Reading List: Your Fireside Books for Fall

The bookworm’s favorite season is just around the corner. It’s time for getting cozy on a chilly Saturday with a warm mug and a good read. And here’s a friendly reminder that we in the Twin Cities are blessed to live in a community that supports a healthy roster of local, independent bookstores—ones that curate a selection of books that are tailored to our city, our time, and our people. So please support them! 

We reached out to a few of our favorite local booksellers and book reviewers for what they’d recommend digging into around the fireplace this fall. Happy reading!

Boneshaker Books Minneapolis 

By Amanda Luker, Pat Maloney, and Barb Zeller, volunteers at Boneshaker

“On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” by Ocean Vuong

Written as a letter from a son to his illiterate Vietnamese mother, this highly anticipated book from Ocean Vuong has been praised for its lyricism (Vuong is also a poet). The story both operates as a dreamy coming-of-age story and also delves into how trauma is inherited generationally, crossing borders and circumstances. 

“Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me” by Mariko Tamaki

This new graphic novel fits into an emerging canon of queer teen lit that goes beyond coming-out stories and homophobia. The stunning artwork (Rosemary Valero-O’Connell) and smart storytelling (Tamaki) are a powerful combination in a coming-of-age story about overcoming toxic relationships.

“Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl” by Andrea Lawlor

Part fairy tale, part erotic romp, and part shameless ’90s nostalgia trip, “Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl” is the story of a young, single-mindedly horny shapeshifter. The New Yorker called it “smut,” and the New York Times called it “difficult to quote in a family newspaper”—but underneath all the back-alley hookups is a fascinating deconstruction of sexuality, gender, and identity.

“Cannonball” by Kelsey Wroten

Comic artist Kelsey Wroten’s new colorful graphic novel delves into the life of Caroline Bertram, a self-absorbed-but-eminently-relatable young, struggling queer writer seeking artistic fulfillment while fighting against her own self-destructive behaviors. 

“The Collected Schizophrenias: Essays” by Esme Weijun Wang

It took doctors years to correctly diagnose Esme Weijun Wang with a schizophrenic disorder. In an interview, Esme said she wrote “The Collected Schizophrenias” because this book did not exist, a book by the person diagnosed with this mental illness. A collection of essays, it begins with facts, the science of schizophrenia, and then progresses with what Esme has experienced, as well as questions she still has. Throughout this book, Esme explores how to define herself. Anyone who has a family member or friend diagnosed with schizophrenia, as well as those who desire to understand more about mental illness, will find this book invaluable.

Subtext Books St. Paul 

By Matt Keliher, manager and book buyer 

“Some Hell” by Patrick Nathan

In “Some Hell,” we have a haunting and darkly tender novel about a family struggling after a father’s suicide. We follow Colin, a young man shunned by his siblings and rejected by his homophobic best friend, when he discovers a trove of his father’s notebooks and dives into his own imagination as a means of an escape from his suffering and surrounding. It’s a beautifully told story.

“We’ll Fly Away” by Bryan Bliss

“We’ll Fly Away” by St. Paul’s Bryan Bliss is a story about friendship and adolescence and the longing to escape from the youthful ineptitude of your parents’ existence. Longlisted for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature in 2018, Bliss tells a compelling story about what happens when friendships are frayed.

“Mamaskatch” by Darrel J. McLeod

“Mamaskatch” is a Cree coming-of-age story that is filled with powerful honesty and crushing tragedy but lined with such humanity that any reader will be left filled with hope for our ability to overcome. Mamaskatch translates to “It’s a wonder!” in Cree, and this book is exactly that. It is a gritty, raw, and essential force of nature.

“Time is the Thing a Body Moves Through” by T Fleischmann

T Fleischmann’s “Time is the Thing a Body Moves Through” is a meditation on how our appreciation of artistic creation is affected by the bodies we inhabit. Fleischmann uses the artwork of Felix Gonzalez-Torres as an entrance into conversations on love and loss, gender and sexuality, and so much more. This is a work that I feel we all must grapple with as its insights profoundly change our means of perception.

Terri Schlichenmeyer

Book reviewer. Find her on Twitter at @bookwormsez

“Inside an Honor Killing” by Lene Wold

Ripped from the headlines, the title of this book tells you everything: when a young Muslim woman falls in love with another woman, her father murders her to restore honor to the family. Wold spent more than five years in Jordan, culminating in a clandestine meeting to get this story from a father who killed his own daughter, and attempted to kill his other for hiding the secret.

“The Absolutist” by John Boyne

This is the story of a former World War I soldier who struggles with memories of battle and of his friend, who died during the war. Some time later, he reaches out to his deceased friend’s sister, who asks what happened to her brother. And so the man tells her, in the most beautiful, brutal way that will leave you devastated, emotional, and gasping at one of the best books you’ll ever read. If you’re unfamiliar with Boyne, this is a good gateway. Also try “A History of Loneliness,” if you dare.

“Frog Music” by Emma Donoghue

Set in San Francisco in 1876, this book starts out with the death of Jenny Bonnet, whose friend Blanche, a burlesque dancer with a wide streak of eroticism, vows to bring her killer to justice. Until Jenny’s death, Blanche had been involved in a ménage a trois that had become so much more as she played her lover against his partner in a dangerous seduction—one that may or may not threaten her own life. Donoghue gives this tale a tenseness that will make you squirm as it swirls through Victorian-era saloons, orphanages, and seedy bedrooms to a stunning end. “Room” is probably Donoghue’s most popular novel (and if you haven’t read that one, GO NOW), but this book, based on a true story, deserves a look too. 

“Tin Man” by Sarah Winman

“Tin Man” is a novel about a man, his wife, and his best friend. When Annie and Ellis got married, she knew that Michael was part of the package, that Michael had been Ellis’ closest pal since the men were boys. Annie embraced Michael as part of the family, just as Ellis’ mother had. But one day, Michael disappeared. Years later, he walked back into their lives as if nothing had happened—but something did, and Ellis soon learns that he’s in the thick of it, too. This is a nice surprise of a book with an ending you’ll want to read twice, just because the nuance of it is so delicious.

“Berlin 1936” by Oliver Hilmes

Translated from German by Jefferson Chase, “Berlin 1936” is a tale of Germany during the war, specifically over the two-week period that Berlin hosted the Olympics. Despite the dazzling front designed by propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, wartime atrocities were well underway, with some concentration camps already established on the outskirts of the city. Don’t miss this story that demands of you to look at every single dirty corner it describes.

Magers & Quinn Booksellers MPLS 

By Christine Utz, outside sales & services coordinator

“In West Mills” by De’Shawn Charles Winslow

Azalea “Knot” Centre has a taste for men, moonshine, and Charles Dickens. She does as she pleases and pretends not to care what others think of her. But being a self-determined black woman in a small town in the 1940s doesn’t come without its hardships. Estranged from her own family, Knot must turn to her close friend and neighbor Otis Lee Loving when she ends up pregnant by a man who’s left town for the military. This brief novel contains multitudes and Knot, while cynical on the surface, is an unforgettable character.

From Twin Cities Pride Magazine contributors

“A Bony Framework for the Tangible Universe” by D. Allen

“A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns” by Archie Bongiovanni, artist and co-author

“Meal” by Blue Delliquanti, artist and co-author

“Queer Voices: Poetry, Prose, and Pride” by Lisa Marie Brimmer, co-editor

“The Kinda Fella I Am: Stories” by Raymond Luczak

One last local find

“The Letter Formally Known As Q” by Nancy Musinguzi