Posts tagged book lists
Bookstagram's Favorite Classics

It would seem that most readers are able to pick a favorite book in a specific genre with relative ease. I’m not saying that it’s their all time favorite book, per say, but when I put the call out asking for favorite classics, I was met with many definitive answers. And friends, I envy you. I’ve read a decent amount of classics (by decent, I mean some, but never enough) and have yet to come across what I deem a favorite. I will say that I have a “favorite” author, but he’s amongst many, so is that even fair to say? There are just so many! I could go on and on about my issues with labeling anything a favorite, but, I digress.

20190410__RKR4074.jpg

I really enjoyed reading through all of your recommendations. I’ve read a handful of those mentioned, and there are many I would love to prioritize. Some books I was more surprised by as your favorites more than others, but there are many that we hear over and over again as being most beloved. There are some that many people recommended that I wasn’t a fan of upon first reading, and so I definitely feel the need to re-read those before I pass further judgement.

Do you ever feel like that? You read a book that is well loved, decide it’s not for you, then a handful of years go by, your reading has matured and evolved, and you think maybe you weren’t sure you got it? I feel this way all the time. Seldom will I write off a classic.

romancebooks.jpg

After looking through all of these books, I’ve decided to pick some of the ones that have more of a summer vibe to include to my TBR in coming months. I’m currently reading Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury (which is definitely summer-oriented, but I couldn’t wait, it’s as good as I’d hoped!), along with Middlemarch, but it’s still slow going but feels seasonally on point.

greatbookcover.jpg
_RKR2492.jpg
from100yearsago_001.jpg
20181005__RKR5041.jpg
Ready to Go Back to School? Campus Novels to Get You In The Mood
20180819__RKR2965.jpg
*some links are affiliate, and we deeply appreciate your support

The Secret History | Donna Tartt

Pretty much the poster child mascot of every campus novel list ever, let's just start here and get it out of the way. This book is amazing, the hype is all true. It's ancient Greek myth, and snobby, elegant rich college kids, and murder, and friendship all just soaked in atmosphere. Seriously, the atmosphere in here is absolutely stunning; I've never read anything quite like it. It's set on a college campus in Vermont, and much of the action happens in classrooms and dorms, so you'll have your fill of all that collegiate goodness. 

 

If We Were Villains | M. L. Rio

If you loved the plot of The Secret History so much you can't wait to get your hands on another one, If We Were Villains is your best bet. Instead of the ancient Greeks, these characters are all actors and obsessed with Shakespeare. Same plot points of murder/friendship/rivalry though, and of course, it's set on a very exclusive private college campus.

 

A Separate Peace | John Knowles

This is one of those books I read in school and has really stuck with me for the last 15 years. It's set at an all boys boarding school in England during the early years of WWII, and centers on the friendship of two boys and an incident that changes their lives and relationship forever. Themes of adolescence, loss of innocence, and all the complexities and pressures of attending the boarding school abound. 

 

Black Chalk | Christopher J. Yates

In this story we have six friends attending Oxford who all play a game of dares amongst themselves. It starts out pretty innocent, but deepens as they raise the stakes and the consequences. This is obviously going to go south sometime, and to further complicate it, there is the looming presence of a shadowy secret society. It's fairly plot driven, but has a complex layered structure of unreliability. If you like unreliable narrators, this one takes it to the next level, possibly two or three levels up. 

 

20180819__RKR2967.jpg

Brideshead Revisited | Evelyn Waugh

One of my very favorite classics, the bulk of this novel centers on the main character's time at Oxford. Waugh is a gorgeous writer and recounts the relationship between two young men (one of whom is very rich, and very complicated) in the waning days of England's great houses. Warm and full of love and complex friendships, grandeur and loss, it's also above all utterly mired in deep, deep nostalgia. 

 

The Marriage Plot | Jeffrey Eugenides

Set in the early '80's, English major Madeline Hanna is writing her senior thesis on the plot device of marriage that drives some of the greatest novels of the 19th century. Cue a love triangle for Madeline, and the resulting fallout. Literary, character driven, and surprisingly deep, it explores whether the trope of the marriage plot is dead in the modern world, where marriage isn't the penultimate goal, and divorce is rampant. 

 

This Side of Paradise | F. Scott Fitzgerald

This is actually Fitzgerald's very first novel, and while it isn't as tightly woven as some of his later works (ahem, Gatsby), it's still full of his signature magic. The story centers on Amory Blaine, a student at Princeton, and explores youth and love that is tainted by extravagance, greed, and status. It's supposedly semi-autobiographical and representative of the morality and lives of "the lost generation", which completely fascinates me. 

 

Stoner | John Williams

Seriously, this novel is perfect. Our hero is a professor of literature at the University of Missouri, with a generally lackluster (grim, maybe?) home life, and a fairly colorful one on campus. He is a man with a lot of integrity, a deep love of literature, and who is an accomplished scholar. The novel gives great details on the petty machinations, vicious office politics, and behind the scenes back-stabbings in the dark halls of academia if that's your thing!

The Raven Boys | Maggie Stiefvater

One of the more popular YA fantasy series of the past few years, featuring a private school for rich boys, ghosts, magic, prophecies, friendship, and of course a love story. It's shockingly atmospheric, has great characters, and of course is a bit different than your average campus novel.

