Didn’t get a ticket for Taylor Swift’s upcoming tour? Don’t despair. Think of all the money you saved when jamming out instead to Midnights along with a good book instead. The librarians at Libby, an app for borrowing ebooks, audiobooks, magazines, and more that let’s you borrow from your local library for free, went track by track to come up with pairings to go along with the new album, check out that list here.
The best part? Unlike a $700+ floor seat and hours of Ticketmaster torture, these books are free. So instead of a credit card, just whip out your library card.
Piper Bellinger is an Instagram wild child with a trust fund and a penchant for riling up the paparazzi. A lot of people make assumptions about her, including Brendan—at first. Both characters show that there’s more than meets the eye and they don’t give a darn what people think if they’re meant to be together.
Jokes about Jacob Black and Renesmee aside, this song captures the vibe of the franchise and the era of the books and movies so well. Whether it evokes Bella’s four-month depression (Hello, One day I’ll watch as you’re leaving / And life will lose all its meaning), Edward feeling like “a monster on the hill” and a danger to his love, or truly the “covert narcissism” disguised “as altruism” from just about every Cullen, this song has the Twilight franchise covered.
Addie makes a deal with the devil and lives forever, but is forgotten by everyone she meets. That’s until she meets a man who remembers her name. A lot of her life and loves feel like snow on the beach: weird but beautiful and, often, impossible.
With lyrics like, I didn’t choose this town, I dream of getting out and I hosted parties and starved my body / Like I’d be saved by a perfect kiss down to the repetition of You’re on your own, kid, you always have been, this song evokes so many of the feelings Jennette describes throughout her book: navigating life with her mother, being forced into Hollywood and just doing her best to survive.
Micah is the “Prince of Chicago.” He runs a popular (anonymous) Instagram filled with drawings of his numerous, imaginary boyfriends. He’s got it all, but knows he’s so much more than that. When Boy 100 turns into his very first boyfriend, he finds that love is so much more than what’s been living in his head. He has to fight the hurt as he tries to make his own name while Boy 100 is chasing the fame.
Auden spends a lot of nights reading or walking around town—basically doing anything but sleep. She runs into a fellow night owl, Eli, and they form a friendship as they both try to work through their stuff. These lyrics match perfectly:
Good girl, sad boy, big city, wrong choices. We had one thing goin’ on I swear that it was somethin’ / ‘Cause I don’t remember who I was before you painted all my nights / A color I’ve searched for since.
There are so many strong, powerful and amazing women in literature who could absolutely “draw the cat eye, sharp enough to kill a man,” but from the jump, this song evokes thoughts of sticking it to The Capitol. Whether dressing for revenge, or taking down the corrupt system from the inside, Katniss Everdeen and her crew are up to some vigilante sh*t.
We could totally imagine “Karma” as Lily’s anthem as she navigates the tricky dynamics of her ex, Ryle, and the feelings she has for Atlas as they meet again as adults. Lily deserves her second chance at love despite the others that keep trying to bring her down.
This is such a magical and spooky series by Bray, filled with love and mysterious powers. There are so many moments in this book that feel like they only happen when all the stars aligned, and the love story of Theta and Memphis is surely one of them. From their chance meeting during the raid of the Hotsy Totsy club in Book 1, to discovering Theta’s past in Book 3, this pair absolutely embodies “the first night that you saw me nothing was gonna stop me.”
After you soak in the new album, head over to the Libby reading app to find the perfect book match.
About the Author
Joe Skelley has always been a lover of reading and passionate about the library. His love of libraries brought him to OverDrive where he works on the Events team, working with the Digital Bookmobile and co-hosts the Professional Book Nerds podcast. Joe loves thrillers, magical realism and the broad spectrum of YA. When he’s not working, Joe loves to listen to audiobooks and podcasts, watch YouTube, get too involved in a DIY project and (most importantly) play with his Boston Terrier, Roscoe.
London, 2017. There’s no one Lucille adores more than her grandmother (not even her mother, she’s ashamed to say). So when her beloved Granny Sylvie asks Lucille to help secure the return of something precious to her, she’s happy to help. The next thing she knows, Lucille is on a train to Paris, tasked with retrieving a priceless Dior dress. But not everything is as it seems, and what Lucille finds in a small Parisian apartment will have her scouring the city for answers to a question that could change her entire life.
Paris, 1952. Postwar France is full of glamour and privilege, and Alice Ainsley is in the middle of it all. As the wife to the British ambassador to France, Alice’s job is to see and be seen—even if that wasn’t quite what she signed up for. Her husband showers her with jewels, banquets, and couture Dior dresses, but his affection has become distressingly illusive. As the strain on her marriage grows, Alice’s only comfort is her bond with her trusted lady’s maid, Marianne. But when a new face appears in her drawing room, Alice finds herself swept up in an epic love affair that has her yearning to follow her heart…no matter the consequences.
In her novel The Last Dress From Paris, Jade Beer makes the City of Lights come alive as she weaves a lush, evocative story of three generations of women, love, and a fashion scavenger hunt. It is also an exploration of the ties that bind us together, the truths we hold that make us who we are, and the true meaning of what makes someone family.
2022 actually marks the 75th anniversary of Dior, and the collection of dresses featured in the novel are inspired by an exhibit Beer saw at the V&A in London.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jade Beer is an award-winning editor, journalist, and novelist who has worked across the UK national press for more than twenty years. Most recently, she was the editor-in-chief of Condé Nast’s Brides. She also writes for other leading titles including The Sunday Times Style, The Mail on Sunday‘s YOU magazine, The Telegraph, the Tatler Weddings Guide, Glamour,Stella magazine, and is one of The Mail on Sunday’s regular fiction and nonfiction book reviewers. Jade splits her time between London and the Cotswolds, where she lives with her husband and two daughters.
This book is available in the following formats: Kindle, Audiobook, Hardcover and Paperback.
Twin sisters, once extremely close when growing up in an eccentric household with a demeaning and scolding mother, alcoholic grandfather, and absent father, are now separated by thousands of miles and endless anger.
Cat lives in Los Angeles in an apartment overlooking the water. But it’s not hers, and she’ll have to move soon when the owner returns. A lifestyle writer, her finances are precarious, and she’s unsure of what she’ll do next when she gets a call from Edinburgh, Scotland. El, her twin, has failed to return from a solo sailing trip.
