This Is the One Book You Should Read in October

This Is the One Book You Should Read in October

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October’s must-read is “What Storm, What Thunder” by Myriam J. A. Chancy. Seven years in the making, this compelling novel is a fictional account of the earthquake that struck Haiti’s island of Hispaniola in January 2010. The devastating natural disaster killed over a quarter million Haitians, drastically changing the Haitian population and their country. 

Told through multiple perspectives, Chancy skillfully maps the inner lives of eight characters affected by the disaster, telling a singular story of strength, sorrow, heartbreak, and love. “What Storm, What Thunder” isn’t a feel-good story, but it’s an important and powerful one. 

In celebration of Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15-Oct. 15, as well as Filipino American History Month that is commemorated in Oct., these other must-read picks are all new literature penned by those voices.

“The One You Want to Marry (and Other Identities I’ve Had)” by Sophie Santo

The fearless comic and host of “The Lesbian Agenda” brings you an earnest story about finding one’s authentic voice in this awkward and funny memoir. As the only child of a constantly transferring Filipino-Spanish US Army officer and nurse, Sophie Santos spent her early years starting over again and again in majority-white communities. She learned to conform and adapt with those around her, never fully embracing her own identity. Luckily in her late twenties, Santos began an unexpected lesbian puberty and found her true self: “more tomboy misfit than Southern belle.” This is a book for anyone who has ever felt out of place.

“Dreaming of You” by Melissa Lozada-Oliva*

Just in time for spooky szn, thismacabre novel in verse follows a poet who resurrects pop star Selena Quintanilla from the dead. Yes, you read that right. *Cue “Dreaming of You,” the book’s namesake.* Sparkling and haunting all at once, the poems in this novel read like a fever dream and masterfully combines topics of millennial angst, womanhood, and celebrity obsession. A séance narrated by a Greek chorus of gossiping spirits kicks off this eerie journey, so grabs some snacks, maybe a warm sweater, and strap yourself in for this strange ride.

*Disclaimer: The author of this article is employed by Astra House, the publisher of “Dreaming of You.”

After Perfect by Maan Gabriel

Nothing helps ease thoughts of impending doom (i.e., the ongoing pandemic, climate change, this list goes on) like getting lost in a bit of rom-com. In thisheartfelt debut from Maan Gabriel, 36-year-old Gabriella Stevens is totally fine living as a devoted housewife to her husband, Simon. It’s the life she was raised to believe she wanted by her traditional Filipino mother. Until, after sixteen years of marriage, Simon tells Gabriella that he wants a divorce. Sexy and absorbing, “After Perfect” shows the complexities of relationships and chronicles a woman’s journey of finding both herself and love after heartbreak—outside of cultural expectations.

Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed edited by Saraciea Fennell

This anthologyfeaturing 15 voices from the Latinx diaspora doesn’t release until Nov. 2, but I’d be remiss not to include it (and it’s available for pre-order!). So instead, think of this as a little preview. An all-star cast of contributors — bestselling and award-winning authors as well as new, up-and-coming voices — come together in “Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed” to interrogate the different myths and stereotypes about the Latinx community. The essay topics range from colorism to beauty, alcoholism, mental health, relationships with men, and more. The purpose of this important and beautifully crafted collection is to give a platform to voices not traditionally represented on the shelves.

25 Gift-Worthy Coffee Table Books for 2021

25 Gift-Worthy Coffee Table Books for 2021

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Coffee tables are a small yet mighty gift idea that you might not consider at first, but definitely should. Once you start investigating, you’ll realize that there is basically an endless amount of coffee table books out there across every category imaginable, from photography and design to animals and astrology. That means that whether you’re shopping for someone who loves to travel or someone who’s a proud homebody, you’re guaranteed to find something special they’ll love. Check out these 25 options that you’ll want to keep in mind next time you’re shopping for someone who already has it all. (And for even more ideas for people who adore reading, try this list of gifts for book lovers.)

Additional reporting by Nicole Lund

Why the New Psychological Thriller “Nice Girls” Is One of My Favorite Reads of 2021

Why the New Psychological Thriller “Nice Girls” Is One of My Favorite Reads of 2021

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It was the cover of “Nice Girls” that grabbed me; the glowing pink title against the backdrop of a chilly wooded scene. From it, you can almost hear an owl hoot overhead, see the moonlight slice through the trees, hear the crunch of the forested ground below as you creep closer to the aged cabin and its lit window, desperate to find out what’s hidden inside. It’s a fitting scene for what’s about to unfold, almost like author Catherine Dang is giving readers a peek into the heart of the story — that, despite the title, there are no nice girls to be found in her debut.