20180819__RKR2968.jpg

A Prayer for Owen Meany | John Irving

Much of this book revolves around the friendship of Owen and John, and much of their friendship develops through their school years and their attendance together at Gravesend Academy. This is much more than a campus novel though, and is basically a basket of emotions, and layers, and stellar writing. This is one seriously beloved novel, and comes highly recommended by pretty much the entire world. 

 

Possession | A.S. Byatt

This won the Man Booker back in 1990 and for good reason. The two main characters are both academics researching two different Victorian poets when they realize (after much literary sleuthing) that the poets they are researching had an affair with one another. Byatt attacks the insular world of academia, while crafting an amazing love story that is equal parts passion and anguish. This is one of those deeply melancholy, atmospheric novels that is full of puzzles and brilliance, and is tailor made for those who love the world of academia. 

 

Fangirl | Rainbow Rowell

On a lighter note, Fangirl is about Cath's adjustment to college life without her twin glued to her side, and growing into her authorship of fanfiction based on the Simon Snow (Harry Potter) novels. She's a little obsessed with the fandom (aren't we all) and this book is such a great look at fandom and fanfic culture, as well as what it's like to grow into yourself that first year away from home. I loved it. 

 

Never Let Me Go | Kazuo Ishiguro

The less said about the plot of this novel the better. Do yourself a favor and don't google it! What I will say is that Ishiguro is a profoundly talented writer, and the book is largely set at a boarding school in the English countryside. It's a literary mystery, an ethical critique, a love story, and a coming of age novel all rolled into one fascinating package. 

20180819__RKR2966.jpg

Do you have a favorite campus novel??

Foreign Authors and Their Most Loved Books
20180728__RKR2280.jpg

This past year of studying diversity and multiculturalism in literature, has completely reshaped my reading life. Everything seems to take on a deeper context than I've ever known before, thus I'm craving new and different things. Thankfully, that's where the beauty of Bookstagram comes in.

One afternoon, I was looking up a writer whose book I recently read. As I was scrolling through her feed, I stumbled upon a post about Marguerite Duras. I had never heard of her before, so I immediately took to the web to find out who she was and what she had written. As it happened, my library had her memoir, The Lover, so I read it immediately. 

I've read so many diverse novels (many young adult) this past year from the courses I was taking. Books that had a centralized theme on social classes, race, culture, mental illness, sexuality, all of which included writers from different backgrounds and regions as well. My desire for this type of literature has grown immensely. So I reached out on Instagram and asked for your favorite foreign authors and received great recommendations!

booksonthego_003.jpg

The Lover | Marguerite Duras - French - This can be a difficult story for some to read if the age gap bothers you, but being autobiographical, I find I am much less critical of the content, and for what it was, she wrote it well. Despite that, her prose is sparse, beautiful, and all told in retrospect of a particular time in her life. I fully appreciate her writing and look forward to exploring more of her work.

Neapolitan Novels | Elena Ferrante - Italian - A much loved series of Ferrante's, her books are packed with a depth and richness unmatched by others. Navigating two women's lives, and their friendship, her thought-provoking quartet is so well loved.

The Eyre Affair | Jasper Fforde - British - A unique, on-going series from Great Britain, Frorde uses time travel, suspense, and often humorous prose to pull characters from some of the best loved and well known literature, and throw them into outlandish scenes and stories.

Little Jewel | Patrick Modiano - French - An intriguing mystery of a young girl in Paris who thinks she sees her long lost mother. On a quest to remember the past, Modiano masterfully creates atmosphere, using the city as a main focal point of the story, to aid his unreliable narrator and unique plot.

Les Miserables | Victor Hugo - French - A timeless book that moves readers through its strong prose, redemption, and fight between good and evil. Set in 19th century France, there is a strong undertone of political injustice that Hugo was critical of.

The Heart | Maylis de Kerangal - French - A truly heart wrenching story of love, loss, and survival. A quick and emotional read that has surprised many with its literary merit.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being | Milan Kundera - Czech - Set in Prague, this is a tale of two couples during the Soviet occupation in the '60s. Described as rich, beautiful, complex, and intellectual, all with a metaphorical philosophical twist using the characters and loose plot.

The Idiot | Fyodor Dostoyevsky - Russian - A unique tale of a man that is genuinely innocent in nature, ends caught up in a love triangle and other tense societal situations he has to navigate. It's remarkable and complex, often the way Russian literature is.

Resurrection | Leo Tolstoy - Russian - A look at the darker emotions of guilt, anger, and social injustice, Resurrection is about a man on jury to convict a woman he was involved with. Now determined to right his wrongs, he fights to appeal her.

The Red and the Black | Roger Gard Stendhal - French - Hailed as having one of the most intriguing characters in European literature, this novel navigates a man attempting to be better than where he came from, but then commits a terrible crime. Filled with wit and satire, there is also an abundance of subtext on France after the Battle of Waterloo, which highlights important elements that is said one should research if you're struggling to find this book interesting.

Kafka on the Shore | Haruki Murakami - Japanese - A young and old man drawn together in a clever story that is as loved as it is hated. I've seen it written that you often have to read certain books of Murakami's before reading others, to better understand the context, so be sure to do your research. His bizarre storylines are woven with fantastical imagery and insight, full of metaphors and are fully unconventional.

