Seven Librarians Share the Reasons They Love Libraries

*Originally published on, an editorially independent division of NetGalley.

February 14th is the day we celebrate love in all its many forms, including the love of libraries. Here at Bookish we’ve been known to swoon over our local libraries. In fact, we are so tongue-tied about our own love for them that we decided to consult the people who adore libraries so much that they have devoted their careers to them. To celebrate Library Lovers’ Day we’ve asked seven librarians to tell us why they love libraries.

Share your love of libraries in the comments below!

“I love libraries for so many reasons. First, the library made me a writer—childhood hours spent reading library books taught me how to write a sentence, how to understand my fears and experiences, and how to tell my own story. I value the library as a pure community space unaffected by the exigencies of commerce—no one expects me to buy anything or to limit my time; I can simply hang out and read. Furthermore, the library is a democratic institution: Its resources belong to all and are accessible by all. At the library, we can find information that helps us live, learn, dream, and be more engaged citizens—for a mere few tax dollars per month. Value-added bonus: The library profession is committed to protecting everyone’s First Amendment right of freedom of speech, thought, and inquiry. Libraries are badass, radical, and crucial. How can people not love them?” —Stella Beratlis, reference librarian at Modesto Junior College and author of Alkali Sink

“What makes a library? For me, it is a place of ongoing conversation and communication. It’s a space where everyone in the community is welcome to participate in those talks. When I first began working at libraries, I thought mostly about collection development. I thought about what the library housed, not who it served. Now I’d say I think about librarianship the way I think about the world around me. I want it to succeed because I want my community to succeed. Libraries are spaces that give back infinitely—they are one of the only places you can go that are dedicated to figuring out what you need, even if you aren’t sure what that thing is. Libraries are bastions of information, certainly, but they are also repositories of community service.” —Kristen Arnett, access services librarian and circulation supervisor at a law library in Florida and author of Felt in the Jaw

“I am not the first to love libraries, and won’t be the last—thank god for millennials! Beyond the more obvious reasons to love libraries (love of reading, free programs for adults and children, free wifi, and so on), I really love libraries for their grit, tenacity, and revolutionary, rebellious spirit! Not what you think of when you think about your public library? Ditto. Until I began to learn more about the quiet, unassuming chutzpah libraries have shown since their inception. Libraries exude an incongruous mix of innocence and hope with a serious rage-against-the-machine attitude. Within these walls exist the librarians—protectors of books, intellectual freedom fighters, and guardians of patrons’ rights. Imagine a world where Harry Potter was successfully banned. You can thank a librarian that these treasures are still on the shelves. Libraries have been at the forefront of the battle for net neutrality, fighting for equal access to the internet. And right out of the pages of a superhero comic comes the real life story of the Connecticut Four—four librarians who, under a gag order as well as threat of imprisonment, steadfastly fought the federal government’s unwarranted, overreaching demand for personal and private information on patrons. Libraries provide refuge to those in need, from assisting homeless populations every day to helping victims during catastrophic events. Many librarians are now being trained to administer Narcan to help in the opioid crisis. And fearless libraries have kept their doors open to the public during the Ferguson unrest of 2014, the Baltimore protests of 2015, and even during the civil rights marches in Selma, Alabama. By providing this refuge, libraries create a gathering place where communication can occur, information can be shared, and community can grow. With what seems like an ever-shrinking amount of empathy and understanding among humans, libraries provide an opportunity for people to interact with each other in person, and to subsequently gain awareness about the others sharing this planet alongside us. By doing so, libraries help build a more resilient people. I am Groot. (I love libraries.)” —Erin Tuomi, assistant director at the Newbury Town Library

“One winter morning in 2005, I locked myself out of my house. I’d just driven my daughter to school and was still in pajamas and slippers under my parka. No spare key in the garage, under a rock, at a neighbor’s. My husband wouldn’t be home till 7:30. My wallet was on the kitchen island next to the house key. Frazzled, I wondered where I could go to kill the hours without imposition or expense or—most crucially to me— embarrassment. The answer was obvious: my local library. There, a friend on staff chuckled sympathetically at my predicament, offered me coffee, spare socks. I meandered through the dusty stacks, slipping into the forgotten pleasure of aimless perusing, and narrowed in on Seamus Heaney’s verse translation of Beowulf. I sat by a glass door with a view of woods, nodded good morning to some cheery seniors, bundled my parka closer, and got lost until I had to pick up my girl. Now I work at that library and love the idea of the place as refuge as well as resource. A place of welcome, no matter how unwashed, half-dressed, needful, frantic, demanding, snobbish, chatty, nervous, exuberant, or miserable a patron is. A place to get safely lost.” —Eileen Frankel Tomarchio, staff librarian at a New Jersey library

“I think I fell in love with libraries before I understood what they were, before I could tap their limitless potential just by wandering their square footage and running my finger along the books’ spines. You see, there is a black and white photograph of me sitting on my father’s lap at his desk at his library. I am about three years old, and he is young and his beard is big and puffy like a lumberjack’s. My father was a librarian at a year-round school for severely physically handicapped children and in the summer he would take me to work with him so that I could play with the kids while he worked. I remember how he welcomed each child as he or she entered the library. I would stare and take in in, and even feel a little jealous of how loved he made those kids feel.” —Olivia Gatti, librarian at Brooks School

“Outside of the high school library I run, I spend many of my hours at Central Library, part of the Brooklyn Public Library. I take photos to celebrate the library as sacred space, where one can both confirm who they are and become someone else. What I love the most about the library is the people, because without the people, a library is a building full of information without purpose. I love that the library is where my mother took English as a second language (ESL) classes and where she wrote her first poem in English. I love the people who inhabit the art section and sit and draw and collage or make watercolor paintings. I love the people who build forts of books around them and consult well-worn stacks of notes, presumably writing a book or a manifesto or nothing at all. I love the men and women studying for nursing or civil service exams. I love that the library is one of the last public spaces anyone can go and take, take, take without giving a cent. In my writing and in my life, I seek the unexpected in the everyday and the library never disappoints.” —Adalena Kavanagh, librarian at Sunset Park High School Library

