By Laura Samuel Meyn
Whether it’s paper books, e-books or audio versions, we’ve been devouring the written word lately and suspect that the stack of unread books on your nightstand has been shrinking steadily, too. While the pandemic has libraries and bookshops only open for business via curbside pickup, downloads or delivery, their staff, like us, are sleuthing out interesting reads. We reached out to a bestselling author, a librarian and a few independent-bookstore owners for their advice on what to read right now. Their answers produced a far-flung list that includes juicy novels, Historical fiction, poetry and self-help. Read on.
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter Recommended by Julia Heaberlin, bestselling thriller author Grapevine resident Julia Heaberlin left behind her job as a newspaper editor midcareer to write thrillers; her fifth for Penguin/Random House, We Are All the Same in the Dark, hits shelves Aug. 11. What to read in the meantime? “If ever there is a book that will leave you feeling sun drenched and satisfied, it is the time-hopping Beautiful Ruins. You’ll be swept away in the first moments, when a beautiful and dying actress floats up alone to a remote fishing village on the craggy Italian coast. It’s romance (but don’t turn up your nose); it’s literary (but still a page turner); it’s historical (but you’ll barely realize you’re learning); it’s a satirical poke at Hollywood (and who couldn’t use a laugh?). As we mourn for Italy, this book fills you with its magic light, reminds us of what was and what can be again.” For more about Heaberlin’s work, check out juliaheaberlin.com.
The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys Recommended by Tina Howard, owner, Leaves Book & Tea Shop We’ve long followed Leaves Book & Tea Shop on Instagram (@leavesbooktea), where owner Tina Howard posts insightful book recommendations. Her current top pick is The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys. “Spain — its history, its culture, its people — holds a special place in my heart, as I spent a year of college studying abroad there. The Fountains of Silence takes place during the dictatorship of General Franco and features a young, aspiring photojournalist named Daniel — who is Texan! — visiting the country with his oil tycoon father and Spanish mother. As he photographs his surroundings, his eye captures details beyond what his curated family vacation purports. When he meets a local girl named Ana, he begins to question the secrets hidden in the shadows of Franco’s regime.”
Speak by Louisa Hall Recommended by Andrés de la Casa-Huertas, brand director, The Wild Detectives This bookstore-bar hybrid is a popular destination in Dallas’ Oak Cliff neighborhood. And while we miss not being able to order a white peach Manhattan while browsing, WD is still open for online ordering of books. Andrés de la Casa-Huertas’ pick is Speak. “Louisa Hall’s multiple-voice narration about artificial intelligence unfolds elegantly, a deep reflection on what it means to be human. As a reader, I particularly loved how the author pushes the story forward and creates meaning just by the delicate intricacies between the different voices’ stories. I’ve picked this book because I think it’s quite relevant considering the strange times we’re living. If we bond through language and conversations connect us, this is a time to speak to — and listen to — those we love, wherever they are. As the author says, ‘We’re all in all of us.’ ” To purchase online, go to bookshop.org/shop/thewilddetectives. 314 W. Eighth St., Dallas, 214-942-0108 or thewilddetectives.com
Rising Strong by Brené Brown Recommended by Katie Combs, adult programming librarian, Fort Worth Public Library Its full title is Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. Fort Worth librarian Katie Combs recommends the self-help book, written by a research professor and popular TED Talks speaker, for its timely messages. “Brown encourages readers to embrace their own emotions about change to build a higher sense of vulnerability. I loved this read because it helped me realize that not every struggle lasts forever and going through hard times makes me a stronger and wiser person. I recommend everyone grab a copy to help better tap into their true sense of self.” Materials can be borrowed electronically; download the Libby app to reserve e-books and audiobooks. Find the eCARD application and the digital library at fortworthlibrary.org.
Where to Begin by Cleo Wade Recommended by Kaitlynn Cassady, manager, Commonplace Books Fort Worth Commonplace Books has been open for almost a year, and already has attracted a book-loving audience to its cozy Fort Worth location. And you can still shop thanks to e-commerce. For an uplifting read, manager Kaitlynn Cassady suggests Where to Begin by Cleo Wade. “It’s a book of poetry and little illustrations and mantras that signify hope in what often feels like a hopeless world. Cleo writes beautifully and gets to the heart of what it means to live in a community, to feel seen, and to care for others well. This little book has been a lifeline for me to just be lifted up and reminded that we’re all in this together and even in the worst moments there’s something we can do for ourselves or someone else. This is a book you can come back to time and time again, give as a gift, or just keep on your nightstand for a little heart hug every day.” Online ordering on the shop’s website is easy, and books arrive quickly. WestBend, 1701 River Run, Fort Worth, 817-229-5773 or commonplacebooksftw.com
A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler Recommended by Shelley Lowe, owner, Monkey & Dog Books Confirmed bibliophile Shelley Lowe reads on average eight to 10 books a month. Her shop is known for its stellar selection of children’s books, but it also carries a wide variety for adults. Her pick is A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler. “It’s a book about racial tension; there’s a black mother and biracial son who live in a white neighborhood in North Carolina and nobody really sees that they’re black. But a new family moves in next door, and then there are some problems. The son is attracted to the neighbors’ teenage daughter, and tensions rise. When you finish it, you cry — you are in that book so much it’s as if those characters are living. You do fall into another world, one not painted with pandemic, so it does take you away. It’s my favorite I’ve read this year thus far.” Lowe is filling orders by phone for curbside pickup or delivery. 3608 W. 7th St., Fort Worth, 817-489-5747 or monkeyanddogbooks.com
Fracture by Andrés Neuman Recommended by Lori Feathers, co-owner and book buyer, Interabang Books Interabang’s original Dallas location was destroyed last October by a tornado (it reopened a month later in a new location), so the coronavirus closure has been a double whammy. But they continue to move forward with the help of the internet. Interabang book buyer Lori Feathers got a sneak peek at forthcoming releases, such as Andrés Neuman’s Fracture, available this month. “The novel is a contemplation on the life of Yoshie Watanabe, who as a boy survived the bombing of Hiroshima and who all his life acutely feels the physical and psychological scars of that unimaginable trauma. Yoshie grows up to be a successful executive for a Japanese television manufacturer and is posted abroad for most of his 50-year career. The 2011 earthquake and resulting nuclear power plant disaster at Fukushima bring the past and present together for Yoshie in ways unexpected and profound. Fracture is a deeply thoughtful meditation on memory and how the wounds of the past need be exposed before they can be reconciled.” Go to the website for online orders. 5600 W. Lovers Lane, Dallas, 214-484-4289 or interabangbooks.com