It's true -- bookstores are not just for print books! Get your ebooks from WORD, via Kobo.
You've all probably read at least one story about how print books are dying and how in 30 seconds or 30 years, we'll all be reading via microchips embedded in our brains. It may not surprise you to hear that we don't actually believe that! But we do think that reading digitally has its perks, and if you think so too, then we are still your source for advice and recommendations.
Here's a handy FAQ, and we've listed some of our favorites below to get you started.
CJ says: ""I thought I had tired of 'family dramas,' but then I saw August: Osage County on Broadway when it first premiered in 2007. It won the Pulitzer Prize and was recently made into a film starring Meryl Streep. Letts writes fiery dialogue that rivals Eugene O'Neill's A Long Day's Journey Into Night. This is easily my favorite play written in the past ten years. Nothing can prepare you for the Weston family. Just dive in."
Ryan says: "In Tenth of December Saunders dissects the sorrows of everyday life with a matchless tragicomic voice. To great effect, Saunders tones down the grotesque comedy of his earlier collections in favor of a warmer, more redemptive approach. Stories such as 'Puppy,' 'Tenth of December,' and 'Al Roosten' explore slow-burning tragedy with a boundless amount of wit and humanity, while fans of Saunders' more dystopian works will appreciate the unnerving 'Escape from Spiderhead,' 'My Chivalric Fiasco,' and my personal favorite, the dreamlike 'The Semplica Girl Diaries.' This is a collection overflowing with empathy, something we all need a dose of."
Kirby says: "This book is my ultimate new year, new me motivator. I make a point to read it frequently to remind myself that I am what I eat and having healthy eating habits is extremely important. Unfortunately, I am often times a cheeseburger, so Food Rules always helps get me back on track. The chapters are short and concise and the writing gets to the point while also being very informative. Everyone should read this book before eating their next meal!"
Molly says: "This tiny jewel of a book is pensive, heartbreaking, glorious and deftly, impeccably pieced together. Our narrator, known only as the wife, makes her way through endless everyday challenges: a crying baby, a shaky marriage, the never-ending task of reconciling the person you thought you'd be with the person it seems you actually are. Ovid, Rilke, Kafka, astronauts, I Can Has Cheezburger -- the things woven into her observations and consolations are familiar, but Offill’s brief, poignant snippets of a life are anything but ordinary. This little book is hard to explain and impossible to put down; at about 175 pages, you can devour it in one cold night."
Katie says: "This gritty collection from Kevin Barry plunges deep into the deterioration of the Irish everyman. Dark Lies the Island presses against challenging subject matter that at times riled a cringe of discomfort in me and at other moments brought about deep affection for the vibrant array of characters. Tough yet elegant in its lyrical nature, Barry's storytelling is flawless."
Christina says: "This book changed my bread-making life. It breaks the process down into easily digestible (har har!) parts so that you, the novice baker, can really understand what that sticky, inflating mess is that's sitting in front of you. Never shall a loaf defeat you again, and it's chock full of other recipes including pizza dough and sticky buns. Go ahead and re-gift that breadmaker you have taking up space on your counter. You won't need it."
Zach says: "Dirty Love is an extraordinary collection of stories, no less for its larger organization, its overlapping characters, and consequent internal resonance, than it is for its systemic empathy. The title story alone would be a worthy purchase but the book works best as a whole. (Also recommended: Townie)"
Chad says: "Teens hiding beers in the snow; weird high school parties; cover bands at the mall; coffee in filthy homes; and, wait, what, is that dad’s face on the news in the ocean? The first volume of Knausgaard’s autobiography-as-novel, My Struggle, is overflowing: with meditations on art, writing, family and, finally, death. And though an 'autobiography' of sorts, one does not require any familiarity with the author or his other works. Rather, all you need in an interest in any of the aforementioned, you know, the big, the small, the stupid, the beautiful, the unthinkable, and all the rest of it. Stunning."
