There are few places I’m as happy as in a bookstore. All those glorious, beautiful shelves packed with glorious, beautiful words, not to mention the glossy covers, familiar names, new titles too explore… Just thinking about it is making me want to hop a bus to the nearest B&N.
But my happiest place on Earth? My own apartment, always. And you know what makes it better? BOOKS. Shelves of glorious, beautiful books. And with all the somewhat abstract talking about reading and writing that happens around here, I thought it’d be fun to go (concisely!) through the titles that actually grace my shelves, perhaps even simultaneously proving that I do occasionally read books whose target audience isn’t half my age.
And so, without further ado, shelf #1! Organized alphabetically by author, obviously.
HAPPY HOUR AT CASA DRACULA by Marta Acosta–Like many of the books on my shelf, this was a freebie from my job as an Editorial Assistant, but possibly my favorite discovery from that time. The plot may be a little out there, but the writing is just too naturally funny for me to care. And I loved main character Milagro de los Santos so much that I then got MIDNIGHT BRUNCH AT CASA DRACULA, THE BRIDE OF CASA DRACULA, and HAUNTED HONEYMOON so I could enjoy the hilarious series in its entirety.
HALF OF A YELLOW SUN and THE THING AROUND YOUR NECK by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie–I may own a lot of books, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend them all. These, however, are so gorgeous and so fascinating that I would happily push them to anyone looking for recs. The former is recent historical fiction, about Nigeria in the 1960s, and the latter is a collection of short stories, sort of like Jhumpa Lahiri’s INTERPRETER OF MALADIES if you replace “Indian” with “Nigerian” in each one.
THE BOOK OF DAHLIA by Elisa Albert–this one’s actually an ARC and was passed along to me when I was an EA for obvious reasons. A little depressing, a little bit of an infuriating MC, but I enjoyed it at the time.
THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN and THE TOUGHEST INDIAN IN THE WORLD by Sherman Alexie–I first read Sherman Alexie’s writing in an issue of the New Yorker and was smitten immediately, so when I took a YA writing class and saw TRUE DIARY on the syllabus, I was thrilled to find a place to start with his work. It was, as expected, truly and utterly fantastic, a heartbreaking look at life on the reservation and how much of a struggle it can be to try to improve your own situation. To be perfectly honest, none of his other work speaks to me the way that book did, but maybe that’s why I primarily read and write YA!
IN THE TIME OF THE BUTTERFLIES by Julia Alvarez–I wanted to love this book so much, but I just never really got into it. I know I’m in a minority on this one!
THE COMPANY by Max Barry–I haven’t picked this book up in years, but I vaguely remember thinking it was hilarious.
LATER, AT THE BAR by Rebecca Barry–This book is one of my absolute favorites, and one to which I frequently return when I need character-writing inspiration. Not that a bunch of sadsacks in a freezing town in upstate New York whose lives revolve around a bar is particularly helpful for YA, but something about the way each character is so lovingly and sadly crafted just gets me in the mood to write every time.
SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE by Alan Bradley–OK, I know the Flavia de Luce series is extremely popular, but this book made me so mad; the cover is rendered impossible by the actual text of the book, and that threw me off so much I wanted to stop reading right then. Instead, I continued on, so I could read the really obvious ending. So, yeah, not my favorite.
HONOLULU by Alan Brennert–I bought this in Honolulu, because, duh. And it was good, in the way pretty much every book I’ve read about female East Asian immigrants to America are good. But it pales in comparison to his MOLOKA’I, which is not pictured here because it’s only on my Kindle. If you haven’t already read that one, do it immediately. Seriously. Stop reading this and go buy MOLOKA’I.
MARCH and CALEB’S CROSSING by Geraldine Brooks–Geraldine Brooks is one of those authors who can sell me anything. The only reason you don’t see more of her books here is because I constantly lend them out to other people. MARCH was excellent, obviously, and I say this as someone who wasn’t even a fan of LITTLE WOMEN (which you totally don’t need to have been), and I only just bought CC because I was waiting for it to come out in paperback, but I’m excited for it!
THE GOOD EARTH by Pearl Buck–I haven’t read this since sixth grade, but I found this for cheap and bought it. I do remember liking it!
MASTER AND MARGARITA by Mikhail Bulgakov–An epic mindscrew of the highest order, if I think about it for too long, my brain starts to hurt. I’ve read embarrassingly little Russian literature – basically just this, LOLITA, and whatever we read in my Russian classes in college – but this was good incentive to try some more.
UNDER THE CAJUN MOON by Mandy Starns Clark–Read this recently and need to lend something else out so I can fit it back into my shelf. It was cute, nothing particularly earth-shattering, though mystery is admittedly not my genre of choice, and a little Cajun is always nice!
THE ROTTERS CLUB by Jonathan Coe–Took from my parents’ house and never read it. Someday, probably.
LORDS OF DISCIPLINE by Pat Conroy–I feel about Pat Conroy similarly to how I feel about John Green: great writer, but nothing’s ever gonna compare to the first one you read, partly because the style is so new to you, and partly because they reuse a lot of the same elements over and over. My first Conroy was SOUTH OF BROAD and then I kinda worked backward to this and PRINCE OF TIDES, and while they’re all good, for me, it’s all about the first.
PLAYING WITH GROWN-UPS by Sophie Dahl–Another ARC I enjoyed, and a worthwhile read if you’re not tired of the “look how crazily I was raised!” genre.
WHITE NOISE and FALLING MAN by Don DeLillo–There is probably no single author I wanted to love as much as I wanted to love Don DeLillo, but I can sum up my reading of his work in the following phrase: “Flashes of brilliance surrounded by lots of stuff I don’t understand.”
THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO by Junot Dias–I’m going to be really honest here: I couldn’t get past page 10. Few things put me off in a book like repeated, unexplained/untranslated usage of a language I don’t speak. Someday I hope to learn Spanish and try again.
VELOCITIES by Stephen Dobyns–I bought this when I was a poetry minor and had just read something of his I thought was incredible. I also thought it was in this book. It wasn’t. And once I graduated, I never read poetry again.
THE BIRTH OF VENUS and IN THE COMPANY OF THE COURTESAN by Sarah Dunant–Sarah Dunant writes fun, light historical fiction. These were no exception.
A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD by Jennifer Egan–Obviously this has been required reading in the past couple of years. Reading this book for me was basically, “This is fine, this is OK, don’t get the hype…[about 85% of the way through] Oh! Huh. This is sort of brilliant. And the rest is OK.”
WHAT IS THE WHAT and ZEITOUN by Dave Eggers–I don’t like to think of myself as a Dave Eggers fan, having found his debut utterly insipid. I bought WITW because it was on a 3 for 2 B&N table and there was nothing else I wanted. It ended up being one of my favorite books, undoubtedly helped by the fact that he doesn’t narrate it in his own voice. ZEITOUN was a decent book made better for me by being the only one I’ve read about Katrina.
And that’s all for the “Fiction paperbacks A-F” shelf! Read any of these and loved em or hated em?
Next time up, F-M!