On Annie's Nightstand: October 2015.

I only read four books in October, which isn’t an all-time low, but it’s a quantity that takes me back to my days working a “normal” office job – four books was what I averaged every month back oh so many moons ago. It wasn’t a great month for me in terms of quantity read, and I’m not sure it will get much better as we close out 2015. We’re entering the busiest season of the year for the shop, and although I’m going to do my best to up my reading game, no promises. Christmas is coming, after all. 

After You by Jojo Moyes. First, if you haven’t read Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, go ahead and stop what you’re doing right now (even if that means leaving this column) and pick up a copy: library, bookstore – it doesn’t matter, just go grab a copy and enjoy. You’ll spend the next few hours completely wrapped up in an engaging novel. You’re welcome. 

Now, if you’re like me and read Me Before You when it came out a couple of years ago, After You is the much-anticipated, oft-discussed sequel. (You’ll need to read Me Before You before even attempting this one.) Despite having read Me Before You and loving it, I don’t always find sequels particularly interesting. My imagination does much of the work for me, and I often don’t feel as if I need a second or third look at the characters I love; if the author’s done his or her job, I can typically leave those characters as they were. That being said, when The Bookshelf received an advanced reader copy of After You, I immediately snagged it to take home. After You is just as well written as Moyes’ original story, though not – in my opinion – quite as compelling. It is a perfectly enjoyable book, and if you liked Me Before You, chances are you’ll like this one, too. It served as a reminder that while sequels may not be necessary, they can be fun, and it’s nice to revisit old friends. 

Tribal by Diane Roberts. This was my favorite book of October. Diane Roberts is a professor at Florida State University, and Tribal documents both her love and loathing of the game of football. At turns personal and hilarious, Tribal is also filled to the brim with the history of the sport, particularly in the South, where folks love their football almost as much as they love Jesus. As an FSU fan, I found myself both laughing and cringing at Roberts’ observations; the book served as a wake-up call to the violence of the sport itself and to the treatment of its players, on and off the field. I already snagged a couple of signed copies for this year’s Christmas gifts. I suggest you do the same. Even non-football enthusiasts will really like this one.

Reunion by Hannah PittardIf you catch The Bookshelf on a Tuesday when new books are being released, you’ll discover some new additions to the sales shelves, too – when a paperback version of a book comes in, the hardback immediately goes on the 50 percent off rack. And because booksellers love a good deal almost as much as the customers do, last month I grabbed the beautiful hardback version of Reunion by Hannah Pittard. This is a quiet book, but it’s well written and unique, despite covering familiar territory (grief, family, dysfunction, etc.). Reunion reminds me a great deal of This Is Where I Leave You; the novel begins with a suicide and the after effects of the narrator’s affair, and despite some funny spots, overall, Reunion is a pretty melancholy tale. Read it, but follow it up with something light. 

Assassination Vacation by Sarah VowellWhere do booksellers get their reading recommendations? Absolutely everywhere, but I’ve found myself picking up new books based on the podcasts I listen to; the hosts of the pop culture podcast The Popcast have similar tastes to my own, and thanks to their suggestions, I finally picked up a book by Sarah Vowell of NPR’s This American Life fame. Assassination Vacation is Vowell’s look at the assassinations of three U.S. presidents: Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley. I learned more about American history in these 200 pages than I’ve learned – sadly – in my eight years since college graduation. Vowell is a fantastic narrator, and I felt like I was making discoveries about these presidents’ deaths right alongside her. Assassination Vacation came out a few years ago, but Vowell just released Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, and although I’d typically shy away from a book about George Washington’s trusted officer and friend, I can’t help but think I might like it, too. Vowell doesn’t make history interesting; instead, she enhances what’s already there. I’m officially a fan.