Happy Place by Emily Henry

“I want my life to be like-like making pottery. I want to enjoy it while it’s happening, not just for where it might get me eventually.”
― Emily Henry, Happy Place

Emily Henry is one of those romance authors that never disappoints, for me at least. Her latest book, Happy Place, is a dual timeline, forced proximity, found family, second chance romance that tugs at your heart strings.

What would you do if you started dating someone from your friend group, got engaged, and then broke off your engagement? How would you tell the other people in your friend group? How would you handle figuring out all the relationships with this change after ten years? These questions are what Harriet ‘Harry’ Kilpatrick and Wyndham ‘Wyn’ Connor have to deal with now that they aren’t together anymore.

Harriet and Wyn are the perfect couple, have been since they met in college. Well except for now and they don’t want to talk about it. The issue? They broke up five months ago and haven’t told their best friends. Harriet and Wyn have a plan that might work if it wasn’t for their yearly friend vacation. Their plans come crashing down when both end up at their annual weeklong vacation despite the plan that this year would be Harriet’s turn to vacation by herself.

Well shoot. Harriet and Wyn now have to share a bedroom and pretend they are still together for the sake of their friends. They have been vacationing at this Maine cottage for their friend group’s yearly vacation for the last decade. For this one week, they are all together without the pressures of their daily lives. When they were younger in college, they spent copious amounts of time together, but as they got older, this one week became the only time when they could count on seeing everyone together. It’s tradition. A tradition hanging on delicate strings as it becomes clear that their friends have secrets to tell on this year’s vacation.

Harriet and Wyn only have to keep their secret for one more week, but this proves even more difficult as they are forced together after not seeing each other in person OR talking in over five months. They were in love for years, so faking it for one more week shouldn’t be that hard, right?

What I enjoyed the most in this book is watching the characters grow as individuals and in their relationships. A lot of romance I have read doesn’t necessarily show growth and if it does, it tends to gloss over what led to the changes. In this title, Emily Henry gives her characters room to grow and has them explain their choices both in their heads and out loud to others. The characters are well developed and even the ‘side characters’ don’t feel like side characters. They are key players and all have their own important story arcs. Well done.

This book is also available in large print, CD audiobook, and Playaway audiobook.

“Things change, but we stretch and grow and make room for one another. Our love is a place we can always come back to, and it will be waiting, the same as it ever was. You belong here. ”
― Emily Henry, Happy Place

GoodReads Choice Awards 2023 Winners

Goodreads has announced their 15th Annual Choice Awards winners for 2023. Even though there is controversy regarding category removals, we still want to highlight the winners as they are decided by readers! Below you will find the results of these annual awards from 15 different categories with 300 nominated books. The chosen categories are fiction, historical fiction, mystery & thriller, romance, romantasy, fantasy, science fiction, horror, young adult fantasy, young adult fiction, debut novel, nonfiction, memoir & autobiography, history & autobiography, and humor.

At the time of this writing, all of these titles are owned by the Davenport Public Library. The descriptions are provided by the publishers.

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Fiction: Yellowface by R.F. Kuang

Authors June Hayward and Athena Liu were supposed to be twin rising stars. But Athena’s a literary darling. June Hayward is literally nobody. Who wants stories about basic white girls, June thinks.

So when June witnesses Athena’s death in a freak accident, she acts on impulse: she steals Athena’s just-finished masterpiece, an experimental novel about the unsung contributions of Chinese laborers during World War I.

So what if June edits Athena’s novel and sends it to her agent as her own work? So what if she lets her new publisher rebrand her as Juniper Song—complete with an ambiguously ethnic author photo? Doesn’t this piece of history deserve to be told, whoever the teller? That’s what June claims, and the New York Times bestseller list seems to agree.

But June can’t get away from Athena’s shadow, and emerging evidence threatens to bring June’s (stolen) success down around her. As June races to protect her secret, she discovers exactly how far she will go to keep what she thinks she deserves. – HarperCollins

This title is also available as a Libby eBook, Libby eAudiobook, and large print.

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Historical Fiction: Weyward by Emilia Hart

I am a Weyward, and wild inside.

2019: Under cover of darkness, Kate flees London for ramshackle Weyward Cottage, inherited from a great-aunt she barely remembers. With its tumbling ivy and overgrown garden, the cottage is worlds away from the abusive partner who tormented Kate. But she suspects that her great-aunt had a secret. One that lurks in the bones of the cottage, hidden ever since the witch-hunts of the 17th century.

1619: Altha is awaiting trial for the murder of a local farmer who was stampeded to death by his herd. When Altha was a girl, her mother taught her their magic, a kind not rooted in spell casting but in a deep knowledge of the natural world. But unusual women have always been deemed dangerous, and as the evidence of witchcraft is laid out against Altha, she knows it will take all her powers to maintain her freedom.

1942: As World War II rages, Violet is trapped in her family’s grand, crumbling estate. Straitjacketed by societal convention, she longs for the robust education her brother receives––and for her mother, long deceased, who was rumored to have gone mad before her death. The only traces Violet has of her are a locket bearing the initial W and the word weyward scratched into the baseboard of her bedroom.

Weaving together the stories of three extraordinary women across five centuries, Emilia Hart’s Weyward is an astonishing debut, and an enthralling novel of female resilience. – Macmillan Publishers

This title is also available as a Libby ebook, Libby eAudiobook, and large print.

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Mystery & Thriller: The Housemaid’s Secret by Freida McFadden

“Don’t go in the guest bedroom.” A shadow falls on Douglas Garrick’s face as he touches the door with his fingertips. “My wife… she’s very ill.” As he continues showing me their incredible penthouse apartment, I have a terrible feeling about the woman behind closed doors. But I can’t risk losing this job—not if I want to keep my darkest secret safe…

It’s hard to find an employer who doesn’t ask too many questions about my past. So I thank my lucky stars that the Garricks miraculously give me a job, cleaning their stunning penthouse with views across the city and preparing fancy meals in their shiny kitchen. I can work here for a while, stay quiet until I get what I want.