Unlikable female characters — an obnoxious classification given that unlikeable male characters are never categorized as such — have cropped up over the last decade; women who drink too much, make the wrong choices, comfortably say no, and push against expectations. They’re found in the works of Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl,” Susie Yang’s “White Ivy,” Layne Fargo’s “They Never Learn,” and Paula Hawkins’ “The Girl on the Train.” And while any unlikeable character can be frustrating, they’re also refreshing. By including the grittier, sometimes shameful parts of a person, authors give room for deeper, present themes that, when blended with the who-done-it, create a more moving story. And that’s what Dang has done here.

In “Nice Girls,” from the outside, Liberty Lake, Minnesota, looks like any other Midwestern city. But for “Ivy League Mary” who left three years ago without looking back, it harbors her former self, someone she’d hoped to leave behind for good when she got her acceptance to Cornell. But her sudden expulsion brings her face to face with her past.

When she returns home to sort through the aftermath, she’s met with the sudden disappearance of her former best friend and rising social media star, Olivia Willand. Even more unnerving is that nineteen-year-old DeMaria Jackson has also disappeared, but no one seems to want to connect the two cases. Frustrated by the community’s dismissal of the two girls’ similarities, and intent on avoiding her present situation, Mary sets off to find out what really happened. After all, she knows better than anyone that the person Olivia showcased on social media isn’t at all the person she really was.

“Nice Girls” balances the mystery of Mary’s expulsion, Olivia and DeMaria’s disappearances, and Mary’s re-immersion into the city she so badly wanted to escape in her youth. Dang holds an expert grip on each angle, which allows the more timely themes of the novel to materialize: racism, prejudice, and misogyny. How the police and community handled the missing person’s case of DeMaria versus. Olivia’s is the most obvious, but these haunting themes also emerge in other characters in town, too. Each has a secret they’re hiding from the investigation, and since Mary has nothing to lose after Cornell, she’s got plenty of time to obsess over revealing them.

Mary is unlikeable yet relatable, judgmental yet unafraid of what might happen should she bring those judgments to light, no matter how much truth they hold. Her journey will resonate with anyone who has experienced the discomfort of returning to your old stomping grounds, whether it is a small town or a big city. And in order for Mary to uncover the darker side of her home, she has to confront that discomfort and learn to accept her former self and the people who knew that version of her. The mystery of how she’s going to do that is as equally enamoring as the vanishings.

Samantha Ladwig

Contributor

Samantha is the owner of Imprint Bookstore in Port Townsend, Washington. Her work has been published by Bustle, Literary Hub, New York magazine, Real Simple, Bust Magazine, and others. Find her at samanthaladwig.com and @samanthakladwig

5 Reasons Why I Don’t Organize My Books By Color or Title

5 Reasons Why I Don’t Organize My Books By Color or Title

As people retrofitted their homes to serve as offices and digital studios in the past year, I’ve found myself being drawn to talk shows — not just for the celebrities but for the bookshelves that peeked out from behind their shoulders. I watched countless news shows, where there were always “expert” guests participating from home. I eagerly studied their literary backgrounds, putting the TV on pause to better see what they were reading and how their shelves were organized.

What I realized was that most of them seemed to be using the same organizing system I do: none.

As an avid reader with more than a thousand books, I have gotten a lot of questions from my friends about my lack of organization. “How do you ever find anything?” they’d ask. Each time, I explained that I can envision the books in my mind and can usually remember its general location on a shelf. Maybe it’s because I spend so much time browsing through them. 

For years, my dream was to build a “Beauty and the Beast-style library, filled with glorious floor-to-ceiling bookshelves (no wonder Belle ultimately fell hard for the Beast), and finally provide a permanent home to all the books I had piled in cabinets, on tables, and on the floor. Locked down at home with time on my hands, I finally got around to it on a much smaller scale, with a couple of dream-come-true floor-to-ceiling bookcases that were begging to be filled in a way that would bring joy and maybe even order to my reading life.

I posted photos on Facebook and asked for suggestions on how to organize my new bookshelves, but was not prepared for the avalanche of responses and the raw passion behind them. So I considered dozens of opinions as to why I should organize by color, title, author, genre, books I’ve read, books I haven’t read, favorite books… and dozens of opinions as to why I shouldn’t, as well. 

Although each method has its virtues — and if it works for you, that’s really all that matters — I’m more convinced than ever that none of those are for me. Here’s why I’m sticking with my no-system system.