“It is hard for me to articulate why I love libraries. They have always been in the background of my life. I grew up in my hometown’s public library. I attended story time as a kid, joined a mother-daughter book club as a teen, and even worked as a page in high school. I worked in my college library, interned at an antiquarian society, and helped friends start an anarchist collective library. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to pinpoint the moment that libraries became the foundation of my life, walking through Georgetown’s library where I work now, watching students frantically typing and dust motes floating through shafts of sunlight. I love the people, the conversations, the constant opportunities for learning—but I know that isn’t why I stayed. I love the fight for patron privacy, the fierce commitment to fair dissemination of information, the care and concern for all members of our community—but I think for me it’s something even simpler. I love the structure and order, the noble attempt to classify the intangible. I first fell in love with the Dewey Decimal System, its arcane largess able to contain nonfiction multitudes. I’ve grown to love the Library of Congress Classification System, with its rigid yet ever-modernizing classifications. I love archival finding aids, homebrewed special library systems, comic-shop pull lists, the color-coded books in my own home. Books contain everything we know, everything we’ve seen, everything we are, and naive and arrogant, we can’t stop trying to find ways to organize that. Every day I head into the stacks to track down a book, and every day I uncover new knowledge by proximity. The structure leads to discovery, to the words I hear hundreds of times a year in my job, that ‘I was looking for this book but then I found this one’ moment that opens doors. It encapsulates a very human need to understand each other, to draw connections, and at the core, that’s what I love about libraries.” —Dana Aronowitz, access specialist at Georgetown University Library



15 Literary Gifts for Your Favorite Bookworm

Originally published on, an editorially independent division of NetGalley.

Admittedly, buying for an avid reader can be a tough task. Unless you stalk their Goodreads profile, it’s hard to know which books, authors, and genres they’ll enjoy. This is why we’ve put together a list of literary items that are sure to please your favorite bookworm (or, let’s be real, yourself).

This shirt is perfect for Hamilton-obsessed readers who are always scammin’ for every book they can get their hands on.

This scratch-off chart is excellent for bookworms who never met a reading challenge they didn’t like.

Can’t make it to the Great Hall for the Christmas feast? Never fear, you can still have a magical dinner experience with this gorgeous Hogwarts-themed dining set—complete with one place setting for each house. The added fun is sorting your guests as you tell them where to sit.

These canvas shoes are just the thing you need for taking a long and contemplative stroll through the countryside as you avoid your family’s prodding questions about your dating life.

Get these understated earrings for the most quotable person in your life.

Bring the library home with these colorful and cute library card throw pillows.

Your reader can show off their bookish pride with this carry-all pouch.

This is our favorite gift for little readers this season! Moonlite uses your phone’s flashlight to project stories onto the wall or ceiling, while a connected app provides readers with the story’s text and sound effects. Snuggle up with Moonlite and make bedtime magical.

Relive the opening passage of A Moveable Feast with this elegant kitchen towel.

This gift is cozy, literary, and stylish. What more could you ask for?

Embrace your inner free-thinking rebel with this 1984-inspired sweatshirt.

This glass is just our type.

This necklace features one of our favorite Louisa May Alcott quotes.

Have you ever loved a book so much that you wish you could bring it with you everywhere? With this tee from Litographs, we never have to part with Daniel José Older’s Shadowshaper.

Made from the recycled pages of a 1999 Harry Potter book, these earrings make for a magical gift.


Totally Bookish: 20 Tote Bags for Every Bookworm

Originally published on, an editorially independent division of NetGalley.

We believe you can never have too many books or bags to carry them in. So we pulled together some of this season’s most bookish tote bags for you to gift to your favorite book lover or keep for yourself to help you carry your anticipated holiday haul of new books.

We wish you a Meowy Christmas and a Happy New Year.

May Delilah Bard’s words inspire you to make each day an adventure.

We all know Jane is cool AF and with this tote, you can be too.

We can’t even deal with this pun.

Dumbledore’s Army wants you… to carry this tote!

We can’t quit this bag!

Every day should be a bookish adventure.

Wear your heart on your bag.

Follow the road less traveled with this tote upon your arm.

We will probably even read two tons.

Keep your favorite book in this tote and you never have to stop reading.

Even George Orwell faced rejection. Let this tote remind you to try and try again.

You’ll be both happy and dignified when you tote this tote.

Make sure you bring this bag with you when you follow Alice down the rabbit hole.

Dare to be dangerous.

We won’t tell anyone where you’re hiding.

Cat got your tongue?

This tote is perfect for the reader who wants to take a bit of Sarah J. Maas’ ACOTAR world everywhere.

Let your nerd flag fly!

We know the feeling, Jane.


Dawn Tripp on Gender Bias, Strength, and Georgia O’Keeffe’s Lasting Legacy

Originally published on, an editorially independent division of NetGalley.

Georgia O’Keeffe is one of the most remarkable artists in American history, but few know the intimate details of the woman behind the abstract masterpieces. In Georgia, author Dawn Tripp brings readers into O’Keeffe’s life and reveals the strength, ferocity, and drive this artist possessed. Earlier this year, Bookish editor Kelly Gallucci caught up with Tripp at the Newburyport Literary Festival to talk about the process of novelizing a true story, the importance of voice, and O’Keeffe’s legacy.

Bookish: In most novels, the author creates the events, the timeline, the plot points. When you’re capturing a real person’s life, however, those elements are dictated to you. Was it a challenge to work within the confines of a life already lived?

