Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that should absolutely be put at the top of your TBR pile. Recommended books will vary across genre and age category and include shiny new books, older books you may have missed, and some classics I suggest finally getting around to. Make space for another pile of books on your floor because here we go!
Today’s pick is a book that was so good that it gave me a book hangover and I didn’t read anything for three days after finishing it.
Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki
This was absolutely one of the best books I read the year it came out. I’m going to be weirdly vague about this book because it is full of surprises and I don’t want to ruin the joy of reading it therefore, I’m just going to tell you some snippets about some of the characters and the location.
It takes place in the San Gabriel Valley in Southern California which is truly a magical place once you get past the surface and the author catches all the nuance of the eclectic yet weirdly harmonious vibe of many of the locations down there.
There is a donut shop with a huge frickin’ donut on top of it. It’s a Los Angeles / Southern California thing. If you know, you know: Giant. Donut. The head of the family that owns the shop is Lan Tran. The family is actually aliens, like, from space, who have escaped a big bad across the galaxy.
We also have Katrina Nguyen, a transgender teen who runs away from an abusive home in the San Francisco Bay Area and ends up in the San Gabriel Valley. She has very little to her name, some clothes, some estrogen, a beat-up made-in-China violin, and does sex work both via webcam and in person to make money to survive.
Finally we have Shizuka Satomi, a woman who had made a deal with the devil for some fame. She played the violin. Now, to escape damnation, she needs to take on seven violin students and deliver their souls to Hell. As of the start of this book, she has already delivered six and of course, they can’t just be any old self-taught violinist. She travels the world looking for the final student, the final soul.
Yes, music is the main theme of this book and the story hits all the right notes. There’s an adorable, awkward queer crush/dating type thing going on. There’s a young trans teen finding her voice and finding family. There’s wonderful descriptions of food. There is also a chapter that I’m borderline obsessed with where it’s just a description of violin repair.
If you have not yet read this book I am incredibly jealous because I wish I could read it again for the first time. Content warnings for racism, specifically anti-Asian racism, transphobia, discussion of suicide, sexism, sexual assault, and abuse.
Want to read books from this newsletter? You can, for free! Get three free audiobooks with a trial to Audiobooks.com. Claim your 3 free audiobooks now!
That’s it for now, book-lovers!
Find more books by subscribing to Book Riot Newsletters.