Bookfest Book Picks

We asked our authors what they’re reading right now. Keep checking back, as the list is growing. And please support your local indie bookstore.


And if you’d like to read what they’ve written, we’ve got that list too!


Martha Frankel

I’m rereading Cats Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut. Steve said something about our karass the other day. Which means the loose group of people that you’re somehow spiritually affiliated with, even though you may not understand it. And I was wondering what life would be like after this. And who would be in my karass. Besides Kitty Sheehan and Keith Richards!

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Roz Chast

I’m reading The Magic Mountain. It’s actually a reread; I read it in my twenties and decided to reread it weeks before the Coronavirus hit. I’m in the final chapters now. I might read Death in Venice next. Plague Lit.


Nelson George

I’m reading Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend by James S. Hirsch, an authorized but far from fawning biography of the greatest baseball player of all time. With baseball season in danger of starting in, maybe, June, it’s  a pleasure to revisit the game’s history and see so many memorable games through Willie’s eyes. With the internet as an aide I’ve been watching some of the classic moments. Nice to mix literature, tech and sport.


Ann Hood

There’s a certain kind of British novel by women authors that is my favorite escape reading. Smart, funny, with characters you want to hang out with, and just so British that I love reading sentences out loud for their Britishness. Happy hours pass while reading these books.


These include the four Barbara Trapido novels, starting with Brother of the Less Famous Jack, then moving on to Temples of Delight, Juggling, and The Travelling Hornplayer, in that order.


Then read Jane Gardam’s Old Filth, The Man in the Wooden Hat, and Last Friends, in that order.


Then read everything by Mary Wesley. In any order.


Mitchell S. Jackson

I’m reading Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon right now. I started reading it in remembrance of Morrison, but I am also reading it as I do all books for its craft. In particular, I’m studying its POV and its dialogue, which I think are phenomenal. I’ve been returning to Edward P. Jones’ The Known World with an eye towards studying his omniscient POV, in particular the way he makes leaps in time. Last week, my partner and I read poetry to each other. I read aloud the entirety of John Murillo’s new collection Kontemporary AmeriKan Poetry. It is amazing! Still, as joyful as that experience  was, I was also reading for how he made an image, his use of recession, etc. What can I say, I’m forever reading as a writer.


Erin Khar

Last year, Jennifer Pastiloff published her debut memoir, On Being Human: A Memoir of Waking Up, Living Real, and Listening Hard. It’s a book I’ve recommended often and a book I find myself grabbing for now from my bookshelf. Quite simply, this book is an embrace, the kind of embrace that resonates from one human to another, the kind that seeks beauty in our imperfections. Jen writes with transparency and intimacy about the messiness of life, loss and grief, and the shame we carry, about finding a way up and out of the ways we limit ourselves. After my first read, I was left feeling seen and heard and open. We need that now more than ever. It’s inspiring and hopeful and makes me feel less alone. It’s impossible not to feel uplifted by this book.

Up next is Chelsea Bieker’s debut Godshot.


Elizabeth Lesser

Going back into some of the classic contemplative/spiritual books that have been my mainstays for years:


Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart
Chogyam Trungpa’s Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior
Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth
Reading a poem a day from Mary Oliver’s Devotions
Reading Ann Patchett’s new novel The Dutch House


Dan Peres

Moonwalking with Einstein is a brilliant exploration of memory and how the once forgetful Joshua Foer digs into research and techniques…and ultimately finds himself competing in the US Memory Championship (yes, such a thing exists). I’ve wanted to read this book for years, but kept forgetting to.


After doing the Rich Roll podcast to discuss my own book, I started reading Finding Ultra. Roll’s story is beautifully told and utterly inspiring. Will I become an endurance athlete? Nope. But his book is making me want to get my ass off of the couch and make some changes. That’s a start.


Amy Dresner is one of the smartest, funniest, and most-honest people I know. Her memoir, My Fair Junkie, is all of those things, as well. It’s hard to read, but even harder to put down.


Michael Ruhlman

I’ve just stolen from my wife’s stack of Christmas gift books Mary Gaitskill’s This Is Pleasure: A Story. It’s barely a novella but beautifully published by Pantheon, and I’m delighted to see such a short work between hard covers. I don’t know that I’ll feel comfortable reading it—she addresses a #MeToo incident—but when do you feel comfortable reading Mary Gaitskill? I was only a few pages in when the day’s work forced me to close the book for later, but already there is the Gaitskill edge and people going just a little too far. “You’re so much stronger now,” one protagonist says to the other (chapters alternate first person accounts) over lunch at a nice restaurant. “You speak straight from the clit!,” and puts his hand between her legs. The narrator declines with an emphatic NO! and palming his face away as if he were a horse.


Bar Scott

I read The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy last week, now re-reading The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry both by Rachel Joyce. I had read Harold’s story about a year ago without knowing there was a follow-up coming from Queenie’s point of view. It’s great to now be reading them back to back and a little backwards. Joyce is a really good writer. The stories are meaningful without being too complex or tiring. I find I need to read things that are light-ish right now but well written and positive and also thoughtful. These two books do all of that. Next up is Sarah Broom’s The Yellow House. I don’t know anything about the book except that Sarah is an excellent writer so I’m looking forward to it.


Kitty Sheehan

I’m reading as much as I can focus — usually about 20 minutes at a time.


I have the most wondrous biography, Willie Nelson: An Epic Life, by Joe Nick Patoski. The writing is some of the most alive prose I’ve ever read.


You can google Joe for fun. Incredible dude. I first read his work when I read his bio of Stevie Ray Vaughan, which is in a class by itself. And by the magic of social media I was able to tell him how much his book means to me right now.


It’s those little ways we’re reaching across to each other right now — like the email I received from Martha, asking me to do this — that make all the difference.


Gail Straub

What a great idea! And yes, I am both reading and writing up a storm during these days. Reading The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich, one of my favorite writers. And any book by Meg Waite Clayton is perfect reading comfort food —intelligent but easy reading.  Stay strong and stay well as we weather this storm.


Mark Whitaker

I’m reading a lot as research for my new book. But also The Splendid and the Vile, Erik Larson’s very timely new book on Churchill and the Blitz.


The Ones We’ve Been Waiting For, our family friend Charlotte Alter’s excellent book about Mayor Pete, AOC and the new generation of millennial politicians.


A Very Stable Genius, by Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig of the Washington Post, which was scary enough before Trump had to deal with a pandemic.


Marion Winik

Though most authors who have books coming out this month are cancelling tours and cursing fate, Emily St. John Mandel is surely an exception to the rule. She made her fiction debut in 2014 with a National Book Award finalist about a flu pandemic. These days, Station Eleven is on all the top-ten lists of books to read in quarantine. Her new book, The Glass Hotel, focuses on a totally different topic, a disaster in our past rather than our present. At the center of the novel is a financier named Jonathan Alkaitis, a character inspired by Bernie Madoff, responsible for a Ponzi scheme that falls apart in 2008, destroying the lives of not just his investors but his family and his employees. A wide web of interesting characters and locations and subplots surrounds the main theme.