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  • Tara Sonin 4:00 pm on 2019/10/18 Permalink
    Tags: amal el-mohtar, , , , , , joanne ramos, , , , readalikes, , , , , , , this is how you lose the time war, , vengeful,   

    9 Books to Read if You Loved The Testaments 

    In 1985, The Handmaid’s Tale  was published as a terrifyingly possible prophecy about the dangers of the small, seemingly insignificant choices that can lead even the most advanced, modern societies into a world that barely resembles the one they knew. Margaret Atwood is famous for saying that everything which occurs in the dystopian novel is pulled from real, recorded historical events—meaning that the fictional society known as Gilead could happen anywhere, even at home where we feel most safe.

    Legions of readers followed Offred’s story as a Handmaid in Gilead, one of many women forced to bear and relinquish children into the care of their captors. Offred’s first child, born in a free America, is stolen from her before the novel begins, and when the novel ends her fate is unknown, faded into darkness as the van she steps in may be taking her to freedom, or to her doom.

    In the thirty-five years since its publication, The Handmaid’s Tale has become an international bestseller and received the television treatment as a Hulu show starring Elizabeth Moss. But the fascination with the story has only led to more questions: what happened next? Did Offred survive? Did she have another child? How was Gilead created, and even more urgently: how did it fall?

    The Testaments (which was B&N’s September Book Club pick!) is Atwood’s answer to those questions: a new novel, taking place fifteen years after the conclusion of one that started it all. From the perspective of three different women (two within Gilead, one beyond its borders), the story follows both the early origins of Gilead and its essential founders as well as a dangerous plot to destroy the country from within.

    Without spoiling the revelations learned in the story, I can say The Testaments is a truly satisfying novel for both fans of the original book and the show (and fans of just the show can read it and will not be lost for a second) and answers most, if not all, of the questions offered above. The characters are complex and flawed, and their arcs—both redemptive and tragic—are wholly satisfying. For example, the architect of Gilead’s downfall will be a delightful surprise to fans of the show, and provides a future potentially award-winning turn for at least one actress who currently appears on it, should the show decide to pursue The Testaments as a continuation. But I will say this: If The Handmaid’s Tale was a prophet of doom for women’s rights, The Testaments is a beacon of hope. It is a manifesto on female courage and resilience, one that I think many readers will find welcome in 2019.

    When you finish it, check out our readalike picks below!

    Vox, by Christina Dalcher
    In The Testaments, the world is defined by keeping women subjugated, mainly in the name of reproduction. But in Vox, female subjugation has another, insidious element: women are no longer allowed to speak more than 100 words a day, or a device embedded into their skin will shock them. Jean McClellan, a former cognitive linguist (who lost her job as a result of these new laws) watches as her young daughter already knows to silence herself, expecting rewards for how little she speaks, and her teenage son sinks into dangerously abusive territory where he sympathizes with the government more than his own mother. But when an opportunity arises for Jean to regain her voice and fight the oppression from within, she knows this is her one and only shot to make a better life for her daughter and protect her only son from himself. She must engage in lies and deceit with the people she loves most in order to save them—that is, if she’s not caught first.

    Red Clocks, by Leni Zumas
    In an America eerily similar to that of Gilead’s beginnings, abortion is no longer legal. That of course doesn’t mean that people aren’t obtaining abortions, it means they are going outside the system, to women such as Gin, an herbalist who lives on the outskirts of a small Oregon town…who suddenly becomes a national spectacle when she is accused of and tried for providing such a service. Her story interweaves with that of three others: a single woman desperately trying to get pregnant before the law only allows married couples to have children; a mother of two in a dangerous marriage; and a teenage girl who finds herself pregnant with nowhere to turn. The characters are what make this novel memorable, as they all go to great lengths to get what they want in a world that forbids them to want anything.

    Grave Mercy, by Robin LaFevers
    How is a YA historical novel that takes place during Medieval France a readalike for The Testaments? Well, let me tell you: because in 14th Century Brittany, life for women was kind of like a dystopia. The main character of Robin LaFevers’ brilliant Grave Mercy is about to be married off to a terrible man and she has no say in the matter. In fact, women during this time often turned to convents and took sacred vows in order to gain more autonomy and freedom than they would have had as married mothers. That is what Ismae does—to escape bondage, she swears to serve the God of Death and in his service, kill other terrible men who deserve it. The elite sisterhood of assassins she joins makes her feel powerful for the first time in her life…until she falls in love with a man she doesn’t entirely trust. Romance, swordplay, and feminism all in one series—of which there are five books to binge!

