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Mal's Staff Favorites
Mal has been with Annie Blooms since 2020. While enjoying books from all different genres and authors, they have a special affinity for books with subjects that deviate from the beaten path.
One's Company is a surprise! Lightly absurd, the actions and emotional life of Bonnie Lincoln are deeply human, but of another world. Hutson is able to pull the concept of “binge watching” to its furthest reaches, and our hearts like taffy along with it. I rooted for Bonnie all the way down as she dug deeper and deeper into her obsession with the 1970’s sitcom Three’s Company. Who can’t relate to wanting to escape their troubles in a comforting show?
Seeking Fortune Elsewhere is an emotionally nuanced and complex collection of short stories. Each story is well written with wonderfully fractured characters. A big theme in this book is estrangement-- from country, culture, community, and family.
Fat Girls Hiking is AMAZING! Not only does it give fantastic hiking advice about gear and how to be kind to your body, it also asks the reader what it means to have a joyful connection with nature and the outdoors.
The Boy with a Bird in His Chest is phenomenal! Emme Lund captures the torturous adolescent angst of someone hiding a big part of their identity. Gail (the bird) is both literal and metaphorical, standing in for whatever we feel we need to hide and protect. She is also a funny and whole being in her own right. Some of my favorite interactions in the book were between her and Owen (the titular boy), who both had to sacrifice parts of themselves for each other. I also loved how well Lund was able to recreate the Pacific Northwest -- the windy and rainy beach descriptions made this Oregonian chuckle.
Have you ever wondered about the woman behind the infamous bestseller Go Ask Alice? The truth is stranger than fiction! Unmask Alice is equal parts true crime, American history, and a condemnation of the publishing industry. It is an extremely compelling read with each section leaving you wanting more, more, more -- I inhaled it in two sittings! Emerson balances humor with the very real damage Beatrice Sparks did to both society and specific individuals.
Afterparties is a delightful slice-of-life collection of short stories through which readers are offered a look into the lives of Cambodian (and mostly queer) Americans. Each story is infused with humor and filled to the brim with enjoyable characters. While all are rewarding in their own right, my personal favorites were “Three Women of Chuck’s Donuts,” and “The Monks.” In “Three Women,” we spend a few nights working with a woman and her two middle-aged daughters at a 24/7 diner. A mysterious patron returns night after night and the girls become obsessed with finding out who he is. In “The Monks,” a young man explores both grief and sexuality at his local temple after his father dies. Anthony Veasna So wrote with such frank honesty that it is easy to relate to each emotion and scenario presented. Sadly, he passed away in 2020, making each story a little more precious and worth savoring.
Passersthrough is a quick and eerie read. Similar to My Abandonment (one of Peter Rock's first novels), there is a complicated father-daughter relationship at the core of the plot, and Rock portrays the tension and unease of it well. Much of the writing has a dream like quality where you question whether the characters are dreaming, insane, or have slipped into another reality. Set in Portland and the surrounding wooded areas, there is a very Pacific Northwest dreariness that lends gloom and apprehension to the atmosphere.
In The Believer, Krasnostein interviews individuals with a variety of out-there beliefs. On the surface they all seem pretty unconnected but through her deft prose they are knit together with common through-lines. We meet UFOLogists, paranormal investigators, a death doula, creationists, and conservative mennonites. Krasnostein weaves each section together with philosophy, science, a smattering of theology, and her own experiences. The end result is an EXTREMELY thoughtful book that provokes a wellspring of curiosity.
I loved learning intimately about people with different beliefs! Portions of the paranormal and UFO sections gave me goosebumps. And while I always crave and enjoy books that explore the fringes of our reality, I appreciated that The Believer also tackles the very real sense of connection those she interviewed found in belief. It is a deeply human experience to want to belong to and find community.
Finally, not only is the subject matter fascinating, but Krasnostein’s prose is so beautiful and easy to read. One of my favorite lines from the end of the book: “I am looping on one warm night sitting in the yard with my husband under a salting of stars so thick it reminded me we are floating in space.”
Milk Blood Heat is a dynamite collection of stories! Moniz has a wonderfully evocative way with words, presenting the world in both its beauty and disease. Each tale takes place in Florida and follows an impressive range of characters looking for connection: burned-out waitresses, ambivalent mothers, feuding siblings, and a middle-aged barfly, to name a few. Moniz creates a solid sense of place, even for those of us readers who have yet to visit the Sunshine State. In my opinion, the strongest stories in this collection allow a rare glimpse of strange, disturbed, and troubled girlhoods. In every story, there is a sense of profound truth even in those that stray furthest from our reality.
What a strange and enjoyable little book! The Woman in the Purple Skirt is truly about The Woman in the Yellow Cardigan: an unnamed woman with an unhinged fascination with a stranger. In her efforts to become friends with this stranger, she employs all the tools at her disposal: deception, manipulation, and some light stalking. If you love dark humor and an unreliable narrator, this is the book for you!
Infinite Country begins with a bang: we ride shot-gun to fifteen year old Talia's escape from a correctional facility and race with her across Colombia to reach her father, Mauro. Beginning with the choice that put Talia in the facility, it becomes clear early that the core of this book is choices: those borne from desperation, desire, youth, and hope. Each decision that Talia's family makes pulls them apart and knits them together again across Colombian and American borders. Infinite Country is poignant and Engel uses lush descriptions mixed with Colombian mythology and history to bring these characters to life. By the end we can understand the justifications behind the worst and hardest of their decisions. This book will make your heart ache and will stay with you long after reading.
This was one of my top favorite books of 2021! It is strange and surreal: equal parts a coming of age novel, a mystery, and mind-bending. If you like time-travel, books within books, and dark humor, you will enjoy Long Division. This is one of those books that is best when you go in with minimal information and let yourself flow along with the narrative.
Killers of the Flower Moon is how true crime should be written: compassionate, contextual, and well researched. Definitely worth reading! You will come away from it with a deeper understanding of our country's complicated and genocidal history with indigenous peoples, and specifically with the Osage.
Ghostland is so much fun to read. The author, Colin Dickey, visits and deep-dives into the history of famously haunted places all across America. Each chapter explores the role of racism, sexism, and classism in how ghosts and hauntings become a part of local and national culture and history. It is the perfect read for someone who enjoys travel literature and the paranormal. While Dickey writes from the perspective of a skeptic, he is open-minded enough to satiate both the believers and the non-believers. If you enjoyed Mary Roach's Spook you will definitely enjoy Ghostland.
Have you ever wondered what it is like to work at a crematorium? If so, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes is perfect for your next read! Caitlin Doughty blends stories of her own time working at a crematorium with the history of funerary practices in the United States. Reading this book gives you a window into an often misunderstood industry; Doughty cracks it wide open with unflinching details, gallows humor, and a ton of research.
Spook is one of the best journalistic explorations of the afterlife and the people who seek to understand it. Fans of Roach know to expect her dry wit and her insatiable curiosity, and they will not be disappointed here. She speaks with mediums, scientists, ghost hunters, and those who believe in reincarnation to provide the reader with a broad buffet of history and philosophies. This book is perfect for anyone curious about the afterlife and want an introduction. It was written in 2006 so some of the science is a bit outdated, but the concepts are still solid and provide a good jumping-off point for anyone who wants to learn more. It is also a perfect gift for that spooky person in your life!