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The Book Beat - March 13, 2020

Hello, book friends! I hope you are all hanging in there during the coronavirus pandemic. The bad news is that our world and country is going through this and it's stressful for everyone, whether you're sick with it or worried about the repercussions of the country basically shutting down for two weeks or more. We're all stressed about work, finances, child care, health coverage, etc. Please try and stay calm (trust me, as a sufferer of anxiety I know how hard that is). If there's anything I can do (and you're local), just let me know. And as the wife of a plumber, I can say, we don't get the toilet paper thing either (although we do have some if you need a roll!). And free PSA: Don't use paper towels as a substitute!

Let's look on the bright side and see what we can do while we're possibly quarantined in the house for the next two weeks. Spend some time with your family (we're already planning a game night for tonight). Tackle that spring cleaning you always plan on doing but never get done (and when I say "you," I mean me). And, of course, spend time reading! Below, before the Cover of the Week, I'm going to share some book suggestions and short story picks. And thankfully due to the wonder of ebooks, Kindle, Audible, and online shopping, you should hopefully be able to get your hands on some of them and enjoy. But, first, some book news!

The Short Story is Better (But Still Check Out the Show Based on It!)

So far this year, I've read 72 short stories for my "A Short Story a Day" challenge. The best one was "Paper Menagerie" by Ken Liu. Ken's stories are a little bit sci-fi, a little bit fantasy, a little bit realistic, and 100% amazing. AMC has green lit two seasons of a one-hour animated series based on Ken's short fiction about uploaded intelligence. Here's a tantalizing description: Maddie, a bullied teen, gets help from a mysterious presence online, which turns out to be her dead father who uploaded his consciousness to the cloud. Sounds great, no?

Also, read "Paper Menagerie," if you haven't. It's amazing. The link for that is below.

Budget Cuts to Library Funding Hurts Rural KS Libraries

Another day, more cuts to library funding. I know budgets are tough business but rural libraries are an outlet for people who don't have a ton of access to books (and possibly not even the internet). I would think funding would be a top priority.

Two Weeks of Time: Bookish Suggestions for Coronavirus Quarantine

Audiobooks: Mesmerizing Memoirs

A few years ago on a whim, I borrowed the free audiobook of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou from the Libby app. I had listened to a grand total of one audiobook before (the 6-CD version of Stephen King’s On Writing), and was not enamored with the clunky process of multiple CDs and having to wait AGES to get them at the library (or pay $40 or more to buy the CD set).

But after just one hour of hearing Maya’s deep, confident, powerful voice share the intimate details of her childhood, I was hooked. I wrote a whole blog post about it here:

My latest audiobook memoir is Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. I’m late to this one, so I’m not going to say much more than you’ve already heard, but it’s wonderful. Using the story of his childhood in South Africa as the base narrative, he fills out the book with information and commentary on apartheid, racism, and colonialism. It's truly a tour de force of not only the sharing the stories of an amazingly unique and compelling childhood, but also first-hand commentary on the horrific effects of apartheid and the racism it was based on. And, frankly, Noah's attractive accent doesn't hurt either! There's definitely a very smart, compassionate, worldly man lurking beneath the comedian he displays on The Daily Show.

I also just started listening to Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential. It's sad to listen to Anthony's unique voice knowing of his suicide, but it's still a compelling story so far.

More memoir recs: Know My Name, Chanel Miller. This Will Only Hurt a Little, Busy Philips. Dear Girls, Ali Wong. Over the Top, Jonathan Van Ness. I Feel Bad about My Neck, Nora Ephron. All You Can Ever Know, Nicole Chung. We're Going to Need More Wine, Gabrielle Union. Educated, Tara Westover. Becoming, Michelle Obama. Here If You Need Me, Kate Braestrup.

Nonfiction recs: Catch and Kill, Ronan Farrow. Furious Hours, Casey Cep. The Library Book, Susan Orlean. Small Fry, Lisa Brennan-Jobs. White Fragility, Robin D'Angelo. Once More We Saw Stars, Jayson Greene (note: This one is the story of his one-year-old son dying from a horrific accident, so please be wary).

