Spring Reading Recommendations

I've read 40 books since I last posted (9 MONTHS AGO, where have I been?) and these are the books I keep pushing on people. All of the below were 4.5 stars AT LEAST and I wish I could read all of them again for the first time.  

The book you and your dad can both obsess over: 

Killers Of the Flower Moon by David Grann is a non-fiction read about mass murders in the 1930's of the Oklahoma tribe Osage Indians. I've passed it along to about 6 people and have not been wrong about the recommendation yet. 

The book to love forever, seriously:

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee is one of the best books I have read, ever. A sweeping novel that follows multiple generations of a Korean family living in Japan, starting in the 1930's. I cannot recommend it enough, if you loved Homegoing or A Little Life, you will love this, I absolutely promise you. 

The book to finally introduce you to graphic novels (also, if you love True Crime, you'll love this):

My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf is crazy. The author and illustrator went to highschool and was FRIENDS with Dahmer, so the entire book is first hand account about their latter years of adolescence, when Dahmer first started killing. The illustrations are great, the story is creepy. 

The book to break your heart and cling to for the anxiety friends out there:

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green is about a high schooler navigating life with extreme anxiety. It's so beautifully articulated and doesn't read as a YA novel AT ALL. 

The book to satisfy your romance craving:

Do you love a a good romance read? Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner might be for you. It follows two lovers who meet when they are kids and keep running into each other for the rest of their lives, *cries.*

The book to articulate always feeling a bit wonky:

If you love short stories, you probably will really like Homesick For Another World by Otessa Moshfegh. I have always gone in waves of having these feelings of melancholy that echos that gut feeling of homesick, but there isn't really a word to articulate it; this book articulates it. 

The true crime book to keep you up until you finish every single last page:

If I Can't Have You by Gregg Olsen has been one of my favorite true crime reads ever. I couldn't believe I had never heard the story about the murder of Susan Powell which just kept unfolding. 

The book to better understand your friend's miscarriage:

The Rule Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy is a memoir so unique I had no idea where it was going. To note, it doesn't actually focus on a miscarriage, that doesn't happen until the last half, but it really shook me and was so beautiful and raw. It's pretty short, I read it in a few sittings and would suggest for those of ya that like literary fiction. 

The book to make you cry and hold your loved ones a little tighter:

My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward by Mark Lukach is beautiful. The memoir follows the newly married couple that struggles to survive through the wife dealing with schizophrenia suddenly in her mid twenties. I listened to the audiobook that was narrated by the husband himself, it was fantastic, not too long, and would be great for a long drive. 

The book to swallow in one sitting for its unique and beautiful plot: 

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel is so unique and unlike any story I have read that I didn't want it to end. I listened to it and highly suggest the audiobook, the narrator was incredible. The story follows a transgender child and how the family navigates through it all. 

I only post my best-of and suggested reads on this blog, but if you want to chase me around NYC + follow all the 7 books (give or take) I am always cycling through, head on over to my instagram!

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

I say with confidence that Homegoing is the best book I have read in 2017 so far and am feeling strongly that another read won't surpass it. This one had been on my shelf for about a year but when I read that Mashreads here in NYC was hosting a bookclub with the author, I had to finally hop on it. I read for two days straight and it has been making its way into all of my conversations since. The incredible story follows the family tree over the course of 300 years rooted from two sisters who never met, born in Ghana. Sure, it could easily be a story about the birth of slavery, but I would say nah, it's a story about how strong family ties are. If you read only one book from my suggestions this year, read this. 

This book is packed with overwhelming beautiful excerpts that required me to reread seven times before I grabbed my pen to underline + dog ear the pages (YES I AM THAT PERSON, LEAVE ME ALONE ALREADY). The way family trees and each character that the reader is introduced with just enough detail to make you want to know enough but a little hungry for more was incredibly refreshing and all-consuming. As soon as I finished, I had this intense feeling of sorrow for not being able to know the family tree of every single person that has ever existed. My great grandmother turned 101 a few weeks back (and still lives alone!) and while I have grown up in a family of strong lineage and stories being passed down from generation to generation, it still isn't enough. The stories in Homegoing of each family member capture an overview of the person's life or reasoning, while also sharing a small sliver in time where things all changed for those that were coming after them. Oye, incredible. 

