The Recommendations Book Tag
I’ve been tagged by Naty and Eline, more than enough motivation to jump on board after enjoying Ally’s (original!) post for this tag! If you haven’t checked out their wonderful recommendations yet be sure to do so, they’ve highlighted some fantastic titles and this tag is a great way to find new books or perhaps re-prioritize what’s already on your TBR. 😉 I haven’t done any tags or recommendation posts in a while so I’m going to use this chance to round up some recent faves from within the last few months of my reading that I need to talk about more!
- Tag Ally @ Ally Writes Things so she can see your recommendations!
- Give at least one recommendation for each of the prompts below
- If you don’t have a recommendation, talk about a book you want to read
- Tag some friends!
And now for the books!
A Book About Friendship
Outlawed by Anna North. This isn’t necessarily a book *about* friendship, but it does prominently feature a great group of friends, many of whom are LGBTQ+ characters and all of whom are ostracized from their reimagined 1800s Western society. It’s a fun romp that’s a bit over the top, but if a band of feminist & LGBTQ+ outlaws dressing as cowboys and running heists in the name of creating a sanctuary for the oppressed sounds at all your type, you may want to give this one a try!
A Translated Book
Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor, translated from the original Spanish by Sophie Hughes. Set in an impoverished Mexican village brimming with local tensions and long-lived superstitions, this little literary novel packs a big punch as it unravels, character by character, the truth of the Witch’s death. A string of flawed and unreliable narrators demonstrate the ripple effects of trauma and suspicion; though this is a book focused on darkness, brutality, and things gone wrong, it never loses sight of its characters’ humanity.
A Diverse Romance
One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London. Okay, the MC here is a straight white woman and if you caught my review a couple of months ago you may recall I hesitate to even call this book a romance, but hear me out. This story follows a plus-size influencer who agrees to star as the lead on a Bachelorette-style reality dating show. Though personally I’d categorize reality dating TV as something akin to a sport, there is some romance involved, and altogether I’d say the cast is fairly diverse, from skin color to age, sexuality, and body type, and one of the prominent bachelors is even a great single dad to a non-binary kid. It’s a quick read with a fun multi-media sort of format and plenty of sweet scenes, while also directly tackling representation issues in mainstream television.
A Fast-Paced Book
Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu. From the outside this may look like an ordinary novel, but inside it is formatted like a screenplay and it reads like a dream. The style befits the main character’s tendency to view his Asian-American life as though it is a movie in which he is perpetually cast as Generic Asian Man behind white and Black stars. He longs to be upgraded to the role of Kung Fu Man, but over the course of the novel gradually realizes that even this goal is a limited box reflective of ingrained Asian racism in America. It was nearly a one-sitting read for me, loads of fun and also incredibly thought-provoking.
A Nonfiction Other Than a Memoir
Made in China by Amelia Pang. Speaking of China, I just read this absolutely heart-wrenching investigative journalism book about the state of forced labor in modern China, and though I have to caution you about the extremely dark content I cannot recommend reading up on this topic highly enough, especially for first-world consumers whose purchasing habits help drive the system. Lives are literally counting on buyers making smart, conscientious purchases and holding brands accountable for their sourcing of goods. I can’t deny this is a bleak read, but it’s also an important, life-changing one.
An Underrated Memoir
Notes on a Silencing by Lacy Crawford. Despite its excellent cover and some great early hype, I’ve seen very few readers in my feed picking up this book, and I hope that will change. This is one of the strongest #MeToo books I’ve ever read, ranking right up there with Chanel Miller’s Know My Name; it follows Crawford through her boarding school days, during which she was raped by two upperclassmen boys, and the long years afterward when her school refused to take her claim seriously, made her a target among her peers, and took deliberate steps to stifle her legal case. Crawford also engages with the language we tend to use or avoid around trauma in a particularly interesting and useful way.
A Book With Fewer Than 10,000 Ratings on Goodreads
The Butchers’ Blessing by Ruth Gilligan. This mysterious, Irish-set historical fiction novel chronicles the last year that the Butchers travel the countryside practicing their trade, a fateful time for Irish cattle as a bout of BSE (mad cow disease) heightens tensions to a near-panic. It’s a book full of such thoughtfully-drawn characters and of such thematic depth, a sad but beautiful exploration of the conflict between folkloric/traditional beliefs and the pressure to move as a nation into the modern world. It’s actually got less than 1,000 ratings on GR, which is woeful for such a brilliant work.
A Book With An LGBTQ+ Protagonist
Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake. YA titles appear pretty rarely on my blog these days, but there are some real gems in the category even for adult readers who prefer heavier themes, and this is one of them. It features a bisexual MC who must confront a trauma from her past in order to move forward with her non-binary girlfriend, all while caught in the middle of a scandal that hits very close to home- her twin brother has been accused of rape by his girlfriend, and while our protagonist loves her brother she also trusts her friend not to lie about him in this way. It’s a sticky situation that examines trauma and victim blaming with care and nuance, appropriate for readers YA and up.
A Book By A Trans or Non-binary Author
The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi. Emezi seems to be a popular answer for this prompt already, but they’re a favorite author of mine that I can’t refrain from mentioning here and I’ve not seen this book specifically listed yet, so I’ll add it to the ring. Vivek Oji is a heartfelt look at sexual discovery and prejudice in Nigeria, focusing on the devastating death of a character whose true identity was known only to a few close friends. This is a sad, beautiful character study with plenty of commercial appeal.
A Book With More Than 500 Pages
Legendborn by Tracy Deonn. Another great YA recommendation, and a fantasy one at that! This one just makes the cut at 501 pages (according to Goodreads; I don’t have a physical copy on hand at the moment to check accuracy but I’m glad- this book’s worth the mention!). Following a Black teen through her first months on a North Carolinian college campus, this modern continuation of King Arthur lore dips into an intricate world with some fun magic, all while exploring deep grief and challenging racism throughout the college’s history- especially within (but not limited to) the secret society that keeps Arthur’s legend alive.
A Short Story Collection
Lot by Bryan Washington. I don’t read a lot of story collections, but this one was a standout. Each piece in this set takes place in Houston, particularly focusing on marginalized characters and communities. They’re immensely sharp and compulsively readable, and (if I remember the ratio correctly) every other story is a linked piece following a recurring protagonist through various stages of his young gay life. As a whole the collection is a wonderful microcosm both specific to its setting and indicative much more broadly of modern life in the margins.
A Book You Want Everyone to Read
Real Life by Brandon Taylor. I’m putting this out there even though its style (reminiscent of Sally Rooney’s) will likely make it a bit of a hit-or-miss read for many; it was such a hit for me though- my favorite read of 2020!- that I’m still hoping for more readers to pick it up. This gutting little character study of a gay Black man’s struggle with racism (even among his friend group) in grad school takes place over one fraught weekend as our protagonist considers dropping out of his program just to escape it. It’s a quiet read, but it’s got teeth, and I just cannot recommend it highly enough.
Tagging some more people whose recommendations I’d love to see: Eleanor, Ellen, Karissa, Laura, Lou, Melanie, Stargazer, Stephen, and anyone else who wants to join! Please link or let me know if you try this tag so I can check out your answers!
The Literary Elephant