Each week, Bookstr scans bestseller lists across the Internet to learn what people are reading, buying, gifting, and talking about most—just so we can ensure consistent, high quality recommendations. This week’s nonfiction picks are new self-development picks that can improve your quality of life! Dig in!
5. ‘No happy endings’ by Nora McInerny
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No Happy Endingsby Nora McInerny is a book for people living life after life has fallen apart. It’s a book for people who know that they’re moving forward, not moving on. It’s a book for people who know life isn’t always happy, but it isn’t the end: there will be unimaginable joy and incomprehensible tragedy. As Nora reminds us, there will be no happy endings—but there will be new beginnings.
4. ‘Range’ by David Epstein
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Rangeby David Epstein is all about learning from failure. This book makes a compelling case for actively cultivating inefficiency. Failing a test is the best way to learn. Frequent quitters end up with the most fulfilling careers. The most impactful inventors cross domains rather than deepening their knowledge in a single area. As experts silo themselves further while computers master more of the skills once reserved for highly focused humans, people who think broadly and embrace diverse experiences and perspectives will increasingly thrive.
3. ‘How to do nothing’ by jenny Odell
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How to To Do Nothing by Jenny Odell argues the case of doing nothing, especially in the digital age of distraction and people vying for your attention. This is is an action plan for thinking outside of capitalist narratives of efficiency and techno-determinism. Provocative, timely, and utterly persuasive, this book is a four-course meal in the age of Soylent.
2. ‘The Life Changing magic of tidying up’ by Marie Kondo
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The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Upby Marie Kondo is a detailed book about how to declutter your house from its infernal mess. With detailed guidance for determining which items in your house “spark joy” (and which don’t), this international bestseller featuring Tokyo’s newest lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home—and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.
1. ‘Belong’ by Radha Agrawal
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Belongby Radha Agrawal is about building a community with like minded people in the digital age when people feel more isolated than ever. A book that’s equal parts inspiring and interactive, and packed with prompts, charts, quizzes, and full-color illustrations, Belong takes readers on a two-part journey. Part one is Going IN—a gentle but intentional process of self-discovery and finding out your true energy levels and VIA (values, interests, and abilities). Part two is Going OUT—building on all that you’ve learned about yourself to find those few special people who feed your soul, and discovering, or creating, the ever-widening groups that align with your aims and desires.
I’ll be the first to admit that I hated reading the classics in school. John Milton made me mad, Shakespeare was a snore and Robert Frost robbed me of years of my life I’ll never get back. And because I was only exposed to those books, for the longest time I thought that was all that poetry was. But there’s so much more to it than that. Poetry is an ever-expanding, ever-diversifying form that isn’t just limited to stuffy poems ‘comparing thee to a summer’s day.’ But don’t write off poetry just yet. Here’s five books that go above and beyond what you thought poetry could be.
Olio is unlike any book of poetry you’ve read before. Named after the second part of a minstrel-show, Jess allows the title to inform the performance-like presentation of his poems. It’s like a seance, the way he’s able to capture up the very essence of history. The book is comprised of everything from interviews to songs to prose. Larger than the size of your average poetry book, Jess has pages that fold out to read, drawings, and even a cast of characters in this book. But the most unique poems are the ones that can be read in any direction. For these poems, Jess employs a particular style of writing that uses two columns to separate his words. The effect is that there’s a plethora of ways you can read the poem and amazingly whichever way you read it, it still makes sense! It’s an astonishing feat. This book is perfect for anyone looking for a book that expands the realm of what poems can do.
You might be familiar with the publisher of this book, Button Poetry, as they’re known for being the hub of posted slam poetry videos that have probably made their way onto your social media timeline at some point. Abdurraqib is possibly the coolest poet you’ll ever hear of. Not just a poet but also a pop culture critic, he’s written for the likes of MTV News, The Fader, and The New York Times. Abdurraqib uses his interest in pop culture, specifically music, to explore his own personal feelings and experiences through the lens of a Black man in America. What draws you in is the way these poems can be both read and performed. Many take on a certain rhythmic lyricism that those of us who’ve seen slam poetry might be familiar with. It’s both culturally relevant and completely accessible. For any lovers of music, you’ll enjoy trying to catch all the references from this relatable collection of poems.