    Vengeful (Vicious #2), by V.E. Schwab
    No one writes villains the way V.E. Schwab does. The first book in this duology, Vicious, focused on male villainy, when two friends at college discover the secret to developing ExtraOrdinary superpowers and as a result, become enemies each bent on destroying the other. The second book, though (which should technically be read after Vicious for continuity’s sake) is all about female anger, villainy…and justice? This is where it connects to the world of The Testaments for me; it’s a novel in which we see female characters do terrible things in order to attain justice. In Vengeful, women take center stage and are determined to use their ExtraOrdinary abilities not only for self-preservation, but for ultimate power, no matter the cost.

    This is How You Lose the Time War, by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
    Readers of The Testaments who love watching the ultimate takedown of Gilead from within will love this unique sci-fi novella about two agents on opposite sides of a war throughout time. Red and Blue are supposed to be enemies, but when they start exchanging letters , that begins to change. With literally out-of-this-world prose that sets the pages on fire, the love story that unfolds against the backdrop of tyrannical rule is an unforgettable reminder that even in the darkest of times, love wins.

    Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
    Gilead’s beginnings are not just rooted in patriarchy, but in a global health crisis: plummeting fertility rates force people into extreme panic, during which a fringe group seizes control. Station Eleven also begins with a health crisis, but a different one: an flu pandemic that ravages most of modern society, forcing the world into a version of the Dark Ages where people search for pockets of the civilization they once knew. This literary page-turner follows a group of actors as they perform Shakespeare twenty years after the collapse of modernity. When a dangerous prophet threatens the peaceful existence they’ve managed to carve out for themselves, the survivors have a choice to make that could determine their survival.

    The Farm, by Joanne Ramos
    Possibly the most direct readalike on the list, this novel is about women who have children for other women in a place known as the Farm. The deal is this: a huge payday in exchange for nine months of your time growing a baby that, once birthed, will go to the person who paid for it. Jane agrees to be a ‘Host’, but soon realizes there’s another, hidden cost to this agreement: she can’t leave as long as she’s pregnant, or she forfeits the fee she so desperately needs to help her actual family, the one she loves beyond the walls of the Farm. An eerie, modern approach to similar questions addressed by Atwood’s novels.

    What did you think of The Testaments?

    The post 9 Books to Read if You Loved <i>The Testaments</i> appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Tara Sonin 2:00 pm on 2019/09/23 Permalink
    Tags: , fake like me, , , , , necessary people, , readalikes, straight man, temper, , very nice, white tears,   

    12 Books to Read Before Binge-Watching Netflix’s The Politician 

    Picture this: a high-stakes election, a pathologically-ambitious politician, sex, scandal, violence, and social media…and no, I’m not talking about our IRL political climate. I’m talking about Ryan Murphy’s Netflix show, The Politician, airing September 27th and starring Ben Platt (of Dear Evan Hansen fame) with a star-studded cast including Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Lange, Zoey Deutsch, and many more. If the trailer is any indication, it promises to be high-stakes, horrific, and even a bit hilarious. Until all the episodes drop, here’s a list of thrilling reads—political, psychological, domestic, and criminal— to keep your darker impulses at bay.

    Election, by Tom Perrotta
    It may be the most linear comparison to the upcoming Netflix show, but this novel about a (female) pathologically ambitious high-school politician willing to do whatever it takes to win inspired the movie of the same name starring Reese Witherspoon. Tracy Flick is unlikeable but seemingly unstoppable in her pursuit of power over the student body until a teacher intervenes and convinces a student to run against her. The book may be over twenty years old now, but it may ring more true today than ever before in this age of competition, social media comparison, and the cut-throat college application process.

    Fake Like Me, by Barbara Bourland
    Fraud. Sounds fun, right? Not to the protagonist of this art-themed thriller in which an up-and-coming artist has a terrible decision to make when her studio burns down with the majority of her next gallery collection within it. With only three months until the opening and her entire career (not to mention a lot of money) on the line, she decides to conceal the truth of what was damaged in the fire and re-create the ruined pieces without anyone finding out. That involves a trip to an exclusive and secretive artist’s commune where one of her artistic idols—who died of suicide—created her work. That’s as much as I can say about the plot without spoiling the twists I never saw coming. It is a fascinating commentary on the value of art, and the dangers of it.