Dawn Tripp: It was a challenge because I felt very strongly that although this would be a novel, although it’d be written from O’Keeffe’s point of view, I wanted to stay as close as I could stay to the facts. I wanted to be able to explain or defend every choice that I had made in terms of what she said and what she imagined, and I wanted to be able to trace all of those pieces back to some element in the historical record. That wasn’t necessarily part of my original vision for the novel. But the more I moved into her story, the more deeply I began to understand the gender bias that she had faced and the gender politics she had to work through in order to define herself, her art, and her artistic vision on her own terms. It became more necessary and vital to me to be as true as I could be to what had transpired, to be as true as I could be to her story. My goal in writing this novel was really to bring more people to her remarkable life and her art.

Bookish: How did you go about crafting Georgia O’Keeffe’s voice in the novel? How did you decide which elements of recordings, letters, and memoirs were her authentic inner voice?

DT: I feel that voice—like artistic vision, like self, like the truth of who are are, what we want, what we come from, and where we’re going—is an evolution. We sometimes imagine that there’s one voice. If you go back through O’Keeffe’s letters you’d find that in one week she’d write a letter to Alfred Stieglitz and another to someone else and in those letters there are little tiny discrepancies. The are differences, sort of gradations, in those letters. She wrote two memoirs and the voice of those memoirs is so radically different from the voice in her letters from when she was younger. That was fascinating to me because we do imagine that voice is singular, but it’s kaleidoscopic, it’s multifaceted, and it’s continually changing according to where we are in our lives, what we’re opening to, what we’re closed to, and what we’re working to express.

As both a reader and a writer, I feel that voice is the most important element of a novel. It’s not something that I choose intellectually or analytically. Voice is instinctive; it’s visceral. Finding the voice is an excavation, not a constructed process. I spent an inordinate amount of time soaked in O’Keeffe’s words, historical anecdotes, and interview transcripts that she did in the 1920s. The voice came out of immersing myself in all of those different elements.

Bookish: You’ve said how the letters you read were “at odds with” the image you had in your head of who O’Keeffe was. What surprised you about her?

DT: Going in I knew that she was an incredibly strong woman. She made bold and innovative choices in her art and in her life. But she also understood that strength was about being open to the full range of human emotions and experience. During those years that she lived with Stieglitz, 1916 to 1933, I feel like she really opened to all of those complex dimensions of what it means to be a human being, a woman, and an artist. Her letters reflect vulnerability, anger, desperation, depression, elation, and hunger. I love all of those dimensions of her. That kaleidoscopic self is what it means to be strong. Like with voice, we imagine strength as just one thing: You’re either strong or you’re weak. I think that true strength transcends that binary.

Bookish: O’Keeffe believed she had lost her sense of self, and she reclaimed it in New Mexico. What about New Mexico did she connect with so strongly?

DT: We don’t think of O’Keeffe as a woman who would lose her sense of self. We think of strength being something intact and impenetrable, and strength is just much more complex. In my novel I describe how the instant she stepped off the train in New Mexico she felt that sense of her soul flaring off in all directions. What she discovered there, it wasn’t just the colors or the landscape or the light, it was also that sense of distance and vastness that’s really unique to that particular place. There is something transcendent about being in the middle of that expanse and I’d often wondered if it was almost like a sense of recognition when she met that place. As if she was meeting a place that was vast enough to hold that ferocity that she was.

Bookish: Was there any detail of O’Keeffe’s life that you decided to intentionally omit?

DT: There was an incident, and it still kind of haunts me, that took place shortly after she had been hospitalized for her breakdown. Her younger sister had a show in New York, and O’Keeffe wrote her an absolutely brutally, scathing letter. And her sister never painted again. In her life, there were things that O’Keeffe did or said that were so irretrievable. And I wanted to allude to that. There is a scene in the novel where her great niece says, “How do you do, Aunt Georgia?” and O’Keeffe slaps her across the face and says, “Don’t ever call me Aunt.” And that’s part of the historical record. But that was the only one of those moments that I felt like I could seam into the book in a way that I wasn’t going to upset the whole balance. Those instances didn’t happen all of the time, but when they happened they were so stunningly heartless and heartbreaking at the same time. I couldn’t quite grasp how to integrate the immensity of that and still not lose the driving force of the story. Moments like that demand a level of weight and attention that felt like a gravitational pull, moving the story too far away from the trajectory. The thing about fiction is that it can capture real life, but it has to feel as true or more true in order to be alive on the page.

Bookish: You’ve said that you believe fiction can capture truths that nonfiction can’t. What is one of the truths that you hoped to capture about O’Keeffe in this book?

DT: The most leveling understanding was that the years 1916 to 1933 were a crucible for her. Those were the years when her art was discovered, when she fell in love, craved a child, and nearly lost what mattered to her most. She made unthinkable sacrifices in her life and in her marriage, and she was also making key innovations and bold choices in her art. Those years forged her greatness. They took the strength and willfulness that young O’Keeffe had brought to New York and forged it into something more enduring. But as an older woman she didn’t want to talk about that time. She wanted to distance herself from it. I was working to reconcile the older O’Keeffe that we know with the younger O’Keeffe to find those strands of ferocity in both and how that kind of fierceness had changed.

Bookish: Your son is a very talented artist. Did watching him hone his skills give you any insight into capturing the mind of an artist on the page?

DT: It’s interesting you ask me that. I did go into my boys’ art room and play around with all of his different paints that he had in there. I also watch him work sometimes, and I would notice the way he would work and rework and rework a sketch until he had the composition right. That gave me insight into the way a visual artist would approach that blank page. In order to bring those scenes to life, I had to find points of connection and points of disconnect in the process of a visual artist and my process as a writer. As a writer, you’re always using words and language, which have an analytic dimension. But the best work you do is often when you’re completely open to the voice and the life of the work.

Bookish: Do you have a favorite story or tidbit that you learned about O’Keeffe when researching this book?

