Weekend reading

Vannessa Cronin on February 14, 2020
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Happy Valentine's Day! The champagne and chocolate hangover may have subsided by the time editors get back to reading, but it looks like all kinds of love will remain in the air this weekend as we dip into a memoir about a lovely, funny grandmother and her granddaughter, Augusten Burroughs's memoir about kissing frogs as you look for your Prince, a romantic re-working of a Russian classic, and an historical novel about English villagers brought together by a love of Jane Austen.

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Nobody Will Tell You This But Me: A true (as told to me) story by Bess Kalb

I am in love with the all-consuming, hilarious, primal relationship between Bess Kalb and her late grandmother, Bobby Bell. Nobody Will Tell You This But Me is narrated by Kalb’s grandmother, which took me a minute to find my bearings, but once I did this memoir made my heart swell, my eyes alight in amazement and joy. Told in conversations, voicemail messages, memories, Bobby regales her granddaughter with her infinite wisdom, which is almost always over the top and a little bit critical but delivered with love's exuberance. These two women are two peas in a pod, “birds of feather,” or as Bobby Bell says of her granddaughter “I am you. I’m the bones in your body and the blood that fills you up and the meat around your legs.” In other words, they are one another’s Valentine today and forever and I feel oh-so lucky to be let into their magical universe this Valentine's Day.—Al Woodworth  (Releases March 17)


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Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own by Eddie S. Glaude Jr.

This is the story of Princeton’s Eddie S. Glaude Jr. leaving the States in order to travel to Europe to write about America. While he is there he traces James Baldwin’s haunts and ideas. Baldwin also left the States to write, and Glaude employs memoir and history to describe their dual exoeriences of writing about home as expats. The distance gives them clarity, and what I have read so far has carried me along.—Chris Schluep


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Lust & Wonder by Augusten Burroughs

On this Valentine’s Day, I’m going to revisit Augusten Burroughs’s autobiographical offering, Lust & Wonder, which is a tale many of us can relate to: In our search for true love, we have kissed a few (perhaps dozen) frogs, and dated utterly inappropriate people because they were simply too cute to resist, or really good in…social situations. While it can be painful to ruminate on our own struggles in this regard, reading about Burroughs’s relationship failures (and successes!) is anything but. Lust & Wonder delivers on what you’d expect from the lauded author of Running with Scissors--the kind of wit, profundity, and keen appreciation of the absurd that tempers what could otherwise be cynical subject matter. I heart it. —Erin Kodicek

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Summer of '79: A Summer of '69 Story by Elin Hilderbrand

It might be a stretch to call the summer of ’69 the Summer of Love (my quick internet search tells me that actually applies to the summer of ’67), but work with me here. Elin Hilderbrand (whom I *love*, has just published a special digital short story, Summer of ’79, which follows the characters of Summer of ’69–which customers *loved*–ten years in the future. While the digital version is available for a limited time, this short story will be published in print in spring 2021 as part of a Dorothea Benton Frank tribute anthology. So many things to *love* here, including women paying tribute to other great women.—Sarah Gelman


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Anna K: A Love Story by Jenny Lee

With this being Valentine’s Day and all, I decided a love story would be in order for my weekend reading. I got started a little early and am already taken with Anna K: A Love Story, Jenny Lee’s retelling of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. In this story, Anna K. is a Korean-American teenager; a beautiful, chic, and seemingly perfect member of Manhattan and Greenwich’s high society with all the designer trappings and high expectations that go with it. Her younger brother is feckless and lovable, but major girlfriend trouble sends Anna to his rescue, and leads to her chance meeting with a boy who will ultimately steal her heart. Anna K is an eye-popping ride of wealth gone wild, and I sometimes start to forget that the characters are teenagers, not a more debauched version of a Real Housewives novel, if there were such a thing. And there is so much more substance to this novel than my previous reference might imply. There are a couple of different love stories playing out simultaneously, with plenty of heartbreak and romantic angst. Tragedy awaits and I feel a tug at my heart for those involved because I’m growing quite attached to every one of these beautiful, flawed, fictional people.—Seira Wilson (Releases March 3rd)


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The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner

Among the things I love: Jane Austen, quaint English villages, books about loving books, romance, and ensemble pieces where underdogs unite for a worthy cause. So The Jane Austen Society, a story set in the years after World War II, about a group of villagers–a laborer, a young widow, the local doctor, and a movie star, among others–rallying to save the last relics of the town's most famous resident, Jane Austen, is irresistible. I already feel as though I know and love these people and I'm dreading saying goodbye to them when I turn that last page, if that makes sense. If you are looking for a novel that will charm you, the way The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society or The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir did, this one’s for you.—Vannessa Cronin (Releases May 26)

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If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha

This gorgeous book cover drew me in, but the story itself has kept me feverishly flipping the pages. Set in modern-day Seoul, this debut novel leaps into the lives of four very different young women with very different lives who find strength in their unlikely friendships. The pressure to be beautiful weighs on all of them, to the point where invasive plastic surgery (think jaw reduction and facial contouring — this is not your basic nip-and-tuck) seems like not simply a good option but the only possible way to stand out. Cha does a marvelous job of giving each woman her own distinctive voice and obsession, and I can’t wait to see how their lives begin to intertwine. —Adrian Liang (Releases April 21)


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