Hello everyone and welcome to one of my most popular monthly posts: Book of the Month At A Glance. Its a post where I share my breakdown of Book of the Month’s monthly selections and add ons. I pour over countless reviews, read excerpts and explore the themes of each pick in order to help you better decide the right pick(s) for you. That way, you can spend less time researching and more time reading.
I decided to do the add ons separately and honestly, the month kind of just got away from me. But while you are waiting for my December predictions I wanted to share my break down of the November add ons in case you were thinking of adding any of them to your box next month. The add ons have been crazy the last few months with a mixture of backlist and new releases as well as varying in genres, popular and debut authors.
As always, if there is anything I am leaving out of these posts, let me know and I will do my best to include it. Regardless, I hope my post gets you excited for this month’s selections and that you find something you know you’ll love!
Still Life by Sarah Winman (Historical Fiction)Still Life by Sarah Winman
Published by Fourth Estate on June 1, 2021
By the bestselling, prize-winning author of When God was a Rabbit and Tin Man, Still Life is a beautiful, big-hearted, richly tapestried story of people brought together by love, war, art, flood… and the ghost of E.M. Forster.
We just need to know what the heart’s capable of, Evelyn.And do you know what it’s capable of?I do. Grace and fury.
It’s 1944 and in the ruined wine cellar of a Tuscan villa, as the Allied troops advance and bombs fall around them, two strangers meet and share an extraordinary evening together.
Ulysses Temper is a young British solider and one-time globe-maker, Evelyn Skinner is a sexagenarian art historian and possible spy. She has come to Italy to salvage paintings from the ruins and relive her memories of the time she encountered EM Forster and had her heart stolen by an Italian maid in a particular Florentine room with a view.
These two unlikely people find kindred spirits in each other and Evelyn’s talk of truth and beauty plants a seed in Ulysses mind that will shape the trajectory of his life – and of those who love him – for the next four decades.
Moving from the Tuscan Hills, to the smog of the East End and the piazzas of Florence, Still Life is a sweeping, mischievous, richly-peopled novel about beauty, love, family and fate.
By the same author as the beloved novel Tin Man, Still Life is a historical fiction novel opening in Tuscany, 1944. Our protagonist Ulysses Temper finds himself seeking shelter in a deserted villa of the Italian countryside. While there, he encounters Evelyn Skinner, an art historian who has come to Italy in an effort to salvage abandoned pieces from the rubble of the war torn towns. As Ulysses and Evelyn develop a relationship, the meeting sets into motion a series of events that will change young Ulysses’ life forever. As the two return to their daily lives, the friendship struck up in Italy stays with them and continues to grow over the course of decades. Still Life is a meandering, historical and quiet novel filled with dynamic and endearing characters that make up a found family of diverse and unique individuals. If you need some plot to your novels, Still Life might not be for you. But if you are looking for beautiful prose and a story you can ruminate in and sit with, you’ll definitely want to add this one to your box. Reviewers seem divided on the novel due to pacing, but if you enjoy slower, slice of life stories, Still Life might be for you.
Will by Will Smith (Memoir)Will by Will Smith, Mark Manson
Published by Penguin Press on November 9, 2021
One of the most dynamic and globally recognized entertainment forces of our time opens up fully about his life, in a brave and inspiring book that traces his learning curve to a place where outer success, inner happiness, and human connection are aligned. Along the way, Will tells the story in full of one of the most amazing rides through the worlds of music and film that anyone has ever had.
Will Smith’s transformation from a fearful child in a tense West Philadelphia home to one of the biggest rap stars of his era and then one of the biggest movie stars in Hollywood history, with a string of box office successes that will likely never be broken, is an epic tale of inner transformation and outer triumph, and Will tells it astonishingly well. But it's only half the story.
Will Smith thought, with good reason, that he had won at life: not only was his own success unparalleled, his whole family was at the pinnacle of the entertainment world. Only they didn't see it that way: they felt more like star performers in his circus, a seven-days-a-week job they hadn't signed up for. It turned out Will Smith's education wasn't nearly over.