It’s almost perfect. But I still haven’t met Mrs Garrick, or seen inside the guest bedroom. I’m sure I hear her crying. I notice spots of blood around the neck of her white nightgowns when I’m doing laundry. And one day I can’t help but knock on the door. When it gently swings open, what I see inside changes everything…

That’s when I make a promise. After all, I’ve done this before. I can protect Mrs Garrick while keeping my own secrets locked up safe.

Douglas Garrick has done wrong. He is going to pay. It’s simply a question of how far I’m willing to go… – Bookouture

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Romance: Happy Place by Emily Henry

Harriet and Wyn have been the perfect couple since they met in college—they go together like salt and pepper, honey and tea, lobster and rolls. Except, now—for reasons they’re still not discussing—they don’t.

They broke up five months ago. And still haven’t told their best friends.

Which is how they find themselves sharing a bedroom at the Maine cottage that has been their friend group’s yearly getaway for the last decade. Their annual respite from the world, where for one vibrant, blissful week they leave behind their daily lives; have copious amounts of cheese, wine, and seafood; and soak up the salty coastal air with the people who understand them most.

Only this year, Harriet and Wyn are lying through their teeth while trying not to notice how desperately they still want each other. Because the cottage is for sale and this is the last week they’ll all have together in this place. They can’t stand to break their friends’ hearts, and so they’ll play their parts. Harriet will be the driven surgical resident who never starts a fight, and Wyn will be the laid-back charmer who never lets the cracks show. It’s a flawless plan (if you look at it from a great distance and through a pair of sunscreen-smeared sunglasses). After years of being in love, how hard can it be to fake it for one week…in front of those who know you best? – Penguin Random House

This title is also available as a Libby eBook, large print, CD audiobook, Libby eAudiobook, and Playaway audiobook.

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Romantasy: Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros

Twenty-year-old Violet Sorrengail was supposed to enter the Scribe Quadrant, living a quiet life among books and history. Now, the commanding general—also known as her tough-as-talons mother—has ordered Violet to join the hundreds of candidates striving to become the elite of Navarre: dragon riders.

But when you’re smaller than everyone else and your body is brittle, death is only a heartbeat away…because dragons don’t bond to “fragile” humans. They incinerate them.

With fewer dragons willing to bond than cadets, most would kill Violet to better their own chances of success. The rest would kill her just for being her mother’s daughter—like Xaden Riorson, the most powerful and ruthless wingleader in the Riders Quadrant.

She’ll need every edge her wits can give her just to see the next sunrise.

Yet, with every day that passes, the war outside grows more deadly, the kingdom’s protective wards are failing, and the death toll continues to rise. Even worse, Violet begins to suspect leadership is hiding a terrible secret.

Friends, enemies, lovers. Everyone at Basgiath War College has an agenda—because once you enter, there are only two ways out: graduate or die. – Entangled Publishing

This title is also available as a Libby eBook, Libby eAudiobook, and Playaway audiobook.

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Fantasy: Hell Bent by Leigh Bardugo

Find a gateway to the underworld. Steal a soul out of hell. A simple plan, except people who make this particular journey rarely come back. But Galaxy “Alex” Stern is determined to break Darlington out of purgatory—even if it costs her a future at Lethe and at Yale.

Forbidden from attempting a rescue, Alex and Dawes can’t call on the Ninth House for help, so they assemble a team of dubious allies to save the gentleman of Lethe. Together, they will have to navigate a maze of arcane texts and bizarre artifacts to uncover the societies’ most closely guarded secrets, and break every rule doing it. But when faculty members begin to die off, Alex knows these aren’t just accidents. Something deadly is at work in New Haven, and if she is going to survive, she’ll have to reckon with the monsters of her past and a darkness built into the university’s very walls.

Thick with history and packed with Bardugo’s signature twists, Hell Bent brings to life an intricate world full of magic, violence, and all too real monsters. – Macmillan Publishers

This title is also available as a Libby eBook, Libby eAudiobook, and in large print.

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Science Fiction: In the Lives of Puppets by TJ Klune

In a strange little home built into the branches of a grove of trees, live three robots—fatherly inventor android Giovanni Lawson, a pleasantly sadistic nurse machine, and a small vacuum desperate for love and attention. Victor Lawson, a human, lives there too. They’re a family, hidden and safe.

The day Vic salvages and repairs an unfamiliar android labelled “HAP,” he learns of a shared dark past between Hap and Gio–a past spent hunting humans.

When Hap unwittingly alerts robots from Gio’s former life to their whereabouts, the family is no longer hidden and safe. Gio is captured and taken back to his old laboratory in the City of Electric Dreams. So together, the rest of Vic’s assembled family must journey across an unforgiving and otherworldly country to rescue Gio from decommission, or worse, reprogramming.

Along the way to save Gio, amid conflicted feelings of betrayal and affection for Hap, Vic must decide for himself: Can he accept love with strings attached?

Inspired by Carlo Collodi’s The Adventures of Pinocchio, and like Swiss Family Robinson meets Wall-E, In the Lives of Puppets is a masterful stand-alone fantasy adventure from the beloved author who brought you The House in the Cerulean Sea and Under the Whispering Door. – Macmillan Publishers

This title is also available as Libby eBook and Libby eAudiobook.

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Horror: Holly by Stephen King

Stephen King’s Holly marks the triumphant return of beloved King character Holly Gibney. Readers have witnessed Holly’s gradual transformation from a shy (but also brave and ethical) recluse in Mr. Mercedes to Bill Hodges’s partner in Finders Keepers to a full-fledged, smart, and occasionally tough private detective in The Outsider. In King’s new novel, Holly is on her own, and up against a pair of unimaginably depraved and brilliantly disguised adversaries.

When Penny Dahl calls the Finders Keepers detective agency hoping for help locating her missing daughter, Holly is reluctant to accept the case. Her partner, Pete, has Covid. Her (very complicated) mother has just died. And Holly is meant to be on leave. But something in Penny Dahl’s desperate voice makes it impossible for Holly to turn her down.

