Don’t know what to read next? Not sure what to give that special someone? Molly Coogan of Bunch of Grapes bookstore and Mathew Tombers of Edgartown Books gave me some great recommendations for the best reads this season. Here are their picks that really grab the cake, and some words I wrote to help convince you to buy them.
“The Midnight Library”
By Matt Haig
Remember when you chose white bread instead of rye at that diner? Remember when you ended that relationship with your ex? Imagine if there were a library with infinite books at the edge of the known universe that let you read through different versions of your life if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision and other existential questions in this rather delightful story. You’re a real lobster if you don’t read this one.
“Songs in Ursa Major”
By Emma Brodie
You’ve got a friend in this page-turner from local writer Emma Brodie that takes a novel look at Joni Mitchell and James Taylor’s love story. Did I mention it’s set on an Island much like Martha’s Vineyard? You’ll have to hit me with a big yellow taxi to stop me from reading this one. Ursa means bear in Latin; how fancy.
“The Lincoln Highway”
By Amor Towles
This one’s a real joyride. Remember “Gentleman in Moscow”? Well, that dude wrote a new book. It tracks the trek of Emmett Watson in 1954, who is being escorted by his warden, after a 15-month stint in juvie. Emmett’s best-laid plans to pick up his brother and start a new life in sunny California go awry when two of his juvie buddies tag along in the warden’s car. A fateful journey begins in a different direction — to the Big Apple.
“Cloud Cuckoo Land”
By Anthony Doerr
Here’s the tea: Some cuckoos are a real sneaky bunch, but Doerr’s novel is not. This paperback is set in 15th-century Constantinople, present-day small-town Idaho, and on a future interstellar spaceship. With gloriously intertwined characters, spanning centuries, and revolving around a rather special book, Doerr’s novel is a flight of the imagination that really soars.
“A Beautiful Country: A Memoir”
By Qian Julie Wang
Ain’t no fiction in this scrumptious American story that’ll cut ice with the best of them. The Chinese word for America is Mei Guo, 美国, which means “beautiful country,” but for a young Qian who arrives in New York City, America is a little more homely. Qian lives through overworked parents, shunning at school, greasy American pizza, and shares her reflection on her upbringing with moving words. Don’t be silly, get this one already.
“On Tyranny: Graphic Edition”
By Timothy Snyder, Illustrated by Nora Krug
Have you heard of tyranny? It ain’t so hot, but gosh dang it, this graphic edition of the study of cruel and oppressive governments is on fire. There are 20 lessons of past dark doings from Nazism to Communism, and teachable treats on resisting today’s most modern authoritarians. It’s all illustrated, to really paint a picture. I says, Move that currency and pick up this one now.
“Subpar Parks: America’s Most Extraordinary National Parks and Their Least Impressed Visitors”
By Amber Share
This one will really make you LOL, and may make you ROFL. Share juxtaposes the natural beauty and diversity of America’s national parks with some rather suspect, downright clueless, and gut-tickling, hilarious, one-star reviews posted by visitors. It’s based on the popular Instagram account, and gee whiz, this one’s a knee-slapper. Don’t take the slow train here, make sure to snag this one quick.
“Korean Vegan Cookbook”
by Joanne Lee Molinaro
You haven’t really lived until you’ve had Korean food. Now you can craft it from the comfort of your home. Boom boom bam, this one’s a real freaking snack — and it’s all vegan! What? Vegan? Yes, vegan! There’s recipes for Jjajangmyun, rich black bean noodles; Gamja Guk, a potato and leek soup; and a chocolate sweet potato cake — is your mouth watering yet? Food really shapes who we are.
“Nane: New Generation African Poets, a Chapbook Box Set”
Edited by Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani
Holy smokes, this one is wicked good. A limited-edition box set series that seeks to identify the best poetry written by African poets working today. The best part is it features poets who haven’t been widely published. This special collection has got 13 super-fine new poets. Go on, get it, it’s amazing.
“Audubon’s Animals: The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America”
By John James Audubon
Audubon sure sounds like autobahn, and boy oh boy, is this one a joy ride. In this one, Johnny J. documents North America’s mammals. It’s kind of like “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” and let me tell you, it’s got just as much magic. This one first got pubbed in 1854, and I’ll just say it’s aged like Halle Berry. Bibliophiles and nature lovers, unite and rejoice.
“Renegades: Born in the USA”
By Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen
An Edgartown resident and a kid from Jersey wrote stuff down and shared some pictures. It’s a boss hit.
“State of Terror”
By Louise Penny and Hillary Clinton
Master of mystery teams up with master of politics. It’ll be hard to put this page-turner down.
“Baking with Dorie: Sweet, Salty & Simple”
By Dorie Greenspan
Nothing simple about the taste of these treats. Yum.
“Carnival of Snackery”
By David Sedaris
Sedaris is a riot. Take a peek at his diary entries from 2003 to 2020. You’ll be better off for it.
Bunch of Grapes bookstore is located at 23 Main St. in Vineyard Haven. Find it online at bunchofgrapes.indielite.org or on the phone at 508-693-2291. Edgartown Books is located at 44 Main St. in Edgartown. Find it online at edgartownbooks.com, or by phone at 508-627-8463.