This memoir is the product of a profound journey of self-knowledge, a reckoning with all that your will can get you and all that it can leave behind. Written with the help of Mark Manson, author of the multi-million-copy bestseller The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Will is the story of how one person mastered his own emotions, written in a way that can help everyone else do the same. Few of us will know the pressure of performing on the world's biggest stages for the highest of stakes, but we can all understand that the fuel that works for one stage of our journey might have to be changed if we want to make it all the way home. The combination of genuine wisdom of universal value and a life story that is preposterously entertaining, even astonishing, puts Will the book, like its author, in a category by itself.
“It’s easy to maneuver the material world once you have conquered your own mind. I believe that. Once you've learned the terrain of your own mind, every experience, every emotion, every circumstance, whether positive or negative, simply propels you forward, to greater growth and greater experience. That is true will. To move forward in spite of anything. And to move forward in a way that brings others with you, rather than leave them behind.” —Will Smith
The first of four nonfiction titles that Book of the Month picked for November, Will is a celebrity memoir written by famed actor Will Smith. With comparisons to other celebrity memoirs like Trevor Noah’s Born A Crime and Mathew McConaughey’s Greenlight, Will is part memoir that chronicles Will Smith’s rise to fame and the discoveries he made along the way as he grew up in and learned from the spotlight of stardom. There is also an aspect of self help to this memoir, where Will imparts some of his thoughts and observations about life. There are not a lot of reviews about this one but the few that I could find had nothing but praises to sing for this memoir. I think Will is a wonderful cross section between those who love celebrity memoirs and those who want to diversify their nonfiction November TBR- and their regular TBR really.
Win Me Something by Kyle Lucia Wu (Literary Fiction)Win Me Something by Kyle Lucia Wu
Published by Tin House Books on November 2, 2021
Willa Chen has never quite fit in. Growing up as a biracial Chinese American girl in New Jersey, Willa felt both hypervisible and unseen, too Asian to fit in at her mostly white school, and too white to speak to the few Asian kids around. After her parents’ early divorce, they both remarried and started new families, and Willa grew up feeling outside of their new lives, too.
For years, Willa does her best to stifle her feelings of loneliness, drifting through high school and then college as she tries to quiet the unease inside her. But when she begins working for the Adriens—a wealthy white family in Tribeca—as a nanny for their daughter, Bijou, Willa is confronted with all of the things she never had. As she draws closer to the family and eventually moves in with them, Willa finds herself questioning who she is, and revisiting a childhood where she never felt fully at home. Self-examining and fraught with the emotions of a family who fails and loves in equal measure, Win Me Something is a nuanced coming-of-age debut about the irreparable fissures between people, and a young woman who asks what it really means to belong, and how she might begin to define her own life.
Book of the Month has picked a handful of solid coming of age stories from Betty by Tiffany McDaniel and The People We Keep by Allison Larkin and so it’s not surprising to see Win Me Something as a November add on. Willa is a biracial Chinese American growing up in New Jersey and struggling to feel like she belongs anywhere. When her parents divorce and remarry other people, creating new families, Willa’s feelings of isolation and alienation are only exacerbated. With an air of loneliness, Willa moves from adolescence to adulthood and from highschool to college. Enter the Adrien family, for whom Willa becomes a nanny. During the course of her employment she falls in love with Bijou, her fierce and independent charge. It is in this family that she finds the love and acceptance she’s always wanted. This “found family” forces her to re-examine all that she knew about herself and her place in the world. Reviewers overwhelmingly appeared to love this complicated story about identity and belonging and especially it’s tackling of race and class. The biggest complaint I can find about Win Me Something is its pacing for being a little too slow. I’m super intrigued by this title and would love to hear from anyone who added it to their box!
My Body by Emily Ratajkowski (Essays)My Body by Emily Ratajkowski
Published by Metropolitan Books on November 9, 2021
A deeply honest investigation of what it means to be a woman and a commodity from Emily Ratajkowski, the archetypal, multi-hyphenate celebrity of our time
Emily Ratajkowski is an acclaimed model and actress, an engaged political progressive, a formidable entrepreneur, a global social media phenomenon, and now, a writer. Rocketing to world fame at age twenty-one, Ratajkowski sparked both praise and furor with the provocative display of her body as an unapologetic statement of feminist empowerment. The subsequent evolution in her thinking about our culture’s commodification of women is the subject of this book.
