Latest Staff Picks

Get your mom a Hallmark card if you want, but this Mother's Day I'll be sending mine this bracingly funny collection of short essays. These essays ostensibly revolve around an aspect of Black's physicality, like his failed attempts at long-distance running, or an injury sustained by unwittingly breaking up a Three-card Monte, but these are really just an excuse to talk about the broader issues of family and belonging. What David Sedaris is to NPR, Michael Ian Black is to DVR, and his humor translates perfectly to the page as well. A real treat.

Picked by James

This is a wonderfully creepy mystery set in a Scottish boarding school during World War II. The children are sent here to avoid the blitz. What awaits them in this sinister, rundown castle is far from the refuge their parents had planned for them. The story went in directions I wasn't expecting with characters I got to know and love. Fascinating and imaginative, I was completely sucked in. This would be such a great summer book to get lost in!

Picked by Patti H.

How a full-time biology professor managed to write and illustrate a 300 page comic book in his spare time is beyond me, but we've certainly benefited from his professional expertise; Last of the Sandwalkers is a graphic adventure story that is also a fascinating introductions to lesser known beetles, worms, spiders, and other insects. Well-researched footnotes and scientific nomenclature make this a great educational read for any age, and Hosler strikes the perfect balance between the two worlds of science and entertainment without leaning too heavily in either field. I'm astounded that such a talented artist can be such a thorough biologist, and vice versa!

Picked by Owen

This quiet, stunning debut novel by agent turned writer Bill Clegg is one of the best books of the year. Set in the aftermath of unimaginable tragedy, the novel explores how people find the ability to go on. June, whose daughter, daughter's fiancee, boyfriend, and ex-husband all perish, takes off, driving aimlessly west, ending up in a motel on the Washington coast. Her boyfriend's mother, the town outcast, drifts into the clutches of a shady financial schemer. Told in simple, beautiful prose, this is an unforgettable story.

Picked by Michael

World War II is in vogue right now (All the Light We Cannot See, The Nightingale), and Crooked Heart can now join their ranks. It's the story of ten-year-old Noel, who is evacuated from London during the Blitz. He is taken in by a skittish widow named Vee, who figures she might make a little money through charitable donations and catch up on her debts. The war seems far away at first, but then its effects begin to be felt in the little village of St. Albans. There are humorous moments in the lives of these wonderful characters, but the story is grounded in reality, and ultimately it's about what it means to be a family.

Picked by Mark B.

Dorothy Baker's Cassandra at the Wedding is an ideal summer read. It's a somewhat forgotten classic that is simultaneously high comedy and tragedy. When her twin sister Judith intends to get married at their childhood home, Cassandra does everything in her power to sabotage the wedding. But this isn't a schlocky, Matthew McConaughey-starring rom-com. Cassandra's attempts are funny, yes, but also call to mind questions of identity and sexuality. Simply the most fun you'll have this August.

Picked by James
Staff Pick Logo
Villette Cover Image
By Charlotte Bronte, Helen Cooper (Editor), Helen Cooper (Introduction by)

Every summer, I tackle a classic that's been on my shelf for too long. This year, it was Villette by Charlotte Bronte. Similar to Jane Eyre, the protagonist Lucy Snowe has no fortune. But rather than become a governess, Lucy travels to the fictional town of Villette to take up a post as an English teacher. Charlotte Bronte taught English abroad and Villette is widely considered her most autobiographical work. While slow to start, this book left me wanting more. Bronte writes about a complex woman trying to navigate depression and loneliness in an oppressive social framework. By the end, I felt like I knew Lucy and it was hard to pull myself out of her world.

Picked by Halley

Tribe is not just a book about PTSD, it is a serious reflection on the dominant culture in American society. Sebastian Junger lays out, in detail, an argument that American culture has wandered so far from our tribal roots that we can’t offer a meaningful experience of connection and community to returning veterans that rivals what they experience in war. We can’t offer it because we’re not living it. If you love someone who went to war and came home, this will likely speak to you (reading Tribe helped me come to a deeper understanding of my ex-Marine father). If you don’t have any veterans in your circle, even more reason to educate yourself.

Picked by Dana

Ivoe Williams is one of the most driven characters you'll ever read. As a black woman working as a journalist and newspaperwoman in the time of Jim Crow, she has to be. Her struggles, achievements, and loves come about in a pervading atmosphere of oppression that's both catastrophic and banal, and often violent. But Ivoe's story is is also about incredible strength and joy, animated by vibrant prose and a truly rewarding depth of historical detail that lifts up the work of early African-American newspapers. I didn't expect to be so surprised, challenged, and moved when I began this book, but Jam on the Vine is that kind of book.

Picked by Christina