DT: My favorite tidbit about O’Keeffe is in the novel. It’s a scene towards the end when she’s tracing her nephew’s face when she’s lost her sight. For me, that was a really critical moment. A number of the biographies I read described an exchange O’Keeffe had with her manager Doris Bry that took place in the early ’70s when O’Keeffe was beginning to lose her vision. She called it holes in her seeing. They were planning a massive retrospective and looking at those early abstractions that she had done and hasn’t seen for decades. And O’Keeffe said, “We don’t have to have the show because I never did better.” I remember reading that and thinking, I don’t know if I can write this book if that’s where we end. Then I read an early biography written by Roxana Robinson that was done in cooperation with O’Keeffe’s family three years after O’Keeffe died. And Robinson described a visit from her great nephew. They spent a day together, and when he’s getting ready to leave O’Keeffe brought him over to the light, but she couldn’t see his face, so she traced it with her hands. I wanted to put myself right into that moment. What was she coming to terms with? That scene, for me, that moment of incredible human connection became the scene I knew I would be writing towards.

Bookish: O’Keeffe assumed, at first, that the intent of her work would be clearly interpreted, and instead her art became linked with her gender. Have you ever had that experience as an author, where your intentions were misinterpreted?

DT: I think that when you are a woman, you are almost always classified as a female writer, or female artist, female CFO, female CEO, etc. with few exceptions. There are subtle assumptions made about your opinion, the value of your opinion, and the weight of your work because you are female. This is not unique to art or publishing. It’s an embedded part of the sexism in our American culture. There’s implicit bias around gender, and we don’t have to look far to see it. It’s something we need to examine, and redress. The older I get, the clearer that is for me. I work to call out implicit bias when I see it, or experience it, and I believe it’s important to do that.

Bookish: This book was inspired by the fact that O’Keeffe never received recognition for her work in abstract art. Have you seen that change at all since publication? Do you think it ever will?

DT: There are still people who have an understanding of O’Keeffe only as the person who painted those sexualized flowers, but she’s so much more. O’Keeffe scholars understand that the body of her work is what is so profound. What’s underappreciated about O’Keeffe is not any given work but the force, range, and scope in what she was doing in art.

In the summer of 2016, the first major retrospective of O’Keeffe’s work went up at the Tate museum in the U.K. The first! A hundred years after she was first exhibited in New York. The goal of the exhibit was to reassess her place in the canon of art. There were periods of criticism through the 20th century where she was denigrated and dismissed as not having the level of importance and influence that she really had. The thing that I found so meaningful about the Tate show is that it reassess her influence on generations of artists, and that matters.

Bookish: Is there anything you learned from O’Keeffe that you hope to incorporate into your own life?

DT: Usually when I’m finished with a novel I’m done. I don’t think about the characters; I’m just done. I haven’t felt that with this book. Not that I’d go back into it or write about her story again, but I feel like the work of spending time in her life and really exploring and translating the challenges that she faced has been such an inspiration for me in my own life. We sometimes imagine that bold choices are what we make in our 20s or early 30s. The thing that I love so much about O’Keeffe and the thing that is still continuing to impact my life, my psyche, my choices as an artist and as a person, is how critical it is to make bold choices throughout your life, to keep making bold choices. I learned how to surf when I was 44 because of O’Keeffe. I learned how to skateboard when I was 46. There’s no such thing as now or never. It’s just now.

Dawn Tripp’s fourth novel Georgia is a national bestseller and was a finalist for the 2016 New England Book Award and winner of the 2017 Mary Lynn Kotz Award for Art In Literature. Tripp is the author of three previous novels: Game of SecretsMoon Tide, and The Season of Open Water, which won the Massachusetts Book Award for Fiction. Her essays have appeared in the Virginia Quarterly Review and NPR, among other publications. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and lives in Massachusetts with her family.


Grady Hendrix on Paperbacks from Hell and Why Horror Is a Women’s Genre

Originally published on, an editorially independent division of NetGalley.

Grady Hendrix, author of Horrorstör and My Best Friend’s Exorcism, is a die-hard horror fan. He writes, reads, and researches the genre and is an expert on its history. His new book, Paperbacks from Hell—about the paperback horror boom in the ’70s and ’80s—is a blood-splattered love letter to horror. It’s a tome to be found on the coffee table in any horror fan’s home, brimming with hundreds of full-color cover illustrations from books that influenced both the publishing and film industries. Just in time for Halloween, we talked to Hendrix about the state of horror today, Stephen King brainwashing, and why horror is a women’s genre.

Bookish: You clearly have a place in your heart for even the campiest horror novels from the ’70s and ’80s. What is it about these books that draws you in?

Grady Hendrix: These books were designed to be sold in drugstores and bus stations, pharmacy spinner racks and in newsstands, even. They’re designed to hook your attention. Either because they’re about hordes of killer cats, or they’re really lurid and full of sex and violence, or because they just make sure that something incredible or unbelievable is happening on every page. I like them because they’re not boring. But also because they’re from a different tradition.

This isn’t how books get written or published anymore and so the rules are totally different. Three-act structure—it doesn’t exist in some of these books. These books will kill their protagonist halfway through. Nowadays everyone’s used to jump scares, everyone’s used to found footage, everyone’s used to Thomas Ligotti and H. P. Lovecraft and all of those stylistic tics. The only mandate for those horror paperbacks is not to bore the readers. It’s a completely different tradition that comes more out of pulp than it does out of horror.

Bookish: How many paperback originals from the ’70s and ’80s did you actually read in the course of writing this book?

GH: The last time I did a count, it was 326. I could read two a day no problem. It’s what I was doing—I was on the couch all day reading books. Four a day was pushing it. There were a couple of days I did six and those were the days that would wipe me out the next day.

What helped is that I was reading by subgenre. I was reading animal attack books all at once. I was reading all the insect attack books all at once. So I knew what the set pieces were. I got a feel for the structure. Medical thrillers are really, really highly structured in a way that haunted house books are not. Animal attack books, if they’re from England, are structured in a really different way than if they’re from the U.S. Once I got a feel for that structure and where the genre’s signposts were, I could go a lot faster.

Bookish: Is there a book you feature that you think is underrated and would recommend readers pick up?

