Book cover for Little Fires Everywhere

27 Books Celeste Ng Recommends For Independent Bookstore Day

In case you didn’t know, this Saturday, April 28 is Independent Bookstore Day. In just a few short days, over 500 independent bookstores will be celebrating with special events and live readings. Among the booksellers, readers, and writers celebrating this year is Celeste Ng, author of Little Fires Everywhere and this year’s 2018 Author Ambassador. Ng is a longtime advocate for and lover of independent bookstores, and she has a few recommendations for anyone looking to pick up a new book this weekend at their local bookstore. So, without further ado, here are Celeste Ng’s 27 book recommendations for Independent Bookstore Day. It’s worth noting that they are ironically accompanied by links to Amazon, the single biggest threat facing independent bookstores today. Sorry, I don’t make rules, I am merely a cog in the machine. Shop local.

 

1. The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer

 

Book cover for The Female Persuasion

Image Via Goodreads

 

“Charming and wise, knowing and witty, Meg Wolitzer delivers a novel about power and influence, ego and loyalty, womanhood and ambition. At its heart, The Female Persuasion is about the flame we all believe is flickering inside of us, waiting to be seen and fanned by the right person at the right time. It’s a story about the people who guide and the people who follow (and how those roles evolve over time), and the desire within all of us to be pulled into the light.”

 

2. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

 

“This stirring love story is a profoundly insightful look into the hearts and minds of three people who are at once bound and separated by forces beyond their control. An American Marriage is a masterpiece of storytelling, an intimate look deep into the souls of people who must reckon with the past while moving forward–with hope and pain–into the future.”

 

3. The World of Tomorrow by Brendan Mathews

 

“From the smoky jazz joints of Harlem to the opulent Plaza Hotel, from the garrets of vagabonds and artists in the Bowery to the backroom warrens and shadowy warehouses of mobsters in Hell’s Kitchen, Brendan Mathews brings the prewar metropolis to vivid, pulsing life. The sweeping, intricate, and ambitious storytelling throughout this remarkable debut reveals an America that blithely hoped it could avoid another catastrophic war and focus instead on the promise of the World’s Fair: a peaceful, prosperous ‘World of Tomorrow.'”

 

4. The Power by Naomi Alderman

 

Book cover for The Power

Image Via Amazon

 

“In The Power, the world is a recognizable place: there’s a rich Nigerian boy who lounges around the family pool; a foster kid whose religious parents hide their true nature; an ambitious American politician; a tough London girl from a tricky family. But then a vital new force takes root and flourishes, causing their lives to converge with devastating effect. Teenage girls now have immense physical power–they can cause agonizing pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world drastically resets.”

 

5. How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

 

“How to Stop Time tells a love story across the ages – and for the ages – about a man lost in time, the woman who could save him, and the lifetimes it can take to learn how to live. It is a bighearted, wildly original novel about losing and finding yourself, the inevitability of change, and how with enough time to learn, we just might find happiness.”

 

6. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

 

“Exit West follows remarkable characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.”

 

7. Brass by Xhenet Aliu

 

“A waitress at the Betsy Ross Diner, Elsie hopes her nickel-and-dime tips will add up to a new life. Then she meets Bashkim, who is at once both worldly and naïve, a married man who left Albania to chase his dreams—and wound up working as a line cook in Waterbury, Connecticut. Back when the brass mills were still open, this bustling factory town drew one wave of immigrants after another. Now it’s the place they can’t seem to leave. Elsie, herself the granddaughter of Lithuanian immigrants, falls in love quickly, but when she learns that she’s pregnant, Elsie can’t help wondering where Bashkim’s heart really lies, and what he’ll do about the wife he left behind.”

 

8. Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong

 

book cover for Goodbye, Vitamin

Image Via Goodreads

 

“Freshly disengaged from her fiancé and feeling that life has not turned out quite the way she planned, thirty-year-old Ruth quits her job, leaves town and arrives at her parents’ home to find that situation more complicated than she’d realized. Her father, a prominent history professor, is losing his memory and is only erratically lucid. Ruth’s mother, meanwhile, is lucidly erratic. But as Ruth’s father’s condition intensifies, the comedy in her situation takes hold, gently transforming her all her grief.

Told in captivating glimpses and drawn from a deep well of insight, humor, and unexpected tenderness, Goodbye, Vitamin pilots through the loss, love, and absurdity of finding one’s footing in this life.”

 

9. Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee

 

Everything Here Is Beautiful is, at its heart, an immigrant story, and a young woman’s quest to find fulfillment and a life unconstrained by her illness. But it’s also an unforgettable, gut-wrenching story of the sacrifices we make to truly love someone—and when loyalty to one’s self must prevail over all.”

