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  • Tara Sonin 6:00 pm on 2019/09/05 Permalink
    Tags: , city of girls, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , this love story will self-destruct   

    A Book for Every Song on Lover, Taylor Swift’s New Album 


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    TS7 is finally here! If you’re like me or any of the millions of Swifties out there, the arrival of this next era is just as exciting as a brand-new bookshelf full of reads you get to experience for the first time. After listening to the album on repeat all weekend, I decided to celebrate Lover with a book roundup inspired by each of the songs (since it’s the only thing I’ll be listening to for the foreseeable future, don’t @ me.).

    1. “I Forgot That You Existed” (Best Friends Forever, by Jennifer Weiner)

    You heard it from Taylor first: indifference is the new vengeance. This solid album-opener is upbeat and poppy, a nice contrast with the lyrics about the (final?) end of a broken relationship, friendship (or feud), when you actually forget that the person you once had so much ire for still lives. She transitions from “Your name on my lips, tongue-tied/Free rent, living in my mind” to “ forgot that you existed/and I thought that it would kill me, but it didn’t” with ease. But of course, insisting that you forget someone existed while singing about them.introduces interesting tension, and would into any relationship. It reminded me of Jennifer Weiner’s Best Friends Forever, about what happens when a former friend shows up on your doorstep in a crisis, insisting you’re the only one who can help them out of a tight spot (when you’d rather do anything but).

    2. Cruel Summer” (Do You Want to Start a Scandal, by Tessa Dare)

    Lyrically and sonically, this is one of my favorites on the entire album (it’s so good it should have been a single!) It’s got an Out of the Woods meets Getaway Car vibe in terms of the melody. Wistful, a bit haunting, but also a total bop. “So cut the headlights, summer’s a knife/I’m always waiting for you just to cut to the bone” describes a low point in Swift’s life (Summer 2016, ugh), juxtaposed with the high of discovering new love. There are so many books I could have picked for this, but “I don’t want to keep secrets just to keep you” reminded me of the Regency romance trope where the heroine has a secret, or finds herself in a situation where her reputation is at stake, but is still tempted by a handsome rogue who might lead her into temptation and true love. (Sound a bit familiar?) Do You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare feels like the perfect accompaniment to this song about a woman who must prove her innocence in the face of a sullied reputation or be forced to marry a man she doesn’t think she could ever love.

    3.Lover” (Roomies, by Christina Lauren)

    The title track (and the one I’ve been singing in the shower for days) is a swoony daydream of a couple in complete harmony, as Swift spins wedding vow-like lyrics such as “With every guitar string scar on my hand/I take this magnetic force of a man to be my…lover/My heart’s been borrowed and yours has been blue/all’s well that end’s well to end up with you/swear to be overdramatic and true/to my…lover.” But Swift is all about balance in her songs, so imagery of keeping up the Christmas lights in “our place” is juxtaposed with suspicion that “everyone who sees you wants you.” This track reminded me of Roomies by Christina Lauren, with its musician main character and the trope of having to share a space while inevitably falling in love.

    4. The Man” (The Whisper Network, by Chandler Baker)

    The double-standards between men and women have been explored in songs and novels since both art forms existed. Swift has already confronted the media’s perception of her as a victim, as a girl who goes on too many dates but can’t make them stay, etc. But in “The Man”, she more directly confronts how different she’d be treated if she were the opposite gender. How could I not think of the new thriller The Whisper Network, about a group of women who come forward about their male boss’ behavior of harassment in the workplace. Instead of continuing to suffer in silence, they tell the truth, resulting in an explosive conflict and an ending I sort of saw coming, but was very glad I was right.

    5. “The Archer” (Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen)

    Another slower, lyric-driven track on the album with gut-punching truths about love, friendship, and holding on to the one who has your heart. “The Archer” is associated with being a Sagittarius (which Swift is), but also her dynamic with the world. “Who could ever leave me, darling?/But who could stay?” is self-aware in a new way for Swift, as is “I never grew up, it’s getting so old” or “I see right through me.” This is one of my favorite tracks on the album, as Swift confronts her cultivated image as both archer and prey of fame and of love. Listening to the rising energy of the track as it builds to a anti-fairy-tale crescendo plus Swift’s lyrics made me think of Pride and Prejudice: Elizabeth Bennet is forced to acknowledge how her own prejudices have made it difficult for others to love her, but that she is deserving of an imperfect love. (And how could “All of my enemies started out friends” not remind you of awful Mr. Wickham?)

    6. “I Think he Knows” (The Duke and I, by Julia Quinn)

    After a slower song, this heats things up a bit, describing the early sizzle of a relationship before it even starts. For an entire album that sings the praises of a man, I liked the moment in the pre-chorus where she says “He’s so obsessed with me, and boy, I understand.” Own your worth, girl! The bridge was my favorite part of this song (as it often is with Swift; girl knows how to bridge) as it played with tempo and rhyme. “Lyrical smile, indigo eyes, hand on my thigh/We can follow the sparks, I’ll drive.” Swift explores the tension of the moment between seeing someone and initiating contact—songs like these always sting with a bit of danger, too, because the man knows she wants him but neither of them say anything in public about it. She’s whispering in the dark, which gives me serious secret romance vibes. The Duke and I by Julia Quinn is about Simon, who is planning to propose to his BFF’s sister even though he doesn’t actually love her. It’s an arrangement that suits them both, but before they both know it, Daphne is giving Simon serious “I Think he Knows” vibes.

    7. Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince” (The Cheerleaders, by Kara Thomas)

    If you don’t get the oft-spoken metaphor “politics is like high-school”, this song takes the metaphor to the next level. Subtly political but 100% heartbreaking, Swift re-imagines the political sphere (and her role in it) as a high school romance, moving from “American glory, faded before me”, painting the democratic 2016 election loss as a ripped-up prom dress (from Miss Americana, who assumed she would win.) Oozing drama and storytelling the way only Swift can, I love the moody elements of the brokenhearted girl contrasted with the new riff on a cheerleading chant (Go Fight Win!). This song is about mourning loss and then finding the strength to say “I know we’re going to win”, but it’s haunting melody and lyrics led me to pick a Cheerleader-inspired thriller. The Cheerleaders is about a string of cheerleaders murdered in a small town five years ago…and just when everyone thinks it’s time to move on, one girl becomes the center of a mystery that never truly died.

    8. Paper Rings” (The Royal We, by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan)

    I’m on my fourth listen of the album and this might be my favorite track on it (though that changes minute by minute, with an album as dynamic as this—and just to further accentuate this, by the time of posting this piece my new favorite might be I Think he Knows?). It’s a totally retro, 60’s style song, a totally new sound for Swift, and one that fits perfectly with her new aesthetic. (Makes me wonder why this wasn’t one of the singles released before the record.) It is a gold-mine for Swiftian lyricism, with so many gems I can’t possibly call them all out, and it moves so fast (like a good read) that you both want to cascade over them and pause to hear each line at least 5x before it passes you by. It’s an unabashed love song, relishing in the joy of knowing you’re with the one you love so much that “I like shiny things, but I’d marry you with paper rings”. The line that stuck out the most was “I hate accidents except when we went from friends to this”, which made me think of when Bex Porter goes to Oxford and, completely by accident, falls in love with the heir to the throne.

    9. Cornelia Street” (Passion on Park Avenue, by Lauren Layne)

    “Cornelia Street” is sort of the antithesis to I Think He knows. It’s about remembering the early days of a new relationship (“We were a fresh page on the desk/filling in the blanks as we go”) and being more than willing to give up all the good that comes with fresh starts in order to settle into something real. It aches with melancholy, because any time we give something up should be a little sad—but it brims with hope and Swift’s trademarked optimism about love. “I hope I never lose you, hope it never ends/I’d never walk Cornelia Street again/ That’s the kinda heartbreak time could never mend.” I had to pick an NYC-set story for this, like Lauren Layne’s Passion on Park Avenue. The city is another character in the romance between a successful jewelry-business owner and the son of the woman her mother used to work for.