Mere blocks from where Bonnie Dahl disappeared live Professors Rodney and Emily Harris. They are the picture of bourgeois respectability: married octogenarians, devoted to each other, and semi-retired lifelong academics. But they are harboring an unholy secret in the basement of their well-kept, book-lined home, one that may be related to Bonnie’s disappearance. And it will prove nearly impossible to discover what they are up to: they are savvy, they are patient, and they are ruthless.

Holly must summon all her formidable talents to outthink and outmaneuver the shockingly twisted professors in this chilling new masterwork from Stephen King. – Simon & Schuster

This title is also available as a Libby eBook, Libby eAudiobook, large print, CD audiobook, and Playaway audiobook.

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Young Adult Fantasy: Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross

When two young rival journalists find love through a magical connection, they must face the depths of hell, in a war among gods, to seal their fate forever.

After centuries of sleep, the gods are warring again. But eighteen-year-old Iris Winnow just wants to hold her family together. Her mother is suffering from addiction and her brother is missing from the front lines. Her best bet is to win the columnist promotion at the Oath Gazette.

To combat her worries, Iris writes letters to her brother and slips them beneath her wardrobe door, where they vanish—into the hands of Roman Kitt, her cold and handsome rival at the paper. When he anonymously writes Iris back, the two of them forge a connection that will follow Iris all the way to the front lines of battle: for her brother, the fate of mankind, and love.

Shadow and Bone meets Lore in Rebecca Ross’s Divine Rivals, an epic enemies-to-lovers fantasy novel filled with hope and heartbreak, and the unparalleled power of love. – Macmillan Publishers

This title is also available as Libby eBook and Libby eAudiobook.

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Young Adult Fiction: Check & Mate by Ali Hazelwood

Mallory Greenleaf is done with chess. Every move counts nowadays; after the sport led to the destruction of her family four years earlier, Mallory’s focus is on her mom, her sisters, and the dead-end job that keeps the lights on. That is, until she begrudgingly agrees to play in one last charity tournament and inadvertently wipes the board with notorious “Kingkiller” Nolan Sawyer: current world champion and reigning Bad Boy of chess.

Nolan’s loss to an unknown rook-ie shocks everyone. What’s even more confusing? His desire to cross pawns again. What kind of gambit is Nolan playing? The smart move would be to walk away. Resign. Game over. But Mallory’s victory opens the door to sorely needed cash-prizes and despite everything, she can’t help feeling drawn to the enigmatic strategist….

As she rockets up the ranks, Mallory struggles to keep her family safely separated from the game that wrecked it in the first place. And as her love for the sport she so desperately wanted to hate begins to rekindle, Mallory quickly realizes that the games aren’t only on the board, the spotlight is brighter than she imagined, and the competition can be fierce (-ly attractive. And intelligent…and infuriating…) – Penguin Random House

This title is also available as Libby eBook and Libby eAudiobook.

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Debut Novel: Weyward by Emilia Hart

See above!

This title also won the Historical Fiction category for 2023.

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Nonfiction: Poverty, By America by Matthew Desmond

The United States, the richest country on earth, has more poverty than any other advanced democracy. Why? Why does this land of plenty allow one in every eight of its children to go without basic necessities, permit scores of its citizens to live and die on the streets, and authorize its corporations to pay poverty wages?

In this landmark book, acclaimed sociologist Matthew Desmond draws on history, research, and original reporting to show how affluent Americans knowingly and unknowingly keep poor people poor. Those of us who are financially secure exploit the poor, driving down their wages while forcing them to overpay for housing and access to cash and credit. We prioritize the subsidization of our wealth over the alleviation of poverty, designing a welfare state that gives the most to those who need the least. And we stockpile opportunity in exclusive communities, creating zones of concentrated riches alongside those of concentrated despair. Some lives are made small so that others may grow.

Elegantly written and fiercely argued, this compassionate book gives us new ways of thinking about a morally urgent problem. It also helps us imagine solutions. Desmond builds a startlingly original and ambitious case for ending poverty. He calls on us all to become poverty abolitionists, engaged in a politics of collective belonging to usher in a new age of shared prosperity and, at last, true freedom. – Penguin Random House

This title is also available as a Libby eBook.

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Memoir & Autobiography: The Woman in Me by Britney Spears

The Woman in Me is a brave and astonishingly moving story about freedom, fame, motherhood, survival, faith, and hope.

In June 2021, the whole world was listening as Britney Spears spoke in open court. The impact of sharing her voice—her truth—was undeniable, and it changed the course of her life and the lives of countless others. The Woman in Me reveals for the first time her incredible journey—and the strength at the core of one of the greatest performers in pop music history.

Written with remarkable candor and humor, Spears’s groundbreaking book illuminates the enduring power of music and love—and the importance of a woman telling her own story, on her own terms, at last. – Simon & Schuster

This title is also available as a Libby eBook, Libby eAudiobook, and CD audiobook.

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History & Biography: The Wager by David Grann

On January 28, 1742, a ramshackle vessel of patched-together wood and cloth washed up on the coast of Brazil. Inside were thirty emaciated men, barely alive, and they had an extraordinary tale to tell. They were survivors of His Majesty’s Ship the Wager, a British vessel that had left England in 1740 on a secret mission during an imperial war with Spain. While the Wager had been chasing a Spanish treasure-filled galleon known as “the prize of all the oceans,” it had wrecked on a desolate island off the coast of Patagonia. The men, after being marooned for months and facing starvation, built the flimsy craft and sailed for more than a hundred days, traversing nearly 3,000 miles of storm-wracked seas. They were greeted as heroes.

But then … six months later, another, even more decrepit craft landed on the coast of Chile. This boat contained just three castaways, and they told a very different story. The thirty sailors who landed in Brazil were not heroes – they were mutineers. The first group responded with countercharges of their own, of a tyrannical and murderous senior officer and his henchmen. It became clear that while stranded on the island the crew had fallen into anarchy, with warring factions fighting for dominion over the barren wilderness. As accusations of treachery and murder flew, the Admiralty convened a court martial to determine who was telling the truth. The stakes were life-and-death—for whomever the court found guilty could hang.

