Book Bites: Heartwarming to Horror

Do we detect some fall in the air? The temperatures are finally heading in the right direction, and all that makes us want to do is curl up in a comfy chair with a stack of cozy reads. You’ll find some recent favorites of ours below—from heartwarming picture books to laugh-out-loud memoirs and weighty novels. And because Halloween is right around the corner, we couldn’t resist throwing in a genuine creep-fest, too. Read on!

Ages 4-8

Saturday by Oge Mora

A mother and daughter look forward to their special routine each Saturday. This Saturday, however, everything goes wrong. Just as Mom nears a meltdown, her daughter reminds her that the most important thing is that they're together. A simply lovely picture book!

READ for the tender story and gorgeous, cut-paper illustrations.
PASS if you prefer to spend your Saturdays engaged in hand-to-hand combat.
Order your copy on our website.

A Big Bed for Little Snow by Grace Lin

When it's time for bed, Little Snow's mother tells him not to jump on the bed. Of course, he doesn't listen and feathers squeeze out of the mattress. Every time he hears her footsteps, he pretends to be sleeping and as soon as she leaves, he starts jumping again, generating more feathers. A lovely, artful introduction to a child's first snowfall.

READ because this lovely companion to A Big Mooncake for Little Star is everything you’d want it to be.
PASS if you’re clinging, stubbornly, to those summer temperatures. 
Order your copy on our website.

Adult Fiction

Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi; trans. by Marilyn Booth

Winner of the Man Booker International Award 2019, this is the story of a multi-generational Omani family trying to meet the challenges of cultural and social changes that have taken place in the Arab world since the mid-20th century. It centers on three sisters: their marriages, husbands, and extended families. Mayya marries Abdullah in a traditional arranged marriage but names her first daughter London; Asma becomes a doctor, breaks her first marriage contract and eventually marries an artist; Khawla refuses suitors and waits for her childhood friend and cousin, Nasir, to return from living in Canada. There are also parents, grandparents, mistresses, slaves, and neighbors, whose stories reflect the difficulties in the transition from traditional village life. Recommended. 

READ because this lovely book is the first ever by a female Omani author to be translated into English.
PASS if you don’t like groundbreaking, prize-winning books.
Order your copy on our website.

The Man Who Saw Everything by Deborah Levy

Man Booker finalist Levy's latest novel is a clever examination of how the human mind experiences memories and how past and present can converge. Saul Adler, the protagonist and narrator, is a bisexual narcissistic historian, specializing in Communist Eastern Europe. He suffers an accident in London as a 28-year old in 1988 and seems to experience the same exact accident 30 years later. As he lies in a hospital bed, he relives the intervening years and his disconnected relationships with significant people. It is the story of a self-centered man who gradually slips into a world of his own neurotic making. Great writing pulls you into the patterns of Saul's distorted thinking. Recommended.

READ because parts of this book seem loose and almost surreal… but it’s actually a sharp and taut puzzle of a story.
PASS if you don’t care for rave-reviewed works by stunning wordsmiths.
Order your copy on our website.

Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky

Kate Reese and her eight year old son, Christopher, have had a terrible time over the last four years following the death of Christopher's father and a long, sad string of no-good boyfriends for Kate. When they settle in Mill Grove, Pennsylvania, Kate finds steady work, and Christopher starts fourth grade. Life seems good, but for a small blip: Christopher gets lost in the woods for six days. Happily, he is found and appears unharmed. In fact, life for Kate and Christopher improves dramatically after his return from the woods. But that is only the tip of the iceberg. Lots has changed in Christopher's life, and most of it is EXTREMELY SCARY!

Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) skillfully tells an original, unpredictable, very creepy fairy tale for brave grown ups who enjoy a pervasive suffocating sense of dread and a plot that carries you relentlessly forward. The characters that inhabit the town of Mill Grove are very well developed and it's a lot of fun to travel down their own personal swirling vorteces of horror as the story unfolds. It's addictive! 

READ if you enjoy a pervasive, suffocating sense of dread.
PASS if you prefer plots that carry you relentlessly backwards or sideways.
Order your copy on our website.

Adult Nonfiction

Dear Girls by Ali Wong

If you don't already know Ali Wong, get on your Netflix RIGHT NOW and watch either of her stand-up specials, or her very cute rom-com, Always Be My Maybe, which she wrote and stars in. This book is a collection of letters ostensibly written to her two very young daughters, though she makes it very clear that they should NOT read the book until they are at least 18 lest they be scarred for life. In the letters, she explains how to judge an Asian restaurant by region (for example, a good sign for a Vietnamese restaurant is if there's a number in the name; bad sign: customers are eating pho with a fork), the importance of studying abroad, the difficulty of being single in NYC, and tons of other topics. By turns poignant, enlightening (hearing about the life of a stand-up comic from an insider is disturbing), and often spit-take funny.

READ because this book is fierce, feminist, and freakin’ funny.
PASS if Ali Wong’s uniquely unfiltered brand of humor is not your thing. (Really, though, the book is actually quite thoughtful and worth the read.)
Order your copy on our website.

Running with Sherman by Christopher McDougall

Christopher McDougall, best known for his memoir Born to Run, returns with the heartwarming story of a neglected donkey given to his family. The McDougalls live in the heart of Amish country. They own chickens, goats, dogs, and cats. As he nurses Sherman the donkey back to health, he decides that both of them need a goal. He knew of an annual burro race in Colorado, so he recruits a team and lays out his plan. With his knowledge of animals and sports, he creates a wonderful story full of resilience, compassion, and a healthy dose of humor. 

READ because this is a delightful, touching, and hilarious story of love and healing.
PASS if a donkey once caused you or your ancestors unspeakable ruin and sadness.
Order your copy on our website.