“The need to call this thing “good” and this thing “bad,” this thing “white” and this thing “black,” was an impulse that Effia did not understand. In her village, everything was everything. Everything bore the weight of everything else.” 
― Yaa GyasiHomegoing

“You cannot stick a knife in a goat and then say, "now I will remove my knife slowly - so let things be easy and clean; let there be no mess." There will always be blood.” 
― Yaa GyasiHomegoing

I am guilty of idolizing normal people and turning common folk into celebrities in my eyes, so it's not shocking that I was fangirlin' when I got to hear Yaa speak last week. The entire short hour, I was in utter awe of how someone (SO YOUNG) could write something so beautiful and seem completely unfazed by how incredible what she has created truly was. Also, I ran into her on the street last week and was weirdly star struck and regretted not shouting in passing- "OMG, HOMEGOING! THANK YOU!"

On a final note, my favorite book ever is A Little Life (beating a dead horse here, whatever)- but Homegoing comes in at a close second place. I have yet to be wrong about the strong recommendation of A Little Life (and all 22 copies and counting that I have gifted to friends, coworkers, family members, and more) and I know that Homegoing will be the same. I miss it already. Please read it and thank me later. 

I only post my best-of and suggested reads on this blog, but if you want to chase me around NYC + follow all the 7 books (give or take) I am always cycling through, head on over to my instagram!

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

I wrapped up a slow + mini reading slump a few days before the 4th of July holiday and had a stack of books I needed to crush through for up coming bookclubs. Naturally, I reached for the first book that seemed like a summer hit + had been backed by about 5 recommendations. I spent four glorious, relaxing, indulgent, and obsessive days with this mystery/thriller read and am still in a state of WTF just happened. 

From GoodreadsLouise is a single mom, a secretary, stuck in a modern-day rut. On a rare night out, she meets a man in a bar and sparks fly. Though he leaves after they kiss, she’s thrilled she finally connected with someone.

When Louise arrives at work on Monday, she meets her new boss, David. The man from the bar. The very married man from the bar…who says the kiss was a terrible mistake but who still can’t keep his eyes off Louise.

And then Louise bumps into Adele, who’s new to town and in need of a friend, but she also just happens to be married to David. David and Adele look like the picture-perfect husband and wife, but then why is David so controlling, and why is Adele so scared of him?

As Louise is drawn into David and Adele’s orbit, she uncovers more puzzling questions than answers. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong, but Louise can’t guess how wrong―and how far a person might go to protect their marriage’s secrets.

I read everywhere that the ending of this book was the biggest twist ever, so naturally, I spent the entire book trying to figure it out first based on my killer (no pun intended) skills of ruining every mystery book by figuring out the ending at the 50% mark. But nope- was completely shocked and grinning at the last 20 pages and it left me in silence for 10 minutes trying to figure out WHERE IT WENT WRONG WITH MY DETECTIVE SKILLS.  

This is a great summer mystery read; its quick and twisted, the plot switches about four times throughout the whole thing making you mistrust all the terrible characters with massive flaws (win!), and isn't dark enough to keep you up at night. Like all good psychological thrillers, it's a bit unrealistic (or so I hope) and this one specifically dives into some odd lucid dreaming shit that I am completely skeptical on, but it almost makes it even better. 

You might like this if you also liked: Right Behind You by Lisa Gardner, Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris, The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchinson, or I'm Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid. 

I only post my best-of and suggested reads on this blog, but if you want to chase me around NYC + follow all the 7 books (give or take) I am always cycling through, head on over to my instagram!

