic bomb: J. Robert Oppenheimer. Like the man himself, AMERICAN PROMETHEUS is a fascinating and complicated story, one that will have you hooked from the first page. If you’re like me, you may go into it with preconceived notions about the Manhattan Project and the man who famously called himself the destroyer of worlds. Be prepared for a multifaceted portrait, one that reveals the admirable sides of Oppenheimer while not shying away from his flawed and darkest actions. He, and the rest of the remarkable cast of characters, come to vibrant life, making the creation and detonation of the atomic bomb all the more horrifying. This, quite frankly, demonstrates the best of what the biography genre has to offer.
Heather’s Pick: Taylor Jenkins Reid has been on my radar for years because of the sensational word of mouth around THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO and DAISY JONES AND THE SIX. After witnessing an explosion of online chatter about the DAISY JONES AND THE SIX television adaptation and then watching the (terrific) trailer, I knew I needed to hurry up and get with the program. The DAISY JONES audiobook, read by a full cast of talented narrators and actors, like Judy Greer, quickly sucked me in and I found myself listening to chapters at every opportunity. Reid’s oral history of the dramatic rise and fall of a 1970s rock band felt so real at times that I second-guessed whether it was actually fictional. Whether you feel nostalgic for the golden age of rock’n’roll, grew up on VH1’s Behind the Music, or simply appreciate a juicy story, this book will hit the spot.
Sharon’s Pick #1: To be honest, this magnificent cover is definitely why I’m looking to secure a physical copy of BIG SWISS for my shelves ASAP. In addition to the cover, this book’s premise as well as the buzz building around it have made me even more excited to read it.
BIG SWISS follows Greta, a transcriptionist for a sex coach, who falls in love with one of the coach’s clients, a woman she nicknames Big Swiss. After Greta recognizes Big Swiss’s voice out in public, she strikes up a conversation with her under a false identity, and soon the two begin an intense relationship that Greta is determined to hold on to.
A brilliantly original and funny novel about a sex therapist’s transcriptionist who falls in love with a client while listening to her sessions. When they accidentally meet in real life, an explosive affair ensues.
Greta lives with her friend Sabine in an ancient Dutch farmhouse in Hudson, New York. The house, built in 1737, is unrenovated, uninsulated, and full of bees. Greta spends her days transcribing therapy sessions for a sex coach who calls himself Om. She becomes infatuated with his newest client, a repressed married woman she affectionately refers to as Big Swiss, since she’s tall, stoic, and originally from Switzerland. Greta is fascinated by Big Swiss’s refreshing attitude toward trauma. They both have dark histories, but Big Swiss chooses to remain unattached to her suffering while Greta continues to be tortured by her past.
One day, Greta recognizes Big Swiss’s voice at the dog park. In a panic, she introduces herself with a fake name and they quickly become enmeshed. Although Big Swiss is unaware of Greta’s true identity, Greta has never been more herself with anyone. Her attraction to Big Swiss overrides her guilt, and she’ll do anything to sustain the relationship…
Bold, outlandish, and filled with irresistible characters, Big Swiss is both a love story and also a deft examination of infidelity, mental health, sexual stereotypes, and more—from an amazingly talented, one-of-a-kind voice in contemporary fiction.
Sharon’s Pick #2: Patricia Engel’s INFINITE COUNTRY was one of my favorite reads of 2021, so as soon as I found out she was releasing a new book this year, I knew I needed to get myself a copy. My excitement grew upon realizing that THE FARAWAY WORLD is a short story collection; I am a huge fan of short stories, and I have the highest hopes that Engel’s lyrical, heart-wrenching writing will translate beautifully into the short story format.
From Patricia Engel, whose novel Infinite Country was a New York Times bestseller and a Reese’s Book Club pick, comes an exquisite collection of ten haunting, award-winning short stories set across the Americas and linked by themes of migration, sacrifice, and moral compromise.
Two Colombian expats meet as strangers on the rainy streets of New York City, both burdened with traumatic pasts. In Cuba, a woman discovers her deceased brother’s bones have been stolen, and the love of her life returns from Ecuador for a one-night visit. A cash-strapped couple hustles in Miami, to life-altering ends.
The Faraway World is a collection of arresting stories from the New York Times bestselling author of Infinite Country, Patricia Engel, “a gifted storyteller whose writing shines even in the darkest corners” (The Washington Post). Intimate and panoramic, these stories bring to life the liminality of regret, the vibrancy of community, and the epic deeds and quiet moments of love.
Katya’s Pick: I first picked up Marina Keegan’s THE OPPOSITE OF LONELINESS because I felt some dark magnetism to Keegan’s life story, or rather, to the shocking way and time that her life ended. I’m not sure I can articulate exactly what about the precocious young author’s tragic early death endeared me to her writing, though I know I’m not alone in feeling the intrigue and curiosity I did, seeing as THE OPPOSITE OF LONELINESS was an instant NYT bestseller. A collection of stories and essays, many written during Keegan’s time at Yale (she graduated only a few days before dying in a car accident, just a couple months before she was set to begin a job at THE NEW YORKER), this book exudes wisdom, hope, genius, and a sheer joy for living that can be hard to come by. I believe these works would have been published even if the author had not died so tragically, because they’re just plain good works of literature, but—though I am somewhat ashamed to admit it—I can’t be certain that I would have picked this up just as quickly.
The instant New York Times bestseller and publishing phenomenon: Marina Keegan’s posthumous collection of award-winning essays and stories “sparkles with talent, humanity, and youth” (O, The Oprah Magazine).Marina Keegan’s star was on the rise when she graduated magna cum laude from Yale in May 2012. She had a play that was to be produced at the New York Fringe Festival and a job waiting for her at The New Yorker. Tragically, five days after graduation, Marina died in a car crash. Marina left behind a rich, deeply expansive trove of writing that, like her title essay, captures the hope, uncertainty, and possibility of her generation. Her short story “Cold Pastoral” was published on NewYorker.com. Her essay “Even Artichokes Have Doubts” was excerpted in the Financial Times, and her book was the focus of a Nicholas Kristof column in The New York Times. Millions of her contemporaries have responded to her work on social media. As Marina wrote: “We can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over…We’re so young. We can’t, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it’s all we have.” The Opposite of Loneliness is an unforgettable collection of Marina’s essays and stories that articulates the universal struggle all of us face as we figure out what we aspire to be and how we can harness our talents to impact the world. “How do you mourn the loss of a fiery talent that was barely a tendril before it was snuffed out? Answer: Read this book. A clear-eyed observer of human nature, Keegan could take a clever idea...and make it something beautiful” (People).
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