A Man Called Ove, Beartown | Fredrik Backman - Swedish - The first is a charming, heartbreaking and heartwarming tale of a man throughout his life leading to the present moment in which we find ourselves converging with new and different characters as they interact with the main character. You'll be hating and loving him with such intensity, you won't be able to put the book down. The latter is a long, layered, rich story of a town navigating through their shared love of hockey as something tragic happens and threatens their unique structure holding everyone and everything together.

The Shadow of the Wind | Carlos Ruiz Zafon - Spanish - Post war in Barcelona, a secret book society, and vanishing books, this book is woven with family, grief, and deep dark secrets. Described as having a complicated plot but with some of the best loved characters in literature.

Inkheart | Cornelia Funke - German - When books actually come to life. A man reading to his daughter unleashes a villain that is after his special gift, then leads you on a tale of conquering evil.

_RKR3324.jpg

Note on translations: Most of these books need to be thoughtfully selected with the translator in mind. Each version will provide a unique and different reading experience. You can read a post we wrote on how to do that and the importance of it right HERE.

Best Books For Foodies & Lovers of Food Writing
foodiebooks_001.jpg

For a peek into the kitchen

Kitchen Confidential | Anthony Bourdain- This is pretty much a classic of the genre, and was my personal gateway drug. Bourdain chronicles his life in the kitchen and doesn't hesitate to dish on the sex, drugs, gratuitous cursing, haute cuisine, general atmosphere and culture of the profession. I really enjoyed his honest peek behind the curtain and it shows off exactly what it was like to work in the kitchen before the age of celebrity chefs. 

The Making of a Chef | Michael Ruhlman- Ruhlman decides to engage in a bit of stunt journalism and enroll in the Culinary Institute of America to look at what the process of becoming a chef is really like. This book is full of detailed information about the processes of cooking, the skills he learned, and the chefs he met. It was intimate and fascinating. 

Delancey | Molly Wizenberg-  When her husband decides to open a pizza restaurant in Seattle, Wizenberg is less than thrilled. However, she writes about the process of recipe developing, what it takes to open a restaurant, and then what it's like to actually work in it in a way that is so visceral and human. She is a superb writer, and this was the perfect look at what the journey of opening a restaurant entails from a very personal point of view. 

Food and the City | Ina Yalof- This one looks at what's happening behind the scenes in the world of food in New York City. It's almost like short stories; every chapter reads like a conversation with someone in the industry, and is chock full of great storytelling and interesting tidbits. If you crave an insiders look at the industry as a whole (it runs the gamut from food cart vendors and dishwashers, to fancy chef people), this is the book for you. 

foodiebooks_002.jpg

For a look at life as a celebrity chef

Yes, Chef | Marcus Samuelsson- Samuelsson has led a really interesting life, and he discusses his background, his choices, and the things that inspired him to become a chef. If you're interested in what the road to modern celebrity chef status looks like, this is your book. 

My Life In France | Julia Child- We both really, really loved Child's memoir about her life and how she got her start in cooking while living in Paris with her husband. She is shockingly warm and funny, and this book was a complete delight to read. She is easily one of the most likable narrators I've ever read, and the world of post WWII Paris is richly drawn. If you're at all interested in food writing, this is a must. 

Coming to My Senses | Alice Waters- Ultra famous chef Alice Waters pens a memoir about what it was like during the tumultuous 1960's and 1970's, the opening up her passion project of a restaurant, the food counter-culture she was a part of, and how it ended up changing the food world forever. This book is very much about her life, and her life was very much about Chez Panisse, so this one is particularly interesting to read.

The Devil in the Kitchen | Marco Pierre White- White is like the bad boy rocker of the celebrity chef world, and his memoir proves he's worthy of his reputation. He honestly has a great sense of humor, and name drops in the best ways, so this one is extra fun to read. Like most memoirs, it recounts his early years and his rise to fame, but he's so unusual and fascinating, this book is far from ordinary. 

32 Yolks | Eric Ripert- On the lighter end, Ripert focuses on how his tumultuous childhood shaped his love of food, his stint in culinary school, what it was like to work in some seriously world famous restaurants, his various failings and missteps, and more. What sets this memoir apart from the pack is how ridiculously wonderfully he describes food, and how amusing his anecdotes are. That, and the entire book is set before he gets ultra famous, which was refreshing.

foodiebooks_003.jpg
foodiebooks_004.jpg

 

For a taste of what it's like to be in a world class restaurant

Garlic and Sapphires | Ruth Reichl- If you ever wanted to know what life is like for a food critic, pick this up immediately. Reichl excels at describing food, and really brings the reader with her into the highfalutin restaurants she critiques for the New York Times, and the hole in the wall places she frequents for herself. She also makes you keenly aware of all the things that make a great restaurant---and it's not just the food. 

The Sweet Life in Paris | David Lebovitz- Food + Paris...what's not to love? Lebovitz moves to Paris after decades of dreaming about it, and chronicles his culture shock in all it's foodie glory. He's funny and warm, and his adventures around Paris and Parisian culture are just fun. Plus, he is, of course, a world class pastry chef and cookbook author, so the city is especially interesting through his eyes.