Christine recommends: "I absolutely loved this newest work by the endlessly talented Laurie Halse Anderson (mother of our own Manager Emeritus Stephanie and tireless champion of indie booksellers and librarians everywhere). Teenager Hayley has had a tough few years bouncing from place to place as her veteran dad tries to escape from his hellish memories of his time in Iraq. The book is hard to put down from page one as we follow Hayley through her struggles in a new school trying to live a somewhat normal life despite her (and her dad's) psychological scars. There's some romance, some humor, and tons of heart, and I think it's a perfect crossover for YA readers and adults alike."
Emily says: "Perhaps I have a weakness for coming-of-age stories and novels that grapple with mental illness (this book is both), but I was truly impressed with Cornwell's debut, which centers on a mother and a daughter and the ways that mental illness has had an impact on them through generations. You're reading, you're enthralled by the story and the characters and the Jersey Shore in the summer, and sprinkled throughout are these wonderful sentences that make you stop, simple yet resonant like the clear ping of crystal stemware. It reminded me a bit of Simon Van Booy, and I don't think I've seen as strong and solid of a debut since Emily St. John Mandel."
Molly says: "In Ruth Ozeki's new novel [now available in paperback!], a writer named Ruth finds, on a cold Canadian beach, a parcel containing a watch, some letters, and a journal. As she reads the journal, growing obsessed with the young woman who wrote it, Ozeki's book shifts, so we read along with Ruth. The journal belongs to Nao, a Japanese girl who in turn is interested in the life of her grandmother, a Buddhist nun. Ozeki knits her two tales together with unexpected threads: quantum mechanics, Schrodinger's Cat, Buddhist practices, cultural divides, the internet, and the reader are all pieces of the whole. A Tale for the Time Being is both lonely and comforting, and very aptly named. It's a story that could only be written now, but it's a bridge between times."
Chad says: "Vasily Grossman's epic Life and Fate was 'arrested' by the KGB upon its completion in 1961. Too dangerous, the Soviet State said. So all known manuscripts were confiscated and destroyed, as was the ribbon with which the book was typed, as if the horrible truths of the the twentieth century could be mystically unwound from that tiny spool alone. Madness. Life and Fate is a book about individuals -- most notably, those surrounding Viktor Strum, a state experimental physicist whose work, though monumental, appears to threaten the party line. Consequently his world is turned upside down (many times over). He and his affiliates--family members, friends, and friends of friends -- spend time together over meals. They conduct scientific experiments in labs. They muse over books, huddled in trenches. They are under fire, in transit, in prison camps, in conversation. They are arrested; tortured; exiled. They disappear. Stalin the symbol permeates: he's all but infallible. Stalin the man appears: he is insecure. Hitler, upon losing at Stalingrad, muses on what it means to be a truly great man. For Grossman, no individual is too big or, more importantly, too small to be worthy of story. On par with War and Peace. I have been shaken."
Molly says: "Strange happenings force Oscar, a magician's assistant, out of his safe cellar room and into a world where children are falling terribly ill, and something big and scary is leaving a path of destruction through gardens and towns. People are a mystery to Oscar, but plants and herbs and cats are not - and those skills will turn out to be more useful than he expected. Fans of William Alexander's Goblin Secrets might look next to Ursu's magical tale."
Jenn says: "I can't stop telling people about this book, which follows a young girl who ends up on the high seas with a rag-tag group of pirates, her governess, and her magical gargoyle. I wish I could go back in time and give this to my 8-12 year old self. Recommended for every reader who has a sense of adventure and a strong imagination, especially fans of The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle and Alice in Wonderland. Carlson has written a smart, funny, and captivating debut, and begun a wonderful new series."
Emily says: "Going Clear is equal parts gossip and even-handed journalism, and Pulitzer Prize-winner Wright is a truly talented writer. The epilogue is masterful in the way it brings together so much and also cements the cultural analysis that is just beneath the surface of the rest of the book. In the end, I wonder whether the creation of a religion was, for Hubbard, the true pinnacle of being a good science fiction writer: he not only created a convincing world on the page, but he got people to truly believe in it."