    10.Death By a Thousand Cuts” (Please Don’t Go Before I Get Better, by Madisen Kuhn)

    Inspired by the Netflix movie Something Great, this is one of the few sad songs on the record, about a girl going through a breakup who can’t help but linger in happier memories. (For the record: “I dress to kill my time” is genius, as are so many of these lyrics.) Only Swift is so good at pairing such devastating messaging with a pop beat you can’t help but want to sing. This song was the hardest one to pick a book for (especially because it’s already inspired by a movie) so I decided to go with a poetry collection! Please Don’t Go Before I Get Better is all about the aches and sun rays of growing up, told in a staggeringly relatable voice that will make you want to curl up on the couch and cry your eyes out.

    11. London Boy” (Red, White and Royal Blue, by Casey McQuiston)

    This is 100% about Joe Alwyn, but also…Taylor dated at least two Brits that we know of before him, so this song is about what we already knew (“the rumors are true”): she has a penchant for London Boys. Essentially a road map of her favorite places in the city, this indulgent ditty trades “Tennessee Whiskey” for “A gray sky, a rainy cab ride” and of course, her man by her side. Red, White, and Royal Blue is the perfect pic for this song, about two boys who fall in love (after a rough start where they were almost enemies) amidst those gray, rainy skies…but one of them happens to be the son of an American President, and the other, the current Prince of England.

    12.Soon You’ll Get Better (feat. Dixie Chicks)” (Swamplandia!, by Karen Russell)

    Of all the songs on the album, this one gave me the most vintage Swift vibes. There’s no denying that she is an astonishingly talented songwriter, especially when you listen to what is essentially her greatest fear laid bare, on the track with just a bit of guitar and the Dixie Chicks harmonizing in the background. Here, the story shines: Swift’s mother has been sick for a number of years, and while they’ve mostly kept the details of that battle private, this is the most vulnerable moment of love for her mother on an album mostly about finding true love. “Holy orange bottles, each night I pray to you/Desperate people find faith, so now I pray to Jesus, too.” A friend of mine recently lost their mother just after getting married, and it made me marvel at how life often delivers us highs and lows to grapple with simultaneously. While all of this was going on—Kanye and Kim, Joe and London, another world tour, another album—in the background, Swift has been terrified of losing her mother. This song made me think of Swamplandia!, a novel about a young girl living in a gator-wrestling theme park where her mother used to be the main event until she passed away. Now, in the wake of her death, she and her siblings must grapple with her legacy as a competing business rises up to swallow the success she built on the swamp.

    13.False God” (City of Girls, by Elizabeth Gilbert)

    Is that a saxophone in the background of a Taylor Swift song? This slow, jazzy number is all about love and desire—and how we come back to it even when the world around us (and sometimes we, ourselves) put it in jeopardy. “And I can’t talk to you when you’re like this/Staring out the window like I’m not your favorite town/I’m New York City” and other lyrics referencing New York seem to be the grounding force in an otherwise tumultuous relationship. Multiple times on this record Swift has alluded to rough patches in her current happiness, but connection is always the solution to fixing it. She seems to say that if you treat your relationship like it’s your religion, you can get through anything. This is one of the sexier songs on the album, but it’s also got serious NYC vibes, so I’m picking City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert: a novel all about relishing romance in the glitzy 1940’s New York Theater scene, but also how desire can either set us on the road to ruin, or redemption.

    14.You Need to Calm Down” (The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid)

    This song has done what Swift does best: inspire conversation and a bit of controversy. Acknowledging that it was past time for her to be an outspoken ally for the LGBTQIAP+ community, YNTCD tackles the various ways communities are pitted against one another (especially on the internet.) The first verse examines her personal haters (“Say it in the street, that’s a knock-out/But you say it in a Tweet, that’s a cop-out), the second calls out homophobes (“Shade never made anybody less gay”), and the third examines how her relationships with her female contemporaries have often been antagonistic, something she herself has been responsible perpetuating in the past with songs like “Bad Blood” and “Better Than Revenge” (“We all know now, we all got crowns/you need to calm down.”) The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is about a famous actress who hid the great female love of her life behind multiple male partners and uses her platform to tell the truth (all while hiding one last devastating secret). While Taylor herself has not come out as part of the LGBTQ community, she has come out as an ally, and this book made me think about the issues of privacy, platform, allyship, and identity that the song also confronts. If there’s more to the story of Swift’s relationship to the LGBTQIAP+ community, she’s going to share it on her own terms.

    15.Afterglow” (Queenie, by Candice Carty-Williams)

    This song ranks high on my favorites from the album, and it’s a rare genre from Swift: the apology song. The other famous one is Speak Now’s “Back to December”. In this mid-tempo song with slamming drums and a breathy falsetto, Swift yearns for the partner she pushed away to meet her in the moments after the fight ends. “It’s all me, in my head/I’m the one who burned us down/ but it’s not what I meant,” she insists. There’s still hope here though, as opposed to earlier songs on the record that signal the doom of a friendship or a breakup after-the-fact. Queenie, by Candice Carty-Williams, is a novel about a girl coming to terms with her role in a failed relationship, a career she can’t seem to succeed in, and friends she unknowingly betrays. “Why’d I have to break what I love so much?” is a question asked in this song’s chorus, and one Queenie must answer in order to find real, lasting happiness.

    16. ME! (feat. Brendon Urie)” (Crazy Rich Asians, by Kevin Kwan)

    This self-love anthem is bubblegum sweet and full of earworms, the “Shake it Off of the TS7 Era. It makes me think of lightning fast beach reads that you can’t put down and that feel so good to read but also have a deeper meaning to them. Just because it’s not the most lyrically advanced of her songs doesn’t mean this bop doesn’t deserve to be celebrated— it reminded me of how romances constantly get a bad rep (lol, see what I did there?) about being somehow lesser than other genres. But I love that Taylor doesn’t care about what other people think and is 100% focused on being her authentic self— just like the heroine of Crazy Rich Asians, Rachel Chu. When confronted with the wealth and expectations of her boyfriend Nick’s family (who don’t think she’s good enough for him), she insists it’s her individuality that makes her the perfect partner for him.

    17. It’s Nice to Have a Friend” (This Love Story Will Self-Destruct, by Leslie Cohen)

    This track might be my second favorite? It’s so different (Ukulele? Trombone? Is that what I’m hearing?) and such a contrast to the beginning of the album, the opener closes the door on a once meaningful friendship. It’s also a deceiving song, in that I’m still not 100% sure what it’s about (on third listen.) I think though, Swift is exploring the importance of friendship in all its forms: in childhood (“School bell rings, walk me home”) to adolescence “Something gave you the nerve/to touch my hand”) to romantic love (“Church bells ring, carry me home/rice on the ground looks like snow”). Ultimately, she may be saying that the most important thing about a romantic partner is that they make you feel like you have a friend—when you’re young, the thing that matters most is feeling seen by other people. If your lover is also your best friend, then you know they always have your back. A love story that takes place over two characters’ twenties, This Love Story Will Self-Destruct is about the missteps, betrayals, beautiful moments and connection that forms between two people over a decade.

    18.Daylight” (Evvie Drake Starts Over, by Linda Holmes)

    “My love was as cruel as the cities I lived in.” What a way to begin this album closer. Swift’s last tracks have a tradition of being the ones that are most emblematic of her current state of mind, but they also have developed certain themes over time. Renewal, starting over, self-reflection, and hope are all subjects Daylight sheds a little light on. She acknowledges past failings (“I wounded the good and trusted the wicked”) and what she wants for the future (“I once believed love would be [burning red]/but it’s golden”). A book that feels like daylight on your skin is what’s needed for this song, and I think Evvie Drake Starts Over is the perfect pick: a story about a woman still grieving the loss of her husband but who finds herself moving on with a former major league baseball player. Both of them have pasts they are healing from, but together, they find hope for the future. “I’ve been sleeping so long in a twenty-year dark night/and now I see daylight.”

    And, unlike (I think?) any other song in her catalogue, she speaks in the end, not sings, in a direct appeal to her audience. Her very last words are “You are what you love.” Well, I love Taylor Swift. I love a good song lyric to sink my teeth into, or to sing. I love love. And I love a good story, whether it comes from a song or a book, and when you’re done with the album, I hope you find some here. Leave a comment below with which books you’d pick for your fave Taylor songs!