El is much more stable—at least on the surface. An artist, she’s married to Ross and living in the grand but uber Gothic home where the twins grew up—a place they called Mirrorland. It’s all dark passageways, closed off dusty rooms, hidden cupboards, nooks, and cobweb filled crannies. Here the two invented an alternate universe of hovering evil, wicked clowns, a ghoulish Tooth Fairy, and blood thirsty pirates all populating their elaborate stories that had them plotting their survival in a hostile and shadowy world. Not for them were the typical indulgences of young girls such as soccer or hosting tea parties with their favorite stuffed animals. It was not in any way an idyllic childhood.
In Carole Johnstone‘s Mirrorland house of mirrors book, it’s been almost 20 years since Cat was last home, but much is the same. Memories tug at her as she wanders through the darkened rooms of her old home, and she at times feels catapulted back into feelings of being haunted and hunted. But there are new problems to face as well. As the days go by and neither El nor her boat are found, the police give her up as lost at sea. But Cat believes she is still alive and continuing one of the many games they played when young. How else to explain the clues she keeps finding, ones that would only mean something to the two of them?
Cat is an unreliable narrator—she drinks way too much, and she keeps slipping into the past, but whether that past is what really happened long ago, one of the many convoluted stories the sisters made up in Mirrorland, her own perceptions of what was happening around her back then, or a combination of all three, it’s hard to tell.
Also in the house, El’s husband Ross waits for news as well. Here, too, are complications. We learn quickly that Cat was—and still is—in love with Ross, but how she lost him to her sister takes longer to unfold. She receives emails—from El, she is sure—that lead her to places where she discovers torn pages from El’s diary. Someone else is leaving warning notes, telling Cat she’s in danger and insinuating that Ross is not to be trusted—that he harmed El and possibly killed her. That warning though may have come too late because Cat and Ross have rekindled their old romance.
It’s easy to enter Cat’s world, to feel the burden of being watched by unseen eyes and experience her fear as she struggles to determine whether El’s really dead, and who, if anyone, she can trust. And, of course, as readers we wonder if we can trust her.
Carole Johnstone’s award-winning short fiction has appeared in annual “Best of” anthologies in the United States and United Kingdom. She lives with her husband in an old farmhouse outside Glasgow, Scotland, though her heart belongs to the sea and the wild islands of the Hebrides. She is also the author of The Blackhouse.
“Noir land is always smoke and mirrors, and for those who like entering that world, be assured that Murphy is already at work on his next book.”
Anchored in life by little except a few friends, a love of books and cinema, and his nascent law practice—a downward slope from his previous position with a prestigious law firm—we never learn the name of the narrator in An Honest Living,Dwyer Murphy’s first novel. Even his clients seem unsure of who he is, and when one gives him a going away present with his name misspelled, our narrator can only ruefully observe “they were only off by a few letters.”
A guy like this makes a perfect patsy and that’s what happens when Anna Reddick hires him to determine if her husband is selling off her valuable collection of rare books. It seems easy enough. Staging a meeting with Reddick’s husband at the Poquelin Society which he describes as “a scholarly society dedicated to the art, science and preservation of the book, whatever that meant,” he quickly scores the proof he needs.
Case solved. Ha! As it could be that easy in a neo-noir novel set in a time and place where everyone seems to have a secret to hide and nothing is as it seems. And that applies also to the people the detective meets. It turns out the woman who hired our detective is not Anna Reddick.
Now, one of the noir fundamentals dictates that there’s a femme fatale, the kind of dame a hero shouldn’t fall for, but of course, always does. And that dame is the real Anna Reddick, a successful author and heir to old New York money. She hires and beguiles our detective to investigate the disappearance of her husband. Marital strife, a possible suicide or maybe murder, theft, and mystery—why wouldn’t you fall for a woman like that?
There are layers to this droll, atmospheric novel including the inside jokes the author wants us to get. If you’re wondering about the Poquelin Society, don’t bother trying to join. It doesn’t appear to exist, at least according to a Google search. But there was a French playwright and actor named Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, though he was better known by his stage name, Molière.
But the biggest of the wink and nods is for movie buffs familiar with the 1974 Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway movie Chinatown, directed by Roman Polansky. The plot of An Honest Man is an homage to this great noir classic and the book echoes many of its plot components. The book’s title derives from a conversation Nicholson had in the barbershop scene Chinatown.
But Chinatown is all Los Angeles in 1937 and the story revolves around water rights, incest, and murder. An Honest Living is New York through and through from the scenes that our detective spies from the G Train and the window of his brownstone or the streets he walks littered with trash and 24-hour diners. It’s Manhattan before the financial meltdown—urban, somewhat gritty, and unhomogenized.
Murphy has taken that time period and our knowledge of the looming crisis and created a compelling mystery set in a world of jaded hopes and ambiguous relationships. There’s the overwhelming sense that the other shoe will drop and when it does, it will come down heavy on our somewhat hapless narrator.
Noir land is always smoke and mirrors, and for those who like entering that world, be assured that Murphy is already at work on his next book.
What inspired you to write about an aspiring tattoo artist? Why did you decide to set it in the 1980s?
My fascination with tattoos was sparked in childhood, and the tattoo shop setting felt ripe for stories.But when I started the book that became Jobs for Girls with Artistic Flair, I actually didn’t plan to write about an aspiring apprentice in the 1980s. I imagined Gina Mulley as a single mother, an established tattooer in her thirties, circa Y2K, when tattooing really began to catch fire in mainstream culture. I was 19 when I started writing this book, and I thought it would carry more weight if it included a character who was further into adulthood.
As I dug deeper into the story, however, a mentor encouraged me to write a chapter set in Gina’s youth. The resulting scene had such energy, and was so off-the-wall, that I wanted to see what happened next. The fact that Gina’s teens and early twenties would have lined up with the 1980s turned out to be a stroke of luck, because although I didn’t know it yet, tattooing at that time had a much different vibe. It was riskier, more secretive; in other words, it attracted the kind of misfits who make for good characters.
What kind of research did you do to learn about the tattoo industry?