GH: Oh hundreds. Anything by Ken Greenhall. Elizabeth Engstrom’s books. Joan Samson’s The Auctioneer. If you’re going for pulpy fun, there’s a couple hundred of these books that I think work really great. If you’re going for serious why-have-we-forgotten-this-author authors, there are dozens. And a lot of them are women. I don’t think V.C. Andrews gets the respect she deserves.

So many of these authors were great. I wouldn’t have been able to write my book if the books had all been just campy. I found tons of books that were truly either deeply entertaining or truly fantastically well-written. There was a lot to admire here. I mean there’s goofy stuff too and part of my job is to inform and give context. The other part is to entertain. I wanted to do both.

Bookish: You divide the book into sections such as Creepy Kids, Real Estate Nightmares, and Splatterpunks. Were there any subgenres that didn’t make the cut?

GH: Oh sure. Nazis. There’s a ton of books about Nazis: Nazi werewolves, Nazi vampires, Nazi health resorts, haunted Nazi tanks. None of the Nazi stuff made the book. There’s also a whole category of books written by celebrities—like E. Howard Hunt, the Watergate conspirator, and Christina Crawford, Joan Crawford’s daughter. There are also a whole bunch of government intrigue paperbacks like Graham Masterton’s The Condor, and there’s another one called The Hell Candidate. And there are a lot of categories that I just didn’t have enough time to get to in a way I thought was fair. Like the YA stuff. Christopher Pike and R.L. Stine. I didn’t have time to delve into it more simply because I own a small number of those books and they go for a lot of money these days. There’s a huge nostalgia value.

Bookish: In your gothic horror section, you say that horror is a women’s genre. Can you explain what you meant?

GH: Everyone thinks horror and they think Stephen King. That’s brainwashing. The earliest horror novel that people still read is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. And there are two great horror novels of the 20th century—The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, and Beloved by Toni Morrison. There’s just not an argument to be made for another book by anyone to rank up there with those two. Another great haunted house novel of the latter half of the 20th century is Anne Rivers Siddons’ The House Next Door. Plus you’ve got V.C. Andrews, Anne Rice… The main proponents of the ghost story in the 19th century were women writers. One of the most famous short horror stories of all time, without which no anthology is complete, is Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper.”

This has really been a women’s genre for a long, long time. Men are late to the party and get all the attention, as seems to be the way of the world.

Bookish: This book is brimming with hundreds of beautifully printed, full-color pictures of old book covers. Does one cover stand out as your favorite? Which is the scariest of the bunch?

GH: The stuff that’s scary is usually pretty understated. I’ve always thought the original paperback cover of William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist—that blurred photo of a young woman-is kind of creepy. But… I can’t really pick my favorite out of all the mutant children out there.

I got to know a lot of these artists too. I developed a huge amount of respect for what they did. People like Jill Bauman, Stephanie and Mark Gerber, Lisa Falkenstern, and Rowena Morrill— they’re just amazing artists who had the misfortune to be making some of their best efforts in an industry which was designed to be disposable. Illustration has never been as respected as fine art. It’s always been viewed as commercial. And it’s true, it is commercial. But it doesn’t change the fact that it’s rare that an artist can fake their work. They put everything they’ve got into it.

Bookish: In your epilogue, you write “the lesson horror teaches us is that everything dies.” What do you think caused the end of the horror boom?

GH: It was a bunch of things. Publishing was changing. The big publishers were gobbling up the little guys. Everything was consolidating. Some people, like Jill Bauman, say they put the end right on the Gulf & Western acquisition of publishing companies. And other people, like Jeff Conner, who was the publisher of Scream/Press (which did limited edition, really beautiful books), say that it was the beginning of the Reagan ’80s when public libraries were getting less funding and had to watch their budget more. There were definitely changes in distribution too. The mass market paperback went out of style in the ’90s and was replaced by the trade paperback.

On the other hand, Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs became huge and that coincided with the whole Splatterpunk boom in the mid ’80s. And so you had more and more books being written where a lot of editors would feel like “the more gore in this, the better! That’s what readers really want! That’s what’s popular right now!” There were more books getting produced more cheaply by fewer publishers with fewer channels of distribution. And it was a real recipe for a bubble.

Bookish: Has horror recovered? What is the state of the genre today?

GH: When I told people I was writing Horrorstör, I could see the light die in their eyes. But when I said it was about a haunted IKEA, people would say, “Oh that’s really funny,” and they’d want to talk about it. Horror still has the connotation that it’s cheap, it’s gory, and it’s misogynistic. And that really just comes from the tail-end of the boom. The hangover from the bubble bursting still exists.

However, there are also a ton of books that are coming out now, that either are or are not marketed as horror, that do really well. You’ve got stuff marketed as horror like Victor LaValle’s The Changeling or The Ballad of Black Tom. Or works by John Langan and Paul Tremblay. And then you’ve got stuff that’s marketed as literary fiction like Hari Kunzru’s White Tears, which is a straight-up horror novel about a ghost, but it’s marketed as literary fiction because Kunzru is marketed as literary fiction. I would argue that Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad is a horror novel in some sense—or uses a lot of elements from horror.

And then you’ve also got thrillers, which have become the horror of the day. I think Gillian Flynn writes horror. Dark Places is about a satanic murder of a family years ago and someone trying to solve what happened on that night. It’s part mystery, but its roots are in the Satanic Panic. You’ve got all these domestic thrillers that come out too, like a woman bumps her head and wakes up 39 years later and can’t remember her life. Those are gothics right out of the ’60s. They’ve got a little more thriller added to them but it’s a domestic thriller where the nexus of fear is inside the home and the possible monster is the husband. Except traditional gothics pull from the romance tradition in the ’60s and modern gothics are pulling from the thriller tradition.

Bookish: So would you say bookstores and publishers categorize books as horror only if there’s a supernatural element? Or is horror more of a sensibility?

