Will's Staff Picks
"In “How to Be Perfect”, Michael Schur, creator of the Good Place, and Parks and Recreation among many other credits, grapples with moral philosophy and ethical decision making. Starting with Aristotelian philosophy, utilitarianism, and deontology, he explores everyday situations of moral and ethical decision making with a deep intellect and humor, before expanding to other realms of philosophy and tries to figure out what we owe to each other. And all throughout this funny exploration, you find out more about how a television writer ended up obsessed with moral philosophy."
"In this comic’s legend’s first novel, Grant Morrison has constructed a character driven epic that defies genres as it smoothly glides between supernatural, thriller, and entertainment industry drama. Following drag queen, Luci LaBang, Morrison tells the story of how Luci trains her new protégé Luda in the mystical art known as The Glamour. But as Luda masters The Glamour, Luci wonders if her protégé is using her new-found power to further secret ambitions. This story will mesmerize you with fascinating characters, evocative scenes, and dialogue so fierce that you’ll have to sip tea while you read in order to handle that level of shade."
"'Ghost Lover' is a brilliant collection of short stories from Lisa Taddeo. Taddeo’s one of a kind storytelling shines in this form with each story focusing on complex women, while exploring themes of sexuality, wealth, female friendship, love, and men’s intentions. Fans of 'Three Women' and 'Animal' will love this collection."
"The Sentence by Louise Erdrich is a fantastic novel that takes an introspective look into one year in the life of a woman who works in a bookstore in Minneapolis taking place from November 2019 to November 2020. It’s about a formerly incarnated woman, a bookstore haunted by its best customer, a loving yet complicated marriage, people being tired of the way things have always been, and finding connection in a time when connection seems impossible. This book perfectly captures the fear, confusion, outrage, desire for justice, and loss that defined the year 2020. With every word, Erdrich manages to find beauty in a time of so much chaos and confusion."
"A great in-depth psychological and sociological view on cults and cult-adjacent organizations. Montell examines how cults, and their leaders gain followers and specifically looks at the linguistic tactics that are used at cults like Scientology and Heaven’s Gate, MLMs like Amway, fitness organizations like SoulCycle, and online conspirituality groups like QAnon. She maintains a compassionate look at the individuals who follow these groups with the use of interviews with those involved in cult and cult-ish activities."
"This book is a beautiful collection of poetry where each poem flows into one another forming a narrative about America’s past, both recent and distant, while coming to terms with the present in a way that will haunt you with the pain of our collective experiences and then inspire you with what the future can hold because of the potential we carry."
“In Blue-Skinned Gods, SJ Sindu takes you through a beautiful coming of age story that will leave any reader in awe. Kalki is a boy with blue skin who strives to live up to being a god, like everyone tells him he is. As he questions his divinity, his journey takes you from an isolated ashram in India to the rock scene in New York City, exploring themes of religious, ethnic, gender and sexual identities. Sindu’s storytelling is vivid and unforgettable!”
"TJ Klune’s Under the Whispering Door is a hilarious and heartwarming tale about grief, second chances and the goodness of people. Wallace Price is a successful lawyer who oversees a tightly managed law firm. When he dies, he meets his Reaper and takes a journey to a tea shop where he meets a man who lives to help those who just died. At its core, Under the Whispering Door is a kind, queer, and empathetic book and Klune’s storytelling is masterful."
"In her latest collection of essays, Phoebe Robinson hilariously reflects on the pandemic, her relationship, race, hair, travel, business, Black excellence, and more. Her essays are full of thoughtful insights about the past few years in America and in her own life, as well as hilarious pop culture references, footnotes, and a love for U2 that is unmatched. Robinson is refreshingly honest and laugh out loud hilarious throughout the series of essays."
"The Last House on Needless Street is a one-of-a-kind suspense novel with twists that you’ll never see coming. At the beginning, this story is about a man who drinks too much, a cat who reads the bible, a teenage girl who isn’t allowed outside, and a woman who is looking for her missing sister. But as the story unfolds, you find each character is not exactly as they seem and the novel morphs into a powerful novel about mental health and the effects of trauma. Each reveal left me stunned and Catriona Ward makes sure to keep you guessing until the very end."
"Beautiful Country is a phenominal book about Qian Julie Wang's experience living in Brooklyn as an undocumented immigrant in the 90s. Wang shares how she lived in constant fear that she or her Ma Ma and Ba Ba would be deported at any moment, and the trauma she experienced growing up being labeled illegal. And at the core of this novel is Qian's curiosity, resourcefulness and love for her parents."
“Animal follows Joan as she recounts how she has endured mistreatment and cruelties from the men around her, a trauma from her childhood that still haunts her and her search for Alice, a search that takes her from New York City to Los Angeles. What comes next is an explosive tale exploring female rage that is truly original. Lisa Taddeo’s writing is equal parts raw, intimate, gripping, visceral and beautiful.”
"Several People Are Typing is a fast-paced, funny and existential adventure through the Slack channels of a public relations firm. Told entirely through messages, Gerald, a mid-level employee, gets sucked into the office’s Slack channel, which boosts his productivity. Can Gerald figure out a way out as his firm assists a dog food company whose food is poisoning Pomeranians?"
"Kupersmith’s Build Your House Around My Body is a marvelous combination of historical fiction, suspense, and horror. Centrally about the disappearance of Winnie, this novel spans decades of Vietnamese history and interweaves ghosts and Vietnamese folklore into its tale. Kupersmith’s characters are all beautifully fleshed out and will leave you guessing as you try to figure out how everything is connected."
