Amanda and Jenn discuss books set in the Caribbean, low-stakes fun, blind dates with sci-fi, and more in this week’s episode of Get Booked.
The Backup by Erica Kudisch (rec’d by April)
American Pop by Snowden Wright (rec’d by Tori)
The Love Songs of WEB Dubois by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers (rec’d by Siobhan)
1. My friend did a blind date with a book but it was late and he kept checking tracking and then it was The Hobbit which I haven’t read but it seems very anticlimactic to assume someone hasn’t read or needs a new copy of the Hobbit, I mean it’s a classic so everyone has read it or has a copy of it. Anyways I think he wanted a sci fi book not fantasy. I want to give him a recommendation can you guys do it for me? Don’t say Hitchhikers Guide hahaha.
2. I’m looking for stories about black families, bonus points if it spans over several decades. I have discovered I’m learning more about black history from TikTok than I ever did in school and want to drive into more stories by black authors. I really enjoyed The Vanishing Half, Such a Fun Age, Silver Sparrow, and American Marriage.
I think I’m the only person that can’t get into Harlem Shuffle. I am also hesitant about Homegoing because of the trigger warnings but am willing to give it a try if you say I should. Please no trigger warnings for death of a child or on the page rape. Death of a spouse isn’t my favorite but as long as the story doesn’t revolve around it I should be fine.
3. I’m looking for a book that is low-stakes fun. I’m thinking Ocean’s 11–interesting people doing something cool/having fun. The closest book I can think of recently is the Thursday Murder Club, but that had a lot of sadness around aging and death. I just want to party. Thanks!
4. Hi Jenn and Amanda!
I just love you and your enthusiasm for books and readers! You make such a welcoming space for all kinds of readers, genres, and interests; and I so appreciate your earnestness in trying to find good fits for all of the questions you get.
I am an avid reader (well, duh — I am writing to you guys), and I tend to enjoy a fairly broad set of genres including literary fiction, historical fiction, mystery, narrative non-fiction, memoir, some fantasy, some sci-fi, some YA, etc. Over the years I’ve read a lot of books that cover the lives of people living through WWII — whether in occupied France, or blitzkrieg London, Nazi camps, or at home here in the U.S. Clearly, it’s rich topic with a myriad of stories to be told. However, it wasn’t until I read the epilogue of Amor Towles’ “The Rules of Civility” that I came across an interesting theme that I don’t think I’ve ever seen mined.
In the epilogue, it is New Year’s Eve 1940, and Katy and friends have come to an Italian restaurant where they encounter a glum waiter. She wonders about his demeanor by stating, “But it was hard to tell. Like so many Italians in New York in 1940, maybe his normal joviality was overshadowed by the unfortunate allegiances of the old country.” This observation was made just a few paragraphs after she had explained that in America, 1939 had brought the end of the Depression as it had brought war to Europe; the U.S. was filled with industry and purpose, Irving Berlin was writing “White Christmas”, and the overall impression was an atmosphere of renewed promise.
I found these two observations so intriguing. First of all, I hadn’t really read much about what it must have been like for Italian American or German American families here in the U.S. during those early war years; I wonder about how folks must have tried to conduct themselves and demonstrate their patriotism (much like Muslim families felt compelled to do in the wake of 9/11). It makes me sad that I didn’t think to ask my grandparents (who were all of immigrant families from Axis countries) about this when they were alive. Second, I don’t think I’ve ever read anything about what the U.S. was like in those two years between the start of WWII in Europe (or the end of the Depression as Towles puts it), and America’s entry in 1941. That attitude of industry that Towle describes almost seems like optimism, in contrast to the immigrant experience. I would love to find a book that explores these particular elements in 1939-41. I tend to really connect to history through fictional means; the smallness of a person’s life against the backdrop of big events makes it personal for me. However, highly narrative non-fiction or memoir are also other ways that I like to explore historical events.
Any ideas? Any direction you can suggest would be so greatly appreciated. Keep up the great work in all you’re doing.
5. So I need some help. I have lost my love of reading. If I had to pick a book to blame, it would be Infinite Jest which felt appropriately titled
In the past I have loved Murakami, Tom Robbins and Terry Pratchet (and by extension Douglas Adams). I did not (sorry to be negative) love The Nightingale although I recognize the brilliance. If I am desperate for something to elevate my mood, I read Louise Penny mainly secondary to her Buddhist and Leonard Cohen references. I love a good plot, challenging vocabulary and maybe some kindness or whimsy. I would be grateful for any suggestions you might proffer.
6. I recently read Claudia Gray’s Constellation. In that series there are two side characters who are members of opposing wings of a radical resistance movement (one is a terrorist, the other is a doctor) and I found myself shipping them SO HARD. I love stories about social movements, and debates about the best means of achieving important aims are endlessly fascinating to me. Transpose those themes into a romance and I foam at the mouth. But usually if these themes are explored, it’s in a love triangle, with a girl deciding between a radical and a moderate guy (like in The Hunger Games). I’m looking for a romance between a radical and a moderate who are working towards the same goal. Happy endings not required, any genre is fine. Some of my favorite books are Do Not Say We Have Nothing, The Countess Conspiracy, The Mill on the Floss, Hot Head, and The Song of Achilles.
7. hello! i’m looking for some books that pretty much center around the caribbean. i don’t really know how else to word this request other than just a book that helps me learn more about the culture surrounding it. i’m from puerto rico and would like to read more about not only my island but the ones around me, as well. i’m open to any genre but would prefer something fiction, if possible maybe even something relating to the mythology and beliefs. super bonus if there is lgbt and/or mental illness representation.
The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling
Machinehood by S.B. Divya (cw: death of a child, unwanted pregnancy)
His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie
The Rib King by Ladee Hubbard (cw: racial violence and slurs, harm to children)
Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q Sutanto
Heroine Complex series by Sarah Kuhn
When the Emperor was Divine by Julie Otsuka
Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All by Laura Ruby (cw: violence against women and children) (rec’d by Annika)
Beasts of a Little Land by Juhea Kim (tw rape, ethnic war)
When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain by Nghi Vo
The Suffragette Scandal by Courtney Milan
The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows by Olivia Waite
Dominicana by Angie Cruz (tw domestic violence)
When We Were Birds by Ayanna Lloyd Banwo, my new obsession (out March 15 but i don’t care)