My Body is a profoundly personal exploration of feminism, sexuality, and power, of men's treatment of women and women's rationalizations for accepting that treatment. These essays chronicle moments from Ratajkowski’s life while investigating the culture’s fetishization of girls and female beauty, its obsession with and contempt for women’s sexuality, the perverse dynamics of the fashion and film industries, and the gray area between consent and abuse.
Nuanced, fierce, and incisive, My Body marks the debut of a writer brimming with courage and intelligence.
This collection of essays is written by Emily Ratajkowski, an acclaimed model and actress, an engaged political progressive, a formidable entrepreneur, a global social media phenomenon, and now, a writer. Ratajkowski used her body as a statement of feminist empowerment. This essay collection focuses on the evolution of her thinking around femininity, body image, and the way our culture commodifies the female form. Like Hunger by Roxanne Gaye (a previous Book of the Month pick) My Body is profoundly personal in its exploration of feminism, sexuality and power; of men’s treatment of women and women’s rationalizations for accepting that treatment. Nuanced, fierce, and incisive, My Body as an essay collection heralds in a new voice filled with intelligence and authenticity. More than anything else, this is a book about one woman’s struggle to understand the world she inhabits and the contradictions she must live within. Most negative reviews argue that My Body is nothing more than a celebrity memoir style book from a celebrity throwing shade at the industry that made her great. But I think most reviewers welcome it as a series of essays wherein a woman struggles with the realities of the world that she moves and finds a living through. I guess, ultimately, you’ll have to read the book and find out for yourself.
The Choice by Edith Eva Eger (Memoir)The Choice: Embrace the Possible by Edith Eger, Esmé Schwall Weigand, Philip G. Zimbardo, Edith Eva Eger
Published by Scribner on September 5, 2017
It’s 1944 and sixteen-year-old ballerina and gymnast Edith Eger is sent to Auschwitz. Separated from her parents on arrival, she endures unimaginable experiences, including being made to dance for the infamous Josef Mengele. When the camp is finally liberated, she is pulled from a pile of bodies, barely alive.
The horrors of the Holocaust didn’t break Edith. In fact, they helped her learn to live again with a life-affirming strength and a truly remarkable resilience. The Choice is her unforgettable story.
Another title perfect for nonfiction November this memoir tells of Edith Eger, the time she spent in Auschwitz and the process she has gone through to heal from the harrowing trauma. Sent to the concentration camp at only sixteen, she lost her parents to the camp and was forced to dance and entertain Nazi superiors for their own amusement and her survival. Edith recounts how she struggled for decades as she attempted to recover and heal from the trauma. Edith weaves her remarkable personal journey with the moving stories of those she has helped heal. With a touch of self help in its approach, Eger explores her own experience and discusses how she has been able to help others heal from and navigate their own traumas. For the most part, reviewers adored this memoir, it’s beautiful prose and compelling narrative. Some reviewers were less than enthused about the more psychological aspects of the book and would have preferred more personal stories and experiences. Regardless, this 2017 memoir is one of only a handful of Holocaust nonfiction titles and would make a great addition to your nonfiction November TBR.
In The Weeds by Tom Vitale (Narrative Nonfiction)In the Weeds: Around the World and Behind the Scenes with Anthony Bourdain by Tom Vitale
Published by Hachette Books on October 5, 2021
Anthony Bourdain's long time director and producer takes readers behind the scenes to reveal the insanity of filming television in some of the most volatile places in the world and what it was like to work with a legend. In the nearly two years since Anthony Bourdain's death, no one else has come close to filling the void he left. His passion for and genuine curiosity about the people and cultures he visited made the world feel smaller and more connected. Despite his affable, confident, and trademark snarky TV persona, the real Tony was intensely private, deeply conflicted about his fame, and an enigma even to those close to him. Tony’s devoted crew knew him best, and no one else had a front-row seat for as long as his director and producer, Tom Vitale.
