Top Reads for November
Now that we must succumb to darkness by 5pm every day, it’s time to get cozy with some autumn-appropriate literature, including a buzzy debut from Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Susan Orlean’s latest on libraries, and more.
Stephanie: Once in a while, a new voice comes along that is perfectly attuned to the moment we live in, a voice that is impossible to ignore. Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah is that voice. The 27-year-old’s debut, Friday Black, is a searing short story collection that delivers on both style and substance. The author skillfully weaves together elements of satire and magical realism with today’s most pressing, politically-charged issues — racism, abortion, rampant consumerism — to create otherworldly tales that are haunting and achingly relevant. But don’t just take my word for it; Friday Black has been lauded as the breakout of the year by beloved literary giants George Saunders, Roxane Gay, and Tommy Orange (to name a few).
The Library Book
Katie: Part true-crime detective book, part history book filled with fascinating anecdotes, the newest book from Susan Orlean (The Orchid Thief) is all love. Love for libraries and the lionhearted public servants who work doggedly to keep library doors wide open for their communities.
The Library Book sucked me in with the same trick Erik Larson uses in his thrilling The Devil in the White City. Larson uses the lure of a hunt for a serial killer to get readers caught up in the history of architecture during the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. Orlean begins with a disastrous fire that consumed the Los Angeles Central Library in 1986 (the biggest library fire in American history at the time) and the subsequent search for the suspected arsonist. She uses that hunt for the fire starter to ignite readers’ interest in the history and daily operations of the Los Angeles public library. She digs beneath the library’s quiet hum to unearth the many bustling departments and intriguing personalities at the heart of this institution that symbolizes shared knowledge and inclusive community.
Delight in discovery powers this book. Orlean feeds readers’ curiosity. On each page you’ll find yourself fascinated by objects and events you’ve never imagined you’d be interested in before.
Everything’s Trash, But It’s Okay
Zoe: I am openly and unashamedly obsessed with Phoebe Robinson. (Case in point: My coworker met her and asked her to record a happy birthday video for me two years ago, and then forgot to get an autograph for himself.) Her newest book, Everything’s Trash, But It’s Okay, has reminded me why I fell in love with her humor in the first place. Let’s face it, the world is currently a dumpster fire, but hearing Phoebe’s take on everything from politics and race to dating and unrealistic beauty standards is a reminder that we’re not alone in how we may be feeling.
Phoebe’s stories are relatable and funny. They touch on everything from online dating disasters, hiding your financial struggles from your parents (who had a much easier time being successful after college), and leaving important work deadlines to the last minute.
Listening to Phoebe narrate this book is similar to listening to one of her two wildly successful podcasts, where you feel as though you’re having a conversation with an old friend. Phoebe invites the audience to celebrate her successes and laugh at her misfortunes, all while peppering each essay with statistics to connect her stories with the current climate. Everything may be trash and the world may feel like it’s on fire, but this book is a delightful reprieve from the flames.
Marissa: For the aspiring writers out there, November is National Novel Writing Month, and you could do a lot worse than taking inspiration from Stephen King. You don’t need to be a King fan or horror aficionado to be drawn into his memoir On Writing. It’s not your typical, formulaic how-to-write book (though it does include some concrete tips), but a description of how one writer approaches the craft. He describes his authorial formation, from a kid scribbling short stories into the prolific, bestselling author he’s known as today. All too aware of his “unliterary” reputation and sometimes less than flattering critical reception, he tackles the subject of his experiences with honesty and humor. Stephen King writes as if it’s the only thing he was put on this earth to do, and whether you’re a fan of his books or not, it’s a fascinating look at a towering figure in the publishing industry.
Ashley: Recently, Scribd has gotten an influx of audiobooks from Hachette, including Less by Andrew Sean Greer (which won the Pulitzer Prize), The Power by Naomi Alderman (the feminist dystopia that’s kicked off a craze), and Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (a National Book Awards finalist and end-of-year list-topper). But most importantly, it means that all of Nicholas Sparks’ more recent works — including his latest, Every Breath — are now available.
Everybody has a big genre writer that they love to death, and mine (fittingly) is Nicholas Sparks. And I’m happy to say that Every Breath is a return to form for the writer who stole our hearts with The Notebook and A Walk to Remember. In it, Tru Walls, a safari guide from Zimbabwe, ends up in Sunset Beach, North Carolina to meet his biological father for the first time. There, he not only meets his father, but the love of his life, Hope Anderson. Except North Carolina is pretty far from Zimbabwe, life is full of hard choices, fate is alternately kind and cruel, and this is a Sparks novel. Get cozy and prepare for a good cry.
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