Curious what the NetGalley team is reading? Wish you could steal a peek at our bookshelves? You’ve come to the right place. Check out the best books we read this month, and share your favorite in the comments!
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming is a favorite of mine, so when I saw that my library had the audiobook for Another Brooklyn I checked it out immediately. This short novel transports readers to Brooklyn. After running into a childhood friend on the subway, August finds herself lost in memories of her past. The narrative pushes and pulls the reader—at times bringing you right onto the Brooklyn street to walk arm-in-arm with August and her girls, and other times only offering a glimpse of a memory that August isn’t ready to face yet. As always, Woodson’s language is gorgeous and poetic, perfectly capturing the dreamlike quality that memories have. It’s an ode to friendship and girlhood, and an exploration of loss and the ways we drift apart from each other without meaning to. This book reminded me of why I love Woodson’s writing, and it’s making me eager to pick up something else from her soon.
The Pursuit Of… by Courtney Milan
Set during the Revolutionary War, this novella follows a Black American soldier and a white British officer across a 500-mile journey. John spared Henry’s life during a battle, never expecting to see the defecting British officer again. He’s shocked when Henry shows up in the American camp (poorly disguised as a cheesemonger) and offers to help him find his sister. Each day they spend on the road brings them closer together, and more reluctant to return to an unjust world. This little story is packed with humor, a lot of terrible cheese, and a tenderness that brought tears to my eyes. I loved it so much I want it to be made into a movie! But while I wait for someone to make that dream come true, I’m looking forward to picking up more from Milan. For readers interested in The Pursuit Of…, it can be found as a standalone or in the collection Hamilton’s Battalion, which also includes a gorgeous novella from Alyssa Cole and one from Rose Lerner that is on my TBR!
They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, illustrated by Harmony Becker
George Takei’s graphic memoir chronicles the years his family spent in Japanese internment camps. He was four when the American government passed a law to imprison citizens of Japanese descent, and throughout the book he explores the ways his age shaped his view of what was happening to his family and how growing older shed new light on those memories. This juxtaposition between the nostalgia of childhood memories and the context that comes with being an adult was particularly well executed—and it’s explored deeply when recalling Takei’s relationship with his father, who became a leader of their block and who advocated for his community and family tirelessly. By no means and easy read, this is certainly a powerful one.
Wicked Deeds on a Winter’s Night by Kresley Cole
I love romance, but I’ve had a tough time breaking into the paranormal subgenre. It can be intimidating to start series that boast nearly 20 books. Thankfully, the Fated Mates podcast exists. Hosted by Sarah MacLean and Jen Prokop, the first season follows Kresley Cole‘s Immortals After Dark series. Reading a book in the series and following it up with the corresponding podcast episode has made my leap into paranormal romance so much more fun than I would’ve imagined. I’ve read the first three books in the series, and most recently loved Wicked Deeds on a Winter’s Night. Robert Petkoff narrates the audiobooks and does an incredible job creating distinct character voices. The series is packed with action, steamy romance, and immortal creatures. Reading is already enjoyable, but this series is so much fun it’ll have you diving for the next book every time you finish one.
Call Me Evie by J.P. Pomare
Call Me Evie was a really quick and suspenseful read. There were some twists I saw coming a mile away, and some that left me staring at the page with my mouth hanging open. The story follows Kate and a man who acts as both kidnapper and rescuer as they flee to New Zealand after a mysterious crime took place. It’s part coming-of-age story, part crime mystery, and part psychological thriller. It might sound confusing at first (especially when you add in an unreliable narrator), but it’s all worth it! Call Me Evie was a great read that stayed with me long after it was over.
Love Her or Lose Her by Tessa Bailey
Tessa Bailey’s Fix Her Up was one of my favorite 2019 romance reads. I recommended it to all of my romance-reading friends. This second installment in the series follows Rosie and Dominic, a couple that was introduced in Fix Her Up. Their marriage fell apart after Dominic came home from being deployed overseas. Their communication has broken down, but their sexual relationship is still fiery. Bailey is known for her steamy romances, and she doesn’t disappoint in Love Her or Lose Her. There’s a kitchen scene that is *fans self* glorious. Rosie and Dominic go to couple’s counseling and realize that there are many different ways to communicate love. I’m not usually drawn to second-chance romances as a trope, but I couldn’t put this one down. I need the third novel in this series in my life!
Tweet Cute by Emma Lord
As someone whose job it is to manage social media, I found Tweet Cute by Emma Lord to be so much fun. This young adult rom-com follows two teens who find themselves in a Twitter war on behalf of their parents’ restaurants. Pepper’s parents own a large burger chain that recently launched a grilled cheese that is extremely similar to the one that Jack’s parents’ deli is known for. I particularly enjoyed how many layers this story had besides the social media conflict. Pepper’s mom relies on her to manage the social media for the burger chain, which puts a lot of pressure on Pepper, who is also juggling swim team, school, and college applications. Communication becomes a theme in the novel because we see both sets of parents not doing the best job of talking to their kids. For Jack, he always feels compared to his twin and doesn’t think his parents believe in him. The romantic plot was really sweet, and I definitely recommend this for fans of young adult contemporaries.
Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
I adored Talia Hibbert’s Get a Life, Chloe Brown and devoured it in one sitting on an airplane. Chloe Brown’s voice has this undeniable quality that makes the reader love her. She’s dealing with chronic illness and the book is about learning to live with it rather than letting it consume her. She moves out of her wealthy parents’ house and writes a bucket list (gotta love a girl who loves a list). Then she meets Red, who works in her building, and he ends up helping her cross items off her list. The relationship between Red and Chloe is really sweet, and Red sees her as the strong independent woman that she is. He helps her get out of her comfort zone but never forces her to do anything too soon. Through the bucket list, they’re able to grow together and work past Chloe’s insecurities as well as Red’s, which come from being burned by a previous relationship. I loved how this dual POV allowed us to hear how each character truly saw the other. One of my favorite things Hibbert does is having the characters communicate and talk through misunderstandings before they blow up. I can’t wait to read more of Talia Hibbert’s books.
