We asked everyone in the office to talk about their favorite books from the last month. Take a look at our favorite reads from March, and let us know in the comments which books you’ll be adding to your to-read list. From nonfiction to comedy to graphic novel, there’s something for everyone here!
Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi
Page count: 336
Publish date: 2013
In Ghana Must Go, author Taiye Selasi explores the winding and complex histories of the members of the Sai family. Beginning with the death of Kweku Sai and tracing back through his wife and children’s personal lives, Selasi explores themes of family, empathy, trauma. Kweku has left his family to return to his home country of Ghana after losing his job as a surgeon, and after his death, his family must reassemble to go there as well. The surviving children and wife reconnect with one another, bringing them closer together. Selasi navigates difficult subjects with grace, and her book is emotional and compelling.
—Alyson, Editorial Intern
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Page count: 465
Genre: Fiction; Historical Fiction
Publish date: 2009
This month, I read The Help by Kathryn Stockett. The novel is set in Jackson, Mississippi, in the 1960s and switches between the perspectives of three women who collaborate on a book detailing the experiences of black maids in the South. Through their voices, Stockett paints a picture of Mississippi in the civil rights era, highlighting the racism and inequality of the time. The women in the novel are strong, dynamic, and easy to root for, and Stockett’s writing beautifully draws readers into the fight for social change in the 1960s. I found the novel easy to read and emotionally charged. I especially loved how it covered multiple perspectives while communicating the importance of listening to one’s own moral compass.
— Mary, Editorial Intern
Page count: 224
Genre: History; Collection
Publish date: 2018
Recently, I read the Winter 2019 issue of Lapham’s Quarterly, which deals with the subject of “Night” by highlighting how different cultures and historical epochs relay their relationships to darkness and, by extension, the unknown. By compiling excerpts from historical texts, Lapham’s Quarterly ensures that there will be a passage for any reader. Among my personal favorites is from the medical writings of Laurent Joubert, a man who sought to dispel common misconceptions about medicine in 16th century Europe and who endorsed the medical conclusion that nighttime caused hair to turn white—particularly in those “whose brains are moist.” I would recommend this magazine to anyone who inclines towards primary historical texts, especially those who enjoy discovering bizarre and (frequently) useless anecdotes that illustrate how certain ideas and entities have changed throughout history.
— Megan, Editorial Intern
Page count: 9
Genre: Short Story; Horror
Publish date: 1994
This March, I read “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” a short story by Joyce Carol Oates. Innocent at first, the story depicts a vapid teenage girl named Connie, who is only interested in looking pretty, finding boys, and going out with her friends. In an unexpected twist from a typical teenage story to one of eldritch horror, Connie finds herself stalked by an older boy who’s more fiend than friend—and his sinister and eerie tendencies spell out a potentially unfortunate end for Connie. Joyce Carol Oates creates a goosebumps-inducing, spooky story that makes readers search for the devil in the details.
— Bryn, Editorial Intern
Page count: 343
Genre: Fiction; Historical Fiction
Publish date: 2017
This month, I read George Saunders’s Lincoln in the Bardo, which conveyed one of the most original visions of a ghostly purgatory I have ever encountered. The New York Times called the book “a weird folk art diorama of a cemetery come to life,” and I’m hard-pressed to think of a better tagline. Devastated by the sudden death of his son Willie, Lincoln visits Willie’s body in the cemetery, unaware of the impact his presence has on the cabal of souls lingering there. Avant-garde in form and heartfelt in content, Lincoln in the Bardo provides an honest look at suffering, a reminder that we do not suffer alone, and a way to carry on.
— Wes, Managing Editor
Page count: 112
Genre: Nonfiction; Essays
Publish date: 1945
I finally read my first work by Virginia Woolf, her novella A Room of One’s Own. In it, she examines women writing fiction as they exist in patriarchal society. I enjoyed the intimate first-person voice—feeling seen, heard, and spoken-to by Woolf, even though this was published 90 years ago. I marked up the book so much, I had to create a table of contents for the highlights! Though she’s deliciously loquacious and every paragraph is so worth everyone’s time, three of my favorite quotes almost capture the essence of this feminist manifesto:
“I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.”
“Intellectual freedom depends upon material things. Poetry depends upon intellectual freedom. And women have always been poor, not for two hundred years merely, but from the beginning of time.”
“Therefore I would ask you to write all kinds of books… I hope that you will possess yourselves of money enough to travel and to idle, to contemplate the future or the past of the world, to dream over books and loiter at street corners and let the line of thought dip deep into the stream.”
— Sam, Head of Marketing
The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander
Page count: 93
Genre: Science Fiction
Publish date: 2018
This March, I read Brooke Bolander’s The Only Harmless Great Thing, a genre-bending alternate history full of stunning prose, unique voices, and righteous rage. The novella is inspired by two tragic, real events: the deaths of the Radium Girls, 20th century factory workers who contracted radiation poisoning from luminous paint; and the 1903 public execution of Topsy, an abused circus elephant. Bolander’s novella creates a fictitious and fantastical intersection for these historical atrocities. After lawsuits force the company ownership to confront the effects of the luminous paint on humans, they train sentient elephants to take over the job. Readable in one sitting, The Only Harmless Great Thing ruminates on cultural memory, institutional violence, and the cathartic powers of rage and solidarity. Bolander refuses to sanitize injustice or make martyrs of the oppressed. Instead, she asserts the importance of reclaiming our stories and reminds us that all things are easier faced together than apart.
— Marissa, Editorial Intern
The Black Tides of Heaven and The Red Threads of Fortune by JY Yang
Page count: 213–236
Publish date: 2017
This month I escaped the dreary Seattle winter by reading The Black Tides of Heaven and The Red Threads of Fortune, the two novellas that begin JY Yang’s Tensorate series. These stories introduced me to the silkpunk genre of fantasy—think steampunk but drawing on the history, mythology, and technology of classical Asian societies rather than 19th-century Britain and the US. Yang’s first two novellas follow the lives of Mokoya and Akeha, royal-born twin Tensors: mages who work with the elements to bend the fabric of reality. Throughout their respective, interconnected stories, Mokoya and Akeha find themselves dealing with political intrigue, prophecies, family drama, new forms of magic and tech, gigantic dragon-like beings that block out the sun, queer romance, and questions of gender. (In the world of the Protectorate, gender isn’t assigned at birth—young people get to choose for themselves.) Oh yeah, and Mokoya rides a dinosaur. Needless to say, I’ll be picking up the third book in the series, The Descent of Monsters, as soon as possible.
— Jules, Editor