    The post A Book for Every Song on <i>Lover</i>, Taylor Swift’s New Album appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Tara Sonin 6:00 pm on 2019/09/05 Permalink
    Tags: , city of girls, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   

    A Book for Every Song on Lover, Taylor Swift’s New Album 


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    TS7 is finally here! If you’re like me or any of the millions of Swifties out there, the arrival of this next era is just as exciting as a brand-new bookshelf full of reads you get to experience for the first time. After listening to the album on repeat all weekend, I decided to celebrate Lover with a book roundup inspired by each of the songs (since it’s the only thing I’ll be listening to for the foreseeable future, don’t @ me.).

    1. “I Forgot That You Existed” (Best Friends Forever, by Jennifer Weiner)

    You heard it from Taylor first: indifference is the new vengeance. This solid album-opener is upbeat and poppy, a nice contrast with the lyrics about the (final?) end of a broken relationship, friendship (or feud), when you actually forget that the person you once had so much ire for still lives. She transitions from “Your name on my lips, tongue-tied/Free rent, living in my mind” to “ forgot that you existed/and I thought that it would kill me, but it didn’t” with ease. But of course, insisting that you forget someone existed while singing about them.introduces interesting tension, and would into any relationship. It reminded me of Jennifer Weiner’s Best Friends Forever, about what happens when a former friend shows up on your doorstep in a crisis, insisting you’re the only one who can help them out of a tight spot (when you’d rather do anything but).

    2. Cruel Summer” (Do You Want to Start a Scandal, by Tessa Dare)

    Lyrically and sonically, this is one of my favorites on the entire album (it’s so good it should have been a single!) It’s got an Out of the Woods meets Getaway Car vibe in terms of the melody. Wistful, a bit haunting, but also a total bop. “So cut the headlights, summer’s a knife/I’m always waiting for you just to cut to the bone” describes a low point in Swift’s life (Summer 2016, ugh), juxtaposed with the high of discovering new love. There are so many books I could have picked for this, but “I don’t want to keep secrets just to keep you” reminded me of the Regency romance trope where the heroine has a secret, or finds herself in a situation where her reputation is at stake, but is still tempted by a handsome rogue who might lead her into temptation and true love. (Sound a bit familiar?) Do You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare feels like the perfect accompaniment to this song about a woman who must prove her innocence in the face of a sullied reputation or be forced to marry a man she doesn’t think she could ever love.

    3.Lover” (Roomies, by Christina Lauren)

    The title track (and the one I’ve been singing in the shower for days) is a swoony daydream of a couple in complete harmony, as Swift spins wedding vow-like lyrics such as “With every guitar string scar on my hand/I take this magnetic force of a man to be my…lover/My heart’s been borrowed and yours has been blue/all’s well that end’s well to end up with you/swear to be overdramatic and true/to my…lover.” But Swift is all about balance in her songs, so imagery of keeping up the Christmas lights in “our place” is juxtaposed with suspicion that “everyone who sees you wants you.” This track reminded me of Roomies by Christina Lauren, with its musician main character and the trope of having to share a space while inevitably falling in love.

    4. The Man” (The Whisper Network, by Chandler Baker)

    The double-standards between men and women have been explored in songs and novels since both art forms existed. Swift has already confronted the media’s perception of her as a victim, as a girl who goes on too many dates but can’t make them stay, etc. But in “The Man”, she more directly confronts how different she’d be treated if she were the opposite gender. How could I not think of the new thriller The Whisper Network, about a group of women who come forward about their male boss’ behavior of harassment in the workplace. Instead of continuing to suffer in silence, they tell the truth, resulting in an explosive conflict and an ending I sort of saw coming, but was very glad I was right.

    5. “The Archer” (Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen)

    Another slower, lyric-driven track on the album with gut-punching truths about love, friendship, and holding on to the one who has your heart. “The Archer” is associated with being a Sagittarius (which Swift is), but also her dynamic with the world. “Who could ever leave me, darling?/But who could stay?” is self-aware in a new way for Swift, as is “I never grew up, it’s getting so old” or “I see right through me.” This is one of my favorite tracks on the album, as Swift confronts her cultivated image as both archer and prey of fame and of love. Listening to the rising energy of the track as it builds to a anti-fairy-tale crescendo plus Swift’s lyrics made me think of Pride and Prejudice: Elizabeth Bennet is forced to acknowledge how her own prejudices have made it difficult for others to love her, but that she is deserving of an imperfect love. (And how could “All of my enemies started out friends” not remind you of awful Mr. Wickham?)

    6. “I Think he Knows” (The Duke and I, by Julia Quinn)

    After a slower song, this heats things up a bit, describing the early sizzle of a relationship before it even starts. For an entire album that sings the praises of a man, I liked the moment in the pre-chorus where she says “He’s so obsessed with me, and boy, I understand.” Own your worth, girl! The bridge was my favorite part of this song (as it often is with Swift; girl knows how to bridge) as it played with tempo and rhyme. “Lyrical smile, indigo eyes, hand on my thigh/We can follow the sparks, I’ll drive.” Swift explores the tension of the moment between seeing someone and initiating contact—songs like these always sting with a bit of danger, too, because the man knows she wants him but neither of them say anything in public about it. She’s whispering in the dark, which gives me serious secret romance vibes. The Duke and I by Julia Quinn is about Simon, who is planning to propose to his BFF’s sister even though he doesn’t actually love her. It’s an arrangement that suits them both, but before they both know it, Daphne is giving Simon serious “I Think he Knows” vibes.

    7. Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince” (The Cheerleaders, by Kara Thomas)

    If you don’t get the oft-spoken metaphor “politics is like high-school”, this song takes the metaphor to the next level. Subtly political but 100% heartbreaking, Swift re-imagines the political sphere (and her role in it) as a high school romance, moving from “American glory, faded before me”, painting the democratic 2016 election loss as a ripped-up prom dress (from Miss Americana, who assumed she would win.) Oozing drama and storytelling the way only Swift can, I love the moody elements of the brokenhearted girl contrasted with the new riff on a cheerleading chant (Go Fight Win!). This song is about mourning loss and then finding the strength to say “I know we’re going to win”, but it’s haunting melody and lyrics led me to pick a Cheerleader-inspired thriller. The Cheerleaders is about a string of cheerleaders murdered in a small town five years ago…and just when everyone thinks it’s time to move on, one girl becomes the center of a mystery that never truly died.

    8. Paper Rings” (The Royal We, by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan)

    I’m on my fourth listen of the album and this might be my favorite track on it (though that changes minute by minute, with an album as dynamic as this—and just to further accentuate this, by the time of posting this piece my new favorite might be I Think he Knows?). It’s a totally retro, 60’s style song, a totally new sound for Swift, and one that fits perfectly with her new aesthetic. (Makes me wonder why this wasn’t one of the singles released before the record.) It is a gold-mine for Swiftian lyricism, with so many gems I can’t possibly call them all out, and it moves so fast (like a good read) that you both want to cascade over them and pause to hear each line at least 5x before it passes you by. It’s an unabashed love song, relishing in the joy of knowing you’re with the one you love so much that “I like shiny things, but I’d marry you with paper rings”. The line that stuck out the most was “I hate accidents except when we went from friends to this”, which made me think of when Bex Porter goes to Oxford and, completely by accident, falls in love with the heir to the throne.

    9. Cornelia Street” (Passion on Park Avenue, by Lauren Layne)

    “Cornelia Street” is sort of the antithesis to I Think He knows. It’s about remembering the early days of a new relationship (“We were a fresh page on the desk/filling in the blanks as we go”) and being more than willing to give up all the good that comes with fresh starts in order to settle into something real. It aches with melancholy, because any time we give something up should be a little sad—but it brims with hope and Swift’s trademarked optimism about love. “I hope I never lose you, hope it never ends/I’d never walk Cornelia Street again/ That’s the kinda heartbreak time could never mend.” I had to pick an NYC-set story for this, like Lauren Layne’s Passion on Park Avenue. The city is another character in the romance between a successful jewelry-business owner and the son of the woman her mother used to work for.

