Bookseller Recommendations: October
Happy October, book friends and family! With the autumnal equinox well under our belts (do you remember? the 21st night of—oh, nevermind), it’s time to really start stockpiling books for the big cold. Read on for recommendations from your friends at Milkweed! And don’t forget: you can order any of these titles on our Bookshop page. So read on, friends—and read books!
Noemi Press | October 2020 | $18.00
I read Aeon Ginsberg’s Greyhound after a ten hour drive—which is fitting, considering it’s a book about motion, about transition, about want and ways want persists even when we reach our relative destinations. The verse is so smart and inviting; it’s the stranger at a party whose boots you work up the nerve to compliment, and before you know it, you’re three hours deep in thrilling conversation. “I never want to exist in a story / with a clean ending, so I won’t. / Maybe I was never Always, and always Never.” I love when a poet guides me up a ramp of lyricism then stops, grabs my jaw, stares me dead in the eye, and says this is what I mean. Do you know what I love even more? When that same poet—dynamic, vulnerable, human—admits afterwards, maybe. This is what it feels like to read Greyhound, to move with Ginsberg from want to want, from one facet of gender identity to the next, from this stop on the route of self-knowing to the one after. When they write, “I’ve never been the reliable narrator, but / I have always been on the side of the truth / that keeps going,” all I want to do is be on that side with them. Trust them. Move forward.
Hamnet: A Novel of the Plague
Knopf | March 2020 | $26.95
I’m not sure what it says about ~me~ that I chose to read a novel about the bubonic plague in the midst of 2020, but I did, and you know what? No regrets. Hamnet takes a few sparse historical details—namely, the death of Shakespeare’s young son, Hamnet—and spins them into a captivating and utterly devastating novel about loss, resilience, and the ghosts that lurk in the shadows of great art. This is one of those books that you inhabit; I was so immersed in the family’s grief that I barely moved from my chair for the last 100 pages. Maggie O’Farrell is a brilliant writer, and Hamnet is a gift.
World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whalesharks, and Other Astonishments
Milkweed Editions | September 2020 | $25.00
I’m not sure there’s any other way to describe this beautiful book than as a shimmering beacon of light and delight. So aptly named, World of Wonders was a call to remember all that is wonderful about the world(s) we inhabit. I tried to read a few essays before bed every night, limiting myself from devouring this entire little wonder too quickly, but after a few nights I couldn’t resist and read the second half in one evening. Aimee Nezhukumatahil so masterfully displays her love for the world in the pages of these essays–and that love is only amplified by the beautiful accompanying illustrations. In these times, I’ve found myself struggling to stay tethered to my love of our world, and this book felt like a fresh rope buoying my gratitude and once again stoking the fires of amazement. As if this little wonder wasn’t delightful enough, it is also a Milkweed book—and for me, perfectly encapsulates the joy of our work.
Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century
Alice Wong (Editor)
Vintage | June 2020 | $16.95
This year, in the midst of violent levels of apathy for community health and wellbeing, I find myself turning to disability activists often for lessons on how to build systems of community care from the ground up. I was really excited to see Disability Visibility publish this summer, and it does not disappoint. Alice Wong has done a phenomenal job of curating a collection of essays from writers who offer beautifully nuanced perspectives on disability rights. I keep thinking about the opening essay from Harriet McBryde Johnson about having a series of civil and polite debates with a famous philosopher who believes people like her should be killed as infants. This book is fire all the way through.
The Space Between Worlds: A Novel
by Micaiah Johnson
Del Rey | August 2020 | $28.00
What if there were hundreds of versions of you out there, on over 300 parallel Earths. One of you has a few tattoos. One of you has a loving family. One of you was born to live in the dirt, or a castle. One of you dies at age 7, and then another at 14, and another and 21. What if your lover in one world is a stranger in another— or wants to kill you. This is the story of Cara, an intra-planetary traveler, and one of the few who can reach hundreds of known Earths, because hundreds of herselves have died. Then on one Earth, she finds more answers than she’s looking for, and spirals into the unwanted and ugly truths of her own origins and those she trusted. I was completely enthralled in this novel, and was reminded of how many incredible sci-fi stories by women of color are out there to devour. The Space Between Worlds is the perfect book for readers looking for a true escape into another world—or over 300.
Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot
by Mikki Kendall
Viking | February 2020 | $26.00
I’ve underlined almost every paragraph in Mikki Kendall’s Hood Feminism, a book I urge everyone to read. Mainstream feminism historically has—and continues to—elevate the voices of and concerns of middle- and upper-class white women at the expense of women of color, poor women, queer and trans people, and differently abled bodies. In Hood Feminism, Kendall draws from her experiences growing up in the hood, which taught her “that feminism isn’t just academic theory,” it’s the lived experiences of women from every margin, and the work you do for the people who need it most. In eighteen cogent essays, Kendall argues that we need feminism to care more about gun violence, food insecurity, and access to education, as well as other issues related to basic needs. One of my favorite essays is called “How to Write About Black Women,” where she swiftly critiques mainstream feminism’s destructive obsession with respectability politics and bootstraps theories. “Respectability politics,” she writes, “are really about controlling a group behavior with designations of appropriate or inappropriate behavior rooted in structural inequality … they reflect antiqued ideals set up by white supremacy.” Buy this book for yourself and all of your family members.
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