8 Mini Book Reviews

Mini Book Reviews (via Wild Words)

Every so often I share a list of the books I’ve been stacking on my nightstand. Have you read any of them? Share your thoughts in the comments! NOTE: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and purchase a book, I’ll receive a small commission.


01 | Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
by Robin Sloan

I’ve read both of Robin’s novels, and will just have to wait two or three years before the next one comes out. Like Sourdough, this is just a fun and fast read. The premise is quirky—a quirky 24-hour bookstore that loans titles filled with secret codes to members of a secret club—and we follow the protagonist from San Francisco to New York to find out what it all means. At its core, the story is ultimately about the love of books and the written word.

“After that, the book will fade, the way all books fade in your mind. But I hope you will remember this: A man walking fast down a dark lonely street. Quick steps and hard breathing, all wonder and need. A bell above a door and the tinkle it makes. A clerk and a ladder and warm golden light, and then: the right book exactly, at exactly the right time.”

02 | Astonish Me
by Maggie Shipstead

The captivating world of ballet is the backdrop behind Maggie Shipstead’s second novel. The story centers on the complicated relationship of ballerinas Joan and Arslan, whose lives intertwine over decades, starting when she helps him defect from Russia. After Joan leaves ballet behind to start a family, she watches as her son develops into a ballet prodigy and is forced to face her past in the process.

When they are alone, lying quietly, he holds her the way a child holds a stuffed animal: for comfort, for security, out of a primate’s urge to cling, to close one’s arms around a warm, soft object.

03 | Rose Water and Orange Blossoms
by Maureen Abood

When I was in Michigan on book tour for Eat This Poem, Maureen kindly invited me to her home and stuffed me with Lebanese food. It was one of my favorite meals of the whole trip, and I promptly bought her cookbook to recreate some of the dishes at home. My absolute favorite recipe in this collection (so far, anyway) is the sticky date cake with orange blossom caramel. It’s tender and floral and melts in your mouth. I’m basically looking for more excuses to make it.

It became clear to me that terroir doesn’t just impact foodstuffs. Terroir produces … us. We are products of our familial upbringings, and products of place.

04 | Things That Join the Sea and the Sky
by Mark Nepo

A few years ago, a friend of mine gifted me a book of poems by Mark Nepo, and he’s been on my radar ever since. Inside Things That Join the Sea and the Sky, you’ll find a collection of musings, almost like prose poems, meant to soothe the soul. Written over the course of 15 years and culled from his notebooks, it’s the kind of book to leave on your nightstand and dip in and out of, just a few pages at a time.

Everyone tumbles through the struggle of being here, playing it out on each other, because it feels too hard to face the life we’ve given ... This is why we’re here, to be shaped by time into a tool.

05 | Daring to Rest
by Karen Brody

I don’t like to throw around terms like “life-changing” unless I really mean it, and I’m hoping this book will really make a difference. I’m halfway through a 40-day program designed to help me rest, recover, and get back in touch with my true nature. The book teaches yoga nidra, a practice that teaches you how to step into a “deeply restful, timeless state that relaxes your body and helps you feel physically rested.

Most self-care today is about activation or doing—exercise, taking a trip with friends, going out to dinner. While this activation may nurture parts of your body, mind, and spirit, it does not deeply replenish your mind and body.

06 Feed the Resistance
by Julia Turshen

In addition to some top notch recipes for cooking that can feed a crowd of activists (or just yourself on a weeknight), there are insightful, approachable suggestions for how to get involved in your communities, like making reservations at a restaurant where the chef doesn’t look like you.

We’re living in a time of upheaval and the call to activism is loud and clear. In figuring out the shape of my own activism, I keep thinking about heroes, about folks like John Lewis who don’t wait for permission or instruction. I am constantly reminded that heroes operate in all different ways. Many are loud, while many embody that beautiful Rumi quotation to “Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.


07 | At Home in the World
by Joyce Maynard

Joyce Maynard is famous for having a short-lived but life-changing relationship with J.D. Salinger, who began writing her letters after she published an article in New York Magazine at age 18. Joyce was a student at Yale, but left her life behind to live with him, and you can only imagine the repercussions. Ultimately, it’s a story about finding your voice, which feels particularly timely given today’s climate.

So long as we question a woman’s right to her own story, we allow the perpetuation of the same dangerous and damaging patterns generations before us experienced. The most powerful tool most of us possess is our own voice. Take that away and what do we have?

The INFJ Writer by
Lauren Sapala

If you’re a writer who also happens to be an INFJ (as I am) you’ll feel like this book knows you to the core. It might reveal what you already knew about yourself, but I found the realizations to be highly affirming. Besides, INFJs are known for being introspective, so any opportunity to learn more about how we’re wired is always welcome. A quick and insightful read.

Whatever emotional experience has had the most impact on you is where you need to look. Whatever emotional experience has made you who you are today is where you will find the seeds of your life purpose.