    10.Death By a Thousand Cuts” (Please Don’t Go Before I Get Better, by Madisen Kuhn)

    Inspired by the Netflix movie Something Great, this is one of the few sad songs on the record, about a girl going through a breakup who can’t help but linger in happier memories. (For the record: “I dress to kill my time” is genius, as are so many of these lyrics.) Only Swift is so good at pairing such devastating messaging with a pop beat you can’t help but want to sing. This song was the hardest one to pick a book for (especially because it’s already inspired by a movie) so I decided to go with a poetry collection! Please Don’t Go Before I Get Better is all about the aches and sun rays of growing up, told in a staggeringly relatable voice that will make you want to curl up on the couch and cry your eyes out.

    11. London Boy” (Red, White and Royal Blue, by Casey McQuiston)

    This is 100% about Joe Alwyn, but also…Taylor dated at least two Brits that we know of before him, so this song is about what we already knew (“the rumors are true”): she has a penchant for London Boys. Essentially a road map of her favorite places in the city, this indulgent ditty trades “Tennessee Whiskey” for “A gray sky, a rainy cab ride” and of course, her man by her side. Red, White, and Royal Blue is the perfect pic for this song, about two boys who fall in love (after a rough start where they were almost enemies) amidst those gray, rainy skies…but one of them happens to be the son of an American President, and the other, the current Prince of England.

    12.Soon You’ll Get Better (feat. Dixie Chicks)” (Swamplandia!, by Karen Russell)

    Of all the songs on the album, this one gave me the most vintage Swift vibes. There’s no denying that she is an astonishingly talented songwriter, especially when you listen to what is essentially her greatest fear laid bare, on the track with just a bit of guitar and the Dixie Chicks harmonizing in the background. Here, the story shines: Swift’s mother has been sick for a number of years, and while they’ve mostly kept the details of that battle private, this is the most vulnerable moment of love for her mother on an album mostly about finding true love. “Holy orange bottles, each night I pray to you/Desperate people find faith, so now I pray to Jesus, too.” A friend of mine recently lost their mother just after getting married, and it made me marvel at how life often delivers us highs and lows to grapple with simultaneously. While all of this was going on—Kanye and Kim, Joe and London, another world tour, another album—in the background, Swift has been terrified of losing her mother. This song made me think of Swamplandia!, a novel about a young girl living in a gator-wrestling theme park where her mother used to be the main event until she passed away. Now, in the wake of her death, she and her siblings must grapple with her legacy as a competing business rises up to swallow the success she built on the swamp.

    13.False God” (City of Girls, by Elizabeth Gilbert)

    Is that a saxophone in the background of a Taylor Swift song? This slow, jazzy number is all about love and desire—and how we come back to it even when the world around us (and sometimes we, ourselves) put it in jeopardy. “And I can’t talk to you when you’re like this/Staring out the window like I’m not your favorite town/I’m New York City” and other lyrics referencing New York seem to be the grounding force in an otherwise tumultuous relationship. Multiple times on this record Swift has alluded to rough patches in her current happiness, but connection is always the solution to fixing it. She seems to say that if you treat your relationship like it’s your religion, you can get through anything. This is one of the sexier songs on the album, but it’s also got serious NYC vibes, so I’m picking City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert: a novel all about relishing romance in the glitzy 1940’s New York Theater scene, but also how desire can either set us on the road to ruin, or redemption.

    14.You Need to Calm Down” (The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid)

    This song has done what Swift does best: inspire conversation and a bit of controversy. Acknowledging that it was past time for her to be an outspoken ally for the LGBTQIAP+ community, YNTCD tackles the various ways communities are pitted against one another (especially on the internet.) The first verse examines her personal haters (“Say it in the street, that’s a knock-out/But you say it in a Tweet, that’s a cop-out), the second calls out homophobes (“Shade never made anybody less gay”), and the third examines how her relationships with her female contemporaries have often been antagonistic, something she herself has been responsible perpetuating in the past with songs like “Bad Blood” and “Better Than Revenge” (“We all know now, we all got crowns/you need to calm down.”) The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is about a famous actress who hid the great female love of her life behind multiple male partners and uses her platform to tell the truth (all while hiding one last devastating secret). While Taylor herself has not come out as part of the LGBTQ community, she has come out as an ally, and this book made me think about the issues of privacy, platform, allyship, and identity that the song also confronts. If there’s more to the story of Swift’s relationship to the LGBTQIAP+ community, she’s going to share it on her own terms.

    15.Afterglow” (Queenie, by Candice Carty-Williams)

    This song ranks high on my favorites from the album, and it’s a rare genre from Swift: the apology song. The other famous one is Speak Now’s “Back to December”. In this mid-tempo song with slamming drums and a breathy falsetto, Swift yearns for the partner she pushed away to meet her in the moments after the fight ends. “It’s all me, in my head/I’m the one who burned us down/ but it’s not what I meant,” she insists. There’s still hope here though, as opposed to earlier songs on the record that signal the doom of a friendship or a breakup after-the-fact. Queenie, by Candice Carty-Williams, is a novel about a girl coming to terms with her role in a failed relationship, a career she can’t seem to succeed in, and friends she unknowingly betrays. “Why’d I have to break what I love so much?” is a question asked in this song’s chorus, and one Queenie must answer in order to find real, lasting happiness.

    16. ME! (feat. Brendon Urie)” (Crazy Rich Asians, by Kevin Kwan)

    This self-love anthem is bubblegum sweet and full of earworms, the “Shake it Off of the TS7 Era. It makes me think of lightning fast beach reads that you can’t put down and that feel so good to read but also have a deeper meaning to them. Just because it’s not the most lyrically advanced of her songs doesn’t mean this bop doesn’t deserve to be celebrated— it reminded me of how romances constantly get a bad rep (lol, see what I did there?) about being somehow lesser than other genres. But I love that Taylor doesn’t care about what other people think and is 100% focused on being her authentic self— just like the heroine of Crazy Rich Asians, Rachel Chu. When confronted with the wealth and expectations of her boyfriend Nick’s family (who don’t think she’s good enough for him), she insists it’s her individuality that makes her the perfect partner for him.

    17. It’s Nice to Have a Friend” (This Love Story Will Self-Destruct, by Leslie Cohen)

    This track might be my second favorite? It’s so different (Ukulele? Trombone? Is that what I’m hearing?) and such a contrast to the beginning of the album, the opener closes the door on a once meaningful friendship. It’s also a deceiving song, in that I’m still not 100% sure what it’s about (on third listen.) I think though, Swift is exploring the importance of friendship in all its forms: in childhood (“School bell rings, walk me home”) to adolescence “Something gave you the nerve/to touch my hand”) to romantic love (“Church bells ring, carry me home/rice on the ground looks like snow”). Ultimately, she may be saying that the most important thing about a romantic partner is that they make you feel like you have a friend—when you’re young, the thing that matters most is feeling seen by other people. If your lover is also your best friend, then you know they always have your back. A love story that takes place over two characters’ twenties, This Love Story Will Self-Destruct is about the missteps, betrayals, beautiful moments and connection that forms between two people over a decade.

    18.Daylight” (Evvie Drake Starts Over, by Linda Holmes)

    “My love was as cruel as the cities I lived in.” What a way to begin this album closer. Swift’s last tracks have a tradition of being the ones that are most emblematic of her current state of mind, but they also have developed certain themes over time. Renewal, starting over, self-reflection, and hope are all subjects Daylight sheds a little light on. She acknowledges past failings (“I wounded the good and trusted the wicked”) and what she wants for the future (“I once believed love would be [burning red]/but it’s golden”). A book that feels like daylight on your skin is what’s needed for this song, and I think Evvie Drake Starts Over is the perfect pick: a story about a woman still grieving the loss of her husband but who finds herself moving on with a former major league baseball player. Both of them have pasts they are healing from, but together, they find hope for the future. “I’ve been sleeping so long in a twenty-year dark night/and now I see daylight.”

    And, unlike (I think?) any other song in her catalogue, she speaks in the end, not sings, in a direct appeal to her audience. Her very last words are “You are what you love.” Well, I love Taylor Swift. I love a good song lyric to sink my teeth into, or to sing. I love love. And I love a good story, whether it comes from a song or a book, and when you’re done with the album, I hope you find some here. Leave a comment below with which books you’d pick for your fave Taylor songs!