The Tummy Trilogy | Calvin Trillin- This was written in the 1970's, but Trillin basically gets paid to traipse around the country trying food everywhere he goes. Dream life, right? He's another author that writes these essays with a lot of warmth and humor as he eats his way across the US. Hardcore foodies will recognize familiar landmark restaurants and pine for the food scenes of decades ago. 

_RKR8877.jpg

If the sommelier is your favorite person in a restaurant

Cork Dork | Bianca Bosker- I loveeeeeed this book about wine. Instead of being stuffy and pretentious, Bosker is ridiculously relatable as she takes a deep dive into the world of wine and the people who live for it. I learned so much, not only about how to taste and appreciate wine, but about the real culture in that world underneath it's prim exterior. I mean, at one point she is at a high class wine event that devolves into popping thousands of dollars of booze and group singalongs of drinking songs. It's seriously great. 

 

For inspiration in your own kitchen

My Kitchen Year | Ruth Reichl- This cookbook is half recipes, half memoir, largely about the impact of food on Reichl's life the year following the demise of Gourmet, the food magazine she headed for many years. A good mix of accessible and aspirational, she makes you want to pay attention to and connect more fully with food in your everyday life without being intimidating. She also does a wonderful job of capturing the seasons and cooking seasonally, if you've been (like me) trying to get better at that. Bonus: we did a dinner party for this book!

Here Let Us Feast | M.F.K. Fisher- This was recently reprinted by Counterpoint Press who kindly gifted us a review copy and it's basically a giant toast to the pleasures of food. Fisher is the grandmother of food writing, and this is a collection of  lighthearted essays that capture a wide variety of food writing. In it, she references and takes excerpts from books, famous chefs of times long past, movie stars, ancient writings, Shakespeare, and more.. Read this is you just plain want to get excited about food. 

 

foodiebooks_005.jpg

 

If fun foodie fiction is more your style

Sweetbitter | Stephanie Danler- A book that centers on a young woman working in a restaurant in NYC? Yes, please. If you're enamored with restaurant/wine/food life and books that revolve around that stuff, this is for you.  I'm a sucker for Danler's beautiful, lush, heavy writing style, and Tess's breathless, relentless pursuit of that unidentifiable something more.

Garden Spells | Sarah Addison Allen- This one is pure, warm, lighthearted fun. Enchanted apple trees,  family secrets, romance, and a caterer named Claire who can cook emotions into food, so that when it's eaten you feel what she infused into it. I love this book, it's one of my favorite comfort reads, and is just chock full of magical food.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake | Aimee Bender- Fun useless fact: this was the very first e-book I ever read, way back in like 2008! In it, nine year old Rose discovers she has the ability to taste the emotions of whoever made the food she eats. This knowledge gives her unexpected insight into the deeper workings of her family and the complex dynamics swirling beneath the surface. Ultimately, it uses food as a vehicle to explore emotions, and the impactful, complicated role they play in our lives.

The Mistress of Spices | Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni- A classic of the magical realism genre, this novel follows an immortal named Tilo who has a special gift with spices. Magic powers, surprise romance, and heavy decisions make this a fun and memorable read. 

 

BONUS: foodie documentaries

Chef's Table- The production value of this docu-series is unreal. Each episodes highlights a different chef and they do sincerely gorgeous filming, interviewing, and showcasing of that chef's story, food philosophy, and their restaurant. You get ridiculously good behind the scenes looks at famous restaurants and the genius of these people. I've never seen anything live up to the standard this series has set. Just go watch it. 

Somm- Hands down my favorite wine documentary, this is similar to Cork Dork. It follows 3 sommelier candidates as they prepare for and take the test to become certified wine masters. It's dramatic and human and fulllll of wine information.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi- Sushi lovers, if you ever wanted the most in depth look at the art of sushi, this is your film. This family takes their restaurant and the making of sushi seriously. Plus, I learned so much about the process and etiquette of eating sushi.

A Chef's Life- I've heard great things about this series, and it's next on my watch list! It looks like its part documentary, part cooking show as it follows one family and their restaurant. It seems to have a focus on southern storytelling and has won all sorts of accolades. 

Check out Anthony Bourdain's pet project that looks similar to Chef's Table, and this great list of food documentaries on Netflix, if you need more!

 

What are your favorite foodie books or shows? I'm always on the hunt for more!

 

 

Historical Fiction Books That AREN'T About WWII
20180627__RKR0833.jpg

*some links are affiliate, and we deeply appreciate your support!

I am a huge historical fiction and non-fiction fan. Like, I could read this one genre every day for the rest of my life and never feel as if I'm missing out on anything. I love to read, I love a good narrative, and I love to learn. So it just makes sense. As it would happen, the most common historical fiction to to be found out there, revolves around World War II. It's a heavy, well-explored topic that can never really be overdone, at least in my opinion (Michaela, on the other hand, hates it). But, I really love variety too, so I reached out to our Bookstagram friends and asked what else they knew about. I received an excellent feedback and compiled this list for your reading pleasure.