The Wager is a grand tale of human behavior at the extremes told by one of our greatest nonfiction writers. Grann’s recreation of the hidden world on a British warship rivals the work of Patrick O’Brian, his portrayal of the castaways’ desperate straits stands up to the classics of survival writing such as The Endurance, and his account of the court martial has the savvy of a Scott Turow thriller. As always with Grann’s work, the incredible twists of the narrative hold the reader spellbound. – Penguin Random House

This title is also available in large print, Libby eBook, Libby eAudiobook, CD audiobook, and in Playaway audiobook.

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Humor: Being Henry by Henry Winkler

From Emmy-award winning actor, author, comedian, producer, and director Henry Winkler, a deeply thoughtful memoir of the lifelong effects of stardom and the struggle to become whole.

Henry Winkler, launched into prominence as “The Fonz” in the beloved Happy Days, has transcended the role that made him who he is. Brilliant, funny, and widely-regarded as the nicest man in Hollywood (though he would be the first to tell you that it’s simply not the case, he’s really just grateful to be here), Henry shares in this achingly vulnerable memoir the disheartening truth of his childhood, the difficulties of a life with severe dyslexia, the pressures of a role that takes on a life of its own, and the path forward once your wildest dream seems behind you.

Since the glorious era of Happy Days fame, Henry has endeared himself to a new generation with roles in such adored shows as Arrested Development, Parks and Recreation, and Barry, where he’s been revealed as an actor with immense depth and pathos, a departure from the period of his life when he was so distinctly typecast as The Fonz, he could hardly find work.

Filled with profound heart, charm, and self-deprecating humor, Being Henry is a memoir about so much more than a life in Hollywood and the curse of stardom. It is a meaningful testament to the power of sharing truth and kindness and of finding fulfillment within yourself. – Macmillan Publishers

This title is also available in large print, Libby eAudiobook, and CD audiobook.

Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village by Maureen Johnson and Jay Cooper

As a lover of cozy mysteries, true crime, and Lifetime original movies, I like to think that I pay attention to my surroundings (my family may disagree…). Whenever I’m reading or watching something where someone is trying to solve a murder (or a new person comes to a mysterious town), I frequently find myself mumbling, ‘Don’t do that! That’s not going to end well…’ Imagine my curiousity when I found Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village written by Maureen Johnson and illustrated by Jay Cooper. This is a guidebook full of dark and sarcastic humor all about how to avoid a gruesome death in innocent-looking bucolic English villages, or ‘English Murder Villages’ as the book calls them.

First off, let’s talk about the illustrations. They are absolute perfection, an Edward Gorey-esque set of drawings with only red pops of color to draw your eye to elements of death and murder. Without these illustrations, the book wouldn’t be complete. The illustrations and text perfectly compliment each other.

This book is written from the perspective of an author who wants to warn people of the dangers of visiting English Murder Villages. She wants you to not stray from the big towns as venturing off the beaten path will lead to your inevitable and premature death. As a way to help you survive, she has compiled lists of people and locations to be careful of in the village and the manor.  There’s really no safe space, but forewarned is forearmed. This book is full of nods to classic British crime tropes, which I adored. If you have seen/read any Miss Marple, Murder She Wrote, Agatha Christie, or watched/read any cozy mysteries, you may enjoy this death-laden trip through the English countryside (and may pick up some handy tricks to stay alive along the way)!

Porcelain Travels by Matthew Felix

I love a good travel story – and I’ve made the LibGuide Armchair Traveler to prove it! Most recently I read Porcelain Travels by Matthew Felix, and I highly recommend it for an entertaining journey and an education on the bathroom traditions in different parts of the world. It’s kind of hard to describe, but here’s the publisher’s version:

Matthew Félix is not a luxury traveler. But traveling on a budget fails to explain why so many of his most unforgettable experiences take place on the toilet, in the tub, or under the shower. From Matthew’s nightmare while relieving himself in Morocco to his unorthodox bathing practices in Paris and Istanbul to the Dead Sea shower incident that led to an arrest, Porcelain Travels is sometimes hilarious, occasionally shocking, and always entertaining.

What I liked was that there were so many levels on which to enjoy it. The toilet and bathing experiences are, for the most part, relatable and humorous (and fascinatingly informative where they’re not relatable); the various locations are a great source of escapism and global knowledge, and the short vignette chapters are engaging and easily readable. Less enjoyable was the author’s somewhat pretentious attitude on some things, but his humility in relating these episodes was a good balance for any sanctimoniousness.

If you’re a devoted travel reader, love cultural comparisons (Europeans’ horror at the existence of the garbage disposal, e.g.), or cannot travel without knowing the bathroom situation, this is a good book for you. Similar vibes include Bill Bryson of A Walk in the Woods fame and David Sedaris, known for Me Talk Pretty One Day.

Nonfiction for the Reluctant, Stressed, and Skeptical

I was recently reminded that there’s a lot of fascinating reading in non-fiction if you only know how to find it. Non-fiction offers a different reading experience than fiction does. Where fiction affects your emotions and takes you on a journey (often tense, angsty, or deeply emotionally wrenching), non-fiction engages your mind with more intellectual fascination. Here are some non-fiction books I’ve read that offer various entry points into the genre.

My top category is always science – I love Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery, and What If (1 & 2) by Randall Munroe. I’ve also started on the works of Mary Roach, renowned for her approachable and entertaining forays into topics like death, sex, space, and most recently animal offenders in Fuzz. I’d say my love for scientific non-fiction (and fiction; my favorite author is Andy Weir after all) is because of my natural curiosity, since these books explore different realms of knowledge and the limits of what’s possible.

My second-favorite nonfiction category is books by humorists like David Sedaris; I’ve read most of his work (for the title alone I particularly love Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls) as well as other hilarious and relatable personalities. I remember loving Wow No Thank You by Samantha Irby.

Another very common entry point into nonfiction is true crime books – I’m still working my way into this area but I have read In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (a classic and definitely fascinating) as well as The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester about the making of the Oxford English Dictionary and the convicted murderer who was an invaluable part of it.

Many people also love memoirs like Crying in H Mart (I’ll read it when I need to cry and not before, thank you) or poetry by breathtaking wordsmiths like Rupi Kaur (I tried Milk and Honey, and it made me feel raw, vulnerable and exposed so I decided to try again later), or powerful, expose-type social science reads. The power of the latter is in making you feel seen, or as if your eyes have been opened. For that reason I loved Ace by Angela Chen and highly recommend it.