    The post A Book for Every Song on <i>Lover</i>, Taylor Swift’s New Album appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jen Harper 3:00 pm on 2019/07/12 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , city of girls, , , , , emily giffin commonwealth, , , , little fires everythwere, , , , , , the female persuasion, , ,   

    9 Books to Read If You Loved Mrs. Everything, June’s B&N Book Club Selection 


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    The Barnes & Noble Book Club selection for June, Jennifer Weiner’s Mrs. Everything, opens in 1950s Detroit with the Kaufman family living in a house that could have been pulled from the pages of sisters Jo and Bethie’s Dick and Jane books. But life for rebellious tomboy Jo and traditional good girl Bethie turns out to be far from storybook perfect as they endure loss, trauma, and tragedy.

    In an engrossing story that unfurls against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, and women’s liberation, Weiner beautifully explores the complicated relationship between these two sisters, who are on very different paths, and how they ultimately find common ground. But what is a reader to do after finishing Mrs. Everything and discussing it at your local B&N Book Club meeting on July 16 at 7 p.m.? Well, we’ve rounded up your next nine reads to keep you busy until next month. Check out our readalike picks for Mrs. Everything.

    The Most Fun We Ever Had, by Claire Lombardo
    Like Weiner’s Mrs. Everything, Lombardo’s stunning debut novel spans the decades, following one family through the many seasons of their complicated lives and loves. David and Marilyn fell in love in the 1970s and had what their daughters—Violet, Wendy, Liza, and Grace—saw as a perfect partnership filled with passion and affection. But in 2016, the four Sorrenson offspring are all struggling to replicate the relationship their parents had as they find their lives filled with tumultuous complications—addiction, an unwanted pregnancy, lies, self-doubt, and more. As the sisters uncover secrets about each other, they also begin to learn that perhaps their parents’ union wasn’t as perfect as it seemed. In the same spirit of Mrs. Everything, The Most Fun We Ever Had navigates the complexity of family dynamics in a rich page-turner that Weiner’s fans won’t be able to put down.

    Summer of ’69, by Elin Hilderbrand
    For readers who loved taking a step back in time with the Kaufman sisters in Weiner’s latest, Hilderbrand delivers a perfect warm-weather read with her new novel set against the backdrop of an iconic American summer in 1969 Nantucket. The four Levin siblings have always looked forward to spending summers at their grandmother’s house, but like everything else going on around them in America, the only constant for the family seems to be change. Blair, the oldest sister, is pregnant with twins and stuck in Boston; civil rights activist Kirby has taken a summer job elsewhere; the family’s only son, Tiger, has been drafted and sent to Vietnam; and 13-year-old Jessie is the only one at the Nantucket home with her disconnected grandmother and worried mother, who’s taken to drinking. Like Weiner, Hilderbrand weaves an intriguing tale of finding strength in siblinghood.

    City of Girls, by Elizabeth Gilbert
    “At some point in a woman’s life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all the time,” muses Gilbert’s City of Girls protagonist Vivian Morris. “After that, she is free to become whoever she truly is.” The same sentiment could well have come from either of Weiner’s strong female leads in Mrs. Everything, and readers will be similarly drawn into Vivian’s tale, which begins in 1940 when she’s just 19 years old and follows her all the way to 89 years old, now reflecting on her life. When Vivian is expelled from Vassar in 1940, her parents send her to live in New York with her Aunt Peg, who owns a rundown theater. It’s against this backdrop that free-spirited Vivian begins to explore her own independence and sexuality, eventually becoming embroiled in a professional scandal that will impact her for years to come in Gilbert’s striking new work.

    The Female Persuasion, by Meg Wolitzer
    Writing about female power and the exploration of women’s role in society is nothing new for Wolitzer, but her latest read is especially timely and incredibly compelling. Like Mrs. Everything, The Female Persuasion deftly takes on some difficult topics like sexual assault and how these horrific events shape her heroine. Greer Kadetsky is a college freshman when she is groped at a party by a repeat offender, and in the aftermath, a friend takes Greer to see a speech by famed feminist magazine editor Faith Frank, who alters the course of Greer’s life in unimaginable ways. Wolitzer’s book about ambition, power, and what it means to be a woman in an ever-changing world is filled with complex female characters that will have readers quickly turning the pages, yet not wanting the book to end.

    First Comes Love, by Emily Giffin
    Giffin is a master when it comes to crafting tales of romance, family, and friendship, and the case is no different with First Comes Love. Much like Weiner’s Kaufman sisters, Josie and Meredith Garland had a loving relationship growing up, but following a family tragedy, their bond fractures. Now 15 years later, the anniversary of their shared loss looms, and the two women, now both in their 30s, are on very different paths. Single Josie feels like she’s done with dating but desperately wants a child. Meredith has a picture-perfect life on the outside—successful career, husband, and a 4-year-old daughter—but inside she feels restless and dissatisfied. As secrets begin to surface and the women are forced to confront the issues that pulled them apart, they also find the courage to listen to their own hearts about what’s really important.

    Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett
    Drawing on her own life story, Patchett has crafted a memorable tale of the aftermath of a drunken kiss that ultimately destroys two marriages. After Bert Cousins and Beverly Keating leave their spouses to be with each other, the six Cousins and Keatings children form a lasting bond over their shared disillusionment with their parents while spending summers together in Virginia. In her 20s, one of the siblings, Franny, shares the family’s story with a prominent author, and suddenly, the Cousins’ and Keatings’ story—including a tragic shared loss—is no longer their own. Patchet’s nonlinear timeline and rotating cast of characters show how the differing points of view affect how events both major and everyday are remembered, lending even more depth to a story sure to be loved by fans of Mrs. Everything.

    Swing Time, by Zadie Smith
    Smith expertly weaves together moments of the present day and of memories from the past in her extraordinary book about two girls who dream of being dancers—but only one has the skills to make it. Tracey, who has a white mother and a black father, is an incredible tap dancer, while her good friend—the unnamed narrator—is hampered by her flat feet. The two have a close but complicated childhood friendship, which comes to a sudden end in their early 20s, the effects of which continue to reverberate for many years to come. Readers who were enthralled with the complex relationship between the sisters in Weiner’s Mrs. Everything will love Smith’s Swing Time.

    Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng
    Those who couldn’t put Mrs. Everything down will likely find themselves staying up into the wee hours to finish Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere. In the compelling drama, free-spirited artist Mia moves with her teenage daughter, Pearl, to a home owned by the Richardson family in Shaker Heights, an affluent Cleveland suburb where everyone is expected to follow the town’s social status quo. Mia quickly befriends Elena Richardson and her family, who are all drawn to the enigmatic single mom. So when Mia opposes the Richardson’s family friends’ controversial custody battle for a Chinese-American baby, Elena Richardson turns against her, determined to uncover Mia’s closely held secrets at all costs.

    The Nest, by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
    Lots of families have dysfunction, but the Plumb family in The Nest really kicks it up a notch. The author expertly infuses dark humor into the tale of the now-middle-aged Plumb siblings—Leo, Beatrice, Jack, and Melody—who are awaiting the division of their trust fund, or “the nest” as the foursome call it, that their father left them following his untimely death when the kids were adolescents. The nest has been growing ever since, to be divvied up when the youngest turns 40. All of the siblings are desperate to get their hands on their share of the money, only to learn that it’s now in jeopardy thanks to the medical bills of a young woman who was badly injured when a drunk and high Leo crashed his car with her as the passenger. Beatrice, Jack, and Melody all prepare to confront their brother, fresh out of rehab, in this intoxicating story of how family has the power to both let you down and pull you back up, which will surely appeal to those who have just finished Weiner’s latest read.

    What books would you recommend for readers who loved Mrs. Everything?

