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Read This Book: Charming as a Verb by Ben Philippe

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!

This week’s pick is a hilarious and thoughtful read from Ben Philiipe! If you’re unfamiliar with his YA novels and adult essay collection, perhaps you’ve heard of a little show called Only Murders in the Building? He’s also a writer on the first season! Let’s dive in!

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Charming as a Verb by Ben Philippe

Henri is a Haitian American teen living in New York City. He attends a fancy private high school on scholarship and lives in a really nice apartment building on the Upper West Side…because his dad is the super. He’s got big goals and dreams of getting into Columbia, which would send his parents over the moon. The only issue? Living in New York is expensive. College is expensive. Enter: Henri’s side gig. He created and runs an app for a dog walking service, and walks dogs himself, essentially double dipping on the service and earning tips. It’s a pretty benign hustle in the grand scheme of things, but when he’s found out by Corrine, an intense classmate who happens to live in his building, she promises to keep his secret…if he helps her elevate her social status to become a well-rounded candidate for college recommendation letters.

I really loved this book a lot because first of all, it’s really, really funny. I know that humor can be. subjective thing in books, but Philippe is a truly funny writer who uses jokes and humor to poke fun at and explore larger and more complex issues, such as racial injustice, classism, and the challenges that Henri’s family faces as Haitian immigrants. But there are also lots of pop culture references and genuinely funny moments that truly help break things up! I also really enjoyed that this book is a sneaky exploration of how far you have to go to achieve your dreams and the ethical quandaries that arise. Henri lives in an unjust world and is working within an unjust system—there’s no doubt about that. While he’s generally a good person and fairly honest, he does engage in some deception and dishonesty to get where he wants to be, and he’s forced to truly reckon with that in a big way when his choices have consequences that extend beyond him. I loved that this book swings from funny moments to serious ones, and that Henri and the reader really think about the impact that one person’s choices can have and how difficult it can be to get ahead when the world is stacked against you. Plus, there’s a great slow-burn romance at the center that is really sweet to behold!

Cover of The Singles Table

The Singles Table by Sara Desai

After a terrible break-up, Zara makes a new rule to only be the matchmaker and not the matched. One wedding, she is sat at the same table as Jay, and they strike up a bargain; if he introduces her to his celebrity clients, she will find him his perfect match. However, as the spend the wedding season together, they begin to wonder if they’re avoiding the happily ever after staring them in the face.

Bonus: I listened to the audiobook, narrated by James Fouhey, and it was excellent!

Happy reading,
Tirzah

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Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that you should add to your TBR pile or nightstand or hidden stack under the bed, right away!

The weather is changing, at least it was the last time I checked. Here in San Francisco and its suburbias, we are mostly moving from 55 F to 80 F and that is enough heat for everyone to sweat through their tank tops. In such instances, when I am trapped in a particularly hot moment—a car parked out in the sun, a blast of heat as you exit an air-conditioned room—I think about this week’s pick often. 

Book cover for Saints and Strangers

Saints and Strangers by Angela Carter

If you are unaware of Angela Carter’s short stories, I recommend you remedy that immediately. Carter takes macabre fairy tales and makes them even darker than you could have thought possible. But, none of it is ever gratuitous. Nope. The way she does it is through the spinning of her sentences. You read a particularly dark passage and you think, Why, why did I love that so? And it is the writing. Oh, the writing. 

In this slim collection, Carter returns by opening with the story of Lizzie Borden, just hours before she took an ax and murdered her father and stepmother. Heat and the claustrophobia of it plays a huge part in propelling the story forward and is one of the reasons I find myself associating heat with this story. Carter takes you there, in the story where you feel as if you were standing on a sidewalk, peering into the house as the murders took place. 

But, that is not the only brilliant story in this collection. She even takes on Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven and a new take on the story of Tamburlaine’s wife all in a mere three pages. All her stories though are about repression in one form or the other, whether the shackles of the world or the binds we put ourselves in. Body horror, explicit language, and sex scenes frequent her stories, which is why I always say Carter is an acquired taste, a taste I feel everyone should acquire already.

An enchanting, if perplexing story collection not to be missed.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!


Come tell me what you thought of the pick on Instagram @wellreadbrowngirl or Twitter @JavedNusrah.