 

10. How to Be a Person in the World by Heather Havrilevsky

 

“Heather Havrilesky of the wildly popular Ask Polly advice column is here to guide you through the “what if’s” and “I don’t knows” of modern life with the signature wisdom and tough love her readers have come to expect. How to Be a Person in the World is a hilarious, frank, and witty collection of never-before-published material along with a few fan favorites. Whether she’s responding to cheaters or loners, lovers or haters, the anxious or the down-and-out, Havrilesky writes with equal parts grace, humor, and compassion to remind you that even in your darkest moments you’re not alone.”

 

11. A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit

 

“Written as a series of autobiographical essays, A Field Guide to Getting Lost draws on emblematic moments and relationships in Rebecca Solnit’s life to explore issues of uncertainty, trust, loss, memory, desire, and place. Solnit is interested in the stories we use to navigate our way through the world, and the places we traverse, from wilderness to cities, in finding ourselves, or losing ourselves. While deeply personal, her own stories link up to larger stories, from captivity narratives of early Americans to the use of the color blue in Renaissance painting, not to mention encounters with tortoises, monks, punk rockers, mountains, deserts, and the movie Vertigo. The result is a distinctive, stimulating voyage of discovery.”

 

12. Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

 

“In Being Mortal, bestselling author Atul Gawande tackles the hardest challenge of his profession: how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending. Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming birth, injury, and infectious disease from harrowing to manageable. But in the inevitable condition of aging and death, the goals of medicine seem too frequently to run counter to the interest of the human spirit. Nursing homes, preoccupied with safety, pin patients into railed beds and wheelchairs. Hospitals isolate the dying, checking for vital signs long after the goals of cure have become moot. Doctors, committed to extending life, continue to carry out devastating procedures that in the end extend suffering. Gawande, a practicing surgeon, addresses his profession’s ultimate limitation, arguing that quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. Gawande offers examples of freer, more socially fulfilling models for assisting the infirm and dependent elderly, and he explores the varieties of hospice care to demonstrate that a person’s last weeks or months may be rich and dignified. Full of eye-opening research and riveting storytelling, Being Mortal asserts that medicine can comfort and enhance our experience even to the end, providing not only a good life but also a good end.”

 

13. Scratch by Manjula Martin

 

Book cover for Scratch

Image via Goodreads

 

“As contributors including Jonathan Franzen, Cheryl Strayed, Roxane Gay, Nick Hornby, Susan Orlean, Alexander Chee, Daniel Jose Older, Jennifer Weiner, and Yiyun Li candidly and emotionally discuss money, MFA programs, teaching fellowships, finally getting published, and what success really means to them, Scratch honestly addresses the tensions between writing and money, work and life, literature and commerce. The result is an entertaining and inspiring book that helps readers and writers understand what it’s really like to make art in a world that runs on money—and why it matters.”

 

14. How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee

 

“How to Write an Autobiographical Novel is the author’s manifesto on the entangling of life, literature, and politics, and how the lessons learned from a life spent reading and writing fiction have changed him. In these essays, he grows from student to teacher, reader to writer, and reckons with his identities as a son, a gay man, a Korean American, an artist, an activist, a lover, and a friend. He examines some of the most formative experiences of his life and the nation’s history, including his father’s death, the AIDS crisis, 9/11, the jobs that supported his writing—Tarot-reading, bookselling, cater-waiting for William F. Buckley—the writing of his first novel, Edinburgh, and the election of Donald Trump.”

 

15. Crash Course by Robin Black

 

“Robin Black’s path through loss and survival delivered her to the writer’s life. Agoraphobia, the challenges of parenting a child with special needs, and the legacy of a formidable father all shaped that journey. In these deeply personal and instructive essays, the author of the internationally acclaimed If I loved you, I would tell you this and Life Drawing explores the making of art through the experiences of building a life. Engaging, challenging, and moving, Crash Course is full of insight into how to write—and why.”

 

16. Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

Book cover for Furiously Happy

Image via Chapters Indigo

 

“In Furiously Happy, a humor memoir tinged with just enough tragedy and pathos to make it worthwhile, Jenny Lawson examines her own experience with severe depression and a host of other conditions, and explains how it has led her to live life to the fullest.”

 

17. My Heart is an Idiot by Davy Rothbart

 

“In My Heart Is an Idiot, Davy Rothbart is looking for love in all the wrong places. Constantly. He falls helplessly in love with pretty much every girl he meets―and rarely is the feeling reciprocated. Time after time, he hops in a car and tears halfway across America with his heart on his sleeve. He’s continually coming up with outrageous schemes and adventures, which he always manages to pull off. Well, almost always. But even when things don’t work out, Rothbart finds meaning and humor in every moment.”

 

18. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

 

“Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.”

 

19. Munmun by Jesse Andrews

 

“In an alternate reality a lot like our world, every person’s physical size is directly proportional to their wealth. The poorest of the poor are the size of rats, and billionaires are the size of skyscrapers.
 