Just the title lets you know you’re in for some insight. Warsan Shire is a name you’ve likely heard as being the mastermind behind the poems in Beyoncé’s Lemonade. Because of that, there’s a good chance you’ve already heard or read some of her work and it’s definitely worth looking into more of it. Shire manages to be bold and straightforward in her writing while also still giving us deep metaphors and one-liners that make you savor these words with a reverential “mhhh.” And the metaphors never get so wordy or heavy that you get lost in them. This chapbook may be fairly short, but it’s food for the soul. This poetry book was practically hand-picked by Queen Bey herself.
The poems in this collection are short but pack a punch like nothing else. Waheed herself is one of the more famously-known instapoets whose poems often appear as screenshots on social media. Her poems are typically only a sentence or two long. But don’t let the length fool you. These poems still leave you with something to think about. This is another collection of poems that veers away from what the “traditional” style of poetry is. The language itself isn’t terribly fancy or overcomplicated but her writing still holds a complexity to it. And with only a couple lines and a title (usually at the bottom of the poem) that is not something easy to do. These poems are a lovely match for anyone with a short attention span, anyone who is too busy to delve into longer works, or anyone who just enjoys beauty in simplicity.
The first thing that captures you is the stunning book cover. From there, you’re drawn into Faizullah’s world wholeheartedly. She writes with such fantastical flare that the book itself truly feels like a journey. Not only that, but her book has a myriad of different forms of writing that all come together to paint a picture. She has a poem that slinks down the page, another that uses staccato writing to emphasize her words and another that addresses homework from her childhood. Her poems take us all around the world from Texas to Bangladesh to Turkey to Iraq. If you love writing that takes you places, you’re not gonna wanna miss the adventure of this collection of poems.
Each week, Bookstr will be offering a look at some of the best novels in a particular genre for your continued reading list. Today, we’ll be recommending five recent crime and thriller novels for your reading pleasure. Have a look at our choices and let us know what you think of our suggestions in the comments! Hopefully, you’ll add some of these for your ongoing reading list.
5. Sydney Noir edited by John Dale
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Sydney Noiris an anthology of stories about crime in Australia’s capital city, told through the eyes of different characters. It offers unique perspectives on the different aspects of crime in Sydney. It features never before published stories from fourteen of Australia’s lauded authors: Mandy Sayer, John Dale, Mark Dapin, Kirsten Tranter, Eleanor Limprecht, Leigh Redhead, Robert Drewe, Julie Koh, Peter Polites, Tom Gilling, Gabrielle Lord, Philip McLaren, P.M. Newton and Peter Doyle. Exploring crime in its many forms, the stories feature characters from all walks of Australian life, and will keep you turning the pages and learning about the dark underbelly of this fascinating nation.
4. American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson
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American Spytells a tale of espionage during Cold War. It centers on an African-American woman, Marie Mitchell whose career in the FBI has been stymied by racism and prejudice. Mitchell is finally given her chance to shine when she joins a shadowy task force to undermine public trust in Thomas Sankara, the charismatic revolutionary of Burkina Faso whose Communist leanings make him a target of American intervention. But Marie’s loyalties actually lie with Sankara’s ideology rather than that of her American bosses. Now, far from home and her every move being watched, she has to make a choice to follow her heart or serve her country.
3. The Coronation by Boris Akunin
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Boris Akunin has been called the Russian answer to Agatha Christie and his latest novel certainly cements that reputation. His latest mystery is set in Imperial Russia. During the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II, the young son of Grand Duke Georgii Alexandrovich is kidnapped. A ransom letter demands the handover of the Count Orlov, an enormous diamond of the royal scepter that is due to play a major role in the coronation. Can gentleman detective Fandorin find the kidnappers in time for the coronation?