Summer Recommendations + America's Holiday

My favorite text messages from friends either include the phrases 'wanna get pizza' or 'what should I read next.' I usually respond with what I think someone will personally enjoy (someone who loves light romance probably won't like a thriller with a creepy stalker) but there is a chunk of go-to reads that I nerd out on regardless of who is asking.  

In honor of hot dogs, sparklers, and Budweiser, here are a few favorites that I recommend over and over and over once more to get you through July. For those of you that spend your summer with Netflix with the air conditioning on blast (no judgment), I paired some shows/movies that might relate to these books depending on your taste. Happy 4th! 

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

I hope you've already read this but if you haven't, now is the time. It's so fantastic and not a stuffy classic that is hard to get through. Somehow Capote weaved beautiful prose with a super terrible murder. I rambled about it last year here. If you like literally any true crime TV show, read this.  

People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Perry

Err-- same as In Cold Blood in regards to loving true crime. This one happens in the 2000's in Japan with a British flight attendant/hostess who (obviously and tragically) gets murdered. It's fascinating. I rambled about it here. If you were still able to sleep after the movie Zodiac and are saving for a trip to Japan (me too!), this might be for you. 

You by Caroline Kepnes

This is fiction and it's creepy, just how I like it. It follows a dude in his 20's who starts aggressively stalking his girlfriend, taking place in current day in NYC. I couldn't put it down and read it in a few sittings- it's a quick one. If the movie Swimfan happened in a beautiful bookstore in the West Village and that sounds chill- you might be into this. 

Wildwood by Colin Meloy

Wildwood is so cute! It's a middle-grade dense adventure read with beautiful illustrations and awesome characters. It's uber clever and was written by The Decemberist's (band) main singer + illustrated by his wife. I want all the prints of detailed drawings on my wall. I also wrote about it a few years back here, and if you think Matilda is the most charming shit ever/wish it was directed by Spike Jonze, read this. 

An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin

I really loved this book and ughhh, Steve Martin is so cool. Yeah! The actor Steve Martin! The story follows a 20s something art dealer in NYC told by her male BFF (kinda BFF? complicated but platonic) and the main characters are fascinating and complex. 

The Girls by Emma Cline

A perfect, perfect summer read about a teen who runs with Manson gang. Not a young adult novel if that's what you're thinking. I talked about it last summer here. I imagine Sophia Coppola would direct the version of this read- so if you're into her storylines and visuals, you'll probably like this. 

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Hands down, my favorite book ever. I have talked about it at least 100 times in person and 10 times on this corner of the internet. It's dark and so overwhelmingly beautiful. Please read it. I cried over it here.  I actually have talked in-depth with friends about how no one should ever try to touch this book for a film adaptation. 

The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker

I read this book two years ago on the Fourth of July, poolside at my parent's place in almost one sitting. It's a murder mystery with incredible twists, unlike anything I have read. It hasn't left my mind since I buzzed through it and still can't believe it isn't as popular as it should be. I talked about it in my very early bloggish days here. If the TV shows True Detective and Fargo (omfg watch Fargo the TV show on FX) had a one-night stand, this might be it. 

Thanks for spending some time with me, hope you have a stellar reading summer.

Books Are Magic

For one glorious year, I got to live about 7 blocks away from the best mom + pop bookstore in Cobble Hill called Book Court. At the end of 2016, the owners pridefully retired and a new mom + pop opened another incredible bookstore about 5 blocks away. Emma Straub + her husband Michael opened Books Are Magic a few months back and basically dumped an entire bucket of well designed glitter into a brick abyss. 

I am fortunate enough to have a revolving door of out-of-town friends stay at my place for a night or two on a pit stop to their next destination and I have (unknowingly and unintentionally) turned everyone's visits into a beautiful morning ritual stroll of coffee and a bagel, long brownstone wandering walks, and always a stop at the local bookshop. The dreadful four months without one in my neighborhood made me itchy, but the neighborhood is (THANKFULLY) alive again with Books Are Magic! The visitor introduction to my life in Brooklyn can finally continue, we can all rest easy. 