Besides scouring books and documentaries, I interviewed and shadowed ten different tattoo artists, and every one of them taught me something unique and valuable. A few of Gina’s life experiences—like buying her first tattoo machines from an acquaintance who was headed to jail—are drawn from the life of a real-life artist, Lynn TerHaar, the first woman to open a tattoo shop in our county. Many of the fun details about old-school tattooing were furnished by Marvin Moskowitz, a third-generation tattooer whose family had a well-known shop on the Bowery before tattooing was outlawed in New York City. I spent time with Michelle Myles of Daredevil Tattoo, who is not only a veteran artist but a scholar of the art form, and runs a museum within her shop.
I often met these people through moments of synchronicity that left me feeling awed and grateful. One of the most moving was stumbling on the artist who tattooed my mother in the 1980s. She turned out to be a well-known tattooer named Marguerite, one of the first women ever to tattoo on Long Island. I’d had no idea.
At times, Gina struggles to adapt when confronted with change—or lack thereof—in both in her professional and personal spheres. Often, it seems like all the odds are stacked against her. Why was it important to you to show Gina faced with such adversity?
I want stories to be honest about the perils of uphill climbs. If you desperately want to learn a craft, but no one’s paying you to do it—and you’re already weighed down with responsibilities—and you’re short on money, time, or a supportive community—what do you do? Well—you scrape together everything you can and plow ahead; but there’s no guarantee that your labor will ever bear fruit. You can have all the self-discipline and passion in the world, work late into the night or wake before sunrise, but sometimes you’re still thrown back to square one, by events completely out of your control. So you make Plan B and Plan K and Plan Q. You dig deep and find new reasons to keep going, and you find traveling companions, if you can.
I have felt all of this keenly in my quest to write while still caring for loved ones, paying the bills, and clumsily trying to be a decent citizen of the world. All my urgency and frustration—and all the breakthroughs and moments of growth and beauty—ended up in Gina’s story.
What’s your connection to, or history with, tattoos?
I was six years old the first time I walked into a tattoo shop; my mom was getting tattooed, and she took me along. This was in the late 1980s, roughly the same time when my book is set—well before tattoos became mainstream, especially for women—and I was too young to know that the experience I was having was highly unusual. I also had no idea that culture-at-large often viewed tattoos as trashy or dangerous. Mom also studied karate, so I spent a lot of time at her dojo, where many people were tattooed. Because of her, I associated tattoos with love and beauty and strength.
Throughout my childhood, I used to sit beside my mom tracing the lines of her tattoo with my finger. That butterfly on her wrist is probably the most influential piece of art in my life. When I got my first tattoo on my eighteenth birthday, she came with me.
The book deals with dual themes of work and finding a vocation. Gina and Rick (a fellow tattoo artist) are both extremely passionate about their work while Gina’s brother Dominic fell into tattooing because he was good at it. And Anna is stuck in a dead-end job but trying to discover her calling. Can you discuss how these themes affect Gina and the other characters?
Gina has grown up in an insular, go-it-alone family where her mother and brother work to pay the bills, period; she hasn’t been exposed to people who are striving for some common good while also supporting their families. Both Rick and Anna, on the other hand, have been raised in environments where contributing to a larger community is highly valued. Rick mentions at one point that his parents are in helping professions, and even as a tattoo artist, he wants to do whatever good he can. Clues from Anna’s life point to a faith background that emphasized service. These two people really introduce Gina to the idea of vocation.
This is eye-opening for Gina, but complicates her relationship with her brother Dominic. At one point, she wanted nothing more than to follow in Dominic’s footsteps. Now she is baffled and angry when he won’t use his position as a business owner to speak out against injustice in their town—which is something I think a lot of Gen Z readers will relate to. What Gina eventually comes to understand is that for Dominic, work holds a sense of purpose, too; that purpose is just confined to his immediate family and friends. But it’s one more rift that makes Gina question whether she still belongs at this tattoo shop she always considered home.
Tattoo tastes and trends have changed a lot since the 80s. What kind of designs do you think Gina would be creating today?
Luckily for Gina, the kind of botanical designs she created for Anna have grown in popularity the past few years. So have the dotwork and stippling you see in the book’s illustrations. But in order to make a living, most tattoo artists need to do a good deal of whatever’s popular in addition to what interests them, and demand is sometimes driven by what’s trending on Pinterest or Instagram—I saw a very funny clip on Inked Magazine’s YouTube channel where artists were bemoaning how many lions and pocketwatches they’ve done lately. Gina would also probably be getting a lot of requests for lettering, tiny minimalist tattoos, watercolor tattoos, and mandala-style ornamental work, and I’m sure she’d be getting inquiries about hand-poked tattoos… But I imagine Gina getting most excited about a client who gave her the license to create a large-scale piece just for them, something imaginative and new.
The book certainly has a feminist bent, and touches on social justice—was this choice intentional or did these elements arise organically as you wrote? How does Gina think through what we owe ourselves and each other?
I think writers always circle back around to their obsessions, and from the time I was little, I’ve had this built-in obsession—in any given situation—about 1) whether things are being done fairly, 2) whether everybody is okay, and in response to all that, 3) whether I am doing enough. Sometimes I manage to channel this into effective action; sometimes it just manifests as grief and anxiety. And I think the same could be said for Gina in this book. There is no single character in Jobs for Girls who is straightforwardly, autobiographically me; but Gina gets angry about racist real estate practices because I’m angry about racist real estate practices. Anna is haunted by the specter of war because I am, too. Rick’s preoccupation with the question “De qué sirve?”, regarding his work—essentially, “what good does it do?”—is very much my own.
I love that you also asked about what we owe ourselves. In 1986 Marie Shear wrote, “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.” And amidst all Gina’s conversations with Rick, in which her eyes are opening to other people’s experiences of injustice, she’s also having another awakening: Maybe my wellbeing and my thoughts matter, too.
If you went to Gina’s shop, what kind of tattoo would you get?
I love this question! I think I’d want an oil lamp—or maybe a desk lamp?—tattooed somewhere near my foot.
The lamp thing alludes to two quotes that were deeply meaningful to me as I persevered with this novel. One is from E.L. Doctorow: “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” The other is an ancient line of sacred poetry: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” These two quotes meant so much to me that for years, I told myself: If I ever get this published, I’m going to get a tattoo of a lamp somewhere near my foot. Because the thing about the headlights is true, but I don’t really want a headlight tattoo. Although it might have a cool biomechanical steampunk vibe.