    The post 9 Books to Read If You Loved <i>Mrs. Everything</i>, June’s B&N Book Club Selection appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • BN Editors 6:00 pm on 2019/06/17 Permalink
    Tags: a woman of of no importance, , best of 2019, black leopard red wolf, city of girls, , every man a hero, , furious hours, , land of the ozarks, , midnight in chernobyl, must read list, , , , supermarket, the border, , , the lost girls of paris, the matricarch, the moment of lift, , the second mountain, , , , women rowing north   

    The Best Books of 2019… So Far 


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    The year isn’t over, but so many fantastic new books have already been published, that we would feel amiss if we didn’t stop to recognize some of our favorite reads thus far. Divided in separate lists of fiction and nonfiction, here are 30 books that have amazed and inspired us in 2019.

    Fiction

    Ask Again, Yes, by Mary Beth Keane
    Readers will immediately feel pulled into this absorbing story of two families whose lives are forever entwined. As next-door neighbors in a New York suburb, and colleagues at the police department, Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope first met in the 1970s. The two men were never exactly friends, but in the ensuing years, their children Peter and Kate have grown up together and are quite close. When a shocking act tears the neighbors apart, can either family find a way back from the depths of trauma? Will Peter and Kate’s now-forbidden relationship overcome their parents’ misgivings? Keane’s new book is tender and wise, literary fiction of the highest caliber.

    How Not to Die Alone, by Richard Roper
    Years ago, Andrew made a split-second decision to pretend he was a family man in order to secure a job. His seemingly benign lie has come back to haunt him when a new employee and mentee, Peggy, enters his life and his heart. Like the rest of Andrew’s colleagues, Peggy assumes Andrew is married with two daughters, so how can he come clean after all this time? Each moment of his career feels like a glimpse into his own future; as an administrator in the U.K.’s Death Council, Andrew is responsible for going through the belongings of people who have died alone. If Andrew doesn’t make some changes, he may very well share their fate. Don’t miss this clever, poignant read.

    Sunset Beach, by Mary Kay Andrews
    Drue Campbell’s life isn’t going the way she expected. Once a gifted athlete, an injury has ended that dream before it began. She’s jobless and unmoored, and when her estranged father shows up at her mother’s funeral, having recently married her high-school frenemy, things seem to go from bad to worse. But then she finds out she’s inherited her grandparents’ beach house, and her father offers her a job at his personal injury law firm, which she takes in desperation. Fielding phone calls isn’t very exciting—until she stumbles into a murder mystery that leads her to an old cold case involving a missing person that might be connected to her own family. Drue’s life is still not going the way she expected, but she’s certainly not bored. A sharp, fast-paced novel with a quirky, unconventional protagonist, this one is an unforgettable beach read with bite.

    The Border, by Don Winslow
    After losing everything but his career in the war against drug kingpin Adán Barrera, Art Keller finds himself at the top of the DEA, with Barrera defeated. But the war on drugs has come home in a flood of cheap heroin that’s killing Americans at a record pace. As Keller moves to block this deadly invasion, he finds himself fighting not Mexican drug cartels, but his own bosses in Washington. Politically motivated enemies are one thing, but Keller begins to suspect the shocking truth—the incoming administration is actually partnered with the very cartels he has spent his life fighting. Winslow concludes his bloody, operatic trilogy delving into the chaotic war on drugs with a suitably intense final act.

    The Confessions of Frannie Langton, by Sara Collins
    Set in the early 19th century, this story follows Frannie, a slave owned by John Langton, who is given to George Benham in London. Benham has Frannie spy on his wife, Meg, whom he suspects of scandal, but Frannie and Meg become lovers. When George and Meg are found murdered, Frannie is arrested—but claims she cannot remember the events leading up to their deaths. This breathtaking novel combines all the pleasures of a historical romance and a murder mystery, made all the more complex and tragic by Frannie’s status as a slave.

    The Unhoneymooners, by Christina Lauren
    Olive Torres has found herself at a bit of a low point. She’s just been laid off, for one, and now she has to spend her twin sister’s wedding attached to best man Ethan Thomas, who just happens to be her nemesis. Then something rather horrible but also rather wonderful happens: Everyone in the wedding party gets a bad bout of food poisoning. Ethan and Olive, however, are not afflicted, which means they get to go on the honeymoon that the bride and groom can no longer enjoy. The two form a temporary truce and head off to Maui, where they soon realize they have more in common than they’d ever imagined. This witty, heartfelt, enemies-to-lovers romance will leave you utterly charmed.

    City of Girls, by Elizabeth Gilbert
    Gilbert serves up a frothy mixture of period piece, salacious gossip-girl drama, and coming-of-age energy as she tells the story of 19-year old Vivian Morris. Vivian, kicked out of Vassar, is sent to live with her Aunt Peg in New York City as World War II boils over across the ocean. The move suits Vivian just fine, as she finds working at her aunt’s disreputable theater, drinking and flirting in nightclubs, listening to jazz music and falling in love with an actor to be the best possible way to spend her time. As Vivian is slowly forced to face the consequences of her actions and her adventures, she also becomes aware that her privileged existence is in sharp contrast to the horrors unfolding around the world as Gilbert expertly ramps up the psychological complexity in this gorgeously told story.

    Supermarket, by Bobby Hall
    This first novel written by Bobby Hall—a.k.a., rap star Logic—is a dense, dark thriller that will keep surprising you. Flynn is a depressed young man who takes a job at a supermarket because he needs something—anything—to give him a reason to get out of bed in the morning and leave his mother’s house. At the store he journals, observing the weirdos and freaks he works with, the customers, and the adorable coworker he’s falling for. When a horrible crime is committed at the supermarket, everything changes, and Flynn begins questioning his reality. It’s no surprise this sublimely creative breakout novel became an instant bestseller.

    On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong
    This nonlinear roman à clef debut from a critically lauded poet is written as though from a son to his illiterate mother. It depicts a family history of intergenerational abuse mixed with fierce love. The letter writer, known as Little Dog, feels like an outsider in a variety of ways. As a teenager, he emigrated to America from Vietnam with the three women who make up his world: mother, grandmother, and aunt, each traumatized by the Vietnam War. As a young gay man, and the first of his family to attend college, he attempts to reconcile the violence of the past with a future that won’t hold still or accommodate narrative conclusions. In short, it’s like real life: messy, tragic, lovely, and painful all at once.

    The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides
    Six years ago, artist Alicia Berenson painted a psychologically dense work based on a Greek myth, then allegedly tied her husband, Gabriel, to a chair and shot him in the face. Alicia hasn’t spoken a word since, spending her time in a drugged daze at the Grove, a secure forensic facility in North London. Theo Faber is the wounded, gifted psychotherapist who convinces Alicia’s doctors to let him try to get her to speak. Theo’s work with the silent patient is interspersed with excerpts of Alicia’s diary leading up to the day of Gabriel’s murder. As the clues about what truly happened begin to fall into place, Theo’s personal and professional worlds blur dangerously, leading to an explosive conclusion.

    The Sentence is Death, by Anthony Horowitz
    The second novel in the addictive Daniel Hawthorne series features Hawthorne’s investigation into the murder of a famous divorce lawyer—found bludgeoned to death with a very expensive bottle of wine. But the victim wasn’t a drinker. And what’s to be made of his enigmatic last recorded words: “You shouldn’t be here. It’s too late…”? Horowitz’s famously recalcitrant detective is accompanied once again, in a brilliantly meta twist, by novelist/author Anthony Horowitz, whose inexperience in the arena of crime solving is made up for by his enthusiasm. This elegantly written series is full of shocking twists and manages to feel at once like a crime fiction classic, and a fresh, modern take on the genre.

    The Lost Girls of Paris, by Pam Jenoff
    An abandoned suitcase discovered in Grand Central Terminal in 1946 contains the photographs of twelve female spies. The owner of the suitcase has been killed and now it’s up to young war widow Grace Healy to uncover what happened to the women who were sent behind enemy lines, never to return. Grace is joined by her late husband’s best friend, Mark, as she digs for the truth about the group’s leader and its most vulnerable spy, a young mother named Marie who worked as a radio operator sending covert transmissions out of Paris. Perfect for fans of Resistance Women and Lilac Girls.

