Rachel is the operations and events director at Avid Bookshop. She also manages the widely popular Avid Snail Mail subscriptions program featured in the New York Times Wirecutter's Gifts We Want to Give for 2020 and 2022! She's a fig farmer who listens to audiobooks via Libro.fm while tending to her chicken flock. Reading in the hammock with her dog, Dolly Parton, is pretty great too.
The Wishing Game by Meg Shaffer is an absolute reading delight from start to finish. Reclusive children's book author Jack Masterson hasn't added a book to his Clock Island series in years. His fans (both young and old) collectively lose their minds when he launches a competition in announcing his latest book. The stakes are highest for teacher Lucy and the child she longs to adopt, Christopher. The Wishing Game is book of puzzles,mysteries, and enchantments centered around the wonder of books. Five of five stars!
Emma Starling comes home to a small village in New Hampshire because her father Clive is dying and she really should check on her brother Auggie after his second stay in rehab. She's been astray for a while and living back in Everton with her family seems wise. Once there she finds that her high school best friend is missing and the only person looking for her is her retired poetry professor father. Because of the opioid crisis, the two police officers don't feel it's worth their time. The book's narrators in the Maple Street Cemetery are practically omniscient and their commentary lets you in on the village's secrets while also witnessing the longings of the dead. In Unlikely Animals, Harnett has done what she does best: create a brilliant cast of messy human beings that you don't want to leave. With a hand-drawn map, a menagerie of animals (a fox, a dog, a goat), and beautiful prose, this book is perfect.
This beautiful character-driven book set in the American Midwest covers many contemporary topics like racism, fracking, sexual harassment, and the immigrant experience. I loved the messy protagonist Elinor Hanson, a Korean American who grew up in South Dakota. A former model with a new career later in life as a journalist, Elinor has baggage that needs unpacking so badly her clothes are spilling out of her metaphorical suitcase at a rapid pace. Korean American author Jung Yun has written a fantastic novel in O Beautiful that surprised me over and over, especially by book's end.
A dying mall in upstate New York is the through line for the characters in Karin Lin-Greenberg’s You Are Here. Cranky elderly Rosalie visits Tina’s hair salon once a week for a haircut. The school bus lets Tina’s son Jackson off at the mall every weekday after school. The bookshop manager doesn’t want to finish his Ph.D. and teach as his wife expects. You Are Here is a book that addresses family, expectations, and prejudices in accessible and entertaining ways.
Brutes is a messy, prickly book featuring a mob of middle school girls dodging drunk mothers and dreaming of escaping the swamp. The preacher's kid Sammy goes missing and the girls' obsession with her only intensifies. Dizz Tate clearly captures prepubescence's angst, meanness, and longing in this debut.
Colombian-American writer Patricia Engel's The Faraway World is a tremendous collection of short stories featuring immigration, heartbreak, and sacrifice. The stories are based in the Americas, from Cuba, to Ecuador, to Miami and what they have in common is love, community, and the search for a better life.
I have a very special fondness for essays on food and this new collection edited by actress Zosia Mamet is exceptional. Reading My First Popsicle is extremely comforting and the twenty recipes inside are fun! Contributors include Tony Hale, Busy Phillips, Rosie Perez, Michelle Buteau, among many other greats. This is yet another book to bring as a host gift the next time you're invited to a dinner party. Enjoy!
Motherthing is a feminist horror story featuring a motherless daughter haunted by her mother-in-law. Ainslie Hogarth has written a love story that is funny, bizarre, and bloody featuring guidance from a couch, cookbook, and soothsayer.
Having myself been a teenager in a small insular southern town that felt a few years behind the times, Kevin Wilson's protagonist Frankie felt familiar. Now is Not the Time to Panic uncovers the mystery of a moral panic that starts small but becomes a world-famous cultural event. Frankie's dad has left, her triplet brothers are a whirlwind, and Frankie wants something (anything) to happen this summer. Making friends with a new kid in town who also has a father issue is life-changing as they recognize themselves in each other: friendless socially awkward creatives who are desperate just to be seen. This is a story with a great big heart that will not disappoint.
It's human nature to look for validation of oneself in the art we consume, and It Came From the Closet is a collection of essays by queer and trans authors on their interpretations and interactions with horror films. Edited by Joe Vallese, these essays are tender and funny, vulnerable and courageous. It Came From the Closet will make you see movies you've watched numerous times in a different light and that is a spectacular point of view.
CJ Hauser's The Crane Wife: A Memoir in Essays is unlike anything I've read and it blew my mind. At its core, the interconnected essays are about love. Hauser uses both personal and family history to dissect parts of her life that give her pause. Hauser's technique for performing autopsies on her previous loves include deep introspection of the impact of specific works on her analysis such as du Maurier's Rebecca and Baum's Oz. Deep inquiry into Mulder and Scully's relationship or the gender dynamics in the 1940 film adaptation of The Philadelphia Story provides a very relatable setting for a reader to also scrutinize romantic choices. Hauser's writing is smart and razor-honest as she peels back layers. What a brilliant process to witness. Nineteen different passages sung so clearly to me, they are underlined, highlighted, dog-eared.
Hanif Abdurraqib's exploration of Black performance in America is a cultural keystone that is chillingly relevant. Whether discussing the fact that a knowing look or advice on a route from a cashier is a form of a living Green Book that still exists because there are places Black people are not safe, to the origin of the card game spades or the difference between showing out or showing off, at the heart A Little Devil in America circles back to the fact that Black Americans have been forced to survive in places they were not welcome. The section on Black funerals pierced my heart. This book needs to be read, taught, underlined and discussed.
Fresh Water for Flowers encompasses so much in each lovely short chapter. Valérie Perrin has written what could be called the perfect novel. At first glance, Violette Toussaint lives an uncomplicated life as the caretaker of a cemetery in a small town in Burgundy. Just as you relax into the luscious descriptions of the gardens, of the tombstone inscriptions, of the fascinating visitors, several love stories hidden in a mystery or two reveal that there are more than funerals at the heart of this book. Perfection!