CJ says: "I've read a lot of personal essay collections recently, but none have made me laugh out loud as much as Samantha Irby's Meaty. Her voice jumps off the page, telling it like it is and refusing to play nice. I found myself thinking, "Oh man, she totally gets it!" as she laments about loss, rants about messy men, and celebrates the joys of living alone. I want everyone to read this book -- especially men. This woman knows what she's talking about, and you should take some time to listen up."
Katie says: "Having moved to Berlin in the early 20th century, a young Walser recorded alluring insights into his burgeoning love affair with the city. Written with a certain familiarity accessible to anyone with an affection for urban living, Walser takes the ordinary stroll through the park, visit to the market, or experience at the theater and turns it into something intimately elegant. These stories offer the perfect escape during your crammed commute or any other time you need a reminder of what it is you love about city life."
Jenn says: "As the TV show version nears its 3rd season and I still can't get over how accurate Robert Taylor's portrayal of Walt is, I think it's high time to mention this series. The books are more or less what would happen if Lonesome Dove and The Long Goodbye had babies: hardboiled noir set on the plains of Wyoming. They're perfect winter reading, full of snowdrifts and storms and the chill of unpleasant memories."
CJ says: "The episodes of awkwardness, embarrassment, selfishness, and loneliness that exist in this collection hit humanity on the nose. Barbash's crisp, minimalist storytelling cuts to the chase and leaves his characters exposed. What particularly moved me were the incredible flaws of his older characters. Often, his youthful characters are flawed in the way youth is flawed, but are open, kindhearted people. The older characters, however, are self-seeking and completely, utterly lost. Each story is better than the next, and I am sure I will go back to them again."
Jenn says: "Through the lens of his own family's lives as citizens of Pakistan and the United States as well as through his extensive ancestry, Mufti examines the evolution of Pakistan from its formation to its current status. It's a huge project to undertake but he balances the personal with the political well, finding the human moments in history and the sweeping themes in everyday life. As a memoir and a biography of a nation both, it's well worth a read."
Molly says: "If I had my way, there would be a new Aimee Bender book every year (if not even more often). The details of her gorgeously written stories are often surreal -- in one, a girl travels with her sister to learn how to mend a wounded tiger; in the title story, an apprentice works to dye cloth the precise color of the moon -- but the feelings they evoke are bittersweet and familiar."
Emily says: The narrative flows with both a breathy intensity and a cool hollowness in Anne Marie Wirth Cauchon's debut novel, Nothing. The rise and fall of a toxic friendship, the pulsing house parties that stop after a girl dies, the wildfires and mountains, the middle class kid who hops trains to Missoula to find the truth about his father -- they swirl and converge and blur together like smoke in your eyes, but the light, it's sharpened and heightened somehow too. She captures perfectly that early adulthood wasteland where you're friends with people and you do things, but you're not really sure why anymore, and either the momentum carries you through or it doesn't, either you emerge at the other end of the tunnel or the walls come crashing down, and there's something about the dialog, the rhythm. I don't know, it's just that the ambivalence and hesitation and put-on confidence are exactly as they should be.
Chad says: "Filiberto Garcia is a foul-mouthed Mexican revolutionary turned gun-for-hire. He is, in his own cold estimation, nothing but a "stiff factory": the rough-around-the-edges killer in his faceless employers' games. A rumor drifts into Mexico City, downwind of Soviet Russia, and it joins the opium-filled air of the city's small Chinatown, an area Garcia is known to frequent: The Mexican and American presidents are to be assassinated in three days. Next thing Garcia knows, he's eating Cantonese with agents from both the KGB and the CIA. Their meetings are more Three Stooges than Three Musketeers, and Garcia is exhausted, in love, annoyed by the ludicrous antics of international intrigue, and increasingly aware that he's the only player that can actually figure anything out. Irreverent and unapologetic, The Mongolian Conspiracy is '60s noir to the core. It's dead serious and dead funny; it's fast-paced and wise. It's totally great."