    A Bend in the Stars, by Rachel Barenbaum
    With the real-life solar eclipse of 1914 as its inspiration, this heartpounding historical drama set in WWI-era Russia depicts the Abramov siblings at the most pivotal moment of their lives. Raised by their matchmaker grandmother, physicist Vanya and surgeon Miri (who is stigmatized because she’s a woman) have grown up to become formidable game changers in their respective fields. In fact, Vanya’s work could end up proving or disproving Einstein’s theory of relativity. But amid the outbreak of war, Vanya disappears and Miri must risk her life to locate him.

    Disappearing Earth, by Julia Phillips
    In this intense, original, must-read debut, two sisters vanish from the Kamchatka peninsula in Russia, and over the course of twelve chapters (each representing a month in the year that follows), readers will come to know the female denizens of the isolated, shoreline community as they respond in very different ways to the crime. From the girls’ mother, to witnesses, detectives, and other possible victims, every character is vividly rendered, as are the locations and histories that wind around the story like vines.

    Black Leopard, Red Wolf, by Marlon James
    This novel is a deeply literary work, bordering at times on the poetic in its imagery, but it is also enormously fun, with imaginative worldbuilding and a plot that is both measured and propulsive. The Black Leopard is a mercenary able to shape-shift into a jungle cat, and the Red Wolf, also called Tracker, is a hunter of lost folk, with an incredible sense of smell that enables him to hone in on his quarry from vast distances. Sometimes with Leopard and sometimes alone, Tracker works his way across Africa in search of a kidnapped boy, moving through a beautiful, densely detailed world of violence, storytelling, dark magic, giants, and inhuman entities.

    Non-Fiction

    From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home, by Tembi Locke
    In this vibrant and poignant real-life story of love, loss, and Sicilian cooking, actress Tembi Locke describes three summers she spent in Italy with her daughter, Zoela. Locke met her future husband, Sara, on a street in Florence—his traditional Sicilian family didn’t approve of the courtship with a black American who was also an actress. The two ultimately married and created a life in Los Angeles, before a devastating cancer diagnosis changed everything. Reconnecting with her husband’s family, Locke comes to find solace at the table of her mother in law, and discovers the healing power of family, community, and food. The book concludes with a large selection of the recipes that she describes, rounding out the experience of reading her moving story.

    Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster, by Adam Higginbotham
    The HBO series has provided a much-needed revival in interest in the 1986 accident in what was then Soviet Ukraine. Of course, there’s a great deal more to such a significant story then even a very well done miniseries can offer, so Higginbotham’s definitive, years-in-the-making chronicle is perfectly timed. The author spent over a decade conducting interviews and researching documents, some available for the first time, to provide a detailed accounting of not just the disaster, but of its context: of the time and place, of the carelessness and lies that made it seem almost inevitable, and of the difficult aftermath. This new accounting tells of Chernobyl through the stories of people who lived through it, making it both compelling history and a timely reminder of the costs of carelessness.

    Women Rowing North: Navigating Life’s Currents and Flourishing As We Age, by Mary Pipher
    A daughter, sister, mother, grandmother, caregiver, clinical psychologist, AND cultural anthropologist, Pipher is uniquely qualified to discuss the challenges and joys of aging for women in the modern world (more than two decades ago she similarly analyzed the difficulties of being a teenaged girl in the media age). Ageism becomes more prominent with each passing year, and misogyny never goes away, but Pipher also shows that older women can, and often do, turn their experiences and struggles into a reserve of wisdom and gratitude that can serve them well and lead to lasting happiness. Pipher doesn’t just offer platitudes, but real, sensible advice on things like life-centering exercises, finding friends and community, avoiding isolation, and even navigating end-of-life care in the face of loss. It’s an essential book for women stepping into old age (and those who hope to get there someday), but also for the loved ones of those women.

    Lake of the Ozarks: My Surreal Summers in a Vanishing America, by Bill Geist
    Author and recently retired CBS News correspondent Geist was popular for over three decades for his lighthearted, wonderfully corny human interest segments covering some of the weirder corners of American life. In his latest, the baby boomer looks back to his own childhood in the midcentury American midwest. Specifically, he revisits the middle-class summer vacation hot spot, Lake of the Ozarks, and the eccentric personalities who influenced Geist’s life and career. It’s a charming, often very funny, portrait of a bygone era.

    Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive, by Stephanie Land with Barbara Ehrenreich
    In her already acclaimed new memoir, Land recounts the years of her early adulthood, when a summer fling became an unexpected pregnancy, derailing (for a time) her hopes of college and a journalism career. In order to provide for herself and her child, the single mother worked maid service jobs by day while attending college classes at night, all the while writing about her experiences. She recounts her story here, shining a bright light on the stigma that attends being one of the working poor—of the judgement and dismissal by employers and government aid workers, and of the impossibility of sustaining a family on a minimum wage. The book is compassionate, but also honest and unflinching about what life is like for the people who often work the hardest for bare subsistence wages.

    Howard Stern Comes Again, by Howard Stern
    At some point, the king of shock jocks became true radio royalty with a career spanning over four decades and success across multiple mediums. His first book became a hit movie, and his second was also a bestseller—but that was over 20 years ago, and much has changed in the life of Howard Stern since, from hisdeparture from terrestrial radio, to his mega-bucks deal with SiriusXM, to shakeups in his personal life. It’s clear in this memoir that he has plenty of new stories to tell about his life, his celebrity encounters, and his perspective on the ever-changing realities of the radio business.

    Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee, by Casey Cep
    In the 1970s, one Reverend Willie Maxwell was accused of killing five of his family members for insurance money. After he had given the eulogy for the stepdaughter he’d allegedly murdered, he himself was shot by another relative. The same lawyer who defended the Reverend secured an acquittal for the vigilante. No one was more intrigued by the sordid story than Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, who spent years working on a never-published true crime work to rival that of her friend Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. In this fascinating new book, Casey Cep explores both the original crime and Lee’s obsessive, ultimately futile work to craft it into a powerful work of non-fiction.

    The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West, by David McCullough
    David McCullough, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, returns with an in-depth study of the settlement of the Northwest Territory, telling the stories of the hardy and fearless pioneers who traveled into the unknown determined to enlarge and enrich our country with their bare hands and at risk of their very lives. The movement west began sooner than most people realize, with the first settlers—veterans of the Revolutionary War—arriving in Ohio in 1788. McCullough tells the story of the town they carved out of the wilderness through the eyes of five historical figures, who becomes characters in a story about bravery, tragedy, diplomacy, and the conquest of a wilderness that wanted nothing more than to sweep them aside.

    Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered: The Definitive How-to Guide, by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark
    Kilgariff and Hardstark helm the immensely popular podcast ‛My Favorite Murder,’ and here offer a combination memoir and self-help book that crackles with their easy banter and personal chemistry. You might think self-help and true-crime—even the humorous kind of true crime the podcast trades in—would be an odd combination, but Kilgariff and Hardstark effortlessly link the two, showing how many of their own mistakes put them into vulnerable positions that wouldn’t be out of place as the introduction to an unsolved assault or murder. In the end, their message is simple and powerful: stop being polite and start advocating for yourself. That message is delivered with warmth and wit, making this a thoroughly enjoyable romp through the messy lives of two very interesting people.

    A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II, by Sonia Purnell
    “She is the most dangerous of all Allied spies. We must find and destroy her.” That was the message sent out by the Gestapo in 1942 regarding Baltimore socialite Virginia Hall, who had escaped to London from Vichy-controlled Paris and joined up with the spies at the Special Operations Executive. Referred to as “the limping lady” because of her prosthetic leg, she returned to France to coordinate the underground resistance effort. Her cover blown, she then escaped on foot to Spain before venturing back into France again to lead guerrilla forces in advance of the Normandy landing. Hall’s is an incredible true story, and its told like never before in this book by celebrated journalist and historian Sonia Purnell.

    Every Man a Hero: A Memoir of D-Day, the First Wave at Omaha Beach, and a World at War, by Ray Lambert and Jim DeFelice
    The number of individuals who can recount firsthand their experiences during World War II is sadly dwindling, but that doesn’t mean there are no new stories left to tell. Ninety-eight-year-old Ray Lambert was a combat medic and among the first wave of Allied soldiers to land at Omaha Beach on D-Day. Lambert grew up on a farm in Alabama during the Great Depression before he and his brother enlisted for service that took them to some of the war’s most important and harrowing battles. Timed for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landing, Lambert’s memoir is a powerful addition to the library of works about the greatest and most terrible conflict in history.

