When so much around us remains puzzling, it's comforting to know we can always get lost in a good story for a few hours.
Ahead of Memorial Day Weekend, we spoke to reps from some of NYC's best indie bookstores for a few recommendations. Plus, they were kind enough to give us a heads up about summer 2020 releases we can't miss.
Grab a bite, park yourself in a comfy spot and enjoy your book!
Kew & Willow Books
If you're searching for a lighthearted escape—and a budding romance—Kew & Willow's co-founder Vina Castillo recommends Beach Read by Emily Henry ($16). Set in a Michigan beach town, the story focuses on two literary nemeses who swap genres...with unexpected results. "It is exactly the light and uplifting book we all need," Castillo says. "The perfect virtual book club to read with your best friends."
Meanwhile, Castillo's business partner Holly Nikodem gravitates toward nonfiction with her selection, Hollywood Park: A Memoir by Mikel Jollett ($27.99). The book focuses on Jollett's experience escaping from a commune—in the middle of the night—with his mother and brother. Ultimately, he is forced to examine his childhood and his relationship with his father.
"Often when a celebrity writes about their relationship with a parent, it’s because it was painful," Nikodem says. "But this memoir is about how they built a genuine relationship and learned from each other."
When it comes to other summer reads that New Yorkers should have on their radars, the Queens indie bookstore duo suggests Death In Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh ($27, June 23), a suspenseful tale of a widow whose life is completely thrown off kilter upon her discovery of a dismal note in the woods. The music-obsessed will want to pre-order Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell ($30, July 14), a fictional rock 'n roll journey of a UK band coming into their own in the 1960's. Expect hints of fantasy and a few sci-fi elements along the way.
Emily Giglierano of Astoria Bookshop certainly doesn't discriminate against genres, and her recommendations are proof. The bookseller suggests getting lost in The Rakess by Scarlett Peckham ($7.99) this weekend. "Sometimes you have to immerse yourself in an unabashedly feminist, Gothic historical romance in which a libertine lady writer and a widower who's sworn never to love again meet one summer on the Cornish coast," she says.
But crime stories also set her heart aflame: These Women by Ivy Pochoda ($27.99), Giglierano's other pick, takes the typical serial killer trope and focuses on the point of view of those who are left grieving by the senseless acts.
Shakespeare & Co.
Fans of J.R.R Tolkien and Margaret Atwood will be intrigued with the selection from Shakespeare & Co.'s director of community outreach and events, Françoise Brodsky. Brodsky suggests Sin Eater by Megan Campisi ($27). "If you like historical fiction, you will love this novel set in a dystopian society so close to the Elizabethan England that it is entirely believable. For the crime of stealing a loaf of bread, May Owen is sentenced to be a Sin Eater, a pariah who has to—literally and symbolically—absorb other people's sins so that they can save their souls," Brodsky says. "That gives her access to lowly peasants as well as to the royal court where she soon finds herself embroiled in court intrigue and murder."
The beloved Brooklyn indie has no shortage of selections. This weekend, operations director Deidre Dumpson suggests These Ghosts Are Family by Maisy Card ($26), which tells the fictional story of a man who faked his own death and stole his best friend's identity—something that will have a huge effect on everyone around him.
"[It's] a family saga wrapped up in generational trauma, secrets, magical realism and Jamaican traditions," Dumpson says. "If there's any lesson you'll take away from this novel, it's that everyone has their own ghosts and trauma to bear. The question is, 'Will you do the necessary work to heal from it?'"
Davi Marra, the store's retail director and buyer suggests Cleanness by Garth Greenwell ($26), a followup to the author's debut, What Belongs to You. "Come for the elegant, ruminative prose reminiscent of Henry James, stay for the breathtakingly frank writing about gay sex and desire. A true original," Marra says.
Like our friends and Kew & Willow, Marra is also looking forward to Death in Her Hands and Utopia Avenue, but also suggests picking up the The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante ($26) later this summer.
Books Are Magic
We'd be remiss not to inform you that the Cobble Hill indie bookstore's owner, Emma Straub, just released her new novel, All Adults Here ($27). Her latest follows a woman named Astrid who reevaluates her parenting choices after witnessing an accident, even though her children are now grown.
Straub's husband, Michael Fusco-Straub is looking ahead to next month's Action Park by Andy Mulvihill and Jake Rossen ($27, June 30). "This fast-moving romp gives you an inside look at the people that brought you the worlds most dangerous amusement park. I loved every page," he said. "One thing that sticks with me about this book is how Mulvihill and Rossen describe the carefree nature of it all—no rules, just running with an idea."
Like Fusco-Straub, Chris Molnar of POWERHOUSE Arena is eyeing Pizza Girl by Jean Kyoung Frazier ($24.95, June 9).
"This compact, timely novel tells the tale of a young pizza delivery driver as she gets pregnant, develops an obsession and discovers who she really is," Molnar says. "Just the right mix of dark, funny, quick and memorable for these uncertain times."
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