The Cove | Ron Rash

The Welsh Prince Trilogy | Sharon Kay Penman

The Franciscan Conspiracy | John Richard Sack

Shadow of a Century | Jean Grainger

I Am Livia | Phyllis T. Smith

The Glassblower | Petra Durst-Benning

Bohemian Gospel | Dana Chamblee Carpenter

The Five | Hallie Rubenhold

Ahab's Wife | Sena Jeter Naslund

Are there any others you'd add to this list? Bonus points for middle grade or young adult I can buddy read with my kids.

10 Books You Can Go Live In This Winter
_RKR2487.jpg

As we move past the holiday rush and the New Year, we find ourselves suddenly thrust into the middle of winter, and with quite a bit more time on our hands while we wait for spring. This tends to be the hardest stretch of winter for us; when spring is in sight, but still so miserably far away. To beat the winter blues there's nothing we love more than a big, cozy book to go live in for a while, and ignore the drizzly gray (or snow, lately!) outside. You can find us curled up on the couch with blankets, tea, and these books until the sun returns!

_RKR2463.jpg
*some links are affiliate, and we deeply appreciate your support!

1. Anna Karenina | Leo Tolstoy- This is one of my very favorite books of all time. It's chunky, immersive, and dramatic. You get glimpses of rural Russian life, glittering society parties, family dynamics, love affairs, and tragedies all in one big book that will swallow you up. Be mindful of which translation you pick up though; there are some duds out there!

2. The Once and Future King | T. H. White- If you're a fan of Arthurian legend, this is the book for you. One of the most epic love stories of all time, and one of the most cutting betrayals plays out on the page against a backdrop of knights, kings, magic, and prophecies. What more could you want?

3. Harry Potter | J.K. Rowling - This is pretty much the ultimate comfort re-read for most of us, but if you haven't read it it's a huge, magical (hah!) series full of delightful details, great characters, and a brilliantly complex plot. It's lucky the series is so long, because the pages absolutely fly by. 

4. Lord of the Rings | J. R. R. Tolkien- If you've only seen the movies, it's time to dive into the books. They're big, but they read quickly, I swear. There is so much happening in these, but they're easy to follow and completely absorbing. Plus, Tolkien does world building like no one else. The third book is by far my favorite, and always makes my heart swell past capacity with all the feels. 

5. Middlemarch | George Eliot- This is on my TBR for this year and looks like it's set to explore major themes of humanity through a cast of characters all in the fictional town of Middlemarch. I love books where multiple storylines weave and cross, so I'm really looking forward to picking this up and hibernating in it; i've heard Eliot writes with exceptional warmth and wisdom, which sounds about perfect for these cold months! P.S isn't this edition gorgeous?!

_RKR2486.jpg

11/22/63 | Stephen King- This is also on my unread shelf and I've heard nothing but rave reviews for it's intricacy and it's well done romance. It's enormous and I'm very much looking forward to getting lost in this historical time travel novel. I really want to watch the mini-series, but am holding off till I get through the book!

American Gods | Neil Gaiman- We are both huge fans of Gaiman and this book is no exception. It's such a unique concept and is in turns unsettling, strange, wonderful, and gasp worthy. There's angry gods, tourist traps, road trips, the ugliness of technology, and old, deep magic all at play here. Gaiman explores American culture and all the tangled bits that comprise it brilliantly. Again, there is a mini-series out recently that was shockingly well done if you need some Netflix in your life.

Winter's Tale | Mark Helprin- If you're in the mood for a hefty tome of gorgeous, glitteringly beautiful prose, this is for you. It's snow covered New York, and impossible loves, and wispy tendrils of magic, spanning generations and crossing genres as it blends historical fiction and fairytales into one big beautiful package.

Jane Eyre | Charlotte Brontë- A cozy favorite of ours, Jane is such a great heroine who overcomes so much. It's definitely a classic for a reason and if you haven't read it yet, you should. We're certain most of you have encountered or heard of this book at some point so we're simply adding our voices to the chorus of it's admirers. 

The Book Thief | Markus Zusak- Beloved by pretty much everyone, this book is huge, but is an effortless read thanks to its lyrical prose and a good dose of levity. It's got a highly unusual narrator who follows the life of a girl who loves books, and goes to great lengths to preserve them against the backdrop of Germany during WWII. Heartbreaking and beautiful in equal measure and well worth picking up. 

What are your favorite big books to pass the winter evenings with? 

Warm Family Novels for Cold Winter Evenings
_RKR2435.jpg

We're officially past the halfway point for winter! Spring feels so close, but we know, realistically, we still have several weeks (or more) of wet, gloomy weather here in the PNW before we see temperatures rise and the sun peek out from behind it's gray wall again. 

There are times when we look to books for escape, but in this season we are leaning into all the warmth, and goodness, and fuzzy family feels in our real lives and our reading lives, and craving novels that reflect that. If you're in the same place and need to just dive into some cozy, delightful books with families that feel nourishing instead of dysfunctional, check these out!

*some links are affiliate, and we deeply appreciate your support!

_RKR6246.jpg

Little Women | Louisa May Alcott - If you haven't read this yet, this is the perfect season for it. You'll find old fashioned family life, cozy holiday scenes, romance, and the spirit of giving. Plus, how precious is this BabyLit version?!

pride&prejudice_008.jpg

Pride and Prejudice | Jane Austen - Family is front and center in this story, full of togetherness, realistic dynamics that are charming despite their missteps, and the fir belief that you can wait to find the one whom you choose to love. Plus another adorable BabyLit edition.