Happy Reading!
Nusrah

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Read This Book

Read This Book…

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 wonderful book that is not what you think it is at first glance.

Book Cover of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat with art by Wendy MacNaughton

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat with art by Wendy MacNaughton

Samin Nosrat knows her way around the kitchen. She got her start at the famed Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA and has gone on to be a New York Times food columnist, appear on Michelle Obama’s Waffles + Mochi Netflix show, co-create and co-host the Home Cooking podcast, and so much more. Most people see this book and think it’s a standard cookbook with end to end recipes and maybe little paragraphs of anecdotes to break things up. While this book certainly has recipes, it is so much more than just a cookbook. It’s part reference and part cooking instruction and it will change the way you cook forever (and for the better)! Cookbooks tell you how to make certain things. Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat will teach you how to cook.

I grew up in a family that cooked a lot and so much of what we did centered around food. Before the Food Network existed, I’d watch cooking shows on PBS in the morning while I got ready for school. I am good at following recipes and once I read this book, I became so much better at winging it in the kitchen and throwing things together on a whim.

The main idea of this book is that by mastering the four elements of salt, fat, acid, and heat, you will be able to cook just about anything. I was skeptical at first but just about every sentence is a goldmine of knowledge. This moves you beyond just using iodized salt from a shaker or any ol’ olive oil and Nosrat is brilliant at not only explaining the how but the why. Why does something taste better when you use x instead of y? What is the importance of adding an acid while you cook? Or why would you in some cases use an acid as a finish?

This book is also packed with gorgeous illustrations, charts, graphs, decision-helper flowcharts, and so much more. There’s one page that opens up to an illustration of a wheel of fat, which describes what fats are most common for the origin of the cuisine you are cooking. There is a chart on recommended grain-to-water ratios and an absolutely world-changing chart of how to cook certain vegetables depending on the season of the year.

This book has changed my life and it is a must-read, must-own for any home cook.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!


That’s it for now, book-lovers!

Patricia

Find me on Book Riot, the All the Books podcast, and Twitter.

Find more books by subscribing to Book Riot Newsletters.

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Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!

This week’s pick is a mystery read that is perfect if you’re a fan of classic mystery novels and the work of Agatha Christie, plus it gets a bit meta at times! Content warning for murder death, violence, torture, allusions to sexual assault, fire.

The Eighth Detective cover

The Eighth Detective by Alex Pavesi

Julia is an editor who works for a small mystery and crime publisher. Her boss wants to reissue an edition of The White Murders by Grant McAllister, a mathematician turned mystery writer who only ever published the one book. It’s a curious collection of seven short mystery stories accompanied by an academic paper that uses the principles of math to map out all possible mystery plots. But Grant has become famously reclusive since its publication, so Julia tracks him down on a distant island and spends a few days working with him to revisit the original text. As they work their way through each story, she begins to suspect that this book is hiding a larger, real-life mystery. What is Grant hiding?

I have to admit this book surprised me—I think I expected something a bit more contemporary thanks to the cover (which looks like something you’d see on a Blake Crouch book!) but this is a historical mystery within mysteries, set roughly in the 1960’s. Grant wrote his academic paper and the mystery short stories roughly twenty years earlier, near the end of the Golden Age of mystery writing, and each one feels like it could fit right in with the work of Christie or Sayers. The novel alternates back and forth between Grant’s stories and his conversations with Julia about each work, and along the way readers are treated to an analysis of the mystery genre that is always entertaining and never dull, while also receiving tiny hints and clues about Grant’s life and the mystery he must be concealing. Each of the stories are intriguing and vary in not only plot but also characters and motivation, and Julia’s dissection of them is equally fascinating. As a reader, you know a reveal is coming once the characters have finished Grant’s seven stories, but even I was surprised by some of the twists that Pavesi threw at readers. If you’re a big fan of classic murder mysteries and a nerd of the genre, this is a must-read book!

Happy reading!
Tirzah

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!


Find me on Book Riot, Hey YA, All the Books, and Twitter. If someone forwarded this newsletter to you, click here to subscribe.

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Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that you should add to your TBR pile or nightstand or hidden stack under the bed, right away!