The key in my experience is identifying what it is you value in a reading experience and seeking them out. For me, this includes infectious enthusiasm, a dry sense of humor, a sense of hope, and engrossing storytelling. Do you have something that immediately hooks you, or a favorite nonfiction read? Let us know below!

 

The Setup by Lizzy Dent

‘There are two men in my life. But this is not a love triangle.’ – Lizzy Dent, The Setup

The Setup by Lizzy Dent is a romance novel with an interesting twist: the main character, Mara, relies on her horoscope to help guide her in all of her decisions. Mara’s life goals all revolve around her horoscope, but fate, and other people, have other plans for her.

Mara Williams works as a bookkeeper for a crumbling beachside pool club in the English seaside town of Broadgate. Desperate for an escape, Mara and her best friend plan a vacation away. When her best friend backs out at the last minute, Mara decides to go anyway. After a chance meeting with a very pregnant fortune teller, Mara soon finds herself impersonating said fortune teller when Josef, a gorgeous Austrian cellist, walks into the shop for a reading. Convinced that Josef is the one, Mara tells him that his destiny will be in a pub in Broadgate on the last Friday of August. Oh, and her name is Mara.

After coming back home to Broadgate, Mara starts a new project: Project Mara. She has three months to turn herself into the gorgeously stylish and confident woman she has always wanted to be. After all, Josef is her destiny, as proven by her horoscopes. The more she works woards that goal however, the more the universe intervenes. The pool club where Mara works is under threat, so she and her colleagues must work together to save it. Mara’s new flatmate Ash also volunteers to help. He turns out to be funny, kind, and incredibly sexy. Mara starts to doubt whether or not Josef is ‘the one’, but feels as if she must stick to her plan and go to meet Josef at the end of August. The closer she gest to her deadline, the more confused she gets. Will Mara be able to recognize her destiny?

Winners of the 2022 Goodreads Choice Awards

The winners of the 2022 Goodreads Choice Awards have been announced! We’ve gathered up the winners and listed them below. We would love to hear your thoughts on the winners in the comments! Summaries of the books have been provided by the publishers and authors.

Best Fiction: Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

On a bitter-cold day, in the December of his junior year at Harvard, Sam Masur exits a subway car and sees, amid the hordes of people waiting on the platform, Sadie Green. He calls her name. For a moment, she pretends she hasn’t heard him, but then, she turns, and a game begins: a legendary collaboration that will launch them to stardom. These friends, intimates since childhood, borrow money, beg favors, and, before even graduating college, they have created their first blockbuster, Ichigo. Overnight, the world is theirs. Not even twenty-five years old, Sam and Sadie are brilliant, successful, and rich, but these qualities won’t protect them from their own creative ambitions or the betrayals of their hearts.

Spanning thirty years, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Venice Beach, California, and lands in between and far beyond, Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a dazzling and intricately imagined novel that examines the multifarious nature of identity, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play, and above all, our need to connect: to be loved and to love. Yes, it is a love story, but it is not one you have read before.

This title is also available in the following formats:

Best Mystery & Thriller: The Maid by Nita Prose

Molly Gray is not like everyone else. She struggles with social skills and misreads the intentions of others. Her gran used to interpret the world for her, codifying it into simple rules that Molly could live by.

Since Gran died a few months ago, twenty-five-year-old Molly has been navigating life’s complexities all by herself. No matter—she throws herself with gusto into her work as a hotel maid. Her unique character, along with her obsessive love of cleaning and proper etiquette, make her an ideal fit for the job. She delights in donning her crisp uniform each morning, stocking her cart with miniature soaps and bottles, and returning guest rooms at the Regency Grand Hotel to a state of perfection.

But Molly’s orderly life is upended the day she enters the suite of the infamous and wealthy Charles Black, only to find it in a state of disarray and Mr. Black himself dead in his bed. Before she knows what’s happening, Molly’s unusual demeanor has the police targeting her as their lead suspect. She quickly finds herself caught in a web of deception, one she has no idea how to untangle. Fortunately for Molly, friends she never knew she had unite with her in a search for clues to what really happened to Mr. Black—but will they be able to find the real killer before it’s too late?

A Clue-like, locked-room mystery and a heartwarming journey of the spirit, The Maid explores what it means to be the same as everyone else and yet entirely different—and reveals that all mysteries can be solved through connection to the human heart.

This title is also available in the following formats:

Best Historical Fiction: Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Carrie Soto is fierce, and her determination to win at any cost has not made her popular. But by the time she retires from tennis, she is the best player the world has ever seen. She has shattered every record and claimed twenty Grand Slam titles. And if you ask Carrie, she is entitled to every one. She sacrificed nearly everything to become the best, with her father, Javier, as her coach. A former champion himself, Javier has trained her since the age of two.

But six years after her retirement, Carrie finds herself sitting in the stands of the 1994 US Open, watching her record be taken from her by a brutal, stunning player named Nicki Chan.

At thirty-seven years old, Carrie makes the monumental decision to come out of retirement and be coached by her father for one last year in an attempt to reclaim her record. Even if the sports media says that they never liked “the Battle-Axe” anyway. Even if her body doesn’t move as fast as it did. And even if it means swallowing her pride to train with a man she once almost opened her heart to: Bowe Huntley. Like her, he has something to prove before he gives up the game forever.

In spite of it all, Carrie Soto is back, for one epic final season. In this riveting and unforgettable novel, Taylor Jenkins Reid tells her most vulnerable, emotional story yet.

This title is also available in the following formats:

Best Fantasy: House of Sky and Breath by Sarah J. Maas

Sarah J. Maas’s sexy, groundbreaking CRESCENT CITY series continues with the second installment.

Bryce Quinlan and Hunt Athalar are trying to get back to normal-they may have saved Crescent City, but with so much upheaval in their lives lately, they mostly want a chance to relax. Slow down. Figure out what the future holds.

