It’s no secret that one of our greatest loves here at TBF is reading books and then happily telling everyone we can about those books. Thus, on this day honoring love, the TBF crew is here to share the books we’re crushing on right now—after all, love is best when you share it.
Happy Valentine’s Day, and happy reading!
This novel grabbed my heart from its opening pages where first-person narrator Benjy describes a hand-holding roller skating experience so vividly that I was simultaneously laughing out loud and reliving the excruciating self-consciousness of being an adolescent. (GenX alert: this is a trip back to the 80’s you’ll want to take). If the only book by Whitehead you’ve read is The Underground Railroad (which if you haven’t, you should right away), you need to read Sag Harbor to experience another dimension of Whitehead’s writerly brilliance as he engages the complexities of race, class and identity in America. Unapologetically nostalgic and truly hilarious and poignant, the novel covers several memorable episodes of Benjy’s summers in Sag Harbor, a historically black beach community on Long Island. Whitehead is a master across genres and I’m working my way through his whole body of work (up next for me: his zombie book, Zone One) and hope other TBF readers will join me!
Lydia: How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin
This February, there is no book I’d rather write a love letter to than N.K. Jemisin’s astonishing, lovely collection of stories, How Long ‘Til Black Future Month?. This collection of twenty-two stories (gifted to me by my own favorite valentine), is the first from this triple Hugo Award-winning author, and contains new, unpublished stories alongside those previously published. Like her groundbreaking novels, How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? is a perfect showcase of Jemisin’s range, imagination, and emotional command. Her stories are by turns delightful and brutal, as filled with joy and whimsy as with sorrow and unflinching honesty in her depictions of all-too-familiar problems in worlds that are like, but not quite our own. The future is here now—let’s rise to join it.
Claire: Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
I read Like Water for Chocolate many, many years ago, and just thinking about it conjures visceral memories of onions that make you cry, mole sauce rich with chocolate, and a mortar full of rose petals. Author Laura Esquivel captures the consuming desire of forbidden love, so interwoven with family and tradition, bodies, and, of course, food. Set on a ranch in Mexico near the border at the turn of the twentieth century, the passion in this novel is tragic and enduring.
Lea: Intercepted by Alexa Martin
The end of football season always makes me feel blue. (And as an Ohio State fan I do not like to feel blue). This was a particularly hard end of the season as a die-hard Saints fan. I wanted football but not the pain of the loss and I luckily recently picked up Intercepted by Alexa Martin. It was such a joy to hang out with her main character Marlee as she handles life as a football girlfriend while finding herself. A fun, joyful read that not only reminded me why I love football but why I love romance novels. I can’t wait for Martin’s next book, Fumbled and of course football season. (203 days to go!)
Julie: Afro-Vegan: Farm-Fresh African, Caribbean, and Southern Flavors Remixed by Terry Bryant
My favorite date spot is the kitchen, slicing and simmering a great, big, aromatic meal to eat by candlelight. The best go-to cookbook for date night is Terry Bryant’s Afro-Vegan: Farm-Fresh African, Caribbean, and Southern Flavors Remixed. His recipe for Tofu Curry with Mustard Greens impresses every time (and I’ve found his method for baking tofu versatile and useful in other dishes, as well). The bonus in this book is that Bryant includes a suggested soundtrack with every recipe, so you and your valentine can delight each other with your apron-and-spatula dance moves while you cook up a meal to remember.
Maris: Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken
Bowlaway might not be your traditional love story, but within its sweeping plot it contains several small, magical moments between characters. If you’ve ever wondered what it might be like to read about your great-grandparents falling in love, and also your grandparents, and the ensuing branches of the family tree, then this is the book for you. Furthermore, McCracken presents each character with such care and intention that it feels like an extra layer of love, one the author has for both the characters themselves and for her craft.
Nicole: Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson
Furiously Happy is a memoir that follows the author as she accepts herself and her life as she deals with depression and other conditions. While it deals with real issues, it’s the humor Lawson finds in every situation that colors the stories with joy. This book helped me really understand self-love and what it means to be happy, starting with myself.