How to Borrow Audiobooks for Free: Libby, Hoopla, and Overdrive apps (just put in your library card number and start looking for books that are available now. You can also put them on hold). And even if you don't live in Philly, you can still get a Philadelphia Library card through their website and borrow books using the number through Overdrive and Hoopla app as well.

Pro Tip: If you have an Alexa and Audible, you can listen to your audiobooks through there. It makes emptying and refilling the dishwasher for the umpteenth time in your life way more entertaining.

Books, Books, and More Books!

Recs for any downtime you have during the two weeks at home.

Literary/Popular Fiction:

Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore. I chose this as a Cover of the Week a few weeks back. It's good! Oona leaps throughout her life, as opposed to living it chronologically. While doing so, she learns about herself, love, loss, and the bittersweet complexities of life, no matter how you go through it.

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson. Another past Cover of the Week choice, this charming book explores the complexities of motherhood through the tale of a socially awkward woman who finds her calling when she's tasked with babysitting two children who ignite with fire when angry/agitated.

Dear Edward, by Ann Napolitano. 12-year-old Edward is the only survivor of a plane crash that kills his family and 200+ others. The narrative goes back and forth between scenes of the passengers interacting on the plane before the crash to the aftermath as Edward adjusts to life as both a worldwide curiosity and a little boy who's dealing with tremendous grief.

More: Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid. The Testamants, Margaret Atwood. The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri. The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Aknar (highly recommend!).


Shonda Rhimes is bringing the compulsively readable and hilarious Bridgerton historical romance novel series by Julia Quinn to life on Netflix, so if you missed out on it, start it now. My fave: Romancing Mr. Bridgerton. Social misfit and quiet, shy wallflower Penelope snags the family clown Colin Bridgerton and, through their courtship and marriage, learns that she's much more than she gives herself credit for. It's heartwarming and triumphant, especially for readers who relate to a heroine who's shy and lets the strictures and gossip of society negatively affect her self esteem.


The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams.

Love Her or Lose Her by Tessa Bailey.

Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin.

Keeping Up with the Cavendishes historical series by Maya Rodale.

Any historical romance by Lisa Kleypas (she's so good!), Sarah Maclean, and Tessa Dare.

Reluctant Royals series by Alyssa Cole.

Any (and all!) contemporary titles by Jennifer Crusie. She hasn't released a romance in years, but all of her books are great, especially Bet Me, one of my fave books of all time.

All romance titles by Victoria Dahl, especially the Tumble Creek and Donovan Family series.

Katie Fforde is a British romance author. Her newer ones are OK but the older ones have a charm and appeal that are exceptional. Her first, Living Dangerously is a wonderfully romantic and fun take on Pride and Prejudice. It's on my keeper shelf! Other older ones from her that are good are: The Rose Revived, Second Thyme Around, Stately Pursuits, and Wild Designs.

Short Story Recs

Here's the link to my monster Google doc of some of the short stories I've read this year and links to access them online. I have a New Yorker subscription so that makes it easier for me, but if you can, seek out other available copies on the internet or the collections they are part of. I'm still in awe of the talent displayed through these stories and the sheer quantity of them. Like we all needed even more to add to our to-read list!

The ones marked with three asterisks are my absolute favorites. The illustration here goes with George Saunders' amazing "The Semplica-Girl Diaries." I loved it. Enjoy!

Cover of the Week:

The Regrets by Amy Bonnaffons

I am very excited to start reading this one. A love story between a young woman in NYC and a man she sees at a Brooklyn bus stop. They immediately form a connection but there's only one problem: he's dead. Below is the link for the GoodReads description, since I don't think my short longline does it justice. I love the cover. A sparse black and white illustration of a young girl hugging/dancing with a ghost. The traditional ghost costume adds a hint of humor. And I like the dichotomy of the black and white drawing on a bright yellow background. A commentary on the stark reality of death within the bright joy of life, perhaps? I will keep you posted on what I think!


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