The concept of identity—whether familial, sexual, or community—plays a significant role in the novel. What do you hope readers will take away from the read?
Towards the end of the book, Gina thinks through all the specific nicknames she’s been given by every important person in her life, and the identities attached to those names. None of these encompasses the entirety of who she is. By the end of the book, she’s selected another name, and she’s lettered it into a drawing of what she hopes to do with her life.
Writer Eunice Brown, the founder of Dear Grown-Ass Women, has said, “You don’t have to like me. But I sure as hell do.” By the end of Jobs for Girls with Artistic Flair, I think Gina Mulley has become a person she sure-as-hell likes, and she may not know what’s ahead of her, but she knows for sure that she wants to bring her whole self to it. I hope readers finish the last page feeling a little like that: more alive, a little more awake. I hope they feel electrified by a similar sense that the moment they’re living in is fertile and fleeting, and their wholeness matters. And so does everyone else’s.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
June Gervais grew up on the south shore of Long Island and is a graduate of the Bennington Writing Seminars. Her many jobs have included shelving library books and taking classified ads, grassroots activism and graphic design, art direction, and teaching. Jobs for Girls with Artistic Flair is her debut novel.
A gifted linguistic professor who is fascinated by such extinct languages as Old Norse and Old Danish, Val Chesterfield is so frightened of the world that she has immured herself at the university where she teaches and treats her overwhelming anxiety with pills and bottles of Amaretto and merlot.
Beyond that, she’s mourning the loss of her marriage and the death and possible suicide of Andy, her twin brother who died of exposure on Taaramiut Island off Greenland’s northwest coast.
And so, when an email from Wyatt Speeks who is overseeing the scientific lab on Taaramiut, pops up in her inbox, Val’s first thought is to hit delete. But despite her own initial forebodings, she opens it instead.
Wyatt is asking her to listen to the attached vocalizations of a girl they extracted from the ice and who has, amazingly and impossibly, thawed out alive. Playing the sounds over and over again, Chesterfield is intrigued. The girl is not speaking any of the Greenlandic dialects spoken in the frigid part of the world where Wyatt is located. Indeed, despite Val’s vast repertoire and knowledge, she cannot recognize the language at all.
Wyatt wants Val to fly out and study the girl’s language. But that entails she leave her office, her shelves of books, and her everyday routines. When Val visits her elderly father, a noted climate scientist who has always been disdainful of her, he dismisses that the girl could have been thawed out alive and that his daughter has the spunk to travel so far away.
“You’ve never been out of Massachusetts,” he tells Val. But he also wants her to go, to find out the truth about Andy’s death and delivers an ultimatum. If she doesn’t journey to Greenland, then he doesn’t want to ever see her again.
The winds blow over 50 miles an hour on Taaramiut across a landscape barren of anything but snow, glaciers, water pocked with ice floes, deep seemingly bottomless crevasses, and herds of caribou. No native people live this far north so where did the girl come from and how long was she encased in ice?
Totally isolated, the small community consists only of Wyatt and his assistant Jeanne, Val and a young couple who have won a coveted spot to dive in the frigid waters for specimens. And, of course, the girl who once was frozen and is now strangely alive.
But it’s not just the isolation, the young girl who speaks a strange language, and being where her brother died outside, alone in the bitter cold, that is unnerving. Wyatt seems to have other hidden agendas and Jeanne may be too good with knives—and she has so many. Even the couple become uneasy, urging Val to just play along until the plane arrives to take them home.
With the disappearance of her anti-anxiety medication, Val is unable to sleep and maybe unable to reliably process what is happening around her. She takes risky chances and she also has become maternally attached to the young girl as she learns the meaning of her words. What is part of Val’s uneven emotional state and what is real become less defined. She believes Wyatt’s stated quest–to learn how to prevent a cataclysmic climate change, one where sudden outbursts of frozen winds are freezing people to death almost instantaneously around the world–parallel Andy’s own dedicated studies.
But Val also senses a scary undercurrent and the more she learns, the more she wonders if Andy really committed suicide by wandering off into the cold or whether someone locked him outside. To add to her distress, the young girl is ill and is trying to tell Val in her own language what she needs to survive.
What can she do to save her? And what can she do to save herself?
Erica Ferencik is the award-winning author of the acclaimed thrillers The River at Night, Into the Jungle, and Girl in Ice, which The New York Times Book Review declared “hauntingly beautiful.” Find out more on her website EricaFerencik.com and follow her on Twitter @EricaFerencik.
Far from the marshland where her family grew up and that claimed her father’s life, Loni Mae Murrow has found a quiet niche where she creates intricate life-like drawings of birds for the Smithsonian. It’s a rare talent and a job that Murrow, who started drawing at an early age, loves. But there are undercurrents in her job and life starting with a new administrator talking of budget cuts and disdaining Murrow’s need to return home to deal with her aging mother. Making it all more complicated is that she also is confronted with her brother and his controlling, avaricious wife both of whom seem more intent on cashing in on what little money there is in their mother’s portfolio than in helping her. Murrow has just a short time to take care of family business and to sort out messy family entanglements. If she doesn’t return in time, she’ll no longer have a job.
But the pull of her mother’s needs, a compelling job offer from a good friend, veiled hints at mysteries unsolved along with her realization that her father’s death may be less straightforward than it seemed at the time jarringly jeopardize the peace and tranquility that Murrow has achieved. She finds herself deeper and deeper into the place of her youth and the marshes, both of which she thought—hopefully–she had left behind for good.
Author Virginia Hartman convincing portrays the beauty of the marshes, creating an atmosphere of serene beauty but also one full of surprises and ultimately danger in The Marsh Queen (Simon & Schuster). She also conveys how easily Murrow falls into the patterns of her father who knew the waterways so well he could navigate the countless channels and inlets without a map. Hartman’s love of this landscape, full of unexpected wonders, is inherent in her writing.
“Early morning steam rises from the water,” Hartman writes about one of Murrow’s forays into the marshland. “I paddle to a different part of the swamp today, where the Cypress trees grow, as my dad used to say, ‘keepin’ their feet in the water.’ The canopy is high, like a cathedral, and I glide through the landscape of light and shadow. Ferns cascade from the trunks and pink lichen like measle spots and the Cypress knees stick up from beneath the surface like the hats of submerged gnomes.”