This place is so well-curated that is genuinly feels like my neighbor just got really excited about a bunch of books to recommend and decided to put it inside some walls of beautiful bricks (life dream). A mantle with staff picks? Guest speakers with all of Emma's writer friends? COME ON. But to top it off (and maybe my favorite part of it?) is the glorious kids section. They built this little octagon for kiddos to grab a book and hang out in while their parents wander around and I rarely see it unoccupied. Is it too weird for a 26 year old to battle them for a spot? 

You can follow their awesome Instragram at @booksaremagicbk, watch a cool interview with Emma at minute 21 here, or see a full cover of the store by this Domino article. 

Books Are Magic is located at 255 Smith street, at the corner of Butler St, in Brooklyn.

I only post my best-of on this blog, but if you want to chase me around NYC + follow all the 7 reads I am always cycling through, head on over to my instagram!

Bookclub Club of Dear Life + Coffee at Sheila's

My main bookclub operates like a diverse democracy: each month, one person is selected to own the picks and theme, sends out a poll with 5 book options, and decides the restaurant or bar that is on theme with whatever their heart desires. Some favorite themes (all resulting in long nights of bar hopping after, SO DREAMY): 'Ladies of Comedy' where we read Amy Schumer's memoir + a night at Comedy Cellar, a Valentine's Day edition of Love Wins: The Lovers and Lawyers Who Fought the Landmark Case for Marriage Equality + a swap of Valentine's day gifts, and the reading A Long Way Home (or the movie Lion, for those of you stragglers) + a very eccentric tiny Indian family-style restaurant for eats (and shouting over the music about the book). Last month was a neat-o one, with Canadian themed authors which is how we wound up reading short stories for the first time as a group with Alice Munro's Dear Life. Short story collections + math books might be the only books in the world I don't read, but this one is pretty critically acclaimed (we debated several times on if it actually deserved a Nobel Prize- hint, it was disliked by most of the group) but I actually was really into it! 

The 12 or so short stories follow the intricate and mundane day-to-day lives of women all around Lake Huron throughout several decades. There were about 6 stories that I really loved and didn't want to end, but also an equal amount that I wanted so badly to skip over. The first 6 however, were my favorite- so if you rent it from the library and don't get through it all- you might not be missing much. BUT, it turned me into a short story craving reader- so it's totally worth something. Being able to cram so much vivid detail + narrative into 30 pages is a beautiful thang that I haven't really appreciated until this point. 

“We say of some things that they can't be forgiven, or that we will never forgive ourselves. But we do--we do it all the time.” 
― Alice MunroDear Life: Stories

It took me a few weeks to finish this read which is tragically annoying at the rate I buzz through stuff, but I spent a long rainy afternoon at the cafe that just opened below my apartment finishing up the last pages (after the bookclub had already passed, OOPS) and super suggest swinging by Sheila's in Carroll Gardens for a stretched out solo coffee reading day. They have amazing pastries (I got some concoction of a pepper rosemary scone) and a great latte which I consumed sooner that I could even pause for a picture of. 

Why is this post so vague and indecisive? I would never post about something I wouldn't want to push onto you. Read Dear Life if you like short stories + narratives about how woman are ACTUALLY REAL AND COMPLEX PEOPLE, head to Sheila's if you need to stretch your legs at a trendy spot. Brooklyn is getting so anti-coffee-and-chill/work, I am glad this spot opened in the hood.

Exit West

My friend Caroline drags me along (sarcasm, it's my highlight of each month) to incredibly dreamy bookclubs that are well curated + make me read things I would never pick up on my own, LIKE EXIT WEST.  Lately I have noticed that I rarely not obsessed with what I am reading and hardly turn one away (or maybe my friends reading the same books have bad taste + I am always rallying for one they think is a dud) and I hope it's not muddying down my suggestions, but this one- umph, talk about a keeper. 

