During the final week of every month, we, the Paperback Paris team, come together to share our Staff Picks and thoughts on the best books we read.
Scroll down to see which books topped our reading lists for the month of May.
Leah Rodriguez’s May 2018 Pick: Oyster, Michael Pedersen (Illustrated by Scott Hutchinson)
“I’ve always been taken by Scott Hutchison’s illustrations. A lot of his artwork became imagery for Frightened Rabbit’s albums—Hutchison’s primary artistic pursuit. But those tiny illustrations capture the essence of the songwriting in Scott’s signature, droll style. The sharp knife of his sudden and tragic death cut off those who loved him and his work from all that he could have created. The possibilities were endless. Now they’re non-existent. The only remedy I had was to immerse myself in the body of work he left behind; the music, of course…and the illustrations. I bought copies of Francis Daulerio’s If & When We Wake (an honorable mention for my favorite book this month) and Michael Pedersen’s Oyster, both of which Scott illustrated.
True to form, Scott’s drawings are wry, slightly whimsical, and perfect companions to Pedersen’s poems. And in seeking out Hutchison, I found a treasure in the poet himself. Michael Pedersen’s poems are an ode to Scotland. Threaded with the airy brogue of Caledonia (as Pedersen puts it), Oyster examines the beautiful bits of love, along with its anxieties; the boundless yawp of friendship; and the inevitability of returning home. Not only was the collection a palliative to the sense of loss caused by Scott’s death, it was also an unexpected introduction to one of my new favorite poets.”
Courtney Shapiro’s May 2018 Pick: The Upside of Unrequited, Becky Albertalli
“I found Becky Albertalli’s The Upside of Unrequited to be funny, relatable and light. Albertalli has a way of introducing diverse characters without shoving them in your face. I started and finished this book in one sitting and didn’t want to put it down. The writing style was easy to follow and relayed the struggles that teenagers go through. I enjoyed the story and found myself wanting to be a part of it. May was a slow reading month for me, so I’m glad I picked up something so enjoyable!”
Paris Close’s May 2018 Pick: Certain American States, Catherine Lacey
“I’ve yet to come across a writer with such seamless control over the millennial language as Catherine Lacey exhibits in just twelve stories. In New York, a grieving Texan is unable to escape the vestiges of her brother’s death; elsewhere, a sheltered art professor starves his students of technology as his relationship crumbles in the interim; an orphan’s life gets interrupted when she’s called to North Dakota to see her godfather off to the other side — in Certain American States, humility and humanity are conjoined in their effort to sweep state lines, to save a nation. From cover to cover, it becomes evident that we may never possess the command or fucked-up charm of the creatures Lacey summons in her forthcoming story collection.”
Jasmyne Ray’s May 2018 Pick: Sex Object, Jessica Valenti
“What I loved about Jessica Valenti’s memoir was how she seamlessly blended humor and the unsettling feeling that women feel daily due to catcalling, unwanted sexual advances, and other misogynistic behaviors. It kind of goes back to the saying that you have to laugh to keep from crying. She creates a sense of camaraderie with her reader because after all, as women, we fight against misogyny and toxic masculinity every day.”
Melissa Ratcliff’s May 2018 Pick: The Kiss Quotient, Helen Hoang
“Sometimes, when I find myself having a bad week, a good romance novel can do wonders to improve my mood and Helen Hoang’s debut contemporary romance novel, The Kiss Quotient, was the perfect pick-me-up. Recounting Stella Lane’s struggle to form relationships due to high functioning autism, The Kiss Quotient was a wonderful exploration of love and intimacy, offering the perfect blend of ups and downs while telling an important story. Not only does Hoang touch on the importance of consent, but she offers opposition toward the labels and harmful stereotypes that hold society back – from those associated with disorders such as autism, to those associated with professions, race, and sex. The Kiss Quotient is a tear-jerking debut that will make you believe in true love while fulfilling everything you could ever want in a romance. Sweet, yet incredibly sexy, Hoang’s debut is a must-read for romance lovers looking for a new summer read – I devoured its 330 pages in a mere seven hours and am already planning to read it again.”
Jen Weddle’s May 2018 Pick: The Mars Room, Rachel Kushner
“I couldn’t put this down even for a second. I didn’t know it was possible to feel every emotion all at once, but Rachel Kushner is able to make you do just that with her newest novel. She’s a magnificent storyteller with the ability to make her characters both repulse and charm you. Tragic and darkly humorous at once, The Mars Room is a true page-turner in every sense of the word, and Kushner’s latest proves she may just be one of the greatest writers of our time.”
Madison Troyer’s May 2018 Pick: Circe, Madeline Miller
“I’m not usually a huge fan of Greek mythology (too many semesters spent studying it in school stole the joy out of it for me), but when I saw Circe by Madeline Miller was a selection for my May Book of the Month box I was strangely intrigued. I finished the book two days after it landed in my mailbox, and honestly, it stands out as one of my best reads of the year. I love Miller’s spin on the classic story — she makes Circe such a strong and complex character and the plot held me captive from start to finish. The book is, of course, great for any mythology fanatics, but it also stands out as a powerful story about what it means to be a human and a woman. If you haven’t read it yet, you should definitely add it to your Summer TBR.”