Over the course of more than a decade traveling together, Tony became a boss, a friend, a hero and, sometimes, a tormentor.In the Weeds takes readers behind the scenes to reveal not just the insanity that went into filming in some of the most far-flung and volatile parts of the world, but what Tony was like unedited and off-camera. From the outside, the job looked like an all-expenses-paid adventure to places like Borneo, Vietnam, Iran, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Libya. What happened off-camera was far more interesting than what made it to air. The more things went wrong, the better it was for the show. Fortunately, everything fell apart constantly.
This title of narrative nonfiction is written by Anthony Bourdain’s producer and director, basically one of the guys that followed him all over the world in Bourdain’s quest to experience all kinds of cuisine. Tom Vitale’s work gives readers a view of the man behind the TV persona and celebrity chef. I think In The Weeds is a must read for anyone who loves food adjacent to nonfiction, Food Network, or has ever watched Anthony Bourdain on TV. Vitale gives all the insider baseball not only regarding the late TV personality but also about filming in far away and exotic places. Vitae’s writing is captivating and engaging while he plunges the death of his relationship with “Tony” and especially the darker sides of his persona from his mental health struggles to his erratic behaviours and his temper. While the majority of reviewers loved this book, some found the structure of the book haphazard and not very cohesive. I think if you are looking for something food related to round out your November stack though, you can’t go wrong with In The Weeds.
It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover (Romane)It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover
Published by Atria Books on August 2, 2016
Sometimes it is the one who loves you who hurts you the most.
Lily hasn’t always had it easy, but that’s never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She’s come a long way from the small town in Maine where she grew up — she graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started her own business. So when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily’s life suddenly seems almost too good to be true.
Ryle is assertive, stubborn, maybe even a little arrogant. He’s also sensitive, brilliant, and has a total soft spot for Lily. And the way he looks in scrubs certainly doesn’t hurt. Lily can’t get him out of her head. But Ryle’s complete aversion to relationships is disturbing. Even as Lily finds herself becoming the exception to his “no dating” rule, she can’t help but wonder what made him that way in the first place.
As questions about her new relationship overwhelm her, so do thoughts of Atlas Corrigan — her first love and a link to the past she left behind. He was her kindred spirit, her protector. When Atlas suddenly reappears, everything Lily has built with Ryle is threatened.
A surprise for many of us, I have actually really enjoyed seeing Book of the Month choose a combination of new releases and backlist titles, especially in their add ons. A lot of you were surprised to hear I’ve never read a Colleen Hoover book, but I like to think that my passionate love affair with VC Andrews as a teen prepared me for Hoover’s gritty romance with difficult themes. It Ends With Us is, at its heart, a love triangle. Our main character is Lily who thinks she might have found love with Ryle, even if he wants nothing to do with relationships. As they begin to explore the potential, Atlas reappears, her first love and the man she has never quite stopped thinking about. What will happen as Lily attempts to make sense of her long held feelings for Atlas and her newfound love with Ryle. I don’t really want to say much more about the plot of the book because I think it’s best to go in blind- or so the reviews tell me. The overwhelming love for this book is evidenced by the over 4.0 rating on Goodreads and its 100k+ reviews. I do think it’s important that readers that It Ends With Us comes with trigger warnings for on the page domestic violence so if that’s a trigger for you, you might want to stay away from this one. But if you, like me, have been curious about Colleen Hoover, this might be the perfect place to start.
My Dark Vanessa by Katie Elizabeth Russell (Contemporary Fiction)My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell
Published by William Morrow on March 10, 2020
Exploring the psychological dynamics of the relationship between a precocious yet naïve teenage girl and her magnetic and manipulative teacher, a brilliant, all-consuming read that marks the explosive debut of an extraordinary new writer.
2000. Bright, ambitious, and yearning for adulthood, fifteen-year-old Vanessa Wye becomes entangled in an affair with Jacob Strane, her magnetic and guileful forty-two-year-old English teacher.