When I add to my collection — which I do often — I’m able to place a new book anywhere on a shelf and move on. If I arranged my bookshelf by any category at all, there would be only one spot where each specific book belongs. If there was no room for it there, I would have to move some books to the next shelf, then move some books from that shelf to the next one, and on and on. This feels unsustainable, and the constant reorganizing is not how I’d like to spend my time. I’d rather be reading.

Books can be found in every room.

With bookshelves in almost every room of my house, it’s hard to imagine an overall organizing system that would work. How do you alphabetize from one room to another? And do you arrange by genre, based on the room, so, for example, kitchen shelves only feature cookbooks? Because books open readers up to different worlds and all possibilities, I’ve found it so much more interesting to, say, have a book of short stories catch my eye while I’m eating dinner, and perhaps inspire me to write one of my own.

The emphasis is on the books.

When I tried organizing by a category, the emphasis naturally ended up on that category: Here are books about travel, here are books by Toni Morrison, here are books that start with the letter “A.” I want to just look at my shelves and think, “Here are so many wonderful books.”

Arranging books by color may look magical but if I did that, I would probably spend more time admiring the rainbow than thinking about the books themselves. It’s easy to understand why arranging books by color became such a popular decorating trend — it’s gorgeous — but, for me, it takes away from the natural beauty of the individual books. Although I would absolutely buy a coffee table book of photos of color-organized bookshelves, I can’t imagine buying a random book because I need one with an orange or purple spine to complete a section.

Author Anthony Powell wrote a novel entitled, “Books Do Furnish a Room,” and I agree. Books are, inherently, the warmest and most welcoming decor. On Pinterest, I’ve followed dozens of  “home libraries” boards that showcase cozy rooms filled with books and comfy chairs. In those rooms, the books themselves are the focus — they don’t need any embellishment to make an impact.

There’s always something new to discover.

One of the great pleasures of unorganized shelves is looking for a specific book and finding a different one that appeals to me along the way — a moment of happenstance that occurs all the time and has led to fascinating, unexpected discoveries. I once was looking for a specific novel, and, as I was searching, I came upon a memoir about traveling solo that was so captivating, I ended up booking a trip I had never considered before. (Yes, I took the novel with me.) This would never have happened if my books were organized in any way, and the serendipity of it is a true delight and the main reason I love my no-system system. It’s also why I set my Spotify playlists to shuffle.

Bookshelves reveal a lot about a person.

As someone who is more likely to hop on a plane tomorrow than plan a trip for next year, it would be hard for me to relate to any formal organizing system. It wouldn’t feel authentic. It wouldn’t feel like mine. So, as long as life remains unpredictable and mysterious and somewhat random, my bookshelves will, too.

Tia Mowry Announces New Cookbook, “The Quick Fix Kitchen”

Tia Mowry Announces New Cookbook, “The Quick Fix Kitchen”

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Actress, mom, and businesswoman extraordinaire Tia Mowry has announced her brand new cookbook, “The Quick Fix Kitchen“, a much-anticipated follow on from her successful YouTube series, “Tia Mowry’s Quick Fix” which sees the “Sister, Sister” star share insightful videos on her 878,000 subscribers strong channel.

“It’s hard to believe that we’re approaching the end of summer but don’t worry, I’m here to make the busy fall season a breeze with my new cookbook The Quick Fix Kitchen,” Mowry wrote in the caption of an Instagram video announcing the new book, which will be released on Sept. 28. “The recipes are designed to deliver big flavors with minimum prep and cook time. They include sheet pan meals like Stuffed Pesto Chicken Breast, one-pot meals like Spinach Artichoke Pasta Bake, classics with a healthy twist like Creamy “Alfredo” Pasta, and creative, kid-friendly snacks like Banana “Sushi” Rolls and Mini Quesadilla Pizzas.”

“My new cookbook, “The Quick Fix Kitchen”, inspired by my YouTube series, “Tia Mowry’s Quick Fix”, allows you to cook no matter what’s on your calendar with ith my tried-and-true meal prep hacks, healthy food swaps, and 65 delicious recipes,” Mowry says in the video.

The book will also contain plenty of de-cluttering and organizing hacks, as well as ways to stock your kitchen with efficient cookware. Mowry aims to teach readers how they can cook good-for-you food while allowing more time to enjoy it.

“The Quick Fix Kitchen” is far from Mowry’s first venture into the culinary space. Since 2015, she has hosted Cooking Channel’s “Tia Mowry at Home”, cooking up a range of dishes alongside some of her celeb friends. Mowry also released a previous cookbook in 2017, “Whole New You“, with a focus on simple and nutritious recipes, inviting readers to change the way they think about what they eat, jump-starting their journey to a healthier way of living.