The Asteri have kept their word so far, leaving Bryce and Hunt alone. But with the rebels chipping away at the Asteri’s power, the threat the rulers pose is growing. As Bryce, Hunt, and their friends get pulled into the rebels’ plans, the choice becomes clear: stay silent while others are oppressed, or fight for what’s right. And they’ve never been very good at staying silent.

In this sexy, action-packed sequel to the #1 bestseller House of Earth and Blood, Sarah J. Maas weaves a captivating story of a world about to explode-and the people who will do anything to save it.

This title is also available in the following format:

Best Romance: Book Lovers by Emily Henry

One summer. Two rivals. A plot twist they didn’t see coming…

Nora Stephens’ life is books—she’s read them all—and she is not that type of heroine. Not the plucky one, not the laidback dream girl, and especially not the sweetheart. In fact, the only people Nora is a heroine for are her clients, for whom she lands enormous deals as a cutthroat literary agent, and her beloved little sister Libby.

Which is why she agrees to go to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for the month of August when Libby begs her for a sisters’ trip away—with visions of a small town transformation for Nora, who she’s convinced needs to become the heroine in her own story. But instead of picnics in meadows, or run-ins with a handsome country doctor or bulging-forearmed bartender, Nora keeps bumping into Charlie Lastra, a bookish brooding editor from back in the city. It would be a meet-cute if not for the fact that they’ve met many times and it’s never been cute.

If Nora knows she’s not an ideal heroine, Charlie knows he’s nobody’s hero, but as they are thrown together again and again—in a series of coincidences no editor worth their salt would allow—what they discover might just unravel the carefully crafted stories they’ve written about themselves.

This title is also available in the following formats:

Best Science Fiction: Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel

Edwin St. Andrew is eighteen years old when he crosses the Atlantic by steamship, exiled from polite society following an ill-conceived diatribe at a dinner party. He enters the forest, spellbound by the beauty of the Canadian wilderness, and suddenly hears the notes of a violin echoing in an airship terminal—an experience that shocks him to his core.

Two centuries later a famous writer named Olive Llewellyn is on a book tour. She’s traveling all over Earth, but her home is the second moon colony, a place of white stone, spired towers, and artificial beauty. Within the text of Olive’s best-selling pandemic novel lies a strange passage: a man plays his violin for change in the echoing corridor of an airship terminal as the trees of a forest rise around him.

When Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the black-skied Night City, is hired to investigate an anomaly in the North American wilderness, he uncovers a series of lives upended: The exiled son of an earl driven to madness, a writer trapped far from home as a pandemic ravages Earth, and a childhood friend from the Night City who, like Gaspery himself, has glimpsed the chance to do something extraordinary that will disrupt the timeline of the universe.

A virtuoso performance that is as human and tender as it is intellectually playful, Sea of Tranquility is a novel of time travel and metaphysics that precisely captures the reality of our current moment.

This title is also available in the following formats:

Best Horror: Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak

Mallory Quinn is fresh out of rehab when she takes a job as a babysitter for Ted and Caroline Maxwell. She is to look after their five-year-old son, Teddy.

Mallory immediately loves it. She has her own living space, goes out for nightly runs, and has the stability she craves. And she sincerely bonds with Teddy, a sweet, shy boy who is never without his sketchbook and pencil. His drawings are the usual fare: trees, rabbits, balloons. But one day, he draws something different: a man in a forest, dragging a woman’s lifeless body.

Then, Teddy’s artwork becomes increasingly sinister, and his stick figures quickly evolve into lifelike sketches well beyond the ability of any five-year-old. Mallory begins to wonder if these are glimpses of a long-unsolved murder, perhaps relayed by a supernatural force.

Knowing just how crazy it all sounds, Mallory nevertheless sets out to decipher the images and save Teddy before it’s too late.

This title is also available in the following formats:

Best Humor: The Office BFFs by Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey

An intimate, behind-the-scenes, richly illustrated celebration of beloved The Office co-stars Jenna Fischer & Angela Kinsey’s friendship, & an insiders’ view of Pam Beesly, Angela Martin, & the unforgettable iconic TV show. Featuring Jenna and Angela’s many personal photos.

Receptionist Pam Beesly and accountant Angela Martin had very little in common when they toiled together at Scranton’s Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. But, in reality, the two bonded in their very first days on set and, over the nine seasons of the series’ run, built a friendship that transcended the show and continues to this day. Sharing everything from what it was like in the early days as the show struggled to gain traction, to walking their first red carpet—plus exclusive stories on the making of milestone episodes and how their lives changed when they became moms — The Office BFFs is full of the same warm and friendly tone Jenna and Angela have brought to their Office Ladies podcast.

This title is also available in the following format:

Best Nonfiction: Atlas of the Heart by Brené Brown

In Atlas of the Heart, Brown takes us on a journey through eighty-seven of the emotions and experiences that define what it means to be human. As she maps the necessary skills and an actionable framework for meaningful connection, she gives us the language and tools to access a universe of new choices and second chances—a universe where we can share and steward the stories of our bravest and most heartbreaking moments with one another in a way that builds connection.

Over the past two decades, Brown’s extensive research into the experiences that make us who we are has shaped the cultural conversation and helped define what it means to be courageous with our lives. Atlas of the Heart draws on this research, as well as on Brown’s singular skills as a storyteller, to show us how accurately naming an experience doesn’t give the experience more power—it gives us the power of understanding, meaning, and choice.

Brown shares, “I want this book to be an atlas for all of us, because I believe that, with an adventurous heart and the right maps, we can travel anywhere and never fear losing ourselves.”

This title is also available in the following formats:

Best Memoir & Autobiography: I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy

A heartbreaking and hilarious memoir by iCarly and Sam & Cat star Jennette McCurdy about her struggles as a former child actor—including eating disorders, addiction, and a complicated relationship with her overbearing mother—and how she retook control of her life.

Jennette McCurdy was six years old when she had her first acting audition. Her mother’s dream was for her only daughter to become a star, and Jennette would do anything to make her mother happy. So she went along with what Mom called “calorie restriction,” eating little and weighing herself five times a day. She endured extensive at-home makeovers while Mom chided, “Your eyelashes are invisible, okay? You think Dakota Fanning doesn’t tint hers?” She was even showered by Mom until age sixteen while sharing her diaries, email, and all her income.