    Necessary People, by Anna Pitoniak
    The line between best friends and enemies is a just-sharpened blade, and this novel cuts deep. When two girls from different backgrounds collide, their friendship is so propulsive that even Stephen King blurbed this book, saying he “couldn’t stop reading.” Stella is the heiress who has everything she wants; Violet is used to cleaning up everyone’s messes, especially Stella’s. Until now, when Stella starts to infringe on the purposefully separate career Violet has cultivated for herself. Now, Violet wants her “friend” to stop taking credit for the work she’s done behind the scenes, and realizes it might be necessary to bring the privileged down a peg in order to truly shine on her own.

    Very Nice, by Marcy Dermansky
    The scenario of this novel is my personal nightmare in book form: a creative writing student, her professor, and her mother engage in a twisted love triangle. Here is how it happens: Rachel seduces her creative writing professor, who also happens to be a well-known author. When he goes home to visit a relative, she takes care of his dog at her own childhood home…where her mother, a beautiful woman mourning her marriage, takes to it. So when Zahid, the professor, shows up and finds himself falling for Rachel’s mother instead…chaos ensues. A book that examines wealth, privilege, and creativity, Very Nice seems to be about what happens when “nice” people take off their veneer and reveal their true selves.

    Macbeth, by Jo Nesbo
    Shakespeare’s Macbeth is one of the original political thrillers, about a man who kills his king in order to ascend to power. In this retelling by one of the preeminent Scandinavian crime noir writers, the 1970’s get the Shakespearean treatment when Duncan, the chief of police, believes he can rid a small town of its unshakeable drug problem. Macbeth leads SWAT, and through a manipulation by one of the town’s own drug lords, finds himself sinking to the lowest of possible lows in order to establish himself. If the Bard himself has always felt intimidating but you want to give Macbeth a try, this is the retelling to start with.

    Furious Hours, by Casey Cep
    My one nonfiction pick for this list, Furious Hours tells the story of a vigilante murderer who was acquitted for killing a preacher accused of killing his own family. If that weren’t fascinating enough, add this to the mix: Harper Lee, the celebrated author of To Kill a Mockingbird, was researching the murders. The intersections of fiction, revenge, drama, celebrity, and truth all make for a deeply-researched and narratively compelling tale that asks as many questions about humanity as it answers.

    White Tears, by Hari Kunzru
    When Seth records a musician in the park, and Carter puts it online, they never expect a response. After all, they claim the recording is ancient, and sung by a musician who doesn’t exist, whose name they just made up. Except, according to a music collector, he does exist. The two white boys are plunged headfirst into what is either a ghost story, a crime, or both—and raises questions about race, identity, and who music actually belongs to; those who make it, or those who consume it?

    The Secret History, by Donna Tartt
    What are the consequences of excellence? That’s one of the main questions in this part murder-mystery, part coming-of-age novel in which a group of college students are influenced by a Classics professor. From the very beginning, you know one of them ends up dead, but the who, how, and why of it all is told through the eyes of Richard, a blue-collar West Coast transplant to the college who wants to fit in. As part of their curriculum, they enmesh themselves in the rituals of the ancient Greeks, which is all well and good in theory, until an accidental death becomes an actual murder. How they process what they’ve done and why leads for a shivering tale of friendship.

    Luckiest Girl Alive, by Jessica Knoll
    Ani has rid herself of the past: her reputation, her insecurities, and even her old name, TifAni. Now a successful writer at a magazine with a powerful, rich fiancé, she believes she’s armored herself with everything she needs to get through her upcoming wedding—and a documentary around her scandalous past—unscathed. But Ani, while ambitious, cut-throat, and determined, has forgotten one thing: that while she can coat the past in candy, biting into it will break her teeth. The truth will out in this non-linear New York Times bestselling psychological suspense in which the reader races towards the truth Tif/Ani has tried so hard to bury, especially as her need to control the narrative (like, some might say, a politician) threatens to destroy her present. My favorite thing about this thriller? That by the end, we completely understand why Ani did what she did—and maybe, in fact, wish she’d gone even further in her cold-blooded pursuit of power.

