While most of the world has been reading more than usual these past two months, it seems those of us who are voracious readers in the book world have actually been reading less. I’ve been struggling to get into reading, despite having more time to do so in the evenings, so I’ve found myself gravitating towards graphic novels and essays – the books that will hold my shortening attention span because they’re quick to read! All are available for purchase with FREE shipping!
I love a good essay collection and frequently give them as gifts to my friends who are new moms and avid readers because each essay is only a few pages long and can be read quickly. These are just a few of my favorite collections.
Medium Raw: If we were in the store right now and you were a regular customer, you’d probably be telling me enough already, we know you love everything Anthony Bourdain has ever written. I’ve selected Medium Raw for holiday gift picks, summer reading, as a regular staff pick, featured it on the counter for months after he passed, I’ve probably talked about it daily. But right now, with all seasons of Parts Unknown about to start streaming on Netflix in a few weeks, I want to bring us back to Tony’s way of looking at the world, with understanding, kindness and an emphasis on empathy and listening. His voice is one this world could have used for many, many years to come and I will never stop being sad about the fact that he’s not here any more.
Make It Scream, Make It Burn by Leslie Jamison is one of my latest essay collection favorites – I read her previous collection, Empathy Exams shortly before receiving the advance copy of this one in the fall and I quickly became obsessed with Leslie’s writing. While I love cult icon Rebecca Solnit’s writing, I find Leslie’s to be of a similar vein but more accessible and easier to read in short bursts. It’s definitely a heavier collection – while Tony will make you laugh while you think about the state of the world, Leslie will make you rethink everything you thought you knew.
Thin Places: While Make It Scream, Make It Burn is more outward looking, Thin Places is decidedly more inwardly focused and is a deeply personal set of essays. A millennial writer, Jordan perfectly captures the tone and voice of our generation – I believe she and Marina Keegan of The Opposite of Loneliness fame would have been great contemporaries were Marina still alive.
Whenever I don’t know what to read or can’t seem to get into a novel, or even nonfiction title, I’ve turned to graphic novels and manga. I’ve studied art and even minored in visual design in college, so a well formatted and written graphic novel always bring a smile to my face.
Giant Days is one of the few graphic novel series I’ve stuck with for more than a few volumes. It’s one of the best college-set stories that I’ve come across in my decade plus of searching for authentic stories about young adults at university, and it’s British! Which to me makes it all the more delightful. Esther, Susan, and Daisy are my personal squad goals – they exemplify female friendship in all its intricacies and there’s plenty to keep you busy – 12 volumes so far and it’s on going!
Check, Please! is a recent read that I finally picked up after a close friend and former coworker recommended it to me, her fellow hockey-obsessed bookseller! It is absolutely adorable, fresh, and full of fun, and the second volume came out in the beginning of April so you can read the whole story straight through!
Belonging: As a young woman of German descent (my grandmother is still a German citizen and my father spent many years of his childhood in Germany), I have always been fascinated by the outside world’s perspective of the country post-World War II. I was immediately enthralled by Nora’s life and her graphic novel biography is one of my all time favorites.
I find when I enjoy a show, I tend to go looking for a book companion to the show because I already know I’m bound to like it. It’s not quite the same as reading a book that I’ve already seen turned into a show, but more that I go looking for companion materials (with the exception of Made in Abyss).
The Crown: The Official Companion Volume 1: I love a good royalist book or drama and when The Crown started I was immediately hooked. I realized that I knew very little about the start of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign, I really only knew about the post-Diana years. This book is laid out episode by episode and includes more of the real history behind the drama.
The Story of the Great British Bake Off: I’ve been a GBBO fan for a few years now and I know a lot of people have turned to the calm and comforting nature of the show (as well as taken up baking themselves) to help cope with the current environment. This book is a companion to each of the Mary & Paul seasons (no Prue, Noel, or Sandi, but lots of Mel & Sue) and gives a greater focus on each of the bakers and the dynamics both in and out of the tent. There aren’t any recipes, but it’s a great book for fans who love the show and want to know more about their favorite bakers!
Made in Abyss I first watched as an anime and then discovered the manga series. The anime follows the manga directly, so the story is the same, but it’s a great starting point into the world of manga for people who might not be as familiar with the format as I was. I liked reading my first one with the show so that I understood how to read it and also to see all of the images from the book in color on the show. It’s a super cute style, but with a dark undercurrent in the plot and definitely worth checking out in both formats!
The Adventure Zone: I have to admit, I haven’t actually listened to The Adventure Zone podcast, but I’ve heard great things about both it and the graphic novels, so I decided to start with the graphic novels. I’m a frequent Dungeons & Dragons player so the fantasy structure was familiar to me, but the McElroys do a great job of explaining it without being boring so it’s enjoyable for those not familiar with the game mechanics. The third volume is due out this summer so now is a great time to get started!
Comfort & Inspirational Reads
There are certain types of books that I know will make me happy and bring me joy – books about women doing amazing things, books about books, and oddly enough, books by mortician Caitlin Doughty.
Women in Sports is one of my favorite sports books – each athlete gets a two page spread – one full page illustration and a mini-bio on the subsequent page. I cried happy tears reading this, learning more about my personal hockey hero, Manon Rheaume, and so many other pioneering female athletes before (and after) the passage of Title IX.
Strong is the New Pretty follows a similar vein to Women in Sports in that photographer Kate T. Parker’s photo collection includes a number of young female athletes. My favorite part, however, is that the accompanying text to the photos is from the young women themselves.
Book Love is also a favorite of Mary and Marielle and we all love it for it’s celebration of the bookish lifestyle that we all love to embrace. It’s a great feel good book for all book lovers and Debbie’s illustrations make it so relatable, I can picture myself in every image doing just what she is doing!
Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?: This one might seem like a stretch as far as the “comfort and inspirational” heading. It is a book about death, specifically questions young children ask about death. And I find it extremely comforting. This book first came to me while I was really struggling to deal with the passing of my beloved grandmother and was the last of my “summer of death” books as my family put it. I read everything that I could to help me understand my grief and it wasn’t until I looked at it through the eyes of small children (and with a touch of humor) that I really felt I could start to process and deal with my own feelings.
Stay tuned for the latest Self-Isolation Reading List on Saturday!