Book Bites: Alice-Approved

Spring is right around the corner, our events calendar is cookin’, and waves of great new books are hitting our shelves every week. Today, we’ve prepared a seven-course literary feast. First up is a wonderful new picture book that’s full of empowering themes. After that, we move on to a heartwarming middle grade novel by one of our favorite authors. Our dear globe-trotting Alice, whom we miss very much, weighs in from her Vietnam vacation with a whopping four novel recommendations. No matter what you like to read, one of them is sure to catch your eye. Finally, we close things out with a new cookbook devoted to one of our favorite family-and-friends traditions: Sunday dinner. So dig in!

Ages 3-6

How to Be a Pirate by Isaac Fitzgerald; illustrated by Brigette Barrager

CeCe wants to play pirates with the boys in the neighborhood, but they tell her that girls can’t be pirates. CeCe is certain that her Grandpa knows about pirates because he has so many tattoos. As Grandpa reveals each arm tattoo to CeCe, he describes a characteristic that a pirate must have, helping CeCe realize she can be a pirate because she’s brave, quick, independent, and fun. Full of love and girl power, this picture book reminds readers that they can be anything they want to be!

READ because this fabulous book manages to be fun and sweet while packing in a great message.
PASS and we’ll make you walk the plank.
Order your copy on our website.
Meet the author when he visits the shop on March 4!

Ages 10 & Up

A Home for Goddesses and Dogs by Leslie Connor

Lydia must go live with her aunts, Brat and Eileen, after her mother dies. A resourceful middle schooler, she works hard to fit in the small town of Chlemsford. A new dog arrives to help Lydia work her way through her grief. It's heartwarming and lovely. Enjoy it!

READ because this is a wonderful book about love, loss, and a very good naughty dog.
PASS if you need to catch up on the Leslie Connor bibliography. You’re going to love The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle.
Order your copy on our website.

Adult Fiction

Amnesty by Aravind Adiga

In the space of one day, a young undocumented Sri Lankan house cleaner in Sydney finds himself thrust into a murder investigation and has to make a decision that could change his life: should he report what he knows about the murder to the police, thereby revealing his illegal status, or can he remain silent and resume his invisibility?

Danny came to Australia four years ago on a student visa, but he dropped out of school and found odd jobs after his asylum request was rejected. One of his house cleaning clients was found murdered, and though Danny is not a suspect, he is fairly sure he knows the killer. It's a story that reveals a lot about life of undocumented South Asians in Australia as well as Danny's particular experiences in the past several years. Booker Award-winning author Adiga writes with wit and empathy, giving a riveting minute-by-minute story of how Danny deals with his conundrum. Recommended.

READ because this is a great entry in a very unusual genre: the light-hearted thriller.
PASS if you’re the one person on the planet who wouldn’t enjoy a fun, witty thrillride.
Order your copy on our website.

Apeirogon by Colum McCann

In 1001 numbered sections (a nod to 1001 Nights, the ultimate story collection), some only as long as a phrase, the author tells the stories of Rami and Bassam and the world of conflict in which they live. Rami is a 67-year old Israeli graphic designer, husband of a university professor, and a father. Bassam is 48, a Palestinian whose family raised goats, a husband, and a father, who at 17 was sent to jail for seven years for throwing non-functioning hand grenades at Israeli soldiers. In 1997, Rami's 13-year-old daughter was killed in a suicide bombing attack. In 2007, Bassam's 10-year-old daughter was killed by a rubber bullet that hit her head as she was leaving a candy store. The two men meet in a group of parents who have had similar experiences, and they decide to turn their grief into a weapon in the fight for peace by telling their stories to whomever will listen.

National Book Award-winning author McCann is a co-founder of Narrative 4, an organization that seeks to help humans understand one another through the exchange of personal stories. This creatively-structured novel is about actual people and events, and gives readers a great example of the power of exchanging stories. It's a compelling read that describes vividly the side effects of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians and the ever increasing barriers, both physical and emotional, that are keeping the two groups apart. Recommended.

READ because books are the ultimate empathy machines.
PASS if you’re in the mood for something a little lighter.
Order your copy on our website.

The Holdout by Graham Moore

Anyone who has sat on a jury knows that deciding guilt or innocence is a complex and burdensome process, and that the actions of defense and prosecution attorneys are not always straightforward. If you haven’t served on a jury but have watched a lot of Law & Order episodes, you probably know the same things. Graham Moore’s new novel is a dissection of a murder trial that took place ten years earlier than the time of the current story. The jurors from that contentious trial have gathered for a reunion at the same hotel where they were sequestered for four months. One of the jurors is found dead, presumably murdered, and another juror is arrested for the murder. The accused happens to be a defense attorney who, in the earlier trial, as a young woman recently out of college, was able to persuade all eleven other jurors to return a not guilty verdict. In order to exonerate herself, she has to try to figure out not only who killed her fellow juror but if she was wrong or right in the earlier trial. There’s a lot of legal and moral strategizing along with some nicely handled plot twists that make for a gripping read.

READ if you’re into Anthony Horowitz or Sophie Hannah.
PASS if you suddenly burst into tears because you remembered that Law & Order got canceled.
Order your copy on our website.

The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré

By the time you finish reading this novel, you will have learned a lot about contemporary Nigerian culture, which, absent technological advances, is probably similar to Nigerian culture a century ago. It's a country in which females in rural communities have little say over their own lives. The feisty heroine of this novel is out to change things—at least for herself—with her "louding voice," a voice that often gets her into trouble. Forced to marry an older man who already has two wives, Adunni puts up with abuse until an accidental death in which she might be implicated forces her to run away from her home and her community. Chance brings her to Lagos where she becomes a maid to a wealthy business woman in whose home she is abused even more. Adunni's voice is unforgettable and her plans to better herself are admirable, but the story is a larger one in which the author paints a picture of a culture that has had difficulties moving into the modern world where Western influences are often at odds with traditional cultural norms, where slavery still exists, and where a few people control most of the country's wealth. Recommended.

READ because this powerful debut has the New York Times, The Today Show, and plenty more singing its praises.
PASS if you’d rather not meet an unforgettable narrator.
Order your copy on our website.


See You on Sunday by Sam Sifton

"The point of Sunday dinner is just to have it. Even if you don't particularly like entertaining, there is great pleasure to be had in cooking for others, and great pleasure to be taken from the experience of gathering to eat with others... It makes life a little better, almost every time." — Sam Sifton  

I've been cooking since I was very young and found this book to be very heartwarming and tastefully tempting. This is comfort food at its best and a guide to easily welcoming others into your space with one of the most genuine gifts you can give. You'll find a variety of flavors from different regions that are sure to delight. 

READ because, come on. Gathering around a table to connect with friends and share a meal is as good as it gets.
PASS if you subsist exclusively on takeout and frozen pizza.
Order your copy on our website.