This enchantment of the waterways with all its many unexpected scenes of flora and fauna is something Murrow finds she shares with Adlai, the seemingly gruff proprietor of the canoe shop where she rents her canoe and paddles when she goes in search of such birds to draw as the purple gallinule. Her mother had married down so to speak when she chose Murrow’s father. It is a choice that Murrow ultimately must make as well—to leave a dream job of working at one of the most prestigious museums in the country and life in a bustling cosmopolitan city to return to the backwaters of home.
But first she must follow, however unwillingly, all the clues that keep presenting themselves regarding the past. It’s a matter of connecting the dots to find out what really did happen to here father all those years ago. And if she doesn’t accomplish that soon enough, then there’s more at risk for Murrow than just losing her job. It may mean losing her life.
Virginia Hartman has an MFA in creative writing from American University and is on the faculty at George Washington University. Her stories have been shortlisted for the New Letters Awards and the Dana Awards. The Marsh Queen is her first novel.
Virginia Hartman Events
At the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland, Virginia teaches Advanced Fiction Workshop (six weeks). For more information, please contact the Writer’s Center at 301-654-8664, www.writer.org.
TikTok’s book community “#BookTok” was recently referred to by The New York Times as a “best seller machine.” In this community, creators post literary content to the app, ranging from book recommendations to their emotional reactions during pivotal plot points.
This content has catapulted sales for a select few books, and major book retailers such as Barnes & Noble are recognizing the community’s power.
These days, it takes one viral TikTok for a book to become a bestseller. #BookTok reaches readers across the world, and a nation’s most popular books can tell us a lot about its language and culture. So which books are actually selling, and what do they have in common?
Using Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, and Google search interest data, we conducted an analysis of the titles rising in popularity due to TikTok. Our report ranks the most popular books and authors, determines which are favored in each state, and even highlights the older books making a comeback due to TikTok.
Romance,fantasy, and young adult are the top #BookTok genres.
Older books published 10+ years ago are seeing a resurgence.
The most popular #BookTok books and authors
For BookTok community members, reading is all about finding stories that captivate their audience’s emotions – particularly their sense of romance. The top-five best-selling books due to TikTok are nearly all romances, and two of them share the same author.
Thefive most popular #BookTok books are:
It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover (romance)
The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han (romance)
Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover (romance)
The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory (romance)
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (young adult)
#BookTok has popularized the romance genre with Gen Z readers. Romance tropes such as “enemies to lovers” and “fake dating” allow readers to enjoy fun, lighthearted stories with satisfying emotional endings across many different books with unique characters.
In fact, of the top 55 books analyzed, 24 were in the romance genre, according to Goodreads classifications. Fantasy books took up 12 slots, with young adult (8), thriller (6), and historical fiction (4) genres following.
With two books in the top three slots, Colleen Hoover is the standout author on #BookTok. Her titles Verity and It Starts With Us are also in the top 25 #BookTok books. A romance author with one thriller title (Verity),Hoover is active on TikTok and Instagram, engaging with the community with her humorous personality. She clearly has a strong sense of what’s popular in online reading communities.
Jennifer L. Armentrout also has four titles gaining significant traction on TikTok. A prolific fantasy and romance writer, books from her Blood and Ash,Harbinger and Dark Elements series have each been heavily promoted by the #BookTok community.
Other popular #BookTok authors include Alice Oseman, Casey McQuiston,Elle Kennedy and Emily Henry, each with three books on the top #BookTok book list.
The most popular #BookTok books by state
A nation’s most popular books can tell us a lot about its culture, and the same is true for individual states. We analyzed the list of over 170 popular #BookTok books using local search data to determine the most popular #BookTok bestseller in every state and created a map to display each state’s favorite title.
With 41 books represented, there are a wide variety of popular books in the U.S. right now, thanks to TikTok. The books most popular on a state-by-state level include:
Ugly Love (4 states)
Book of Night (3 states)
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder (2 states)
One Last Stop (2 states)
The Spanish Love Deception (2 states)
The Summer I Turned Pretty (2 states)
Written in the Stars (2 states)
The books making a comeback thanks to #BookTok
Finally, some books published well over a decade ago are seeing a resurgence in popularity thanks to TikTok. We removed books that have movie adaptations or are part of popular franchises such as Twilight or The Hunger Games.
Here are the lesser-known titles that #BookTok is giving a comeback:
I Am Number Four (published 2009)
Anna and the French Kiss (published 2010)
The Song of Achilles (published 2011)
Throne of Glass (published 2012)
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (published 2012)
Books open up our worlds and minds. Simple stories that follow traditional narrative arcs can also be effective language learning tools. Whether your recommendation comes from #BookTok or The New York Times, discover a new title and learn about a different culture, place, or time.
Methodology: Using a list of 170+ popular #BookTok titles compiled by Barnes & Noble, we used Google search data to conduct this analysis. Genre data compiled using Goodreads.
is village sadly slipping away, self-appointed mayor and radiator repairman Signor Speranza listens in horror as a water commission official tells him that the water pipes must be replaced or the commission will shut the village’s water supply off — making Prometto uninhabitable.
The cost to fix it? Seventy thousand euros — an exorbitant sum for a village of 212 residents, most of whom are just barely getting by.
But Speranza has a plan — not a good plan or even a mediocre one, but at least it’s something. He decides to start a rumor that famed movie star Dante Rinaldi is filming his next mega hit in Prometto. If tourists think that Rinaldi will be readily available, Speranza believes that tourists will descend upon Prometto. After all, when there was a rumor that George Clooney would be filming in a neighboring town, it was a madhouse. And it looks like it will be so once again.
Soon tourists arrive with plenty of money to spend. But it isn’t just tourists. The locals go crazy with the idea of being in a film, almost any film. The butcher wants Speranza to find roles for all 15 of his overlarge sons, offering Speranza money if he makes it happen. Even Speranza’s daughter gets movie fever.
Simon says her plot was inspired by news articles she ran across that talked about how shrinking Italian villages were offering homes for a dollar.
“These stories usually have at their core some enterprising mayor trying to drag their village back from the brink of extinction,” she said. “This flash of inspiration was, therefore, triply rewarding for me, because it gave me my setting, my main character, and my main character’s mission, all in one fell swoop. Everyone should be so lucky.”