I have this beautiful habit of waiting until the 72 hours (max) before a bookclub to start the required reading because I feel it will make me love the book even more if I binge on it. I was skeptical at first if I loved Exit West so much because of my weird habitual rule or if I truly loved it for all the great reasons like its amazing character development (SO UNIQUE, SO HEARTBREAKING!) and the fantastic travel log with amazing cultural exposure (MYKONOS, MARIN, LONDON, come on). 

You can read all the articles about how critically acclaimed it is and the outline of the plot, but I'll tell you this: combine a war country with a tiny dash of the rebel-version-of-Handmaids-Tale, add the relationship complexity of Patti Smith's Just Kids or Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, throw in a distant dream about Narnia, and you have one smart and incredible book. Obviously, I strongly suggest it, I miss it already. 

“While they wished to look out for each other, and to keep tabs on each other, staying in touch took a toll on them, serving as an unsettling reminder of a life not lived, and also they grew less worried each for the other, less worried that the other would need them to be happy, and eventually a month went by without any contact, and then a year, and then a lifetime.” 
― Mohsin Hamid, Exit West

Exit West is out in hardback right now and runs 231 pages, I split it up in two solid sit throughs. Here is a great article in the New York Times giving it a thumbs up, and its fantastic for a bookclub that doesn't read fluff. Hope you enjoy it! 

Bibliophiles After Work: Soula Design

I follow (stalk) a lot of designers + artist with pure lifestyle envy starting with their work, then their home space, and finally, their hobbies (and sometimes their friends, too) but have always been extra obsessed with the ones that post about books they love too! It's no surprise that the truly creative also have excellent taste in reading, so I am taking it as an excuse to feature some and quiz them on their interests as well as get an inside scoop on where they create.

Meet Sophia, one half of the ultimately cool duo that runs Soula Design Co., an interior and lifestyle company that offer up handmade and internationally sourced furniture, decor, (beautttttiful) accessories while also providing design services. Sophia + Janell launched Soula earlier this year, but have been chipping away at the core inspiration since they were in Kindergarten, where the pair first met. Residing in Oakland, California, Sophia is the artist, designer + biz dev of the duo. 

She showed me around her cozy + bright apartment while chatting with me about her reading interests + some design books that started it all, The New Bohemians by Justina Blakeney. 

Pageworm: What book would you refer to your friend who rarely reads but wants a grand slam read?

Sophia: In newer fiction, I would recommend Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. It’s a page-turner, really surprising with plenty of time-travel action.

Pageworm: What’s the last book you read + last book you bought? 

Sophia: I recently flew through Security by Gina Wohlsdorf, and am currently in the middle of Sick in the Head by Judd Apatow. The last book I've bought was She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb, thanks to the recommendation from The Page Worm herself.

Pageworm: Good choice in She's Come on Undone, you're the 6th person I have pushed it on. And ah! I have been wanting to read Security, in a few words, what's it about? 

Sophia: It's a murder mystery told in the perspective of the security guard! Its so tense + I had to keep reading to see what would happen next.

Pageworm: For the less adventurous readers out there, what's the best book-to-movie adaptation you've seen?

Sophia: Harry Potter goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway because I’m a no-shame die-hard (Currently wearing a Hogwarts tee as I answer these questions). But a shout out to Trainspotting, Water for Elephants, The Time Traveller’s Wife, and This is Where I Leave You.

Pageworm: Now that it's public that you're a huge Potterhead, but what was the first book that got you hooked on reading?

Sophia: The Junie B. Jones books by Barbara Park were the first books I read by myself and asked for more of. My kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Dunker, introduced them to me and I’ve been constantly in progress with a book ever since.

Pageworm: Now onto your beautiful work. Which author would you be most excited about if they bought one of your pieces?

