January’s Best Reads
I plan on starting the new year exactly as I ended it: diving into a stack of great books. I ended with 150 books for 2021, reading everything I can to help you readers navigate interesting, entertaining, and diverse books, from memoir to thriller to everything in between.
Put Shauna Robinson’s Must Love Books on your list. It is a charming romance about Nora, a floundering editorial assistant at a San Francisco publishing house. Budget cuts have forced her to secretly moonlight at a rival publishing house to pay the rent. Both publishers offer her a promotion if she can sign a handsome bestselling author to their list. Nora finds herself in hot water when her deception is discovered, not to mention her new romance with said author. This is a relatable, heartfelt story about a young woman, struggling with depression and her future.
The Paris Bookseller by Kerri Maher is historical fiction about Sylvia Beach, an American who opened the iconic Shakespeare and Company in Paris in 1919. Every prominent writer from Hemingway to Ezra Pound to F. Scott Fitzgerald made themselves at home in her bookstore. Beach publishes Ulysses, James Joyce’s banned book despite great financial risks and the jeopardy to her store’s reputation. Maher writes her most tender scenes between Beach and her lover Adrienne Monnier, a fellow bookseller. You will find yourself swept up in 1920s Paris.
Do not do what I did and read Beneath the Stairs in a house alone in the woods. It was creepy from the very first scene. Author Jennifer Fawcett makes an electrifying debut with her atmospheric story. A young woman returns to her upstate New York hometown after her childhood friend attempts suicide in an abandoned house in the woods. The house had been the scene of some horrific murders in the past, and yet over the years beckons young girls to explore its cold, rotting basement. Not only a ghost story, but it is also the exploration of friendships and those “lost to time,” girls trapped in childhood history, haunted by people and events.
Author Alex Danchev believes the surrealist René Magritte to be the most important artist of images in the modern world. In his insightful biography Magritte: A Life, he explores the influences on the Belgian-born man, with a mother who killed herself, to other surrealists he admired and fought with (famously André Breton). The man was quirky and controversial and thought provoking. Great for art lovers.
An absolutely riveting read is Karen Brooks’ The Good Wife of Bath. Geoffrey Chaucer’s unforgettable character (the Wife of Bath) in The Canterbury Tales, was a woman ahead of her time. In Brooks’ book, Eleanor gets to tell her own story and it is funny and saucy. Set in medieval England, Eleanor is married at 12 to an elderly farmer. It is the first of five husbands. She will use her body and her brains for control of her life — her story – and along the way there will be murder and lovers.