It also has origins in the Italian village where Simon’s grandparents grew up.
“My grandparents came to the United States via Canada in the early 1950s, trading their tiny village of Ferruzzano for Cliffside Park, New Jersey,” she said. “I grew up going to parties in their backyard — sprawling gatherings with dozens of people, many of them also from the village, sitting at long tables in lawn chairs and eating, eating, eating. When I began working on this story, at first I felt intimidated because I’ve never been to Ferruzzano in real life, but as I was researching the setting, and looking at family photos and even Google map images of the village, I was startled to find that the two places — my grandparents’ backyard in Cliffside, and their mountain village of Ferruzzano — looked astonishingly similar. I don’t know how they did it, but they managed to bring their village with them when they came here, and that’s the flavor that I hope I’ve incorporated into the fictional village of Prometto.”
Simon loved authoring this book, which she did just after the quarantine started.
“It was wonderful escaping reality each day to see what Signor Speranza and his zany crew would get up to next,” she said.
Now Simon says she’s devoted to comedy and small-town antics.
“I guess you can say we know what to expect from my next book,” she said.
FULL PROGRAM SCHEDULE ANNOUNCED FOR PRINTERS ROW LIT FEST, THE MIDWEST’S LARGEST LITERARY CELEBRATION, SEPTEMBER 10 & 11
Pulitzer Prize winner and Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey joins over 100 authors including national bestsellers Jamie Ford, Marie Myung-OK Lee, and Danyel Smith in a jam-packed weekend of free programming
This year’s festival highlights Chicago stories and offers fun for all ages, with a poetry tent organized by The Poetry Foundation; a rare presentation from satire writers at The Onion; interactive programs for youth and families; and more
The 37th annual Printers Row Lit Fest, presented by the Near South Planning Board, is pleased to announce the full schedule ofparticipating authors and programs. Printers Row Lit Fest is one of the three largest and oldest literary festivals in the U.S. and stretches across five blocks, along South Dearborn Street from Ida B. Wells Drive to Polk Street and on Polk Street from State to Clark, in Chicago’s historic Printers Row neighborhood. The outdoor event is accessible via public transportation and takes place rain or shine from Saturday – Sunday, September 10 – 11, from 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Printers Row Lit Fest’s dynamic lineup offers fun for book lovers of all kinds, from poetry and romance to satire and spoken word. Highlights of this year’s festival include a conversation with Danyel Smith, the first Black editor of Billboard magazine, on her recent book Shine Bright: A Very Personal History of Black Women in Pop; Jamie Ford discussing his current New York Times bestseller The Many Daughters of Afong May; and celebrated author of The Evening Hero,Marie Myung-OK Lee.
New to this year’s festival is a dedicated poetry tent curated by The Poetry Foundation with a lineup of award-winning and emerging poets. Also new to the festival is the laugh-out-loud Literary Death Match, whichpits four local authors against each other in front of a panel of all-star judges, and the Chicago-based, national satirical news site The Onion will present a rare, behind-the-scenes look at the article production process of “America’s Finest News Source” with a post-apocalyptic twist. Visitors can participate in a spoken word workshop and open mic led by EmceeSkool, and The Moth will showcase recent winners from their popular StorySLAM live storytelling competition.
The Printers Row Lit Fest will present powerful voices in social and environmental justice and activism with a series of panels hosted by reporters from Chicago Sun-Times and personalities from WBEZ. The fest includes a timely discussion reflecting on two years of the COVID-19 pandemic with a conversation between Dr. David Ansell, author of The Death Gap: How Inequality Kills, and Dr. Thomas Fisher, author of The Emergency: A Year of Healing and Heartbreak in a Chicago E.R. In addition, the Chicago Public Library will host Voices for Justice: Natalie Moore’s “The Billboard” including a staged reading of excerpts from the award-winning play.
This year marks the return of children and family-focused programming at Printers Row Lit Fest. Programs include Theatre on the Hill’s Choose Your Own Once Upon a Time, an opportunity for children to decide the fates of their favorite fairy tale characters in a live, interactive theatrical event, and Carlos Theatre Productions which will present a Latin American puppet show for children in Spanish and English. Parents can hear Dr. Dana Suskind in conversation with former Chicago Tribune columnist Heidi Stevens about her recent book Parent Nation: Unlocking Every Child’s Potential, Fulfilling Society’s Promise.
Programs are organized by Printers Row Lit Fest Program Director Amy Danzer, assistant director of graduate programs at Northwestern University School of Professional Studies and Board President of the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame.
IncludingSandmeyer’s Booksand The Book Cellar, Printers Row Lit Fest hosts over 100 booksellers in airy outdoor tents, inviting visitors to peacefully peruse everything from the rare to ‘hot off the press,’ newly published works. All programming, includingfeature presentations by myriad authors, spoken word artists, journalists, comedians, and poets,is100% free of charge.
Printers Row Lit Fest 2022 Schedule
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 10
Center Stage – Children’s Programming – Theatre on the Hill Presents Choose Your Own Once Upon A Time
Poetry Foundation – Children’s Programming – A bilingual reading of Pablo Neruda’s Book of Questions, Selections/Libro de Preguntas, Selecciones (Enchanted Lion Books, 2022) by translator, Sara Lissa Paulson.
Main Stage – Welcome by Near South Planning Board Chairman Steven Smutny, Chicago Public Library Commissioner Chris Brown, and First Lady Amy Eshleman. Program to follow featuring Natasha Trethewey, Harold Washington Literary Award Winner in conversation with Donna Seaman, Booklist. Program introduced by Natalie Moore, Harold Washington Literary Award Selection Committee Chair.
731 S. Plymouth Ct. – The Deep Creativity of Translation: A Reading and Discussion with Izidora Angel, Mary Hawley, and Alta L. Price. Moderated by Irina Ruvinsky. Presented by Another Chicago Magazine and the Third Coast Translators Collective.
Grace Place (2nd Floor) – Big Shoulders Press Presents Virus City: Chicago 2020-2021. Reading and Discussion featuring Amy Do, Robin Hoecker, Emily Richards, Oscar Sanchez, and Frank Tempone. Moderated by Rebecca Johns Trissler.
