Buenos Diaz, friends! So I fully intended to do a monthly roundup of great reads this year and perhaps take some time to write about the LOL moments of living with my father on a regular basis. Really, I did. I clearly didn’t manage the monthly thing, but I do happen to be checking in midway through the year. So let’s just pretend it was my goal all along to do so and call this a mid-year roundup of fantastic books instead, yes? But before I dive in, here’s a quick recap for the people and some fun news:
- Writing for Book Riot is going swimmingly (clickey the link to read some of my work) - I get to write about books snarkily and sassily in a safe and inclusive space. I’ve actually got some news to share on that front: as of this morning, I can finally reveal that I’ve transitioned from writer to Contributing Editor! Huzzah!
- My job as a bookseller is just as fabulous. I still pinch myself biweekly when that direct deposit hits and I’ve once again been paid to read, sell and talk about books. Bliss.
- Travel-wise, I’ve got a trip to Montreal coming in September, hopefully Portland in October, and planning for Greece and/or Cuba in 2019. Thinking about updating my dating apps to listing employment with an airline as one of my non-negotiables... a bitch needs a buddy pass, for real.
- Oh, and most exciting of all: I’m going to be a Tia in about 10 days! Prepare for baby spam, y’all. My little nephew is about to be the object of my obsession.
Lastly… I have a lot of feelings and thoughts about the state of our nation. I’ve started at least a dozen blog posts about them in the last several months but then retreated when I wasn’t sure if my anger was eloquent and purposeful or just plain ol’ fiery, reactionary rage. Not that I apologize for the rage, rage is what we should all feel right about now. I’m just working out how to express it thoughtfully and constructively and with less expletives. Maybe.
What I have been doing plenty of instead is, of course, reading. Reading helps me cope and escape so I thought I’d share with you all the books that have made me laugh, made me think, made me cry in the last six months. Without further ado, here are six books I think you should pick up right this instant. Need more recs? Just email me or comment on this post. There are a lot of titles bouncing around in this head of mine.
Oh, one more thing. All of the titles here are linked to purchase at The Book Catapult, the indie that I call my bookish home. If you prefer to purchase at your favorite indie, please by all means do so!
1. Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
We all know that I’ll read just about anything that contains England, murder and mystery. This one is the best one I’ve read in awhile! This snazzy read is a book within a book- an editor is reading the unfinished manuscript of one of her most successful authors, a murder-mystery set in a sleepy English village. Then the manuscript abruptly ends, and the editor is convinced that hidden in the pages of this unfinished work is a real story of greed, jealousy, and of course, murder. I devoured all 500 pages of this paperback in one sitting on a Sunday, sitting on the couch eating nothing but Goldfish crackers and tea (and wine, sssh) because I could not be bothered to spare time for a real meal. One of my favorite books I've read this year - gave me major Agatha Christie vibes, the highest of all compliments for any whodunnit.
BONUS RECS: Anthony Horowitz has a lot of other work in both books and TV under his belt. His most recent release, The Word is Murder is another recent favorite, a twist on the Sherlock Holmes narrative where Horowitz writes himself into the book as the Watson character. I’m also a sucker for a show he adapted called Midsomer Murders. It’s a series I got hooked on during my two month stint in England last year. It’s been on air for **20** seasons and runs on syndication in England like Law & Order SVU does here in the states (you can binge it on Netflix). It’s about… murders in sleepy English villages. I am nothing if not consistent.
2. Circe by Madeline Miller
I wanted to read this book so badly that I sort of hijacked the advanced copy of it from Seth, the owner of the bookstore, when he was like 20 pages in. Really: he walked into the store reading it, I looked at him with big eyes and eagerly chirped, “Oh are you reading Circe?” He handed it over and that was that. I don't always play fair. *shrug*
The plot is one you’ve likely heard of before: the Circe in the book and the sea witch from Homer’s The Odyssey are one and the same. Madeleine Miller takes her story and does this thing that I looooove to see in books and movies: she takes a woman traditionally villainized and gives her a fully fleshed-out story full of nuance and depth (think Maleficent or Wicked). The writing is gorgeous and the story engrossing even though, in theory, you already know what’s going to happen. Striking and lovely, one of my favorite reads this year. Ughhh it’s so good.
3. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Listen. I know Jimmy Fallon just named this the book of the summer, but I have been pushing this stunning book into people’s hands since the day it released and Jimmy is clearly jocking my style. This West African fantasy is set in Orisha, where the maji were rooted out and massacred by a ruthless king who feared their magic. Zélie is a diviner who has the chance to restore magic to Orisha, but she must first outrun the prince who wants nothing more than to see her and her kind dead. With her brother and a defiant princess by her side, Zélie embarks on a quest to defeat the oppressive monarchy and harness her newly awoken magical abilities for good. The story is compelling, the world-building lush, and the links to contemporary cultural discussions hard to miss. It’s is a must-read for lovers of fantasy and anyone still chasing that Wakanda high.
BONUS REC: Tomi Adeyemi is a San Diego native and will be at the second annual San Diego Festival of Books this August! Come say hi to one super fabulous woman... me. I'll be there with The Book Catapult. Catch Adeyemi and tons of other amazing local authors too!
4. Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer
So the world is a pile of hot garbage and you just want a fun read, you say? Say no more, fam. This is a murder mystery with the crime-fighting duo you didn’t know you needed. Yep, Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
I can’t sell this hard enough: it’s a mystery and a bromance full of dad humor and subtle digs at the Cheeto in Chief. At the start, Joe is sulking like a jilted lover just after the 2016 election: he’s missing his buddy Barry who’s off vacationing with his newfound freedom and Joe is wondering why he can’t just get a text back. But when Joe’s favorite Amtrak conductor is found dead on the tracks in an apparent suicide, Joe is convinced that there’s more there than meets the eye and sets out to uncover the truth. President Obama is a very, very different character in this book than the Barry we’re used to - he’s sort of shadowy and mysterious, appearing and vanishing at will with a cigarette in his hand (but he always disposes of the butts responsibly because that’s just Barack’s way). There are so many fantastic one-liners in this book, I just can’t take it. It’s comedic gold and a welcome respite from our ridiculous news cycle.
5. The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
Get the f*cking tissues, yo. In Chicago’s boystown in 1985, Yale Tishman is a young director of development for a new art gallery on the precipice of a huge acquisition of priceless art. Just as he’s hitting his stride with the project, the AIDS epidemic sweeps the nation and claims the life of his friend Nico. The disease quickly spreads among his circle of friends and hits very, very close to home just when Yale thinks he’s safe. Soon the only person he has left is Fiona, Nico’s sister who stood by his side when his parents disowned him for coming out as gay.
Thirty years later, we follow Fiona as she boards a plane to Paris in search of the estranged daughter she lost to a cult years prior. While in Paris, she stays with an old friend, a photographer famous for documenting the Chicago epidemic. She’s forced to finally come to terms with all of the loss she’s suffered, including the lingering and unconfronted effects that her grief has had on her relationship with her daughter. This story is so captivating and tragic but also bursting with hope, and with a plot that will keep you turning those pages fiercely. So beautiful, but seriously: tissues.
6. Calypso by David Sedaris
One of my all time favorite writers is back with possibly my favorite essay collection since Me Talk Pretty One Day. Sedaris brings all of his signature humor and powers of observation to writing about middle age. This collection is as moving as it is laugh-out-loud hilarious; Sedaris shares details of his sister’s sudden passing and the contemplation of his and his father’s mortality brought on by her death. He and his partner Hugh decide to purchase a beach house off the coast of North Carolina to have a place to gather with his family more often - touching, right? It is, but then Sedaris pulls a Sedaris and names the house "the Sea Section" and I just about lost my mind. The story about he and his sister Amy’s adventures shopping in Tokyo made me laugh out loud for a solid five minutes - please read this chapter and think of me when you hear the words “hand puppet.”
Bonus: catch this one on audio for a real treat, narrated by Sedaris himself. Might I suggest doing so at Libro.fm/thebookcatapult?