GH: It all depends on how you define horror. If the only thing that says something is horror is whether or not it’s supernatural, then you come up with a really limited definition. Frankenstein is not supernatural—Victor Frankenstein is a scientist. Henry James’ Turn of the Screw is designed to leave you in doubt whether there’s a supernatural element or not. “The Yellow Wallpaper” is about a woman going crazy. Same as Shirley Jackson’s We’ve Always Lived in the Castle. A lot of people use the supernatural thing to determine whether something’s horror or not. But is Cujo horror? Is MiseryChuck Palahniuk’s short story “Guts” has no supernatural elements in it, yet I think anyone would be hard-pressed to read it and classify it as anything but horror.

Grady Hendrix’s first novel, Horrorstör, an illustrated story about a haunted IKEA, was named by NPR as one of the best books of 2014. He is also the author of My Best Friend’s Exorcism. A diehard horror fiction fan, he lives in New York City.


Adapting One Historical Novel to Another: How to Make It Work

Originally published on, an editorially independent division of NetGalley.

We’ve all been there: We read a novel, and wonder “How did the author do that?!” Sophfronia Scott has written just such a novel. Her book Unforgivable Love is a retelling of Dangerous Liaisons that will enchant and entertain readers with its historical flair. Here, she tells Bookish readers just how she went about adapting the original.

Ideas are a dime a dozen—they exist in multitudes and any creative thinker knows there is no shortage of good ideas. Still there’s a fascination with ideas and they are considered scarce—that’s why authors consistently get asked how they found the idea for their latest work. But the idea is only the beginning. Two writers can start with the same basic idea and create entirely different products. I think that’s a much more interesting question: How did the writer bring the idea to life?

My latest novel, Unforgivable Love, is a retelling of the 18th Century French novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses. The original was an epistolary novel, written in 1782, and told a story of seduction and betrayal among the aristocracy. I set the tale against the glamorous backdrop of 1940s Harlem, with two wealthy people playing games of sexual intrigue to feed their sense of ego and power.

Essentially I took one historical novel and turned it into another historical novel. How did  I make it work?

It’s all about the elements: understanding what makes a good story and building an interesting world in which the story can unfold. In order to do this, I couldn’t just retell the story. I had to create a new one.

Creating a story begins with characters. I chose to tell my story in close third person, giving voice to four characters and their inner lives.

Marquise de Merteuil became Mae Malveaux. Both characters are wealthy but they are also restricted by the conventions of their times. They act out accordingly. For Mae, I added aspects of her having felt something like love in her early years.

Vicomte de Valmont became Valiant “Val” Jackson. I sensed a vulnerability in this character that I wanted to explore. What makes him prone to fall in love? His story explores themes of race and class as well.

Madame de Tourvel became Elizabeth Townsend. My Elizabeth is just as virtuous as Madame de Tourvel but she also has a sense of not being complete somehow as a person, as a human being. She’s looking for meaning in her life.

Cecile de Volanges became Cecily Vaughn. This character, I think, has been given short shrift in the various adaptations of this novel. She’s often portrayed as clownish and awkward, but she’s also a character who makes a full journey from innocence to experience. I wanted to see how Cecily behaved once she began to act with agency.

Once I had my characters I had to create the world in which they lived their lives. For Unforgivable Love, I created social circles to suit the time and the African-American community.

Church: I had no doubt in my mind that the main social setting of this book would be in a church, especially since morals and virtue were going to be important themes. I modeled Mount Nebo Baptist Church, in size and influence, after the granddaddy of Harlem churches, Abyssinian Baptist Church.

Jazz music and night clubs: I used the setting of two clubs to illustrate the different classes. The Savoy Ballroom inspired the Diamond, Val Jackson’s club in my novel. The fact that the Savoy was crowded with people from all walks of life made me think about how Mae Malveaux wouldn’t be caught dead in such a place. That led me to create the Swan, a more refined setting for Mae and her cohort.

Fashion: I used fashion as another way to set Mae apart. I was particularly inspired by the designer Christian Dior’s “New Look” that was introduced during the time of my novel. The look was defined by a narrow waist, full skirt, and dramatic hats. One outfit with a yellow jacket reminded me of a costume worn by Glenn Close in the film Dangerous Liaisons and I knew I had to describe Mae wearing that Dior ensemble.

This is also a story about sexuality and how the way we wield it can be the deepest expression of our human nature. What happens when we take ownership of our sexuality? This question, I think, is why the story of Dangerous Liaisons is still so captivating today. We are still on this quest when it comes to exploring sexuality. It is the foundation that grounds Unforgivable Love, giving the reader a place to stand while at the same time launching him or her into this other world.

Sophfronia Scott hails from Lorain, Ohio. She was a writer and editor at Time and People magazines before publishing her first novel, All I Need to Get By. She holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a bachelor’s degree in English from Harvard. Her short stories and essays have appeared in numerous literary journals. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and son.


Julie C. Dao: Women I Write Should Never, Ever Be Underestimated

Originally published on, an editorially independent division of NetGalley.

Bookshelf, bookshelf, on the wall. What is the most anticipated fall release of all? To be fair, there are quite a few. But Julie C. Dao’s Forest of a Thousand Lanterns has been at the top of our list for a while. It’s a dark fairy tale retelling that reimagines the Evil Queen from “Snow White” rising to power in a world inspired by Imperial China. To celebrate the book’s release, we chatted with Dao about writing a villain, the power of beauty, and why you should never, ever underestimate any of her female characters.

Bookish: Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is a retelling/origin story for the Evil Queen from “Snow White.” Which elements of the original tale or character did you want to keep? Which elements did you want to leave behind?

Julie C. Dao: I wanted it to be a completely original reimagining of “Snow White” that was like nothing I had seen before in YA, but I also wanted to hold on to important elements of the old fairy tale. It’s crucial, when writing a fairy tale retelling, to ground the reader in your story. I wanted to make my reader feel comfortable, make them think this is going to be like the tale with which they’re familiar, and then… yank the rug from underneath them! From the original “Snow White,” I wanted to keep the magic mirror, the apple, and the stepmother/stepdaughter dynamic, but I twisted these concepts to fit my own purposes. In doing this, I hoped to make the reader still recognize the inspiration behind the story, but at the same time think of FOTL as fresh and new.