2. The Lost Night by Andrea Bartz
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The Lost Nightby Andrea Bartz i a tightly paced and well written debut . In 2009 saw the supposed suicide of Edie, the star of a group of recent graduates in Brooklyn. The group all fell apart after her death. A decade later, one of her best friends, Lindsay, finds an unsettling video that suggest Edie didn’t commit suicide after all. Lindsay begins an investigation and unearths long buried secrets that Edie’s other friends have been hiding about what really happened that terrible night.
1. The Hiding Place by C.J. Tudor
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The Hiding Place follows Joe, a teacher who never wanted to return to his hometown after his sister vanished. But when another kid disappears the exact same way, he feels he has no choice. He lies his way into a job at his old high school, ready to settle scores with ex-friends and old enemies. But returning to his old school isn’t the hard part. The worst part is returning to the mine where everything went wrong, and confronting the fact that what was worse than his sister vanishing… was her return. This is a chilling novel full of psychological suspense that we can definitely recommend!
Those of us who have experience with dating apps know that a date with a good book might be a hell of a lot better than a date with a real person, who might engage in all sorts of appealing behaviors like (1) talking about their exes or (2) stiffing the waiter on the tip. Unfortunately, sometimes dates with a book can be a little like meeting up with that Tinder match: you judge based on appearance; you’re disinterested; you get turned off quickly, sometimes for arbitrary reasons. To ensure that this Valentine’s Day you fall in love with a new story, let’s play a little game. (Normally, you won’t want your new suitor to play games with you. This time, you can make an exception.)
Here are the rules: this article will list ten incredible books WITHOUT using their title, author, or official blurb. The choices are varied in terms of genre, length, and writing style, so there’s something for everyone—even you! Each description will conclude with a link to purchase the secret book, and, although you’ll meet your date face-to-face when you click on the link, try not to judge a book by its cover! While you might be tempted to change your mind, just remember… nobody likes a cheater!
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This harrowing memoir offers a raw depiction of addiction and chronic illness, told in straightforward language with frequent, striking insights. You’ll want the narrator to make ‘better’ choices—the two of you will have that in common. Chapters aren’t numbered but are instead titled after the place the author was when the following events took place. The only constant setting is the author’s body—a grim landscape, always unfamiliar terrain. This is a rare story of recovery that doesn’t promise a neat ending: as is the nature of chronic illness, the author is still sick. The memoir confronts the assumptions of what a sick person is supposed to look and act like. With its honest, almost painfully vulnerable voice and tone, it explores how illness works when the end goal isn’t wellness but life itself. Interested?
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Ever wanted to feel warm and cozy AND intensely creeped out—all without attending a family reunion? This work of genre fiction takes place in a reality only slightly different from our own, not so much an alternate universe as a universe adjacent. The fun parts of this novel feel like the warm shelter of the fictional island in which this story takes place, full of cinnamon twists and rich tea and wool scarves. The terrifying parts of this novel are also the fun parts. Plot points include: a deadly race, a slow-burn romance, delicious pastries, organs strewn across the roadway. The language is as witty as it is poetic, with snappy dialogue and a rich sense of place. If it’s relevant, the ending made me cry both happy and sad tears. Swipe right?
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This one’s for the coldhearted realists out there—tense, dark, and short as life. Here’s the thing about this one: everyone dies at the end. That’s not so much a spoiler as it is most of the plot. Our setting is the passenger seat of a car—you’ll never leave, and neither will they. The language is succinct and the structure creative; since the book takes place over about the course of an hour, it should take you about as much time to read the novella as it does for the characters to meet their grisly, unstoppable fate. Can it really be called a murder mystery if you know exactly what’s coming? This is an intelligent literary exploration of sexuality, violence, and control with the rapid heartbeat of a paperback crime novel. Read for fast cars, dark roads, and bad men. Is it a date?
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Magical realism meets immigration, xenophobia, global conflict, and human rights in this expansive literary novel. The story takes place on multiple continents as our displaced narrators travel the world searching for a home that may always be further and further behind them. The book explores what brings people together and what drives them apart, filled with love that’s sometimes stronger for places than for other people. Generally, the language is direct with little stylistic flourishes—not exactly blunt and to the point but not filled with metaphors either. Since the whole thing is probably a metaphor, your thirst for literary beauty (as well a close examination of the technical consequences of the story’s magical element) will still be sated. It’s international, somewhat intergenerational, highly relevant, and certainly gorgeous. Curious?