Warner and his sister Prayer are destitute—and tiny. Their size is not just demeaning, but dangerous: day and night they face mortal dangers that bigger richer people don’t ever have to think about, from being mauled by cats to their house getting stepped on. There are no cars or phones built small enough for them, or schools or hospitals, for that matter—there’s no point, when no one that little has any purchasing power, and when salaried doctors and teachers would never fit in buildings so small. Warner and Prayer know their only hope is to scale up, but how can two littlepoors survive in a world built against them?”

 

20. The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan

 

book cover for The Astonishing Color of After

Image via Goodreads

 

“Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird. Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.

Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a stunning and heartbreaking novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.”

 

21. Good Bones by Maggie Smith

 

“Maggie Smith writes out of the experience of motherhood, inspired by watching her own children read the world like a book they’ve just opened, knowing nothing of the characters or plot. These poems stare down darkness while cultivating and sustaining possibility and addressing a larger world.”

 

22. Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong

 

“In his haunting and fearless debut, Ocean Vuong walks a tightrope of historic and personal violences, creating an interrogation of the American body as a borderless space of both failure and triumph. At once vulnerable and redemptive, dreamlike and visceral, compassionate and unforgiving, these poems seek a myriad existence without forgetting the prerequisite of self-preservation in a world bent on extinguishing its othered voices. Vuong’s poems show, through breath, cadence, and unrepentant enthrallment, that a gentle palm on a chest can calm the most necessary of hungers.”

 

23. Lucky Fish by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

 

Lucky Fish travels along a lush current—a confluence of leaping vocabulary and startling formal variety, with upwelling gratitude at its source: for love, motherhood, “new hope,” and the fluid and rich possibilities of words themselves. With an exuberant appetite for “my morning song, my scurry-step, my dew,” anchored in complicated human situations, this astounding young poet’s third collection of poems is her strongest yet.”

 

24. Bright Dead Things by Ada Limón 

 

“Bright Dead Things examines the chaos that is life, the dangerous thrill of living in a world you know you have to leave one day, and the search to find something that is ultimately “disorderly, and marvelous, and ours.” A book of bravado and introspection, of 21st century feminist swagger and harrowing terror and loss, this fourth collection considers how we build our identities out of place and human contact—tracing in intimate detail the various ways the speaker’s sense of self both shifts and perseveres as she moves from New York City to rural Kentucky, loses a dear parent, ages past the capriciousness of youth, and falls in love. Limón has often been a poet who wears her heart on her sleeve, but in these extraordinary poems that heart becomes a “huge beating genius machine” striving to embrace and understand the fullness of the present moment. “I am beautiful. I am full of love. I am dying,” the poet writes. Building on the legacies of forebears such as Frank O’Hara, Sharon Olds, and Mark Doty, Limón’s work is consistently generous and accessible—though every observed moment feels complexly thought, felt, and lived.”

 

25. Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang

 

book cover for Sour Heart

Image via Amazon

 

“A fresh new voice emerges with the arrival of Sour Heart, establishing Jenny Zhang as a frank and subversive interpreter of the immigrant experience in America. Her stories cut across generations and continents, moving from the fraught halls of a public school in Flushing, Queens, to the tumultuous streets of Shanghai, China, during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s. In the absence of grown-ups, latchkey kids experiment on each other until one day the experiments turn violent; an overbearing mother abandons her artistic aspirations to come to America but relives her glory days through karaoke; and a shy loner struggles to master English so she can speak to God.”

 

26. FEN by Daisy Johnson

 

“Daisy Johnson’s Fen, set in the fenlands of England, transmutes the flat, uncanny landscape into a rich, brooding atmosphere. From that territory grow stories that blend folklore and restless invention to turn out something entirely new. Amid the marshy paths of the fens, a teenager might starve herself into the shape of an eel. A house might fall in love with a girl and grow jealous of her friend. A boy might return from the dead in the guise of a fox. Out beyond the confines of realism, the familiar instincts of sex and hunger blend with the shifting, unpredictable wild as the line between human and animal is effaced by myth and metamorphosis. With a fresh and utterly contemporary voice, Johnson lays bare these stories of women testing the limits of their power to create a startling work of fiction.”

 

27. Back Talk by Danielle Lazarin

 

“In “Floor Plans,” a woman at the end of her marriage tests her power when she inadvertently befriends the neighbor trying to buy her apartment. In “Appetite,” a sixteen-year old grieving her mother’s death experiences first love and questions how much more heartbreak she and her family can endure. In “Dinosaurs,” a recent widower and a young babysitter help each other navigate how much they have to give—and how much they can take—from the people around them. 
 
Through stories that are at once empathetic and unexpected, these women and girls defiantly push the boundaries between selfishness and self-possession. With a fresh voice and bold honesty, Back Talk examines how narrowly our culture allows women to express their desires.”

 

 

Synopses via Amazon. Featured Image Via Publishers Weekly