Bookish: What is the hardest part of writing a villain? What is your favorite part?

JCD: I knew I had my work cut out for me with someone like Xifeng who has a character arc that spirals downward. My biggest concern was making her somewhat sympathetic, even as she makes all the wrong choices and succumbs to her own greed for power. That was the hardest part: making her believable in some capacity. My favorite part was putting myself in the shoes of someone so completely different from me and everything I believe in—someone who has no moral boundaries whatsoever when it comes to their ambition. It was an interesting experience!

Bookish: The Evil Queen is famously vain, and in the book we see Xifeng grow from resenting how her beauty defines her to learning to use it as a gift and a weapon. How do you view the relationship between beauty and power?

JCD: I knew, in writing a “Snow White”-inspired tale, that I wanted to keep beauty as power and a status symbol in my story. Classic fairy tales favor youth and attractiveness above all and consistently depict older female characters as evil. So what would happen if a princess grew older and her beauty faded according to society’s standards? The stories seem to insist that the aging princess accept this fate, this loss of her perceived importance as a human being. If she dared to fight against this or resent a younger woman, then she was deemed the Evil Queen/Stepmother.

Basically, according to fairy tales, women were supposed to be young and beautiful until they were not, and then go away. I think our society would like to believe we are beyond this, but the worshipping of physical beauty persists. The perception of beauty may change, but the value placed upon it never does. Outward attractiveness—however defined, depending on the time and place—is seen to help get people ahead and earn them attention.

In Forest, Xifeng recognizes that her youth and beauty are vital assets. She’s clever and educated, but believes her physical attributes will win her the throne and help her keep it, and she’s terrified of losing them. This increasing fear and paranoia propel her toward a tragic choice: She essentially sells her soul for the assurance that she will never lose her looks. She is not a queen punished for aging; she is a queen whose self-inflicted punishment is that she herself cannot see her own worth beyond the prejudices of beauty.

Bookish: Xifeng has a Lady Macbeth moment of seeing blood that no one else can see. Did Lady Macbeth also serve as an inspiration for Xifeng?

JCD: Actually, she was not, but I can totally see what you mean! Lady Macbeth is the instigator behind her husband’s deeds and the blood on her hands is guilt for what she has indirectly wrought, if I remember correctly. For Xifeng, however, the blood that appears on her face is a symbol and a reminder that her beauty is fleeting—that once gone, she will have lost what she considers to be her greatest power. Also, Xifeng would never be content pulling the puppet strings in the background. She would want to be front and center!

Bookish: Underestimating women is a big theme in this book. We see Xifeng overlooked as “just a pretty face” time and again, but we also see her fail to realize how strong the Empress truly is. What drew you to this theme?

JCD: It is ironic that Xifeng hates being underestimated, yet falls victim to doing this to other women, isn’t it? I’m drawn to powerful female characters, and when I say “powerful,” I mean all different types of power. So often in fiction and film we associate female strength with perceived traditional masculine characteristics, like wielding a sword and being physically aggressive. But there are so many types of power people are often too happy to overlook: the power of knowing your truth, of being confident in yourself, of protecting the people you love and the beliefs you value, of charging toward your destiny no matter what cost. I wanted to show different types of female strength in book one, and in book two you will see even more. Every single woman I write has a power of her own and should never, ever be underestimated!

Bookish: We see Xifeng and other women judged harshly for their aspirations in a way the male characters are not. Was this element inspired by the Evil Queen’s lust for power or by more modern influences?

JCD: This element was mostly inspired by the patriarchal society in which I chose to set the book, which is a kingdom inspired by Imperial China. Female historical figures like Empress Wu dealt with much prejudice and censure for their methods in seeking power. And yet, when reading about her deeds, it didn’t seem to me like anything the Empress did hadn’t already been done by male rulers of her time. But they didn’t come under the same kind of scrutiny and criticism. The double standard still exists today, unfortunately, with powerful women in fields like business and politics being criticized for qualities for which their male counterparts are praised.

Bookish: At times, Xifeng’s motivation shifts from wanting to claim her destiny to wanting that destiny because of the freedom it promises. Do you think that, in a way, chaining herself to her fate means losing her freedom?

JCD: Absolutely. There’s an irony in that. The thing about Xifeng is that she doesn’t understand the concept of power. She believes that being Empress is all about being front and center, invincible, and feared and loved and respected—which it partly is, in this world. But it’s also a position of responsibility, in that she is tying herself to the fates of everyone involved: She would be the Emperor’s wife, the Crown Prince’s stepmother, and the ruler of everyone in Feng Lu, for whom she is expected to care and govern. It’s a case of not looking at the long haul, the whole picture. She’s charging toward something she does not fully understand yet.

Bookish: The Crimson Army is an army made up entirely of women who live in the mountains. These fighters are only briefly mentioned; will we get to see them in future installments?

JCD: Yes! Without giving away too much, you will find out a lot more about them in book two!

Bookish: Can you give us three words that describe book two?

JCD: Epic adventure quest!

Julie C. Dao is a proud Vietnamese-American who was born in upstate New York. She studied medicine in college, but came to realize blood and needles were her Kryptonite. By day, she worked in science news and research; by night, she wrote books about heroines unafraid to fight for their dreams, which inspired her to follow her passion of becoming a published author. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is her debut novel. Julie lives in New England. Follow her on Twitter @jules_writes.


Cover Design 101: It’s the Little Things that Matter

Originally published on, an editorially independent division of NetGalley.

Some readers may think that designing a cover for a graphic novel is easy. After all, you’ve got an entire book of artwork at your fingertips. But the process is incredibly complex, and sometimes the smallest details make the biggest impact. We’ve invited our friend Andrew Arnold, the associate art director at First Second, back to share his behind-the-scenes secrets about designing the cover for Nidhi Chanani’s Pashmina.

Click each image for a closer look at the design!