    Temper, by Layne Fargo
    What is politics if not theater on a grander scale? That’s why I’m recommending this thriller that takes place in the Chicago theater scene. An ambitious actress meets her match in a controlling theater executive director as they both vie for the affection and approval of the mercurial lead actor. Tension lingers on every page as the characters propel themselves into passionate, and sometimes violent, circumstances, all the while justifying their falls from grace as being necessary for the success of their upcoming performance.

    Wonder Boys, by Michael Chabon
    They were once the “wonder boys”; full of potential and certain to live up to it. Now, Grady is a professor who can’t seem to finish his novel the way he’s finished three of his marriages, and Terry is an editor with a bit of a #MeToo problem. The possibility and promise that was once theirs has descended to a new generation. What is there to do with all that wasted time but find yourself implicated in a crime? A celebrated writer explores what happens when your youth was spent being celebrated, and your adulthood is spent making more mistakes than you ever thought you’d be capable of.

    Straight Man, by Richard Russo
    Witness the unraveling of a man in this impossible to put down novel about an English Department chair who loses everything—including it—in the span of a single week. Like The Politician’s trailer, with its dark humor interspersed with moments of character catastrophe, this novel tackles one man’s undoing with equal amounts slapstick and suspense.

    Are you excited for The Politician?

    The post 12 Books to Read Before Binge-Watching Netflix’s <i>The Politician</i> appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Tara Sonin 6:00 pm on 2019/09/05 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , readalikes, , , , , , , ,   

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

    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: , , , , , , , , , , , readalikes, , , , , , , , , this love story will self-destruct   

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

    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 2019/08/14 Permalink
    Tags: americanah, brown girl in the ring, chandler baker, , , , lisa taddeo, , meg ellison, nalo hopkinson, , paradise, readalikes, , rory power, the book of the unnamed midwife, , three women, , , whisper network, wilder girls   

    10 Books to Read After the Season Finale of The Handmaid’s Tale Season 3 

    Once you’re recovered from the roller coaster of emotions that was the season three finale of The Handmaid’s Tale, the long wait until season 4 will start to set in. What will you do with your Wednesday nights without cheering on the fall of Gilead? Here are 10 books (plus a bonus) we recommend to get you through the post-season slump.

    Vox, by Christina Dalcher
    One of the creepiest parts of the new season was (mild spoiler alert!) the violent way Handmaids were silenced during the Waterford’s visit to D.C. Vox‘s entire premise is based on the silencing of women, literally: allotted only 100 words per day and violently punished if they exceed it, women in this version of America have been robbed of their voices, their careers, and their dignity. But when one former cognitive linguist (aka, a badass lady scientist of words) is recruited by the higher echelon of the government to work on a cure for a Very Important Person’s brain injury impacting their speech, she decides that this (and her added allotment of words per day) is her opportunity to seek justice. Not just for her, but for her young daughter, who has grown up being silent, and her teenage son, whom she watches becoming more indoctrinated into this toxic system each day. A gripping read with twists and turns I never saw coming!

    Red Clocks, by Leni Zumas
    Some of the most gorgeous and brutal writing I’ve ever read is in this book. Three POVs are followed throughout the story: a single teacher who is afraid that if she doesn’t get pregnant soon, she’ll miss her window to have a child—since in this patriarchy-defined version of America, adoption is only allowed for married couples; a teenage girl dealing with an unplanned pregnancy; and an outcast woman living beyond the confines of modern society who becomes the target of a smear campaign when rumors run wild that she performs abortions. As the ticking clock of when additional restrictions will be placed on women runs down, these stories intersect in powerful and unexpected ways, making the reader question what it means to be a woman, a mother, and a friend.

    Whisper Network, by Chandler Baker
    A novel with a ripped-from-the-headlines premise (and recent Reese Witherspoon bookclub pick!), Whisper Network is all over everyone’s TBR. Sloane, Ardie, Grace, and Rosalita are bound together by their work for Truviv, Inc. But they become even more united when the CEO dies and their boss, Ames, is set to ascend into the role. The problem? Ames is the subject of many, many whispers. When these women decide to bring those shadowy accusations into the light, none of their lives will ever be the same. Not a dystopia, but sometimes reality can be even eerier when we look at the relationships between men and women in corporate America, and the cost of speaking truth to power.

    Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    Another book where dystopia isn’t needed to show the impact of real toxic systems on real people, Americanah follows Ifemelu and Obinze, a couple in love, as they flee tyrannical Nigeria and attempt a life together in the West. But soon they are separated by forces beyond their control. Many years pass, and when they return to Nigeria— now democratized— they are different people, scarred by the ramifications of their individual lives in post 9/11 America and living undocumented in London. With searing, soaring prose and unforgettable characters, the harsh realities of being African, Black, Male, and Female are explored with great depth and authenticity.

    Paradise, by Toni Morrison
    One of the consistent critiques of The Handmaid’s Tale show is its handling of people of color, especially women. The great Toni Morrison is a necessary author to read to understand that for many PoC, this country is already a dystopia. Set in an all-black town in Oklahoma originally founded by former slaves, Paradise deals with events of harrowing violence, racism, abuse, and more. Like The Handmaid’s Tale, though, it focuses on the communities created by women, for women, in times of crisis, and with Morrison’s unforgettable, almost magical prose, its impact is indelible.

    Three Women, by Lisa Taddeo 
    A new non-fiction book thoroughly researched by author Lisa Taddeo (seriously, she talks in her introduction about how she moved to the towns as the women she was interviewing in order to become part of their communities!) Three Women has taken bookshelves by storm. It follows, as the title suggests, three individual women as they wrestle with sexual desire, trauma, the impact of sexism and misogyny, and more. Each of them feels trapped, in one way or another— usually because of the choices of men. The stories are true, but read like fiction: a woman who, as a teenager, had a Twilight-inspired affair with a married teacher; a restaurant owner who ‘swings’ with a dangerous partner; a mother unsatisfied with the lack of intimacy and sex with her husband. If nonfiction is usually a non-starter for you, consider giving this one a try.

    The Power, by Naomi Alderman
    Have you ever heard a woman say she always knows where men are on any given street she’s walking on…like she has eyes in the back of her head? Well, this book imagines that men might be the ones who have something to fear when teenage girls can torture and kill if they want to. Follow four perspectives of people whose lives are irrevocably altered when this power emerges, and remember the metaphor that Handmaid’s Tale also drives home: that the power for evil is certainly within us, and if provoked, we can unleash it.

    Wilder Girls, by Rory Power
    Speaking of teenage girls with incredible power, while this YA dystopian “retelling” of sorts is inspired by Lord of the Flies, I like this book for Handmaid’s Tale fans, too. A mysterious illness called The Tox has taken out many people in Heddy’s life, to the point where she and her still-uninfected friends can’t venture beyond the walls of their school for risk of coming into contact with it. That is, until someone close to her goes missing. Then, Heddy will unleash the wildness within her and venture into the dangerous beyond, no matter the cost. If whip-smart writing and a bit of body horror is your thing, check out Wilder Girls.

    Brown Girl in the Ring, by Nalo Hopkinson
    Imagine this: unlike in The Handmaid’s Tale, where Canada is a haven…in this novel, Toronto has fallen. Ruled with a tyrannical fist by a ruthless crime lord and rendered uninhabitable by the rest of society, the city is mostly disconnected from the outside world. People like the Black main character, Ti-Jeanne, are left to fend for themselves. Described by reviewers as “horror fantasy”, this book puts a woman of color at the center of a dangerous dystopia, giving her the ability to fight against the elements—including the father of her child, who has taken up with the very same crime lord who has destroyed the home she loves.

    The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, by Meg Ellison
    Since the Handmaids who aren’t pregnant on the show seem to function as midwives for the ones who are, a book about a midwife seemed appropriate to add to this list. Of course, it’s also a dystopia: the midwife is rendered irrelevant after a fever causes childbirth to become harmful to both mother and infant. But she’s still in danger, forced to travel under false names and disguised like a man…all with the hope of someday contributing to the rebirth of human society.

    The Testaments, by Margaret Atwood
    I had to plug the highly anticipated sequel to the original The Handmaid’s Tale book, didn’t I? Not available until September, unfortunately, but if you breeze through this list, it will be here before you know it! The Testaments takes place 15 years after Offred’s final appearance in the book, and as Atwood says herself: everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Gilead is in it.

    What books are going to help tide you over until The Handmaid’s Tale returns?

    The post 10 Books to Read After the Season Finale of <i>The Handmaid’s Tale</i> Season 3 appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
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