Top picks from the editor’s bookshelf

The best books I’ve read so far in 2024: BSR Book Week editor’s picks

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5 minute read
Vertical stack of 10 books, including Long Bright River, Housemates, Come & Get It, Disability Intimacy, and more

Looking for some great summertime reads? In honor of BSR Book Week, I’m sharing a few of my favorite books from the first half of this year, with some bonus picks from BSR staffers, and the books I’m excited to pick up next.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Are you adding any to your list? What are YOU reading?

On to the books!

The Reformatory
By Tananarive Due

This isn't just the best horror novel I've read in recent memory: it may be one of the best novels I have ever read. You will breathe along with these characters, afraid to turn the page but unable to quit reading. Set in mid-20th century Florida, it mixes America's darkest historic currents with a supernatural tale whose characters will stay with you for life.

James
By Percival Everett

Philosophical flair mixes seamlessly with un-put-downable fiction in this book that is both a tribute to Mark Twain and its own American icon. Percival Everett's latest novel reimagines The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from the perspective of Jim. It's devastating, funny, and shockingly hopeful. So many of its passages have stuck with me after the last page.

Jane Austen: The Secret Radical
By Helena Kelly

Jane Austen lovers should run, not walk to get their hands on this 2018 book offering a whole new window on the beloved novelist's canon. With a chapter dedicated to each of Austen's finished works, Helena Kelly convincingly argues that Austen was tackling radical causes from inside a totalitarian British regime, including abolition, poverty, enclosure, evolutionary science, and the hypocrisy and corruption of the Church.

Moving Past Marriage: Why We Should Ditch Marital Privilege, End Relationship-Status Discrimination, and Embrace Nonmarital History
By Jaclyn Geller, PhD

“What radicalized you?” It’s a common question in some activist communities, and for me, the answer might be getting married (and divorced). This manifesto takes on the “matrimaniacs” (cheerleaders for marriage; i.e., almost everyone) to reveal how America’s practical, legal, financial, social, professional, and political scales are all tipped in favor of married people, with high costs to everyone else.

This American Ex-Wife: How I Ended My Marriage and Started My Life
By Lyz Lenz

We’re in a golden age of anti-marriage manifestos and divorce memoirs, and I’m here for it. Lyz Lenz’s new memoir is painfully relatable for a lot of women, and enraging men everywhere. She’s a funny, startling, deep-digging writer (I also enjoy her newsletter, Men Yell at Me). This American Ex-Wife feels like a descendant of Rebecca Traister’s All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation and Darcy Lockman’s All the Rage: Mothers, Fathers, and the Myth of Equal Partnership. With a focus on cishet relationships, all three books fearlessly reveal the gulf between society's expectations for men and women, the persistent problems of marriage, and the failure of a government that shunts women into wedlock instead of enacting the policies we all need.

Housemates
By Emma Copley Eisenberg

Local author and Blue Stoop cofounder Emma Copley Eisenberg’s first novel is on our Book Week review roster, so check that one out. Eisenberg’s writing is vivid and raw, and her fully embodied characters live in a messy, hopeful space that feels real—the West Philly house where a lot of the book takes place doesn’t just feel like a place I read about. I feel like I lived there.

Long Bright River
By Liz Moore

This one sat on my shelf for a long time—even though I know it’s a bestseller by a local author set in Philly—because murder, crime, and mystery aren’t usually on my list. But once I did pick it up earlier this year, the writing quickly carried me away. And inside of it all is a story about a young mom learning not to perpetuate her trauma in raising her own child.

Next up on my reading list:

Disability Intimacy, edited by Alice Wong
How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America: Essays, By Kiese Laymon
Sex with a Brain Injury: On Concussion and Recovery, by Annie Liontas
Come & Get It, by Kiley Reid
Ithaca, by Claire North

Bonus picks from BSR staff

From executive director Neil Bardhan:

Adult Drama: And Other Essays

By Natalie Beach

Natalie Beach came to the public eye with a tell-all essay about her former employer/friend, Caroline Calloway. Her book includes analysis and reanalysis of this relationship and its fallout. But Beach also tackles a wide range of other, more familiar, topics, like trying to date coworkers in one's twenties, shopping estate sales, and the social politics of texting. I expected this book to be juicy but wasn't ready for how much the writing would affect me—Beach made me want to write deeply about myself.

From social-media manager Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer:

The Book of Delights
By Ross Gay

I love to read one of Ross Gay's essays daily! They are lyrical, lovely and profound, inspiring me to think about the beautiful things in my own life.

Enchantment: Awakening Wonder in an Anxious Age
By Katherine May

This is a slim volume all about connecting reconnecting to the natural world, written out of May's post-pandemic exhaustion—which feels so relatable.

A Speaker is a Wilderness: Poems on the Sacred Path from Brokenness to Whole
Anna Goodman Herrick

This is a powerful new volume of poetry from a fierce, feminist, Jewish perspective, exploring many themes that interest me, especially ancestral trauma and healing.

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