Weekend reading

Adrian Liang on September 18, 2020

weekend reading

It somehow doesn't feel like it's still summer, though it technically is. Perhaps it's because most of us are reading November books, looking ahead to find the novels and nonfiction we think other readers will enjoy right when the holiday fever begins.

And we're also savoring a few books from August and September that we've passionately recommended to one other—partly so that we can gush about them together after the last page has been turned.

Good bye, very weird summer. While our vacations turned into staycations, at least we got a lot of reading done!

Dear Justyce by Nic Stone

Nic Stone's Dear Martin quickly became a best seller when it released in 2017, and now she's written a sequel, Dear Justyce (September 29). In this novel, Justyce McAllister—the protagonist in Dear Martin—is the one friend that Vernell LaQuan Banks can count on as he faces an upcoming trial for a crime he didn't commit. Told in vignettes, flashbacks, and letters, Dear Justyce promises to be another powerful book from Stone, one that tells hard truths about the juvenile justice system, but also brings inspiration and hope. I can't wait to dig in. —Seira Wilson

The Orchard by David Hopen

I read every night before I go to sleep, but my husband and I normally watch a TV show together first. Right now we’re watching Schitt’s Creek, and four seasons in, I look forward to our nightly episode all day. Last night, though, I was reading David Hopen’s upcoming debut The Orchard (November 17) and literally could not put it down until hours later when I finally fell asleep. And while this book already has glowing praise from authors such as Susan Choi and Gary Shteyngart, I wonder if the publisher might want to use this endorsement: So captivating, I didn’t want to watch Schitt’s Creek. Right before his senior year in high school, Ari Eden’s family moves from his ultra-Orthodox community in Brooklyn to a wealthy Miami suburb, where the rules of Orthodoxy seem to be a mere suggestion to Ari’s new wealthy Yeshiva classmates. Jewish tradition and theology are central to this novel, but one doesn’t need to be Jewish to enjoy it. It’s a campus novel that’s being compared to Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, and it’s a coming of age/fish out of water story. But despite these well-tread genres, and the comp to one of my Top 5 novels of all time, The Orchard is fresh, devastating, and thought-provoking. The Orchard is reputed to have an explosive ending, and I plan on ignoring everything else until I finish. —Sarah Gelman

The Last American Aristocrat: The Brilliant Life and Improbable Education of Henry Adams by David S. Brown

If I had to pick one novel to keep close during the pandemic (and also during the terrible smoke conditions that are keeping us indoors out here in the West), it would be Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow. His Count Rostov does a fine job making the most of his life and humanity while living under house arrest in the Metropol Hotel. There’s something about the cover and title of David S. Brown’s nonfiction book The Last American Aristocrat (November 24) that reminds me of A Gentleman in Moscow. I know comparing covers and titles is a shallow way to compare books, but that’s why I am going to read Brown’s book this weekend. Something tells me I might want to keep this one close during these hard times as well. —Chris Schluep

Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy

Admittedly I’m late to the party on this one, for the same reason I was late in reading Richard Powers’ The Overstory. “It’s a novel about trees! But it’s not boring!” I was dubious but that was true. With Migrations not only is the book jacket a turnoff, but do I really want to read a story that’s peripherally about climate change with climate fires still raging on the West Coast? Absolutely, quoth my colleagues, especially Al who said Migrations is “confessional, intimate and one of the best books I’ve read this year.” Sold. —Erin Kodicek

Fortune and Glory by Janet Evanovich

I read my first Stephanie Plum novel when I started work as a sales rep for Janet Evanovich’s then-publisher. I think it was the sixth or seventh one in the series. All I know is that I tore through it in a night, fell in love with the kooky characters, and promptly ordered copies of books one through six. Screwball is one thing; Jersey screwball is a whole other level of fun. Between Grandma Mazur, the gun-toting granny; deviant Uncle Vinnie; Lula, the ex-ho with the eye-popping personal style; and Stephanie Plum herself—patently and hilariously ill-suited to her emergency career as a bond enforcement agent—I could eat this series with a spoon. And don’t get me started on Morelli and Ranger. (In case you were wondering, I choose Ranger. Always.) I just started the new Plum novel, Fortune and Glory (November 10). Things change, but Stephanie Plum does not. She’s still daffy, still tenacious, and still torn between the two hot men in her life. And in a year that has brought so many seismic changes, that’s curiously comforting. Vannessa Cronin

Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man by Emmanuel Acho

Funnily enough, Acho’s book in which he fields questions from white people about racism, Black culture, and more is not uncomfortable at all. Acho—a former NFL player—has a relaxed, nonjudgmental style that that goes down easy, even though there’s nothing easy about digging into racism. Originally a series of online videos—there’s an episode with Matthew McConaughey that I can’t wait to watch—Acho’s Q&A format truly feels like a conversation, and one I wish kept going and going. This November book is a great reading pick for those who might be subconsciously intimidated by White Fragility or How to Be an Antiracist but want to learn more about racism and antiracism. —Adrian Liang

Fifty Words for Rain by Asha Lemmie

It seems Erin and I are swapping recommendations this weekend. She loved Fifty Words for Rain, calling it a "debut you won't want to miss." So far be it from me to miss it! This book couldn't have come at a better time for me. I've been thinking a lot about identity recently, and how our immediate physical environment can have a profound effect on our mental and emotional states. In Fifty Words of Rain, Nori, an eight-year-old girl, is confined to the attic of her grandmother's home in Japan. Let's just say, she's not treated well, and yet there is a fortitude to Nori that is unmistakable—even as an eight year old. I'm only 40 pages in and already I can see why Erin and many others in Lemmie's fan club (Jenna Bush, Kristin Hannah, Abi Daré) are shouting from the rooftops about this magnetic and brilliant novel. —Al Woodworth

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