"Klara is an artificial friend who views the world in a child-like manner. When she is purchased to be a companion to a teenage girl, Josie, she uses her observational skills to learn about the human world and come to terms with love, hope, class, and empathy. Set against the backdrop of a bleak not too distant future, Klara's childlike view of the world and moral clarity will make you fall in love with her while your heart breaks as she struggles to understand the world around her."
"Filthy Animals is a moving series of short stories, some linked, others that stand alone, that perfectly showcases the writing talents of Brandon Taylor. Through each story, Taylor explores love, sexuality, anger, violence, and depression in a way that feels melancholic and energizing. Each character comes to life on the page and Taylor writes with such clarity about their lives that it’s hard to believe these are fictional stories."
"An unexpected, unsettling mix of genres, The Other Black Girl is a social commentary, suspense and sci-fi novel wrapped up into one. Nella is an editorial assistant and the only Black employee at Wagner Books, until Hazel gets hired that is. Hazel is cool and confident and quickly outshines Nella at work. And once she starts receiving odd messages, Nella begins to obsess over what sinister forces may be at play at Wagner. Zakiya Dalila Harris brilliantly combines a social commentary on the dynamics between Black and white co-workers in an office setting and a suspense, science fiction novel to create a one-of-a-kind book. A must read!"
"This book is a work of art. Telling the story of Little Dog, his mother and grandmother, “On Earth You’re Briefly Gorgeous” paints an intimate portrait of its characters' lives. Told as if a long form letter to his mother, the book reads less as a novel and more as a poem. Truly beautiful in every way."
"The House in the Cerulean Sea is a witty, wholesome and endearing modern fantasy novel about tolerance and acceptance for adults and children. Following Linus Baker, a caseworker for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, the story takes you to an orphanage on an island where TJ Klune explores ideas of prejudice, authoritarian government, tolerance, and found family. This book is a heartwarming and uplifting read."
"In this eye-opening, horrifying, and hilarious book, Amber Ruffin and her sister, Lacey Lamar, share stories from Lacey's life where she has encountered racism in Nebraska. From racist donuts to being mistaken for Whoopi Goldberg, they share everything from the everyday examples of racism to the downright scary, while making you laugh out loud the whole time. And if you aren't familiar with Amber Ruffin from NBC's Late Night with Seth Meyers or Peacock's The Amber Ruffin Show, this book will leave you obsessed."
"Let’s Talk About Hard Things by Anna Sale, host of the Death, Sex and Money Podcast, is an in depth look at how to talk about difficult topics with those closest to you and also complete strangers. Sale takes an empathetic and thoughtful approach to some of life’s most personal, difficult, yet universal conversations. The conversations involving grief, relationships, sex, money, family, and identity. Using interviews with everyday people infused into a deeply personal memoir, Sale shows you step by step how to talk about the hardest topics, and how to do it in a productive and meaningful way."
"In What Happened to You?, Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Bruce D Perry discuss the effects of trauma on the human brain, especially the young brain, and how our brain and minds are resilient, how these traumas affect each of us later in life, and how we heal from them. In a balanced back and forth between very personal stories from Oprah's life, anecdotes of helping patients deal with trauma from his career, and analysis of the psychology of the human mind and biology of our brain, Oprah and Dr. Perry lay out an informative, scientific and emotional book that focuses not on 'what is wrong with you?', but instead on 'what happened to you?' and how we are equipped as humans to move past those traumatic events. I highly recommend listening to this novel as an audio book and you can purchase that through Libro.FM and still support the Newtown Bookshop (The link to Libro.FM's website is on our home page). Both Oprah and Dr. Perry are incredibly engaging narrators."
“An incredible adaptation of Homer, The Song of Achilles is a passionate and powerful novel set against the back drop of the Trojan War. Miller’s fresh take on the Iliad gives Patroclus the center stage as it tells the story of his and Achilles’ journey from childhood to Troy. Miller combines the high action story of gods, kings, heroes and fate with a breathtaking love story.”
“Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl represents a different kind of coming of age story. Set in 1993, Paul Polydoris is a gay man who studies queer theory, loves partying, makes zines, and has a very active dating life. But his secret, even from his closest friends, is that Paul is a shapeshifter. He is torn between his life as Paul and his lesbian, Riot Grrrl alter ego, Polly. He constantly desires to explore both lives. This book explores sexuality and gender identity in an explicitly queer way that isn’t seen often in books, tv shows or movies and provides one of the best descriptions of how it feels when queer people find their identity and community. While not for the unprepared, I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to understand what it feels like to be queer in America.”
"In A Promised Land, Former President Barack Obama takes a detailed look at the events leading up to his election to the highest office in the land and the events of his first term. He critically examines his actions, his relationships and the big political issues of his first term. One of the most refreshing parts is the honest and open way he discusses his marriage to Michelle and how his political career affected her. A little long, but a must read."
"Hosts of the true crime comedy podcast, My Favorite Murder, Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark reflect on their biggest mistakes, deep seated fears and anxieties, and traumatic events in their pasts. Open and honest, the two podcast hosts empower the reader to self-advocate, ignore societal pressures and norms that could put you in danger, and take care of your mental health in a way that promotes empathy for those around you and the boldness to be frank when discussing difficult topics."
"In The Actor's Life: A Survival Guide, actress, Jenna Fischer, takes the reader step by step through her early career. While her advice is meant for aspiring actors, any member of the arts and entertainment industries will find her passion, talent, ambition, and optimism a refreshing approach to joining a career in the arts. She opens up about the good, the bad, and most importantly getting cast as Pam on the US Version of The Office."