In I’m Glad My Mom Died, Jennette recounts all this in unflinching detail—just as she chronicles what happens when the dream finally comes true. Cast in a new Nickelodeon series called iCarly, she is thrust into fame. Though Mom is ecstatic, emailing fan club moderators and getting on a first-name basis with the paparazzi (“Hi Gale!”), Jennette is riddled with anxiety, shame, and self-loathing, which manifest into eating disorders, addiction, and a series of unhealthy relationships. These issues only get worse when, soon after taking the lead in the iCarly spinoff Sam & Cat alongside Ariana Grande, her mother dies of cancer. Finally, after discovering therapy and quitting acting, Jennette embarks on recovery and decides for the first time in her life what she really wants.

Told with refreshing candor and dark humor, I’m Glad My Mom Died is an inspiring story of resilience, independence, and the joy of shampooing your own hair.

This title is also available in the following formats:

Best History & Biography: Bad Guys by Huw Lemmey and Ben Miller

We all remember Oscar Wilde, but who speaks for Bosie? What about those ‘bad gays’ whose unexemplary lives reveal more than we might expect? Many popular histories seek to establish homosexual heroes, pioneers, and martyrs but, as Huw Lemmey and Ben Miller argue, the past is filled with queer people whose sexualities and dastardly deeds have been overlooked despite their being informative and instructive.

Based on the hugely popular podcast series of the same name, Bad Gays asks what we can learn about LGBTQ+ history, sexuality and identity through its villains, failures, and baddies. With characters such as the Emperor Hadrian, anthropologist Margaret Mead and notorious gangster Ronnie Kray, the authors tell the story of how the figure of the white gay man was born, and how he failed. They examine a cast of kings, fascist thugs, artists and debauched bon viveurs. Imperial-era figures Lawrence of Arabia and Roger Casement get a look-in, as do FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover, lawyer Roy Cohn, and architect Philip Johnson.

Together these amazing life stories expand and challenge mainstream assumptions about sexual identity: showing that homosexuality itself was an idea that emerged in the nineteenth century, one central to major historical events.

Bad Gays is a passionate argument for rethinking gay politics beyond questions of identity, compelling readers to search for solidarity across boundaries.

Best Graphic Novels & Comics: Heartstopper by Alice Oseman

Charlie and Nick are at the same school, but they’ve never met … until one day when they’re made to sit together. They quickly become friends, and soon Charlie is falling hard for Nick, even though he doesn’t think he has a chance.

But love works in surprising ways, and Nick is more interested in Charlie than either of them realised.

By Alice Oseman, winner of the YA Book Prize, Heartstopper is about love, friendship, loyalty and mental illness. It encompasses all the small stories of Nick and Charlie’s lives that together make up something larger, which speaks to all of us.

Best Poetry: Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman

The breakout poetry collection by #1 New York Times bestselling author and presidential inaugural poet Amanda Gorman

Formerly titled The Hill We Climb and Other Poems, the luminous poetry collection by #1 New York Times bestselling author and presidential inaugural poet Amanda Gorman captures a shipwrecked moment in time and transforms it into a lyric of hope and healing. In Call Us What We Carry, Gorman explores history, language, identity, and erasure through an imaginative and intimate collage. Harnessing the collective grief of a global pandemic, this beautifully designed volume features poems in many inventive styles and structures and shines a light on a moment of reckoning. Call Us What We Carry reveals that Gorman has become our messenger from the past, our voice for the future.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Best Debut: Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing as an average woman. But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute takes a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans; the lonely, brilliant, Nobel–prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with—of all things—her mind. True chemistry results.

But like science, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother, but the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show Supper at Six. Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (“combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride”) proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because as it turns out, Elizabeth Zott isn’t just teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo.

Laugh-out-loud funny, shrewdly observant, and studded with a dazzling cast of supporting characters, Lessons in Chemistry is as original and vibrant as its protagonist.

This title is also available in the following formats:

Best Young Adult Fiction: The Final Gambit by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Avery’s fortune, life, and loves are on the line in the game that everyone will be talking about.

To inherit billions, all Avery Kylie Grambs has to do is survive a few more weeks living in Hawthorne House. The paparazzi are dogging her every step. Financial pressures are building. Danger is a fact of life. And the only thing getting Avery through it all is the Hawthorne brothers. Her life is intertwined with theirs. She knows their secrets and they know her.

But as the clock ticks down to the moment when Avery will become the richest teenager on the planet, trouble arrives in the form of a visitor who needs her help—and whose presence in Hawthorne House could change everything. It soon becomes clear that there is one last puzzle to solve, and Avery and the Hawthorne brothers are drawn into a dangerous game against an unknown and powerful player.

Secrets upon secrets. Riddles upon riddles. In this game, there are hearts and lives at stake—and there is nothing more Hawthorne than winning.

This title is also available in the following formats:

Best Young Adult Fantasy: Gallant by V.E. Schwab

Olivia Prior has grown up in Merilance School for Girls, and all she has of her past is her mother’s journal—which seems to unravel into madness. Then, a letter invites Olivia to come home to Gallant. Yet when Olivia arrives, no one is expecting her. But Olivia is not about to leave the first place that feels like home; it doesn’t matter if her cousin Matthew is hostile, or if she sees half-formed ghouls haunting the hallways.

Olivia knows that Gallant is hiding secrets, and she is determined to uncover them. When she crosses a ruined wall at just the right moment, Olivia finds herself in a place that is Gallant—but not. The manor is crumbling, the ghouls are solid, and a mysterious figure rules over all. Now Olivia sees what has unraveled generations of her family, and where her father may have come from.

Olivia has always wanted to belong somewhere, but will she take her place as a Prior, protecting our world against the Master of the House? Or will she take her place beside him?

New York Times–bestselling author V. E. Schwab crafts a vivid and lush novel that grapples with the demons that are often locked behind closed doors. An eerie, stand-alone saga about life, death, and the young woman beckoned by both. Readers of Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, Melissa Albert, and Garth Nix will quickly lose themselves in this novel with crossover appeal for all ages.