Grace Place (1st Floor) – Children’s Programming -10:15am – Doors. 10:30am – Miss Friendship Ambassador 2022 Susan Liu to tell the story of the Moon Festival Presented by the Chicago Chinatown Chamber of Commerce. 10:45am – Moon Festival Parade to depart Grace Place.
Center Stage – Welcome by Alderman King One Book One Chicago – Thomas Dyja, The Third Coast and Eric Charles May, Bedrock Faith with Judy Rivera-Van Schage
Poetry Foundation – Children’s Programming – Reading by Julian Randall, Pilar Ramirez and the Escape from Zafa. Emceed by Stefania Gomez.
Main Stage – (11:30 a.m.) WBEZ Presents Adriana Herrera, A Caribbean Heiress in Paris, and Sarah MacLean, Heartbreaker: A Hell’s Belles Novel in conversation with WBEZ’s Greta Johnsen, host of Nerdette
731 S. Plymouth Ct. – Ray Long, The House That Madigan Built: The Record Run of Illinois’ Velvet Hammer in conversation with Joan Esposito
Grace Place (2nd Floor) – Unlocking Memories and Uncovering Stories: Bindy Bitterman, Skiddly Diddly Skat (children’s book) and Sharon Kramer, Time for Bubbe (children’s book) in conversation with Chicago author Beth Finke
Grace Place (1st Floor) – Patricia Carlos Dominguez Presents Yo Luchadora (bilingual children’s book) followed by a workshop
Center Stage – Erika L. Sanchez, Crying in the Bathroom: A Memoir in conversation with Juan Martinez
Poetry Foundation – – The Chicago Poetry Center – Readings by Mayda del Valle, Aricka Foreman, Tim Stafford, Natasha Mijares, C. Russell Price, and Viola Lee. Emceed by Marty McConnell.
Main Stage – (12:30 p.m) WBEZ Presents Danyel Smith, Shine Bright: A Very Personal History of Black Women in Pop in Conversation with WBEZ’s Natalie Moore
731 S. Plymouth Ct. – Deborah Cohen, Last Call at the Hotel Imperial: The Reporters Who Took On a World at War in conversation with Peter Slevin
Grace Place (2nd Floor) – Crises: The All Ages Show – Dan Chaon, Sleepwalk and Jean Thompson, The Poet’s House in conversation with Eileen Favorite
Grace Place (1st Floor) – Writing Overwhelming Realities – Readings by Julia Fine, Dionne Irving, Ananda Lima, Jami Nakamura Lin, and Jeffrey Wolf. Emceed by Ananda Lima.
Center Stage – Debut Fiction: Jessamine Chan, The School for Good Mothers and Shelby Van Pelt, Remarkably Bright Creatures in conversation with Rebecca Makkai
Main Stage – (1:30 p.m.) Chicago Sun-Times Presents The Environmental Justice Exchange: A tribute to Hazel Johnson, the Mother of Environmental Justice. Host: Brett Chase. Guests: Cheryl Johnson, Hazel’s daughter and executive director of People for Community Recovery; Tarnynon Onumonu, poet and author of “Greetings from the Moon, the Sacrificial Side”; Luis Carranza, poet and author of “Viva la Resistencia”.
731 S. Plymouth Ct. – M. Chris Fabricant, Junk Science and the American Criminal Justice System in conversation with Rob Warden
Grace Place (2nd Floor) – Sourcebooks Presents – How Books Are Made: Authors Discuss the Publishing Process. Julie Clark, The Last Flight and The Lies I Tell; Ann Dávila Cardinal, The Storyteller’s Death; Iman Hariri-Kia, A Hundred Other Girls. Moderated by Kate Roddy, Associate Editor at Sourcebooks.
Center Stage – Title IX, 50 years later: Women writers, women’s sports – Corin Adams, Tiny Setbacks, Major Comebacks, Julie DiCaro, Sidelined: Sports, Culture, and Being a Woman in America, and Melissa Isaacson, State: A Team, a Triumph, a Transformation in conversation with Jeanie Chung
Poetry Foundation – Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, Wherever I’m At: An Anthology of Chicago Poetry – Readings by Daniel Bortzutzky, Ugochi Nwaogwugwu, Elise Paschen, and Sara Salgado. Emceed by Carlo Rotella.
Main Stage – Chicago Sun-Times Presents Social Justice in Chicago: The Mexican community’s fight to stay in the city. Host: Elvia Malagon. Guest: Mike Amezcua, author of Making Mexican Chicago: From Postwar Settlement to the Age of Gentrification
731 S. Plymouth Ct. – Dr. David Ansell, The Death Gap: How Inequality Kills and Dr. Thomas Fisher, The Emergency: A Year of Healing and Heartbreak in a Chicago ER with Katherine Davis, Crain’s
Grace Place (2nd Floor) – Elizabeth Crane, This Story Will Change: After the Happily Ever After with Kim Brooks
Grace Place (1st Floor) – The Onion: America’s Finest News Source In The Post-Apocalypse featuring Skyler Higley and Sammi Skolmosk
Center Stage – PHENOM & EmceeSkool (Open Mic)
Main Stage – (3:30 p.m. ) Joe Meno, Book of Extraordinary Tragedies with Gint Aras
731 S. Plymouth Ct. – Beth Macy, Raising Lazarus: Hope, Justice, and the Future of America’s Overdose Crisis with Alex McLevy
Grace Place (2nd Floor) – Leslie Bow, Racist Love: Asian Abstraction and the Pleasures of Fantasy with Michelle Huang.
Grace Place (1st Floor) – Rebuilding a Life – Ann McGlinn, Ride On, See You; Alex Poppe, Jinwar and Other Stories; Lynn Sloan, Midstream with Rachel Swearingen
Center Stage – The Chicago Public Library and16th Street Theatre Present The Billboard by Natalie Moore – Staged Reading featuring Ti Nicole Danridge and Felisha McNeal followed by conversation between Natalie Moore, The BillBoard and Kathy Hey, Third Coast Review
Poetry Foundation – RHINO Poetry – Readings by April Gibson, Kathleen Rooney, Jessica Walsh, E. Hughes, Faisal Mohyuddin, Kenyatta Rogers, Jacob Saenz, Maja Teref & Steven Teref. Emceed by Naoko Fujimoto and Elizabeth O-Connell Thompson.