Sophia: Justina Blakeney, author of The New Bohemians and owner of The Jungalow. She’s our guru when it comes to interior design and personal style, and that book sparked the beginning of Soula Design Co. so it would be a magical, cosmic, full-circle moment if that ever happened.

Pageworm: The New Bohemians is so so beautiful, whats your favorite thing about it? 

Sophia: Right? Besides the pages being filled with beautiful homes that have layers of history and memories covered in lush plants, The New Bohemians was the start of Soula Design Co.. My business partner and friend since kindergarten (she read Junie B. Jones too), was visiting me in Oakland and while she was flipping through my copy of the book, we gushed over our love of bohemian-inspired interiors and collected decor. We talked plants, mixing patterns, her dream of traveling the world to find unique furniture and decor, and my love of creating art and items to enhance personal style. A year later when I was getting ready to quit my job in tech to pursue a creative career, it was that conversation that I kept coming back to.

Pageworm: Rad on you for quitting a job to follow a passion. What design book everyone should own? 

Sophia: Graphic Design, the New Basics by Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips. It was a required reading in college but it really nails the basics in an easy-to-understand way and includes great visuals with clear writing.

Pageworm: Okay, the final question that haunts us all: how many books are on your to-be-read pile?

Sophia: Currently, 10 that are in my bookshelf, 2 that I just brought back from the library, and 52 on my Goodreads list, but really the list is endless.

Click through + make sure you follow them on Instagram and Facebook and as always- shop with them at https://www.souladesign.co/.

Thank you X500 for hanging out with me Sophia and reading things I sneakishly send you in the mail. 

A Pageworm Bookish Adventure: City Lights Bookstore

After the day in Oakland spent at Walden Pond Books, I headed to San Francisco for a Little Italy afternoon of Golden Boy Pizza (OMG YUM) + City Lights Bookstore, the Bay Area landmark of independent bookstores and the mother of the beatnik generations. I love this spot for three main reasons: awesome neighborhood of day-long-coffee-sipping cafes, an overwhelming amount of natural light, and a superior collection of literary fiction with beautiful editions and rows and rows of staff suggestions. 

There are lots of reasons I loved living in San Francisco, but one of my favorites things was the pride in locals makers + designers. I saw a fantastic illustrator I had been following for years a few years back at a talk where she chatted about all her best projects, one being her Penguin Drop Cap series. Beautiful, right? Spotting Jessica Hische's work in the wild always feel like a treat (although, its hard to avoid- she even did the Moonrise Kingdom lettering!) and can always count on City Lights for keeping hers + the Penguin linen classics on the shelves. 

I could go on and on about how special + pretty City Lights is and if you haven't been (and to San Francisco, OMG!!!) go immediately, ya won't soon forget it. It's also incredibly photogenic- double win. 

A Pageworm Bookish Adventure: Walden Pond Books

Walden Pond Books might be my favorite bookstore in the Bay Area; beautiful wooden floors + lighting, an abundance of staff suggestions, and located in the very best neighborhood of local businesses. Sitting in Grand Lake area of Oakland, California, the store could take hours to sift through to find the best reads (and omg, the best prices of used books- HOW TO CHOOSE) between finding odd editions you've been hunting for + new suggestions you haven't heard of yet. 

I wandered there with my friend while visiting the Bay Area this week on a stunning 75 degree day. I have been here countless of times in the evenings and really love this neighborhood, so was pretty surprised when all the amazing local food shops were closed mid-day until dinner- but if you wander over, head to Boot + Shoe Service! Amazing cocktails + wood fired pizza, bummed I missed out and sorry for no pics of cheese on cards that I have been craving. 

I bought Dave Egger's Zeitoun on this trip in an attempt to only shop for local authors- but rahhhh, it was super hard to narrow down. I have read two of Eggers books and felt polar opposite about each, love + hate. What Is the What was great and is one of my favorite reads in general and have heard from other book preference friends that Zeitoun is on par as well, I'll report back when I get through my next 200 to-be-read list.