This title is also available in the following formats:

Best Middle Grade & Children’s: I Am Quiet by Andie Powers and Betsy Petersen

Emile is not shy—he is quiet.

Emile may seem timid and shy on the outside, but on the inside he is bustling with imagination. While grownups and even other kids may see Emile as the shy kid who doesn’t raise his hand in class, we know that Emile is actually a high-seas adventurer, a daring explorer, and a friend to wild beasts.

This story honors and encourages the beauty of knowing ourselves for exactly who we are. Emile’s world shows us that the mind of a quiet child can be as rich, expansive, and bold as that of any other (more extroverted) child.

Romance Reads: Bellinger Sisters series by Tessa Bailey

“What she thought was living life to the fullest had actually been living life for other people to watch. To gawk at. She wouldn’t lie to herself and pretend one month had completely cured her of her deeply rooted yen for attention. For praise. For what she’d once interpreted as love. Now though? She is participating in her life. Not just posing and pretending. The world was so much bigger than her, and she was really seeing it now. She was really looking.”
― Tessa Bailey, It Happened One Summer

It Happened One Summer is the first book in the Bellinger Sisters series. This title was also my first read by Tessa Bailey, an author that I’ve seen pop up on TikTok and other social media sites a lot more recently. This novel also reminded me a lot of the television show Schitt’s Creek as I was reading it. Let’s get into the first book!

Piper Bellinger is a Hollywood ‘It Girl’, well at least she was until she threw a spectacularly outrageous and out-of-control rooftop party that left the influential wild child cut off from her wealthy family and sent to a small Pacific Northwest town. Piper’s stepfather has decided that it’s time for Piper to learn some responsibility. He sends both Piper and her sister to Washington to run their late father’s dive bar.

Piper is shocked that her stepfather would even consider sending her away, let alone cutting her off. With her sister’s support, the two arrive in Westport to hopefully make the next three months fly by so they can head back to LA. As soon as Piper steps foot outside her late father’s bar, she meets Brendan, a big, burly, bearded sea captain who has nothing nice to say to her. He doesn’t think that Piper will last a night in Westport, especially when she sees the state of the apartment where the two women will be staying. Fed up with everyone, men especially, expecting little from her, Piper is determined to show the town of Westport that she’s more than just a pretty face. After all, this is her late father’s town and he is a legend. She has big shoes to fill.

As soon as Piper decides to show up Brendan, she of course starts running into him everywhere (mostly due to Westport being such a small town – but let’s be honest the two have an undeniable chemistry). Piper is bubbly, while Brendan is gruff and set in his ways. Although the two couldn’t be more opposite, there’s a simmering tension and attraction between the two. Piper does not want anything to do with Brendan, especially since she plans to head back to LA as soon as possible. The more time she spends reconnecting to her Westport past and getting to know the area, the more Piper starts to wonder if she really wants to go back home where no one really knows her. Where does her heart want to be?

This book is also available in the following formats:

Bellinger Sisters series:

  1. It Happened One Summer (2021)
  2. Hook, Line, and Sinker (2022)

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

“I still have a lot to figure out, but the one thing I know is, wherever you are, that’s where I belong. I’ll never belong anywhere like I belong with you.”
― Emily Henry, People We Meet on Vacation

The above quote sums up People We Meet on Vacation pretty perfectly. Alex and Poppy do not seem like they would fit together. Poppy is a traveling wild child who gets anxious if she is in one place for too long. Alex would much rather stay at home in his khakis reading a book. The two met by chance at college, but each wrote the other off as a nobody. Thrown together later in a car share home one summer, the two form a best friend bond that has only grown over time.

While Alex and Poppy may live apart for most of the year – she in New York and he back home in Ohio, they revel in their summer trips. For over a decade, the two have taken one week of vacation together every summer to various destinations all over the globe. They have had disastrous vacations all the way to magnificent ones. Two years ago, something happened on their summer vacation that has driven a wedge between the two. They haven’t spoken to each other since.

Poppy has been having a rough time dealing with Alex being out of her life. She feels like she’s stuck in a rut. When her friend asks her when she last felt happy, Poppy realizes that it was when she was with Alex. She wants that back! Poppy has decided that she has to get Alex to take a vacation with her so that she can make their relationship right again. Alex agrees, so she has one week to fix everything that’s wrong between them. That task proves to be way harder than she imagined, given the massive secret lurking between the two.

This book is also available in the following formats:

The Best of Me by David Sedaris

An anthology of David Sedaris’ work, The Best of Me is a great introduction to his style for the new reader, or a type of “greatest hits” album for his longtime fans. It abridges his former books including Me Talk Pretty One Day, Calypso, Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls, among others. As you read, you move through Sedaris’ whole life up to the present (or just about), laughing all the way.

The effect is interesting because where each of his previous essay collections had individual moods, this book has all of them– just about every conceivable feeling is present. The bittersweet feeling of aging and loss from Calypso is there, alongside the whimsical and sardonic tone of Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk. His iconic struggle with learning French, full of self-deprecation and humility, is present, as are plenty of childhood reminiscences and portraits of his activities and fixations as a settled, partnered adult (shopping for taxidermy and terrible clothes, living abroad, collecting trash, etc.). This is probably the closest a book can come to a portrait of a life and a representation of a body of work — and, typical of Sedaris, the result is readable, funny, soothing, thought-provoking, and relatable in different ways.

Besides being funny, and easier to carry around than a collection of 5 to 7 individual books, this book is honest, and for me it served as a comforting reminder that no matter how quirky your tastes may be, it’s always possible to craft a life that works for you. For that matter, it’s also good to be reminded that none of us are quite as saintly as we may like to think we are; Sedaris is an expert at giving voice to the less altruistic feelings and motives we all secretly relate to – while not trying to justify them or rally readers behind these feelings. Also interesting is the thread running through several essays about how different it was for Sedaris to grow up as a gay man than it is to be in the LGBTQ community now.

Basically, this book is full of good humor and helpful reminders about the realities of human nature – including not to take yourself too seriously. Highly recommended for those wanting to revisit, or discover, the unique reading experience that is David Sedaris.