    The Second Mountain, by David Brooks
    Part of what makes finding meaning and purpose so difficult is there are so many ways we can seek to do it: we might do deep personal work. We might grow a family. We might lead a city through a crisis or head up a classroom. Everything from writing a book to praying in solitude can bring meaning to our lives and the wider world. Writer and commentator David Brooks has thought deeply about how to blend these commitments into a coherent whole that feels personal and full of purpose. In The Second Mountain, he encourages readers to understand their calling in life and engage with their world. His words will resonate with everyone from graduates to grandparents, but his real aim goes beyond individual readers. He hopes to infuse our entire society with more meaning and purpose. There is a powerful image in Brooks’ description of two mountains. Those who are striving for fame, security, or validation are on a mountain they’ll never stop climbing—if they do reach the top, they’ll realize the accomplishment feels hollow. Life is really about climbing off that mountain and onto a different one, built decision by decision, the shape of a meaningful life, full of days driven less by outer markers of success and more by how we can serve others. On that second mountain, we begin a quest to focus on others through work, faith, family, and service to the community.

    The Moment of Lift, by Melinda Gates
    No one can say Melinda Gates hasn’t had an impact on the world; she’s devoted much of her life to serving in powerful ways. In The Moment of Lift, she argues that if we lift up women, we will lift the entire world, including the people most desperately in need. As she details the issues women around the world face, including everything from child marriage to harassment, it’s impossible not to feel inspired to take action. If you’re not sure where to get started, Gates offers issues that will call to those on the second mountain. She encourages readers to join the movement in her new book; part manifesto, part memoir, and part call to action. We don’t need to be perfect to begin. We don’t need to become bodhisattvas to find purpose. We need simply to reflect, focus on what matters, and when the path curves, swerve toward meaning, service, and connection.

    The Matriarch: Barbara Bush and the Making of an American Dynastyby Susan Page
    Even before publication, this memoir of the former first lady made headlines for its candid observations about the current state of presidential politics, but journalist Page covers the entirety of Bush’s life, informed by extensive research, personal diaries, and interviews with family, friends, and Mrs. Bush herself during the last six months of her life. Sometimes controversial and frequently underestimated, Barbara Bush molded herself into the powerful head of a family that produced two United States presidents while navigating he rrole as a prominent woman across generations of change.

    The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777, by Rick Atkinson
    Rick Atkinson, best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning works on World War II, steps further back  in time to chronicle the first two years of the American Revolution. This is the first book of what will be a trilogy covering the entirety of the war. With an incredible level of detail and benefittingfrom new research (including access to materials only recently made available), Atkinson begins with the battles at Lexington and Concord and focuses on the lives of the extraordinary individuals who play key roles in the country’s founding and the subsequent, seemingly unwinnable conflict. This isn’t a whitewashed look back: the author considers the British perspective on the war and isn’t shy about exploring the hypocrisy of the slave-owning American leaders.

    What’s the best new book you’ve read in 2019?

    The post The Best Books of 2019… So Far appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Sarah Skilton 4:00 pm on 2019/05/30 Permalink
    Tags: big sky, city of girls, , , , , , , , , , mary alice monroe, , , the friends we keep, , the summer guests,   

    June’s Best New Fiction 


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    This month is packed with new releases from fan favorites Jennifer Weiner, Elin Hilderbrand, Elizabeth Gilbert, Kate Atkinson and more. Let the decades fall away as you immerse yourself in historical fiction set in Manhattan in the 1940s, Detroit in the 1950s, a beachside town in the summer of 1969, and a suburb in the 1970s. If you’re headed to a college or high school reunion this year, you’ll want to pack The Friends We Keep for the trip, all about a trio of former besties who attended University together and must now sift through the wreckage of the intervening years.

    Summer of ’69, by Elin Hilderbrand
    You’ll be forgiven if you didn’t know this was Hilderbrand’s first historical; in her expert hands, the titular summer comes to life in vivid colors. The story centers on 13-year-old Jessie, who spends her summer vacation at grandma’s house in Nantucket. With her three older siblings forging their own paths, unwilling or unable to join Jessie at the annual getaway, the teen feels out of sorts, and that feeling only increases as the country around her undergoes massive change, all set against the backdrop of Civil Rights protests, space travel, and political scandals.

    Mrs. Everything, by Jennifer Weiner
    Older sister Josette (Jo) and younger sister Elisabeth (Bethie) Kaufman grew up in Detroit in the 1950s, but that’s only the beginning this story, which spans the totality of their lives, interspersed with the growth of feminism during the past 60 years. Through adolescence, college, travel, marriage and motherhood (or not), through a great many changes and upheavals happening all around them, the siblings strive to find their place in a world that often doesn’t know what to do with women—especially women who question their roles in society. Though Jo and Bethie are specific in their experiences and viewpoints, they are also stand-ins for all women—their struggles are eminently relatable, and Weiner’s writing is exquisite.

    City of Girls, by Elizabeth Gilbert
    After her warmhearted artist-advice book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Gilbert returns to the loving arms of fiction with a look at the New York theatre world of the 1940s. Our octogenarian narrator, Vivian Morris, recounts the era that meant the most to her with gusto, good humor, and occasional regret. Having been kicked out of Vassar at 19, young Vivian moves in with her Aunt Peg in Manhattan and joins the eccentric family of misfits that make up the Lily Playhouse in midtown. Full of showgirls, first experiences, wartime heartache, true love, and hard-won acceptance, Girls looks to be a triumphant and moving story about finding one’s true self.

    Lost and Found, by Danielle Steel
    A single mom whose three children are now grown, photographer Maddie Allen finds her world thrown out of alignment when she suffers an accident that causes her to look back on her life and wonder: what if she’d made different choices, particularly regarding the men who came and went in her life? Determined to revisit the past with an eye toward her future, Maddie sets off on a cross-country road trip. From the east coast to the midwest and beyond, she reconnects with lost loves and attempts to figure out whether her decisions brought her and her family to the right place.

    Big Sky, by Kate Atkinson
    It’s been nine years since the previous Jackson Brodie mystery, but at long last the former military policeman turned P.I. is back with a new case that tests his personal and professional relationships like never before. What starts off as a routine “cheating spouse” case spreads like a disease into a broader murder-and-human trafficking case in the small coastal town where Brodie and his teenage son Nathan have been spending time together. The grim subject matter is balanced by Atkinson’s trademark wit and sympathetic, life-affirming characters.

    The Summer Guests, by Mary Alice Monroe
    Summer wouldn’t be summer without a new Monroe book to take to the beach. This year, however, her characters won’t be spending much time relaxing in the sand; it’s hurricane season along the South Carolina and Florida coasts, and a group of strangers find themselves seeking shelter at Grace and Charles Phillips’ horse farm in the mountains of North Carolina. The only thing the evacuees have in common is their relationship with their hosts. Whether bonding over their difficult circumstances or clashing over the personal issues they’ve all brought with them, working together to survive the storm will prove to be life-changing for each guest.

    The Most Fun We Ever Had, by Claire Lombardo
    A remarkably rich debut set in the Chicago suburbs from the 1970s to present-day, Fun chronicles the lives of the four adult Sorenson sisters (widowed Wendy, “perfect” Violet, neurotic Liza, and secretive Grace) and their parents, David and Marilyn, whose seemingly perfect marriage is perceived by their daughters as impossible to live up to (and they may be right). By the time you finish this unputdownable family saga, you’ll believe you’re a member of the Sorenson’s Illinois clan.

    The Friends We Keep, by Jane Green            
    A reunion among three college friends forms the heart of this novel about the plans we make when we’re young versus the life we’re living a few decades on. When supermodel Evvie, actor Topher, and “perfect wife” and PR guru Maggie were roommates in the mid-1980s at West Country University in England, the world was their collective oyster. Thirty years later, career destruction, relationship burnout, and marital heartache have broken them. Having lost touch with each other (as well as their previous hopes for the future), the trio re-connect, only to realize that secrets from their past are about to resurface as well.

    The post June’s Best New Fiction appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
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