I find myself in the world of books. I am working on them, around them, arranging them, rearranging them, the verbs go on. So, when it comes time to recommend that book, one book you all should pick up this week, I find myself stumped. Me. Imagine. Until I remember there is one book that I read in one sitting on a Wednesday (at a job I no longer work at) and loved it to bits.

cover of cackle by rachel harrison

Cackle by Rachel Harrison

This book is for all you year-long witchy story, small town, wish-you-lived-in-Gilmore-Girls readers out there. And by you, I really mean me.

Our very own velocireader, Liberty rec’d this book in a guest episode of Read or Dead, and I immediately put it on hold in the library.

The story begins with Annie, who is tired of playing it safe all her life. Especially when that has led her nowhere, but with an unceremoniously broken heart. Presented with a teaching opportunity in a small town, Annie decides to take it as the fresh start she needs.

As she moves in, she finds herself oddly liking the town, her apartment, even if her home does have a bit of a bug problem. Then Annie meets Sophie, who takes an interest in Annie and her well-being. They both develop an odd, but close friendship and Annie feels herself thrive. But, something about Sophie scares the entire town, making them act warily whenever she is around. Not to mention the huge house in the woods that Sophie lives in. Or the ghosts that act as her house guests.

I do not want to spoil much about this book, but I will say that it was an odd mixture of lightness and witchiness, which I have always thought hard to achieve. Some of the events become so on the nose that they become just what you need.

It is also a book that is surprising in its themes of what it means to truly live a life that suits you regardless of whether it works for others or not. After mulling it over, I have the perfect comp for you. This book is Gilmore Girls meets Practical Magic, and if that does not make you want to pick it up, I apologize, nothing can be done.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!


Come tell me what you thought of the pick on Instagram @wellreadbrowngirl or Twitter @JavedNusrah.

Happy Reading!
Nusrah

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Read This Book…

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 graphic novel trilogy that taught me more about the 1960s Civil Rights Movement than I had ever known before.

Book cover of March Trilogy by Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

March Trilogy by Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

Congressman John Lewis was one of the key figures of the U.S. civil rights movement. This trilogy of graphic novels is a first-hand account of his lifelong struggle for civil and human rights. This was a particularly difficult read because we’re still fighting some of the same fights. It’s enraging. It’s heartbreaking. And it’s also motivating.

The books time hop, juxtaposing President Barack Obama’s inauguration with John Lewis’s childhood memories and civil rights movement memories. Of everyone who spoke at the March on Washington in August 1963, the one where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr gave his “I have a dream” speech, John Lewis was the one still living at the time of writing these graphic novels.

Book One introduces nonviolent protest tactics. I think that when people think of nonviolence, they imagine no violence at all, which is wildly wrong. The protestors themselves were nonviolent and nonreactive, but the people they were against spit on them, tear gassed them, turned fire hoses on them, set dogs on them, set dogs on children. There is a lot of violence and violent imagery and violent language in these books and you should definitely know that going into it.

Book Two continues where Book One left off with the lunch counter sit-ins before diving into the freedom rides and ending with the march on Washington.

Book Three is a doozy. It’s a bit longer than the first two books and like the others it contains a lot of violence because nothing makes white supremacists and their organizations more violent than peaceful protestors. It begins with the bombing of the 16th street Baptist church in Birmingham, Alabama then immediately to a couple different shootings of teenagers. This is all in the first 10 pages or so of the book. The focus of the rest of the book is on the civil rights protests and marches with the goal of forcing Alabama’s governor out of office and making it so that everyone had the right to vote.

As you can imagine, these graphic novels are an intense read and I highly recommend them.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!


That’s it for now, book-lovers!

Patricia

Find me on Book Riot, the All the Books podcast, and Twitter.

Find more books by subscribing to Book Riot Newsletters.

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Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!

This week’s pick is a backlist favorite from one of my auto-buy authors, Kate Quinn! She had a brand-new book hit shelves this week (The Diamond Eye!) that I just picked up and I can’t wait to read, but I’ve enjoyed her past three novels and they’re all worth checking out!

Content warning: War violence, racism, attempted murder and murder, threats of assault.

