Book Bites: Reads For Your Isolation Rotation

We’ve been keeping busy here at the shop, but not in the way we’re used to. Our happy place, usually bustling with life and laughter, has turned eerily silent. Instead, we’re processing web orders, answering phones, and arranging books, puzzles, and games for curbside pickup. You’ve been so generous with your support, and we’ll never forget the gratitude we’ve felt over the last few weeks. We’ll get through this together, and we’re so looking forward to seeing you all on the other side. Until then, books are some of the best company we can keep. While away some time, escape to another world, or try on a different life for a few hours—books are essential, and we’ve got recommendations for readers of all ages. Stay well, friends, and read on.


Ages 3-5

Roy Digs Dirt by David Shannon

Roy digs dirt. Roy, the most lovable dog created by David Shannon, is a dog whose expressions will make you smile. Everything about Roy is so true to dogs—he digs, he smells, he hates baths. Roy is dog incarnate. This one will be read over and over.
—Valerie

READ because dogs and David Shannon are two of the most surefire ways to smile.
PASS if you hate smiles.
Order your copy on our website.

Ages 4-8

Paolo, Emperor of Rome by Mac Barnett; illustrated Claire Keane

Paolo the dachshund longs to escape the Roman hair salon he calls home. One day he dashes for freedom and explores the city, vanquishing cats and saving nuns. Paolo's adventures are an utter delight; Barnett's words and Keane's illustrations create a picture book for all to love.
—Cathy

READ because if you know us well, you know that Mac Barnett is a can’t-miss kind of author.
PASS for now if you’re still sad that our event with Mac was canceled. We’re right there with you, friends.
Order your copy on our website.

One Little Bag by Henry Cole

Without words, we can use our imaginations to examine what one brown paper bag can mean in the life of a child. Inspired by Cole's first Earth Day experience in grade school, we follow the life of a lunch bag that is used over and over again. It's a lovely story of saving our earth one bag at a time. 
—Valerie

READ this for a perfect stay-at-home Earth Day celebration.
PASS if you’re busy pumping trash into the ocean.
Order your copy on our website.

Ages 8-12

The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead

Rebecca Stead has written yet another layered novel about familial love in its myriad of forms. When her parents divorce, Bea is given a journal  to write down things that will remain constant in her life. When her dad announces that he is marrying his boyfriend Jesse, Bea is excited to gain a sister. With the help of her notebook and her kind therapist, Bea is ahor.ble to work through her feelings (mostly her anger management ones). It's a quiet book that will resonate with Stead’s fans and hopefully garner new ones.
—Valerie

READ Rebecca Stead! She’s wonderful.
PASS if you don’t like Katherine Applegate, Erin Entrada Kelly, R.J. Palacio, Christopher Paul Curtis, or basically any other great authors.
Order your copy on our website.

The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert

A sweet portrayal of a loving family, The Only Black Girls in Town follows 7th grader Alberta and her two dads who live in a small California beach town. Up until this point in her life, Alberta’s personal problems—her dads’ not allowing her to compete in surfing contests and her feelings of being the only black student in her grade—have been manageable. Nearing the beginning of school, Alberta discovers a new family has moved down the street and is thrilled to find out that it’s another black family with a girl her age. Edie, the new girl, deals with her own challenges as she adjusts to her parents’ divorce and a cross-country move. Edie and Alberta bond over their similar race and in finding a box of old journals in the attic that contains a mystery they are determined to unravel. The start of the school year also brings confusion as Alberta’s long time friend, Laramie, starts hanging with the middle school mean girl. This story weaves acceptance about race, family structures, and friendship while showing positive ways the characters adapt to the changes they face. Highly recommended.
—Liz

READ because Brandy Colbert knocked her middle grade debut clear out of the park.
PASS if you were hoping for more YA. (We think this is still worth the read.)
Order your copy on our website.

Ages 14 & Up

They Went Left by Monica Hesse

“Abek to Zofia, A to Z.” This is what the sibling protagonists of this novel always said to each other as they were growing up. After months in the hospital after the concentration camps were liberated, Zofia, a Polish Jew, is desperate to find her little brother. Her memory is spotty as to what happened to each family member. When she finds him at a repatriation camp, she is overjoyed. She is also intrigued by a fellow camp member. As life goes on, she is forced to figure out how to create a new one with little to nothing left from her previous one. Excellent historical fiction.
—Valerie

READ if you’re into Markus Zusak or Ruta Sepetys.
PASS if you think historical fiction doesn’t ever apply to the present day.
Order your copy on our website.

Adult Fiction

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

In this brilliant follow-up to Station Eleven, readers follow a cast of connected characters back and forth in time as they deal with issues of morality, memories, mysteries, and identity. The many sub-plots include a mother’s mysterious disappearance, a young man’s musical career, a Bernie Madoff-like Ponzi operation, and a young woman who follows some inner guide as she bartends, becomes a trophy wife, and, later, a cook on a freighter. Mandel drags us, almost compulsively, all over the world, from an island in British Columbia to Montreal, New York City, a jail, Dubai, Scotland, Germany, the Pacific Ocean, and an RV park in Colorado. It’s a mesmerizing, intellectually stimulating novel. Recommended.
—Alice

READ because WaPo called this “the perfect novel for your survival bunker.” Case closed.
PASS if your survival bunker is already 99% books. (Same.)
Order your copy on our website.

Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore

Brutal and majestic, the west Texas landscape is the setting for this fiery novel set during yet another "high" moment for the oil industry in Odessa. The women in this town have suffered. When Gloria, a fourteen year old Mexican American is horrifically assaulted, the town is splintered into factions. It's a hard world for widows, young mothers, and children with dust blowing in their eyes. It's a must read for Texans and, well, everyone.
—Valerie

READ because this one’s getting all the buzz—and we got a nice shout-out from Jenna’s Book Club!
PASS if you don't want to read a new classic Texas novel.
Order your copy on our website.

Redhead by the Side of the Road by Anne Tyler

Micah Mortimer is a forty-year-old computer technician and custodian of his apartment building. He lives a very structured (OCD?) life, unable to see beyond the parameters of his daily schedule and habits until his life is shaken up by first, a college-age young man who appears on his doorstep, thinking that Micah is his biological father, and second, his long time girlfriend announcing that she was breaking off their relationship. In her typical Tyleresque fashion of dissecting human emotions and quotidian activities, the author tells a heart-warming  story about a middle aged man who finally realizes the importance of relationships. 
—Alice

READ because it’s Anne Tyler. Need we say more? 
PASS if you thought that this was a country song.
Order your copy on our website.

Adult Nonfiction

Nobody Will Tell You This But Me by Bess Kalb

Bess Kalb, a writer for many comedy series and Jimmy Kimmel Live, shines in this quirky memoir of her beloved (and opinionated!) grandmother. Told in voice messages which alternately exhort and praise, she relays the love that she and her grandmother Bobby Bell share. In a more unusual style, she tells Bobby’s immigrant story and the fraught relationships with both her mother and daughter as if Bobby is speaking from the grave. It's short and oh so engaging.
—Valerie

READ because this is funny, deep, and a timely ode to the importance of family. 
PASS if you know this will just make you cry right now. Save it for later, though. 
Order your copy on our website.