Main Stage – (4:30 p.m.) – Literary Death Match – Presented by StoryStudio Chicago and Near South Planning Board. All-star judges: David Cerda, Julia Morales, and Luis Urrea. Readers: Shannon Cason, Elizabeth Gomez, Mikki Kendall, and Diana Slickman. Emceed by Adrian Todd Zuniga.
731 S. Plymouth Ct. – Resistance, Resilience and Surviving the Sex Trade: – Brenda Myers-Powell, Leaving Breezy Street: A Memoir and Hannah Sward, Strip in conversation with Anne Ream, The Voices and Faces Project
Center Stage – The Guild Complex Presents Exhibit B – Reading by CM Burroughs, Ruth Margraff, and Nami Mun. Emceed by James Stewart III
731 S. Plymouth Ct. – Ramzi Fawaz, Queer Forms in conersation with Chicago LGBT Hall of Famer Owen Keehnen
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 11
Center Stage – Representation in Children’s Books: Reading and Conversation featuring Sam Kirk, The Meaning of Pride; Mrs. Yuka Layme, Co-Producer of Drag Queen Story Hour; Katie Schenkel, Cardboard Kingdom with Barbara Egel
Poetry Foundation – A Poetry Reading featuring Jennifer Steele, 826 Chiand Chris Aldana, Luya Poetry
Main Stage – Pirates, Ghosts, and Loss – Sara Connell, Ghost House and Michael Zapata, The Lost Book of Adana Moreau with Paula Carter
731 S. Plymouth Ct. – Kori Rumore and Marianne Mather (authors of), and Rick Kogan (prelude to) He Had It Coming: Four Murderous Women and the Reporter Who Immortalized Their Stories with Mary Wisniewski
Center Stage – Chicago Graphic Novelists – Markisan Naso, By the Horns and Michael Moreci, Wasted Space in conversation with Terry Gant, Third Coast Comics
Poetry Foundation – Chris Abani, Smoking the Bible – Reading followed by conversation with Parneshia Jones
Main Stage – Jamie Ford, The Many Daughters of Afong Moy in conversation with Carey Cranston, President of the American Writers Museum
731 S. Plymouth Ct. – Victor Ray, On Critical Race Theory: Why It Matters & Why You Should Care with Cassandra West, Crain’s
Grace Place (2nd Floor) – – Rev. Amity Carrubba in conversation with Tom Montgomery Fate, The Long Way Home: Detours and Discoveries
Center Stage – NU Press Reading, Growing Up Chicago – Second to None: Chicago Stories – Readings by Anne Calcagno, Shelley Conner, and Jessie Ann Foley. Emceed by David Schaafsma
Poetry Foundation – Roger Reeves, Best Barbarian – Reading followed by conversation with Simone Muench. Musical accompaniment, Mai Sugimoto.
Main Stage – Girlhood in Chicago – Illinois Poet Laureate Angela Jackson, More Than Meat and Raiment and Debut Novelist Toya Wolfe, Last Summer on State Street in conversation with Amina Gautier
731 S. Plymouth Ct. – Dana Suskind, Parent Nation: Unlocking Every Child’s Potential, Fulfilling Society’s Promise in conversation with Heidi Stevens
Center Stage – City in a Garden of Books: Literary Fellowship Among Independent Publishers and Booksellers – Parneshia Jones, NU Press; Dr. Haki Madhubuti, Third World Press Foundation; Doug Seibold, Agate Publishing with Jeff Deutsch, In Praise of Good Bookstore
Main Stage – Secrets – Bradeigh Godfrey, Imposter and Marie Myung-Ok Lee, The Evening Hero with Kate Wisel
731 S. Plymouth Ct. – Kevin Boyle, The Shattering: America in the 1960s in conversation with Elizabeth Taylor
Center Stage – Adam Levin, Mount Chicago in conversation with Jarrett Neal
Poetry Foundation – Young Chicago Authors – Reading featuring The Roots Crew, hosted by E’mon Lauren
Main Stage – The Moth: 25 Years of Live Storytelling featuring Grace Topinka, Melissa Earley, Archy Jamjun, and Jacoby Cochran
731 S. Plymouth Ct. – Neil Steinberg, Every Goddamn Day: A Highly Selective, Definitely Opinionated, and Alternatingly Humorous and Heartbreaking Historical Tour of Chicago in conversation with Shermann Dilla Thomas (“6figga_dilla”)
Center Stage – Reading and Conversation featuring Ana Castillo, My Book of the Dead: New Poems with Yolanda Nieves
Main Stage – Romance Panel: Legacy and Love – Ali Brady, The Beach Trap and Natalie Caña, A Proposal They Can’t Refuse with Tanya Lane
731 S. Plymouth Ct. – The Insidiousness of Hatred – Adam Langer, Cyclorama and Jerry Stahl, Nein, Nein, Nein!: One Man’s Tale of Depression, Psychic Torment, and a Bus Tour of the Holocaust in conversation with Ben Tanzer
Center Stage – The Crisis in American Democracy – Dick Simpson, Democracy’s Rebirth: The View from Chicago and Michael Dorf, Clear It with Sid!: Sidney R. Yates and Fifty Years of Presidents, Pragmatism, and Public Service with Gerry Plecki, President of The Society of Midland Authors
Poetry Foundation – Reading and Conversation featuring Tara Betts, Refuse to Disappear and Keli Stewart, Small Altars. Moderated by Rachel Jamison Webster
Main Stage – Chloé Cooper Jones, Easy Beauty: A Memoir with Gina Frangello
731 S. Plymouth Ct. – Sarah Kendzior, They Knew: How a Culture of Conspiracy Keeps America Complacent – with Rick Perlstein, Crain’s
Center Stage – Blue Heron Press, Open Heart Chicago: An Anthology of Chicago Writing – Readings by Dorothy Frey, Lorena Ornelas, Joe Peterson, and Sandi Wisenberg. Emceed by Editor Vincent Francone.
Main Stage – Debut YA Fiction – Giano Cromley, The Prince of Infinite Space and Skyler Schrempp, Three Strike Summer with Michelle Falkof
731 S. Plymouth Ct. – A Visual Read of the City – Lee Bey, Chicago Sun-Times architecture critic; Blair Kamin, former Chicago Tribune architect critic; Dennis Rodkin, Crain’s with Gerald Butters\