The Huntress

The Huntress by Kate Quinn

This hefty novel unfolds in three points of view, in three timelines. Nina Markov is a young woman growing up in the Soviet Union who dreams of flight. Although war brings terror and uncertainty, for Nina it’s a chance to join the Night Witches, an all-female force that wreaks havoc on the Nazis…until she’s stranded behind enemy lines. Ian Graham is a former war correspondent who is plagued by nightmares of the horrors he witnessed, and now that the war is over and the Nuremberg Trials have concluded, he decides to devote his life to tracking down Nazi war criminals who’ve escaped in the chaos at the end of the war. But one in particular eludes him. And finally, Jordan is just a teenager living in Boston in the early 50’s, and she’s shocked when her widower father remarries a quiet, reserved German war widow with a young daughter. She wants her father to be happy, but there’s something not quite right about her new stepmother and her reticent new stepsister.

All three of these timelines and characters converge in a really breathtaking way, and tell a comprehensive and epic story that you’ll race through. I get a bit weary of all the sanitized World War II fiction, but what sets Quinn’s writing apart for me is that she doesn’t just linger in the war, and isn’t afraid to show the fallout afterwards. Only Nina’s perspective actually takes place during the war, and the other point of views are all about how people had to remake themselves and their lives afterwards, and how hard that it when you’re plagued by PTSD and horrific memories. Quinn also doesn’t shy away from the fact that just because the war ended, justice was served—in fact, it’s usually quite the opposite.

Another thing I like about Quinn’s work is that her novels usually contain some diversity. In this novel, Nina is (presumed) bisexual and the great love of her life is a woman. Her other work also includes characters of color and queer characters, and I appreciate the inclusion of multiple perspectives, especially since WWII books tend to be pretty white and straight.

Definitely pick up this book if you want a sweeping historical that reads like a thriller, but has some gorgeous writing and wonderful character building! And if you like this one, I recommend checking out The Rose Code and The Alice Network next!

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!

Happy reading!
Tirzah


Find me on Book Riot, Hey YA, All the Books, and Twitter. If someone forwarded this newsletter to you, click here to subscribe.

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Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that you should add to your TBR pile or nightstand or hidden stack under the bed, right away!

I love a good epistolary novel. There is so much room to play around with the structure, the story, the character arcs. I think it is so because when it comes down to it, surely no one can completely monitor how people use structure and narrative in their personal letters to someone beyond what is subjective. Some of my favorites include Dracula, 84 Charing Cross Road, and the beloved Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society.

I have spent a good portion of my past few years being asked to recommend a good epistolary and almost run out of them after a few picks. In my very subjective opinion, we are reading through them faster than they are being written. So, when I stumbled upon one that combines the epistolary form of writing with food, I knew I had to do shout about it at the top of my lungs.

Book Cover for Love & Saffron

Love & Saffron: A Novel of Friendship, Food & Love by Kim Fay

This is the story of a friendship between two fictional characters; Joan Bergstrom and columnist Imogene Fortier in the early 1960s.

One day Joan Bergstrom writes a letter to columnist Imogene Fortier. Imogene Fortier writes a column known to readers in the Pacific Northwest so is surprised when she gets a gift from a young woman in L.A. It’s a small packet of saffron with a recipe for mussels.

The fragrant saffron triggers a memory for Imogene’s husband, Francis, and awakens in him a zest for the culinary Imogene had never seen. Touched and surprised, Imogene answers Joan’s fan letter, leading to a beginning of a new friendship. As the years pass, we live their lives vicariously through their letters as they share ups and downs, highs and lows, and seek out the advice and support of one another.

What remains at the center of the letters is the friends’ interest in food: eating it, cooking it, and writing about it. Joan is a whiz at spices and the various delights of California-style cooking, while Imogene takes the recipes and adds the taste of her own region, while marveling at the new avenues Joan’s influence has opened for her, Francis, and their marriage.

The power of intentional, mindful correspondence that requires one to sit, gather thoughts, and pour a piece of oneself on paper is beautifully rendered here.

If like me, epistolary novels hold a fond place in your heart, or you love books like Dear Mrs. Bird, then this is for you.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!


Come tell me what you thought of the pick on Instagram @wellreadbrowngirl or Twitter @JavedNusrah.

Happy Reading!
Nusrah

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Read This Book

Read This Book…

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 an anthology of queer comics that are insightful, intelligent, thoughtful, funny, information-dense, heartfelt, and sometimes heartbreaking.