_RKR8001-Edit.jpg

A Man Called Ove | Fredrik BackmanIf you're looking for something a little different, this story ended up being so heartwarming and altogether charming, and is depicted equally well on film. While it starts with a grumpy old man, the story of his past and present as they dovetail together is warm, hopeful, and humbling.

bookyoudrecommend_003.jpg

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet | Becky Chambers - Science Fiction isn't generally thought of as a "warm" genre, but this book is genuinely the warmest, most delightful book I've read all year. The story focuses on the crew of the Wayfarer and they all function together essentially as a "found family". A variety of relationships are represented, and each one is handled with shocking tenderness.

_RKR2492.jpg

Anne of Green Gables | L.M. Montgomery -  A beloved classic that ends up on so many shelves, and seems to be one of the most revisited stories of our time. I've begun sharing this story with my daughter who adores it too.

_RKR7531.jpg

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society | Mary Ann Shaffer - Sometimes family doesn't mean blood relations, and this story shows just how much friends can be all the family you need, even when adding a perfect stranger into the mix that brings you back together again.

 

What are your favorite warm family novels? We admit, it was kind of difficult to find very many; much of literature focuses on dysfunctional families instead. Any great recommendations for us, cause we'd love to have more in our lives!

10 Books that Feel Like Fall
fallhalloweenbooks_001.jpg
*links are affiliate, and we deeply appreciate your support!

We feel like we wait all year for the leaves to change and the air to cool to a crisp. Fall dredges up the nostalgia of back to school and brings with it misty, moody weather and crunchy, colorful leaves coating the sidewalks as the trees burst into color.

This isn't the season for beach reads and lighthearted romance; this is the season for darker, richer books you read by the fire with tea, and rain pelting the windows outside. In this more melancholy season we tend to reach for dark journeys, cozy mysteries, and atmospheric books we can really sink into. This is the season we breathe a sigh of relief as we welcome a new, deeper season of books into our lives as the light hearted sunshine of summer fades to gray.

fallhalloweenbooks_005.jpg

1. The Secret History | Donna Tartt- Of course we have to start here. This book is probably the most atmospheric, haunting book I've ever read. Tartt's debut novel is practically a cult classic by now, and if you haven't read it, this fall is the perfect time to join the club. Told in an incredibly elegant voice, this is a story of Dionysian rites going terribly wrong, of cruel friendships, glittering wealth, secrets, blackmail, and murder all set against the familiar backdrop of the wonders of college life and brilliant fall in New England. Can it veer toward the melodramatic? Absolutely. But that doesn't dampen how deeply enjoyable is is to read.

fallhalloweenbooks_004.jpg

2. Murder on the Orient Express | Agatha Christie- When a cozy mystery is what you need to warm up, anything by Christie is just the ticket. We're partial to this one for fall because of the intimacy of the setting, the train stuck in the snow, and the creepy knowledge that the murderer is still on the train. Christie does a great job with her characters and with building tension before having Poirot brilliantly solve the mystery. It feels old timey and delightful, is a quick read, and is just the perfect book to tease your brain as you cuddle up under the blankets. Read it before the movie comes out on November 10th!

fallhalloweenbooks_009.jpg

3. The Night Circus | Eric Morgenstern- A dark circus, a twisted love story, magical powers, evil wizards and breathtakingly beautiful displays of power. I enjoyed this book so much more than I thought I would, and it's always a go-to re-read in the cooler months for me. Something about the night settings, the magic, and tone are just so appealing when the weather is gray and drizzly. Expect an exceptionally lovely, slow burn of a book. 

fallhalloweenbooks_002.jpg

4. The Name of the Wind | Patrick Rothfuss- This book feels like misty roads and firelight glinting off stone and taverns and deep magic. It's over 600 pages long but is easily one of the most page turner-y books I've ever read. It's essentially a hero's journey, but is so clever and fresh, with perfect world building and just amazing characterization, all thrown in with some mystery. It's such an engaging, human novel for fall; the hero definitely isn't infallible and it's great watching him learn. Fans of the series are eagerly awaiting book 3, but there's a sequel and a companion novella available if you like this one! 

fallhalloweenbooks_014.jpg

5. The Picture of Dorian Gray | Oscar Wilde- This book is creepy and atmospheric, full of viciousness, madness, and obsession. Most of you will be familiar with the plot, but Wilde is just a brilliant writer, and the themes of the book paired with his masterful prose make this a great one to pick up this fall. Especially go for this if you want a book that will make you think while being a gorgeous read.

fallhalloweenbooks_003.jpg

6. In Cold Blood | Truman Capote- Truman Capote's masterpiece is an astounding work of narrative fiction. It recreates, in detail the murders of an entire family, shot point blank, in rural Kansas on November 14, 1959 and the bitter aftermath. It took Capote 5 years to fully research and write this existential tragedy of true crime. In the capable hands of Capote, you are drawn intimately into a rich reconstruction of the background, murders, capture, trial, and eventual execution of the killers, as well as the impact the murders have on the town. The novel is so amazingly detailed and profound, and offers such poignant insight into society and violence in America. Well worth reading, especially when you crave intensity and suspense.

