Recommendations and Reviews

Highlights of what we've been reading and loving.

Book Bites: From Zelda to Alva, Plus Evan, George, Marie, and More

Hungry for a new book? You've come to the right place. This week, we've prepared an eight-course literary repast that's sure to please your reading palate. From picture books to graphic novels to buzzy adult fiction, there's something for everyone here. Our best advice? Read 'em all. Your heart will be full—and so will your shelves. Happy browsing, friends.

Book Bites: Pants, Petticoats, a Python, Plus!

No matter what you like to read, there’s a new release on our shelves calling your name. Yeah, yeah, we’re a bookstore, we’re supposed to say that kind of thing. But seriously: Want to marvel at the sheer beauty of a book? We’ve got the new Markus Zusak on the horizon, plus Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson’s follow up to their Newbery winner, Last Stop on Market Street. Care to get lost in the folds of a gripping story? The fantasy-friendly reader should head straight to the new Laini Taylor. If it’s tension and realism that you’re craving, check out the long-awaited new novel from Andre Dubus III. History buff? Go for Kate Atkinson or Mackenzi Lee. Fancy a laugh? Eric Idle has a new book out that will have you in stitches, while Laurie Keller’s new picture book will have your stitches in stitches. Come see us sometime soon—we’ve got a lot of great candidates for you to add to your nightstand.

Book Bites: What Silence of the Spy and the Absolutely Remarkable Creature, Please!

Do you feel that? In the air? That’s fall, friends, and it’s perhaps the most magical time of the year for new books. Not only is it a great time to curl up on an armchair and read, but all the big publishers are starting to put out their very best titles, knowing that they’ll make a perfect gift for your son / daughter / niece / nephew / mom / dad / uncle / aunt. 

We’ve got a particularly fun selection for you this week. Texas author Chris Barton is one of our very favorites—his nonfiction picture books are fun, smart, and sneaky-educational. His latest subject is none other than Houston’s own Barbara Jordan, and how could you not love her? It’s a wonderful book. Next up, we’re staying local (would you expect anything less?) with up-and-coming cartoonist and graphic novelist Ngozi Ukazu. She’s written a charming graphic novel about hockey (and pies) that you will absolutely adore—trust us. 

From there, we move into the novels. We’ve got a fun debut with serious teen/adult crossover appeal written by Hank Green (brother of John!), and a fascinating, feminist retelling of The Odyssey. And finally, nonfiction. Alice was on the edge of her seat reading a Soviet spy memoir that’s earned high praise from none other than John le Carré. And Noah may have gotten a little weepy reading a short, sweet memoir about the incredible power animals have to enrich our lives. Don’t wait, folks—these titles would really look better on your shelves than ours.

Book Bites: Bob, Mac, Sarah, Olga, Sarah, and Sarah

If you've been following our blog for long, you know that we usually try to come up with a clever theme that ties together our staff reviews. Unfortunately, all we've got right now is that three of our favorite new releases were written by authors named Sarah. So much for that.

Theme or no theme, the books are magnificent. We've got two hilarious titles for kids by a pair of our favorite authors out there. (Bob Shea reached out after Hurricane Harvey and helped raise over $10,000 to donate to schools and libraries that were impacted by the flood. Mac Barnett is both extremely kind and side-splittingly funny.) Next up, a pair of fantastic works of fiction—one by Texas author and dear friend of the shop >>>Sarah<<< Bird, and the other a fascinating work in translation that's already claimed a Man Booker Prize. Finally, two new nonfiction books deserve a spot on your shelves. One tackles the dark real-life inspiration behind Lolita. The other is a devastating memoir of growing up poor in rural America. Both, for whatever it's worth, were written by Sarahs. 

Read on!

Book Bites: Jacqueline Woodson, More Jacqueline Woodson, and Other Great August Books

Many people know us for our kids' section. We embrace that. Good writing for children, after all, is what turns people into readers in the first place. So it's safe to say that we're pretty excited for Harbor Me. That's the name of the first middle grade novel that Jacqueline Woodson, National Ambassador for Children's Literature, has written since her National Book Award winner Brown Girl Dreaming. To us, it's pretty much the kids' publishing event of the year. Even better? Woodson went and wrote another book—this one a picture book—and she's releasing it on the same day. What a time to be alive!