Book cover of Be Gay, Do Comics: Queer History, Memoir, and Satire from The Nib Edited by Matt Bors

Be Gay, Do Comics: Queer History, Memoir, and Satire from The Nib edited by Matt Bors

This comics collection is from The Nib, “a daily publication devoted to publishing and promoting political and non-fiction comics. We run journalism, essays, memoir and satire about what is going down in the world, all in comics form, the best medium. It was founded in 2013.” I love the variety and range of the contributors and the subjects of the comics contained in this collection. There are comics by creators I’ve mentioned on Book Riot’s All the Backlist! podcast, like Maia Kobabe, Archie Bongiovanni, Mady G, and Melanie Gillman. There are also comics by creators that I think you should know about, like Bianca Xunise, Scout Tran, Trinidad Escobar, and more.

There are comics about coming out and comics about creators just realizing that they are queer. There are hilarious comics about gender reveals and pronouns. This book has many comics on queer history, such as one about Gad Beck, who was gay, Jewish, and fought the nazis (the original 1930s nazis, not the ones we have right now). There are multiple pieces on the ways in which hairstyles reflect and confirm queerness. There are comics on birth control and comics on how some people define non-binary for themselves.

One of the comics I deeply appreciate is titled Decolonizing Queerness in the Philippines by Trinidad Escobar. It is such an important reminder that homophobic and transphobic beliefs in many non-Western countries are results of colonization. It’s so easy for some Westerners to harshly judge these countries’ views on queerness or women’s rights or contraception without acknowledging their own role and the roles of their ancestors in bringing these views to these countries in the first place.

Another piece I appreciated is I Came Out Late in Life and That’s Okay by Alison Wilgus because hey, not all of us knew we were queer since we were 3-years’ old. It’s such an important comic for those of us who may feel left out of the narrative of being and knowing we’re queer since the day we were born.

This is a thoughtfully curated collection that I highly recommend.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!


That’s it for now, book-lovers!

Patricia

Find me on Book Riot, the All the Books podcast, and Twitter.

Find more books by subscribing to Book Riot Newsletters.

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Read This Book

Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!

This week’s pick is a delightful book that will feel very relatable if you’re anywhere near your thirties and/or feel like everyone around you is getting married and having kids while you’re like, pass. And even if that’s not you, I think this is an excellent novel about friendship and building a life you love.

Content warning: Domestic abuse

cover of Serena Singh Flips the Script

Serena Singh Flips the Script by Sonya Lalli

Serena Singh is smart, driven, and successful. But now that she’s in her thirties, everyone around her seems to be getting married and having babies. She’s lost so many friends to the trappings of conventional family life, but the last straw is when her little sister gets married and gets pregnant and Serena realizes she needs more friends, STAT. Thus begins her quest to find friendship with people who run at her speed, but it isn’t easy. And when an old boyfriend that Serena truly loved comes back into her life, she knows one thing: She’s not willing to compromise on what she wants out of life. But where does that leave her?

I adored this book so much, and I feel like I relate to it even more since experiencing moving to a new town and realizing that making friends as an adult when your life doesn’t look like everyone else’s is actually really, really hard. I laughed so much during Serena’s misadventures in book clubs, cooking classes, and inadvertently ending up at a sex club (whoops). I also sympathized with her feelings of betrayal by all couples and parent friends, and how she was slow to want to start a relationship with her ex, even as I recognized that her view was at times limiting.

But I think the best part of the book is the unexpected friendship she does find: Another woman at work who, much to her surprise, is married with a toddler. Their connection is wonderful and hilarious, and made me wish my friends lived close. Of course, this friendship also isn’t what Serena expects, so there are challenges that come with it. Lalli writes a story with all the same beats as a romance novel, only the relationship is platonic rather than romantic, and it’s refreshing and exciting.

I think oftentimes we hear about millennial fiction and it gets pigeonholed as “books about aimless twenty-somethings” but I am here for the next evolution of millennial fiction: books about thirty-somethings creating lives they love and figuring out how to balance friendship, love, and family (found and blood) in new ways.

Bonus: I listened to the audiobook, which was narrated by Ulka Simone Mohanty and was fabulous!

Happy reading!
Tirzah

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!


Find me on Book Riot, Hey YA, All the Books, and Twitter. If someone forwarded this newsletter to you, click here to subscribe.