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If you’re a fan of downward spirals, misanthropic female narrators, and the idea of New York more than the place itself, you’re about to have an excellent book date. The novel explores escapism, isolation, and self-involvement as the narrator slips further and further away from herself and the few people who remain in her life. Strange, pessimistic, and often completely merciless, this novel presents us with a somewhat despicable narrator who, although she is rife with privilege, goes to extremes to relieve her alienation from society. If you want an unflinching look at human grossness, look here. Though the language is often confrontational, it’s equally clear that the author has a strong grasp of her characters, voice, and tone. Bonus: the author is actually aware of her character’s shortcomings and advantages. Wanna try?
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This Lovecraftian horror-comedy attempts to solve several mysteries at once: that’s both the classic haunted-house caper turned a whole lot more sinister and the mystery of how these once-promising detectives got so messed up over the years. Read on if you’re a fan of elaborate traps; bizarre monsters; sleepy towns where strange things happen; and a lovable cast of characters, all of whom adds something fun to the story’s dynamic. Ridiculously witty and filled with jaw-dropping plot twists, this is a fun and mostly lighthearted read that will thrill you in every possible sense of the word. This might be a quick and easy read, but it’ll certainly stick with you long after you’ve finished. Like what you see?
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Like books that are highly satirical and absurd without being deliberately, self-assuredly edgy at the same time? This book explores consumerism, beauty standards, and our cultural obsession with perfection at the expense of our own identities. Told through the perspective of an unnamed narrator, the novel chronicles the disappearance of a missing person through the eyes of that missing person. And, although she hasn’t always been gone, she hasn’t been quite there, either. The language is unique and regularly incisive, its imagery so vivid it borders on the grotesque. Your reaction may vary, but one thing is guaranteed: you will not be bored while reading this. This tale of cults, conspiracies, and processed food is as engaging as it is completely unnerving. Is it a match?
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Ever fall in love with a book that’s so incredibly absurd you can’t believe it actually works? This is one of those—a poignant and surprising YA sci-fi that avoids tropes of its genre with creative choices and a believable narrator. Note that in this case, ‘absurd’ does not mean ‘nihilistic.’ This is a story of (1) bisexual teen angst, (2) rural Americana, (3) apocalypse bunkers, (4) strip malls, and (5) one sci-fi element you have definitely not encountered anywhere else. The linguistic style is a delightful juxtaposition of poetic imagery about history and the legacy we leave behind with blunt, often crass, hilarity. Example: chapter titles include “The Right Kind of Cigarettes to Smoke Before You Kill Something.” This novel is as insightful as it is strange—and it’s really, really strange. Is this happening?
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Tell me what you think these things have in common: Millennial office culture, life as a child of immigrants, the warmth and emptiness of nostalgia, meaningless routine, a desire for human connection, and an unobtrusive genre element. If you said the answer was ‘your life,’ you might be correct. It’s also this book—an exploration of the places we look for meaning and the places we actually find it. This is a read for the overly ambitious and the underpaid. If you’ve got high hopes, a low salary, and a feeling of disconnection from your personal and cultural identity (so, if you’re alive), you’ll enjoy this creative and personal take on some light apocalyptic fiction with a defined sense of place. Hitting it off yet?
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You might not expect to laugh or cry at this memoir—but chances are, you’ll do both. What begins as a humorous character study of a larger-than-life father figure becomes an insightful, often astounding, look into the beauty and pain inherent in religion. The story explores gender roles in family dynamics, and how the patriarchy of religion and society can enter into a traditional nuclear family. Filled with witty anecdotes and a feisty narrator, the book may appear to be yet another romp through a whacky childhood. And it is that—but it’s also an exploration of feminism, sexual assault, the writer’s struggles, power dynamics, and the respective settings of both rural Kansas and the Catholic church. Written by a poet (I didn’t use the author’s name!) the language is unique, immersive, and mesmerizing. Going for it?