Jenn says: "I never thought there would be another Bridget book -- what could possibly come after the triumphant reunion with Mark Darcy? Turns out: A WHOLE LOT. There are some serious sniffle-moments in Mad About the Boy, as well as the usual hilarity and hijinks. Watching Bridget tackle parenthood, texting, middle age, and many other trials and tribulations is like finally getting back in touch with a college roommate and getting tipsy (or squiffy, as Jonesy would say) as you hash out the last decade. Welcome back, Bridget. I missed you!"
Katie says: "Caitlin Moran is a leader both in how women should be writing and what they should be writing about. She comes with her guns blazing but offers thoughtful debates for the choices women have to make."
Katie says: "From About a Boy to How to Be Good, I've always found that the mastery of Nick Hornby lies in his knack for creating characters with whom readers can find camaraderie. Those found in High Fidelity (the story surrounding the owner of a small, London-based record shop) are no exception. While our leading man, Rob, knows what works in the world of music and has no qualms asserting his firm opinions on the subject, he's much less certain on how to feel about his girlfriend Laura getting together with the neighbor from upstairs. I often find myself re-reading the beginning of this book when I'm in need of a good laugh. The story unfolds with Rob listing off his top-five most memorable (and equally traumatizing) breakups and the lists only get better from there."
Emily says: "I was surprised to be so taken in by this book. It just reminded me that I shouldn't make assumptions about my own reading tastes, let alone anyone else's. In Alma Whittaker, we get to see firsthand the frustrations built in to being born privileged and brilliant -- and a woman -- in the early days of the American republic. And Gilbert has also crafted one of those rare novels that presents the reader with a life, a full life, and keeps your interest the whole time. I haven't read one done so well since John Williams' Stoner."
Jenn says: "NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names is a must-read, whether or not you find yourself drawn to international fiction. It follows a young girl who starts out as a child in Zimbabwe, first in a middle-class enclave and then a ramshackle village, and then goes to Michigan to live with relatives. It’s about alienation and suffering and being a kid and growing up too fast and what it’s like to try to find a home, and it’s affecting and wonderful."
Chad says: "With the rest of Colombia suffocating in his fist, drug kingpin Pablo Escobar opened a zoo. Many years later, two hippos escape. They are tracked and shot. This is the haunted madeleine gathering saliva in narrator Antonio Yammara's mouth. He remembers a sort-of-friend who was shot in the street following a game of billiards: Why? The Sound of Things Falling is Yammara's search for answers, and the ensuing pages are tragic: a sad, soft-spoken meditation on Colombia, memory, trauma, and flights in and out of each."
Jenn says: "This book is a moving target through and through, and trying to sum it all up feels impossible. Instead, here is a list of things you can expect: ‘90s and ‘00s references; mafioso and hackers and dotcom billionaires; unscrupulous government agents of uncertain affiliation; terrorism (this is, after all, a novel about 9/11); finances both legit and shadowy; conspiracy theories galore; underground videotapes and the Deep Web; murders; karaoke nights, parties, school playgrounds; and New York City, the most important character in the whole book, blazing and shady all at the same time."
Jenn says: "I don’t read a lot of horror. But when Lauren Beukes writes something (have you read her yet? READ HER), I read it. She’s smart, she’s political, and she’s one of those writers who manages to turn the world on its ear while making it look easy. Her newest novel, The Shining Girls, just came out and wow. It’s a serial killer story, with time travel, set in Chicago between the 1930s and the 1990s. It’s complicated and dark and gory and almost gave me nightmares, and I feel like if you have a beach visit or a plane ride coming up, you need it."
Jenn says: "We've recommended this book before, but it's worth recommending again. It's been my go-to book for people in any and every transition moment you can think of -- graduating, moving, breaking up, getting together, losing their cool, taking advantage of new opportunities -- as well as my own personal back-up for those days when I need a little kick."
Emily says: "In her latest (now in paperback!), Emily St. John Mandel shows how relationships formed in high school, so often fraught with drama, can ebb and flow and fade and come back to haunt. Among her characters, the perception of what's important and the potential impact of actions varies widely, and something as seemingly insignificant as a photograph can become riddled with layers of meaning, differing for each person who sees it. The writing is taut and Mandel's characteristic infusions of moral ambiguity and complexity remind us, as good novels should, of what it means to be human."