fallhalloweenbooks_012.jpg

7. The Party | Elizabeth Day- I love a good dark, unreliable narrator in the fall and this one explores unrequited love with a narrator who's view of reality is a bit different than that of everyone around him. It's rich people problems and cover ups and school boy friendships and mystery with absolutely pitch perfect pacing. I really love what a unique take on this genre the book is, and found it just a really enjoyable read.

fallhalloweenbooks_010.jpg

8. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet | Becky Chambers- I know this is science fiction, but it is the absolute best and warmest book I've read all year. Because it is so character driven, I don't think the sci-fi part would be a turn off to someone who doesn't usually read the genre. Not only is it warm, but well layered and flawlessly woven together with truly, truly amazing characters. It hits the right balance of being character driven while still maintaining a solid plot and is such a perfectly cozy pick for fall! Oh and if you're a fan of the show Firefly, you will absolutely want to pick this up.

fallhalloweenbooks_008.jpg

9. Jane Eyre | Charlotte Bronte- Pretty much the perfect book to read with a big warm mug of tea by your side, it's a classic gothic novel, and therefore just an amazingly moody fall read. Horrible boarding schools, a madwoman in the attic, a complicated love story, and more haunt the pages of this book. Plus, Jane herself is quite the admirable heroine; fiery and strong under her calm, plain exterior, it's very easy to appreciate why she is so beloved and why this book has endured, and fall is the absolute perfect time to pick it up. 

fallhalloweenbooks_006.jpg

10. Possession | A.S. Byatt- If you need melancholy and substantial this fall, pick this one up. Lyrical prose, parallel stories, and multiple points of view combine to create essentially a love letter to reading and to scholarship. It has pretty much everything you could want in a fall read; college campuses, dusty books, love letters, art, history, secrets, dark stormy nights, and a pervading sense of longing. 

*links are affiliate, thanks for your support!

Tell us, what are your very favorite books for fall?? We'd love to add them to our own TBR piles this season!

 

Books You Read in School That Are Worth A Re-Read as an Adult

Most of us read just about the same classic novels through high school, and even college. Some of those books, I admit, are likely to be completely ruined if you re-read them as an adult. Catcher in the Rye and Wuthering Heights spring to mind, as they just seem to need the wildness, intensity, and naïveté of the teen years to be wholly appreciated; as an adult you honestly just kindddddd of want to roll your eyes. However, so many of the classics you read in school are absolutely worth re-reading with adult vantage point, so here are some of our favorites!

_RKR7796.jpg

1. The Great Gatsby | F. Scott Fitzgerald-  Chock full of nostalgia, lost love, complicated marriages, class issues, and all the nuanced complexity of people and relationships, reading this with adult eyes gives such a richer, deeper appreciation for absolutely everything in this novel. 

2. To Kill A Mockingbird | Harper Lee- Race relations, false accusations, courtroom drama, the loss of childhood innocence, family dynamics and more take on a more nuanced, layered understanding when reading this as an adult. This book really just hits so much harder reading it at thirty than it did at sixteen. 

schoolclassic_002.jpg

3. John Steinbeck - Really any of his novels qualify for a re-read. Steinbeck is timeless and layered and gorgeous and absolutely filled with insight and sharp observation about the world. His writing is so intensely real and wise; I've definitely found I get so much more from his works now than I did in high school.

4. 1984 | George Orwell- Especially timely with our current political climate, there's never been a better time for a re-read of Orwell's classic of what happens when government is full of fake news and hatred, and society becomes complacent and distracted. 

pride&prejudice_008.jpg

5. Pride and Prejudice | Jane Austen- I for sure had a better grasp on the humor, and the truth of Austen's societal commentary and exploration of love, families, and social norms as an adult than I did as a teenager. As a teen I appreciated the love drama, as an adult I appreciated the wit and keen scrutiny.

_RKR7225.jpg

6. The Giver | Lois Lowry- It was just a fun story in school, but reading it as an adult showed the value of uniqueness, the little things that make us individuals, and that democracy is a beautiful thing not to be abused or taken for granted. There are so many subtle, yet striking, insights in this book that give an entirely new depth and value to the story when read again.

 

Have you re-read any books from your school days as an adult? We'd love to hear about your experience!

Small Press: Innovation and Integrity

We've all seen the hype machine of the big publishing houses, and honestly those books are fun! They market for mass appeal and are good at doing it! We genuinely enjoy reading what's new because we can join in on the larger conversation along with everyone else who's reading it. We know, undoubtedly, that there's real value in that sense of community.

But, on the flip side, there's only so much of the hype we're interested in, and it can be a real turn off for Rikki especially. So when we're itching for something different, we turn to backlist and indie publishers to round out our reading lives.

indiepress_009.jpg

Indie publishing houses operate with a slightly different set of rules than the major publishers. They often offer a lot more diversity, and with that comes access to ideas and points of view that can be under represented in the big publishing houses. They're also more likely to publish books that are doing unique things with prose and style, more willing to publish experimental novels, and put out more poetry books that are "too risky" for the bigger houses.

Since smaller presses can take those creative risks, they often publish brilliant, daring, sometimes strange and beautiful things. Most of them also have a solid identity, and the things they send to print reflect that because they can be so careful in their curation. Many of them also do really kick ass things like print their novels in crazy environmentally responsible ways, make large donations to little free libraries, and are active force in enriching their communities. Sounds intriguing, right?!