2017. Amid the rising wave of allegations against powerful men, a reckoning is coming due. Strane has been accused of sexual abuse by a former student, who reaches out to Vanessa, and now Vanessa suddenly finds herself facing an impossible choice: remain silent, firm in the belief that her teenage self willingly engaged in this relationship, or redefine herself and the events of her past. But how can Vanessa reject her first love, the man who fundamentally transformed her and has been a persistent presence in her life? Is it possible that the man she loved as a teenager—and who professed to worship only her—may be far different from what she has always believed?
Alternating between Vanessa’s present and her past, My Dark Vanessa juxtaposes memory and trauma with the breathless excitement of a teenage girl discovering the power her own body can wield. Thought-provoking and impossible to put down, this is a masterful portrayal of troubled adolescence and its repercussions that raises vital questions about agency, consent, complicity, and victimhood. Written with the haunting intimacy of The Girls and the creeping intensity of Room, My Dark Vanessa is an era-defining novel that brilliantly captures and reflects the shifting cultural mores transforming our relationships and society itself.
One of my most impactful reads of 2020, when it was released, I’m so excited that My Dark Vanessa will make it’s way into even more hands. A book for the #metoo era, My Dark Vanessa follows young, impressionable and entirely too naive Vanessa is groomed into a relationship with her forty two year old English teacher Jacob Strange at the tender age of fifteen. Fast-forward a handful of decades and other girls have come forward to accuse Strane of sexual misconduct. Simultaneously, while adult Vanessa wrestles with the realities of what happened to her when she was young, adolescent Vanessa believes she is falling in love with her intelligent and sophisticated teacher. It’s a hard, disturbing, and provacative read that won’t be for everyone. But I think it’s an important one as more and more women continue to come forward and tell their stories of assault and survival. The overwhelming criticism of this amazing debut is that it reads a little long and in some ways, I would agree but I was there for every last bit of the story and I think readers who go into it, aware of the trigger warnings, can trust the hype surrounding My Dark Vanessa.
Silverview by John Le Carre (Mystery)Silverview by John le Carré
Published by Viking on October 12, 2021
In his last completed novel, John le Carré turns his focus to the world that occupied his writing for the past sixty years—the secret world itself.
Named a most anticipated book of the fall by the Associated Press, TIME, People, Entertainment Weekly, Washington Post, AARP, The Millions, Lit Hub, Thrillist, and more
Julian Lawndsley has renounced his high-flying job in the city for a simpler life running a bookshop in a small English seaside town. But only a couple of months into his new career, Julian’s evening is disrupted by a visitor. Edward, a Polish émigré living in Silverview, the big house on the edge of town, seems to know a lot about Julian’s family and is rather too interested in the inner workings of his modest new enterprise.
When a letter turns up at the door of a spy chief in London warning him of a dangerous leak, the investigations lead him to this quiet town by the sea . . .
Silverview is the mesmerizing story of an encounter between innocence and experience and between public duty and private morals. In his inimitable voice John le Carré, the greatest chronicler of our age, seeks to answer the question of what we truly owe to the people we love.
This posthumously published work of crime fiction was only one of a plethora of recent titles that were added mid month. It’s kind of a mystery as to why Book of Month has consistently been doing this. Releasing an add-on mid month, usually when the release date of a sought after title has passed. Who knows why they’re doing it, but in about mid October, Book of the Month dropped Silverview, a novel that I would describe as more mystery than a thriller. Our protagonist is Julian, an older gentleman who has retired from his big city job to work at a bookstore in a quaint little country town. HIs quiet life is interrupted when Edward Avon arrives on his doorstep, knowing a lot about Julian. Combine that with a letter to a spy chief reporting an intelligence leak and you have the set up for a solid spy novel, which I think plenty of Book of the Month readers will like. Reviewers seemed to really enjoy this one, though die hard fans of Carre’s work felt that Silverview lacked a lot of the suspense, depth, and acerbic wit of the works that were published while Carre was still alive.
In My Box This Month
I have been excited about the Collective since I received an ARC of it a few months ago. My interest in The Family was piqued while I was doing research for this post and I have never read a Colleen Hoover book, so here we are.
What About You?
What did you add to your box this month? What do you think of my picks? What books might you add to your box next month? Let me know in the comments!