Of course, we're still making plenty of room for other books, too. Just check our list of recent favorites—whether you're in the mood for seafaring YA action-adventure, historical American epics, or darkly funny (and very strange) short stories, we've got just the thing you're looking for.

Book Bites: Humor and Heart

Here at the shop, we love a book that makes us laugh. Or cry, for that matter. This week, we’re featuring six wonderful titles that will achieve at least one of those outcomes—and a few of them will probably manage both. For kids, we have some hilarious new picture books in stock, featuring clever prose and delightful illustrations. A little older? We can steer you towards a terrific high school rom-com from Maggie Lehrman that will have you staying up late to see what happens next. And then there are the novels. Poignant and funny and altogether relatable, we think you’ll love the latest books from Anstey Harris, Kristan Higgins, and Joanna Cannon. Once you’ve finished reading, be sure to stop in and let us know—we’re dying to talk about these titles. Happy browsing, friends.

Book Bites: Fresh Fiction Featured

It's been a wonderful summer for the novel. From quiet family dramas to sweeping literary epics, from chilling mysteries to breezy summer loves, we've barely been able to keep up with the glut of great reads sailing through the shop. This week, we're shining a light on a particularly wonderful batch of books. The Incendiaries, R.O. Kwon's debut tale of finding (and losing) love and faith won the approval of booksellers across the country—it's the number one pick on the August Indie Next List. Or settle in with a good mystery: We've got a modern choice in Ghosted by Rosie Walsh, or an old-school, hardboiled throwback to Philip Marlowe by the incredible Lawrence Osborne. Want to meet some well-drawn characters? Ingrid Rojas Contreras and Louis de Bernières will pull you into the lives of their cast and tug on your heartstrings in the best of ways. Follow the heavier stuff up with the delightfully frothy The Shortest Way Home, and you'll move through the day with a smile on your face. Dig in, friends.

Beat the Heat: Book Recommendations From Our Publisher Reps

Back by popular demand... last night was our second annual "Beat the Heat" event with Liz and Brian, our publisher reps from Random House and Penguin (and two of our favorite people in the universe). Thank you to everyone who absolutely packed the bookstore and listened in as Liz and Brian shared some of their favorite new and upcoming reads. We think we have a tradition on our hands!

Liz and Brian shared twenty wonderful books last night—ten that you can find on our shelves now, and ten you'll have to wait for. We've compiled the master list here, in order of release date. If you're in charge of choosing the next read for your book club, all we can say is this: Good luck.

Book Bites: Princess, Rhino, Family, Cake

Okay guys, breaking news: Books are the best. These seven books, to get a little more specific, are among the best new releases to grace our shelves this summer. Whatever your mood—dark and twisty, lighthearted, inspirational, or strange—we've got just the thing for you to take home. Gorgeous illustrations your jam? Hello, here's the new Dan Santat. A quiet, inisghtful character study that spans a lifetime of hopes and heartaches? Anne Tyler's latest stands among her very best. Something to listen to while you tackle that morning jog? You simply must get to know Melissa Radke (psst! She's visiting us on Monday). Tuck in, friends. It's summertime, and the reading is wonderful.

Book Bites: Fairies, Brontës, and Bearskins—Oh, My!

We know it's still summer, but if our pile of recently-read books is anything to go by, we're already thinking about back-to-school. A pair of recent picture books tackle that topic with humor and charm, while a new YA thriller takes the creepy boarding school premise to chilling heights. School stories aren't your speed? Try some books about family—both the kind that you want to welcome into your arms, like the Indian immigrants of A Place for Us, and the kind that you would give anything to escape, like the reality-TV-star zealots of The Book of Essie. Or, escape to the Appalachians with Rice Moore in the dazzling new thriller Bearskin—just what is he running from, anyway? If you're in the mood for something light and sweet, indulge in the latest literary mish-mash from YA authors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows. The point is: Read. Read! Whatever your mood, we'll help you find something you'll like.

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