On top of this, we've definitely found that talent isn't exclusive to the big name publishers. Most indie presses have some major players --- you'll often see names you know and love in addition to new or new-to-you authors who put out amazing work. If you look, you'll also start to notice that indie presses are just littered with literary awards and accolades. The rise in popularity and successes of indie publishing even has the big publishers looking to them for inspiration and trend spotting.

We're also of the opinion that indie presses are especially important in this political climate both because they're giving a voice and a platform to many of the points of view the current administration is trying to censor, and because they provide an alternate choice in a more and more heavily corporatized nation. 

If any of this interests you, here are some independent presses you should know about.

indiepress_012.jpg

Tin House - Based in Portland, OR and Brooklyn, NY Tin House is one of the better known indie presses, and for good reason. They have a reputation for tending toward the creatively playful, the real, the passionate, the lively. They are consistently refreshing and diverse in what they publish, and also put out a hugely popular literary magazine.

Book we'd pick up: Rabbit Cake, by Annie Hartnett

P1011481 2.jpg

Graywolf Press Another giant in the indie world, located in Minneapolis, Graywolf has become something of a  Pulitzer winning powerhouse. They tend to publish adventurous books and have an eye for extreme talent and cultural relevance. Much of the work they publish is exquisite, refined literature that often tackles difficult topics.

Book we'd pick up: Almost Everything Very Fast, by Christopher Kloeble

indiepress_007.jpg

Two Dollar Radio - "Our work is for the disillusioned and disaffected, the adventurous and independent spirits who thirst for more, who push boundaries and like to witness others test their limits." says the front page of their site, and for good reason. Based in Ohio, they put out gloriously off the wall and perfectly indescribable fiction. They are also extremely environmentally conscious, which I respect. For example the book above says it's "printed on Enviro 100% post-consumer EcoLogo certified paper, processed chlorine free and manufactured using biogas energy," I mean come on! Definitely a personal favorite.

Book we'd pick up: Found Audio, by N.J. Campbell (our review)

indiepress_005.jpg
indiepress_006.jpg

Catapult- This press fosters a really great community of writers with their online magazine, writing classes, and books. A fairly new and ambitious press, it puts truly great storytelling and collaboration at the center of everything it does, and it shows. Their focus is on all the layered, meaningful, gritty stories that make up life as we know it, primarily in the form of literary fiction and memoir.

Book we'd pick up - Reservoir 13, by Jon McGregor

_RKR7116.jpg

Coffee House Press- Another more established indie press, also based in Minneapolis (can we move there now?!), CHP is invested in innovative literature. They aim to publish books that are diverse and exciting but also enduring in a world obsessed with the next bestseller. Here's a really great in-depth profile of the press and the non-profit organizations they run as well. Plus they won us over when we read that they donated 12k books to Little Free Libraries and do meaningful work to support indie bookstores!

Book we'd pick up- Empty Set, by Verónica Gerber Bicecci out in February, but I'm so excited for it

indiepress_008.jpg

Other Press- One of the noteworthy things about this New York based press, is that all their non-fiction blends cultural, historic, psychic, and literary shifts into the main topic, and explores how all those things interact. This means you get non-fiction thats significantly more dynamic and interesting than standard fare. They also publish really imaginative fiction, and we had a hard time picking a title to recommend, they all look amazing!

Books we'd pick up - At the Existentialist Cafe, by Sarah Bakewell or Three Floors Up, by Eshkol Nevo

indiepress_013.jpg

Red Hen Press- Celebrating wildness in their works that is both supremely appealing and sometimes a bit savage, this Los Angeles based press says, "We seek a community of readers and writers who are actively engaged in the essential human practice known as literature," and give strong support to literacy in their community. Their selection is absolutely wonderful and exciting.

Books we'd pick up- Blue Cathedral, by Katie Gale or The Dead Go to Seattle, by Vivian Faith Prescott

indiepress_004.jpg

Ferrar, Straus, and GirouxOwned by Macmillan, FSG is still an innovative and interesting small publisher. Karl Ove Knausgaard? Yeah, he's with them. They just generally have a curation and taste level that I trust, and have won accolades for that eye for quality. They avoid dull, pretentious literature, and instead publish truly literary works that captivate. They've maintained their stellar reputation for more than 50 years at this point, and that's pretty damn impressive. 

Book we'd pick up: Sourdough, by Robin Sloan (Mr. Penumbra, anyone?) our review

We'd love to start conducting our own tours and interviews with several presses in the coming year and really dive deep into what makes them work. We absolutely can't wait to find out more, because even on a surface level, many of these presses align so perfectly with our own values and tastes.  

We also really encourage you to do some investigating into small presses in your area, checking out your local bookstores selections, or hopping over and buying from some of these presses directly. They are all doing really interesting, amazing things for the literary community, not only through their published works but through other causes they run and support. It's easy to see that they strengthen literature and the literary community as a whole with the work they pursue, and that is so worth supporting.

If you do find one, let us know! We'd love to find more, too. We've had really great success with books from smaller publishers, and hope you do too. Happy exploring!

Do you already have a press that you love? Tell us about it, we are so intrigued by this side of publishing!