The Stars We Steal by Alexa Donne
Alexa Donne’s debut Brightly Burning was a favorite of mine when I read it in 2018. I was highly anticipating her follow-up, The Stars We Steal, and it did not disappoint. When it went up on NetGalley I immediately hit request and started reading right after I was approved. This YA space opera is a retelling of Persuasion by Jane Austen (her best work in my opinion), set in the same world as Donne’s first novel. The books take place in a post-apocalyptic future where nations fled Earth to live in space stations. Princess Leo is the heir to her family ship and is pressured to marry into money to save her nearly-destitute family. Leo would much rather invent something useful and earn her own wealth. There’s Bachelor-esque courting that takes place as high-ranking children from different ships go on matchmaking dates. This is all made much more dramatic when Elliot, who Leo rejected because her family didn’t approve of his lower class and lack of wealth, arrives. Donne writes the chemistry between them so well. The supporting characters were really fun and the atmosphere felt very different from the first book. There were a lot of great twists and turns that kept me hooked, and I think readers who aren’t sci-fi fans will love this book for the romantic drama. Donne is definitely a YA author to watch!
Dependency by Tove Ditlevsen
Dependency is the third book in Tove Ditlevsen’s trilogy of autobiographical novels dramatizing the demise of her first marriage and the strange, unnerving circumstances of her second. It is an intense, claustrophobic, often shocking, but always clear-eyed look at dependency in all its guises: love, addiction, need, and desire.
Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener
When we first meet Anna Wiener in this memoir, she is an underpaid Brooklynite trying to eke out a decent living in publishing. She and her friends are wondering if the shabby glamour of book publishing is worth the low wages, the long hours, and the very unclear career path forward. So when she has the opportunity to jump ship and move into the tech world, she jumps. She is skeptical about San Francisco and the tech world, but seduced by high salaries and the optimism of tech. For years, she works in offices where people wear hoodies and ride ripsticks. She sells consumer data to companies, she befriends billionaires, she moderates discussion boards that grow increasingly sexist, antisemitic, and racist. Part of the pleasure of this memoir is an inside look at truly bonkers work life (she doesn’t name names presumably because of NDAs, but a lot of companies aren’t that hard to figure out). The other part is much more chilling: how a fast-scaling, male-driven, hyper-competitive bubble industry has become one of the most powerful organizing principles of life in this country. We’re at a point where you can’t really opt out of the internet, smartphones, or monolithic tech companies. This is a really engaging read, but one that will have you very freaked out about our future.
Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston
In the 1920s, a young Zora Neale Hurston interviewed Oluale Kossola, also called Cudjo Lewis, one of the last people taken into slavery through the Middle Passage. Born in West Africa, Kossola was captured and brought to the United States as a slave. He survived that journey, years of enslavement on plantations, the Civil War, and its aftermath. By the time Hurston met him, he was in his 80s, living in Alabama. Hurston interviewed him about his life in Africa, the Middle Passage, slavery, the war, and what it felt like to go from being free to enslaved to free again. Mostly, we hear from Kossola directly. But peppered throughout are conversations he and Hurston have, so that you get a sense of what their relationship looked like. Written in the 20s, but only published in 2018, Barracoon is a crucial piece of the historical record, a reminder of how recently slavery ended in this country. And, because Hurston recorded Kossola, it lends itself particularly well to an audio experience.
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
It turns out that if a book is a women-centered character drama with maybe some death and HBO turned it into a series, I’m going to like it. I started listening to Big Little Lies thinking that I could get started on my resolution to listen to more audiobooks and get my fill of rich ladies sniping at each other. I did get both of those things, but I also got a smart and complicated investigation into the contagion of trauma–how violence replicates across generations, in families, in communities. It ended up being a great balance between a fun and gossipy story about wealthy suburban intrigue and something deeper and heavier. I know full well that I’m years behind the trend on this one, but better late than never!
Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante
When I first read the Neapolitan Novels (My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child) I devoured them. Over the holidays, I gave myself the treat of returning to Naples and to the friendship between Lila and Lenu. I’ve never read a more accurate, blistering, or compelling portrait of friendship between two women–from their childhood through older adulthood. Lenu, the narrator, has always compared herself to Lila–to her fierceness, to her hardness, her cruelty, her creativity, her intelligence, her sexuality, and her politics. Every achievement of hers is inspired by Lila or by her desire to be superior to Lila. Throughout these books, you’re absolutely sucked into the shifting power dynamics as these women get older, marry, separate, become mothers, take different jobs, and leave and return to their poor and almost-mythic Naples neighborhood. Plus I’m absolutely tearing my hair out at how much time they waste on disappointing leftist men (although I certainly recognize the impulse). But the thing that I am stuck on when rereading this series that is truly worth the hype, is that no matter how engrossing the story is, we’re only ever seeing Lenu’s side of it. In the balance of power, the power of narration is maybe the ultimate one.
Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger
This was a great way to start the year. Tribe is a book that made me examine some very basic aspects of modern life and underscored for me that true happiness comes from the relationships we have with the people around us. Basic common tenants like feeling competent, included, and valued while making others feel the same way are much more important than the accumulation of material wealth and power. Junger makes a great argument that banding together as people—whether it be in a shared mission, or shared defense of a mission—is almost instinctual in humans. At the same time he warns that our “modern society” of the past few hundred years may in fact drive those instincts out of us.