Molly says: "Rainbow Rowell's second YA novel this year is just as wonderful as her first (Eleanor and Park). The most striking thing about Fangirl, which follows fanfic junkie Cather as she goes off to college, is the perfect way Rowell captures a time of endless, tumultuous change. New people, new situations, new friendships, maybe new relationships -- all crowd Cath's time at the computer, where she writes popular Simon Snow fanfic (think Harry Potter, but, well, not). Rowell's enthusiasm for fandom is as boundless as her sense of humor -- and this book, like her last, has a really, really big heart."
Jenn says: "I decided on a summer reread of Adams' five-book trilogy since it has probably been a decade since I last spent time with Arthur, Trillian, Ford, and Zaphod (if you don't count the recent movie version, which I almost do because it was such a great adaptation). My recommendation is, do not try to eat or drink while reading, because no matter how many times you've read them before, these books are still hilarious enough to induce spluttering."
Emily says: "Like David Simon's The Wire and Dave Cullen's Columbine, this book is about all of the moral dilemmas that surround massive tragedy, and about the ways that interconnected systems succeed and fail and undermine each other when infrastructure breaks down. Fink does a remarkable job of remaining, for the most part, neutral -- and yet there are heroes and villains (often in the same person) and no shortage of drama. Natural disaster, medicine, corporate hierarchies, crime, law, media -- they feed and play off of each other. You ask yourself, "What would I do in such dire circumstances? Was what happened right or wrong?" and as is often the result of the best investigative journalism, I couldn't always answer those questions with certainty. It was hard to read sometimes, but utterly riveting."
Jenn says: "Like all truly good series books, this newest installment will make you want to read The Flood novels over again from start to finish. MaddAddam follows the surviving Gods Gardeners, revealing the history of Adam One and Zeb -- and the surprising ways they influenced Crake in his early years. Happily for fans like yours truly, we also get lots of the Crakers and of Toby, who is the scrappiest scrapper that ever done scrap. And if you haven't read these yet, I can't recommend them highly enough; it's one of the best-written, most frighteningly plausible post-apocalypse series I've ever read."
Jacob says: "I may be fascinated by serial killers, and I may have only picked up this book because it involved H. H. Holmes (a serial killer responsible for creating a type of murder mansion), but there is so much more to The Devil in the White City than just murder. Larson weaves the story of H. H. Holmes with that of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. The combination is riveting, rich with fascinating historical detail, and hard to put down. I'd heard about the World's Fair, but I had no idea it was so influential -- so many prominent historical figures were involved or in attendance and a number of iconic things were created for it. Larson highlights the glamour and grime in ways that will leave you in awe."
Adrian and Christine say: "This lively retelling of the classic Abbott and Costello skit has Adrian and his father in stitches every night. It is a read aloud that seems to get better over time, and it's the perfect gift for a baseball fan or a nostalgic parent."
Jenn says: "Against my expectations, I adored Rakoff’s Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish. I am highly allergic to hype, and this book couldn't really have more. It's Rakoff's first and only novel, published posthumously, and it's in verse, AND it's got the full Chip Kidd treatment, plus illustrations by Seth. There's a lot going on there, you know? But it was lovely. The rhyme scheme is very Seussian, which seems weird at first but then turns out to be a lot of fun even during the sad parts (and there are a lot of sad parts), and Rakoff's wit has a lot of bite to it. Honestly? I might even read it again."
Emily says: "I trust Europa when it comes to world noir, and they certainly have succeeded with this one. Zane Lovitt writes like sort of an Australian Chandler, with the quick, snappy dialogue and observations that you'd expect from a private investigator, but also with the stunning descriptions of beauty and squalor that have perhaps nothing to do with his cases. It jumps around chronologically, so you have to enjoy each chapter on its own to an extent. But the final story, and the way it brings everything together, and the way it ends, the last few pages, they took my breath away."