On Annie’s Nightstand: May 2015.

I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley. If there is a book full of humorous short stories and essays, I’ve read it (or it’s on my TBR list somewhere). So when Sloane Crosley’s I Was Told There’d Be Cake kept making its way around my social media feeds, I was on board. The title alone was enough for me. Unfortunately, I didn’t love this book as much as I wanted to, but never fear: It could be right for you. Crosely is a sarcastic storyteller, and if you’re looking for a Seinfeld-esque escape from reality, go ahead and put it on your list. Each essay stands alone, so you could easily pick and choose your favorites. I’d start with “You on a Stick,” Crosley’s hilarious maid of honor-inspired tale.

Dead Wake by Erik Larson. There are a few authors I wish were required reading in schools: David McCullough, Steven Levitt, Jon Krakauer, Laura Hillenbrand. These authors make nonfiction, historical stories come to life, and students deserve to know just how interesting history and “real life” can be. Erik Larson gets a spot at the top of my list. I loved Devil in the White City – as an educator, you could do so much with the content of that book – and In the Garden of Beasts remains a Bookshelf customer favorite. His new book, Dead Wake, is about the sinking of the Lusitania, and the story sucks you in from the very beginning. Like most historical nonfiction, this isn’t a book you fly through, but it is a page-turner; despite already knowing the outcome, readers will want to discover every detail and story they can, and Larson obliges.

How to Start a Fire by Lisa Lutz. Let’s hear it for the intelligent beach read, shall we? I like the occasional bit of “chick lit” (despite the horrendous moniker), but what I really like is just well done, clever, female-centric fiction.  How to Start a Fire fits the bill. Sure, Lisa Lutz’s new novel is your next beach bag book, but it’s also chock-full of witty dialog, realistic portrayals of friendship, and heartbreaking romance. Anna serves as the ringleader for Kate and George, but Kate’s story is the one I found most compelling. The book follows the friendship of these three women from college well into adulthood, and you’ll be more than happy to tag along for the ride. I already mailed my copy to my friends for our traveling book club; I think they’ll all love it as much as I did.


Me, My Hair, and I edited by Elizabeth Benedict. This book was fascinating. It was also one of my advanced reader copies last month, so you won’t see this one on our shelves until September. Me, My Hair, and I features the essays of 27 different women, each writing about their hair. And although the premise might sound dull or even a little odd, the essays each tackle other subjects, too, like race and feminism and culture and religion. The book would be the perfect selection for a book club, guaranteed to elicit conversation and the divulging of your own personal hair stories. (The fact that it’s releasing as a paperback original only sweetens the deal.) Come see me in September for your copy; book clubs get 10 percent off! 

Lessons in Belonging by Erin S. Lane. I reviewed Rachel Held Evans’ book Searching forSunday back in April, and Erin Lane’s Lessons in Belonging serves as the perfect accompaniment. Lane is a pastor’s wife, but she’s also a divinity school graduate herself, and her views on church are refreshing; she doesn’t advocate abandoning the cause, but instead encourages readers to find – and sometimes fight for – their place there. I found myself nodding along in agreement chapter after chapter, and I took notes for future reference. Millennial Christians will be thrilled to find a voice that does them justice, and older generations will appreciate Lane’s perspective as well. (I think I might make my parents read this one next.)


Save the Date by Jen Doll. Remember what I said about humorous essays? I’m just a sucker for them. Save the Date has an eye-catching cover, and I was headed to the beach for a few days, so I grabbed a copy off our shelves. It’s funny and honest, filled with story after story about the weddings author Jen Doll has attended: destination weddings, her best friend’s wedding, hometown weddings, elopements, and more. Brides, here’s an idea: Gift a copy to each member of your wedding party. They’ll thank you later.

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn. This was my book club’s pick for the month of May, and although it wasn’t the title I had originally voted for, I wound up loving it, and our group had a blast discussing it. The premise is unique, so bear with me:  Ella Minnow Pea lives on the fictional island of Nollop, off the coast of South Carolina; the little island was named for Nevin Nollop, author of “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” (a sentence which incorporates every letter of the alphabet). But when letters start to fall off a memorial to Nollop, their usage is banned from the island, and the whole place runs amok. (Letters, too, begin to disappear from the novel itself, which is entirely entertaining and imaginative and lovely.) Ella Minnow Pea will have your book club debating religion and politics and free speech, but in the best possible ways. Read it, please. I think it’s important.

This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! by Jonathan Evison. Fans of Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, rejoice. Here’s a new book for you. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come out until September, but never fear: It will be worth the wait. This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!offers a rare literary look at life from an elderly woman’s perspective; our protagonist Harriet is still reeling a bit from the death of her husband, but she’s not ready to go anywhere herself just yet. She’s got a lot of life left to live, so she jumps on board a cruise ship, only to discover her life might not be what she thought it was after all. This book is funny and memorable and sad and quirky and a little reminiscent of Stranger Than Fiction, one of my favorite movies of all time. Basically, mark your calendars for September. I loved this one.

You Deserve a Drink by Mamrie Hart. Warning: I almost peed my pants from laughing while reading this book, but it’s also rather… foul? I often read excerpts of books aloud to Jordan, and I frequently had to self-censor several of these stories, so you’ve been warned. Mamrie Hart is most known for her YouTube show, “You Deserve a Drink,” but I’m not into cocktails or YouTube, so this title made it onto my desk based on a sales rep’s recommendation. Mamrie starts each chapter with a cocktail recipe, then follows with a story along the cocktail’s theme. The set-up is fantastic, and foul language and TMI aside, it’s hilariously funny. It’s not going to be one I’ll recommend to all of our customers, but I could see it being a fun gift for a college girlfriend or roommate.

The Vacationers by Emma Straub. I don’t know why I’d never read this book. The Vacationers has a beautiful cover, and it was popular when it debuted last summer, but I just never got around to reading it. While on our own vacation to D.C., I picked up a hardback copy off the sale rack at Politics and Prose, and I’m so glad I did. (The book released in paperback this month, so you’re in luck, too.) Emma Straub weaves a beautiful story about a family vacationing off the coast of Mallorca in Spain; each character is seriously and realistically flawed, but you’ll find yourself rooting for them over and over again. I’m most impressed with Straub’s ability to magically tell the stories from multiple perspectives without ever feeling forced or distracting. This is a wonderful book, perfect for summertime reading.

Annie JonesComment