It’s a lot of fun to look back on a book cover design process, especially one as near and dear to my heart as Nidhi Chanani’s Pashmina. I’m always surprised by which of the initial ideas make their way onto the final cover. Often times, they’re “little things” that didn’t stand out to me in the beginning stages of the process—like the way an image is cropped, the placement of the type, the positioning of a character, etc. So not only is revisiting the process fun, it reinforces how important it is to listen to your gut and trust your initial design instincts—you’re probably onto something!

As I flipped through the various stages of the Pashmina cover design, I noticed that a lot of those “little things” from the earlier parts of the process made their way onto the final cover. For my last guest post, I started from the top—sketches, then inks, colors, etc—but this time around, I thought it might be fun to start with the final image and then take you through the process so you can search for all those little details yourself. So here you go—the final cover of Pashmina!

My goal with this cover, as with all the covers I work on, was to draw in readers and tell them a little about what’s inside the book. Pashmina tells the story of an Indian-American girl who learns about her family’s history with the help of her mother’s magical pashmina. We knew we wanted the cover image to capture a few things: our strong female lead character and her magical (and mysterious) pashmina.

The first step was to ask Nidhi if she had any specific concepts in mind. I’ve found that providing too much art direction at the outset can really stifle an artist’s creativity. It’s also a lot of fun to hear an artist’s initial ideas—I’ve seen them come in the form of a written description, a sketch, or even a loose doodle on a cocktail napkin. If an artist isn’t sure where to start, that’s when I start brainstorming and we begin a more collaborative process. In the case of Pashmina, Nidhi had several starting points that helped shape our direction. Here are a few of them:

As you can see, we kept these early stage sketches very loose. If you get too caught up in the details at this point, you can miss the bigger picture! And, if you look closely, you might see a few things that appear on the final cover! (Like Pri’s windblown hair.)

After some back and forth between Nidhi, her editor, and myself, we eliminated some of the above directions and decided to explore compositions with a full-figure image of Pri:

While Nidhi was doing that, I explored some other ideas:

The thinking here was to revisit the magical component by exploring ideas with and without Shakti. (She’s an important part of the story.) Again, if you look closely, you’ll see a thing or two that appear on the final cover.

Seeing Nidhi’s previous round of images got us thinking about the palette. The orange and black felt a little too much like Halloween (which is a big no-no unless you are working on a Halloween book!), so Nidhi explored a different direction—one that felt a little more fiery and picked up the color of Pri’s pashmina.

We discussed this general direction and, in the end, felt that we needed to show more of a magical connection between Pri and her pashmina. With that in mind, we explored several more directions:

There were some strong options here, but they needed to be developed further:

As you can see, those little things aren’t as a little anymore. One pattern is now easily seen against the background, while another rests within the pashmina itself. The windblown pashmina—while a little different in each composition—is still prominent throughout, and Pri’s gaze is clearly looking away from the viewer; she’s either looking up or off to the side.

In the end, we settled on the following direction. You’ll see that Nidhi supplied some brand new art for Pri and her pashmina (up until this point, we’d been re-purposing interior art to build the cover directions.) Once the general layout was nailed down and the artwork was finalized, we wanted to really zero in on type treatments….

…Before turning our attention to the full jacket design with the spine and flaps!

And there you have it! I hope you enjoyed taking a look at this cover’s evolution, and picking up on all those “little things” that crept their way into the final design. It just goes to show you that sometimes the little things really go a long way!

Happy creating!

Andrew Arnold is one of the co-authors of the Adventures in Cartooning series and moonlights [during the day] as a book designer for a children’s book publisher. His work has appeared in several publications, including Nickelodeon Magazine, Cambridge University Press, and Roaring Brook Press. Originally from Houston, TX, Andrew currently lives in New York City.


Happy Birthday, Authors!: A Look at Writers Born in October

Originally published on, an editorially independent division of NetGalley.

Do you share a birthday with your favorite author? Here, we take a look at novelists, poets, journalists, and other writers born during the month of October.

October 1
Faith Baldwin (1893)
Daniel Boorstin (1914)

October 2
Wallace Stevens (1879)
Graham Greene (1904)

October 3
Thomas Wolfe (1900)
James Herriot (1916)
Gore Vidal (1925)

October 4
Damon Runyon (1880)
Jackie Collins (1937)
Anne Rice (1941)

October 5
Václav Havel (1936)
Neil deGrasse Tyson (1958)

October 6
Caroline Gordon (1895)

October 7
Amiri Baraka (1934)
Thomas Keneally (1935)
Dan Savage (1964)

October 8
Frank Herbert (1920)
R.L. Stine (1943)

October 9
Jill Ker Conway (1934)

October 10
Harold Pinter (1930)

October 11
Elmore Leonard (1925)

October 12
Ann Petry (1908)
Alice Childress (1920)
Robert Coles (1929)

October 13
Conrad Richter (1890)
Arna Bontemps (1902)
Frank D. Gilroy (1925)

October 14
Katherine Mansfield (1888)
e.e. Cummings (1894)

October 15
Virgil (70 B.C.)
P.G. Wodehouse (1881)
Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. (1917)
Italo Calvino (1923)
Roxane Gay (1974)

October 16
Noah Webster (1758)
Oscar Wilde (1854)
Eugene O’Neill (1888)
Günter Grass (1927)

October 17
Nathanael West (1903)
Arthur Miller (1915)

October 18
Wendy Wasserstein (1950)
Terry McMillan (1951)

October 19
Leigh Hunt (1784)
John le Carré (1931)

October 20
Thomas Hughes (1822)
Arthur Rimbaud (1854)
Art Buchwald (1925)
Robert Pinsky (1940)

October 21
Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772)
Ursula K. Le Guin (1929)
Carrie Fisher (1956)

October 22
Doris Lessing (1919)

October 23
Michael Crichton (1942)
Laurie Halse Anderson (1961)
Augusten Burroughs (1965)

October 24
Denise Levertov (1923)

October 25
John Berryman (1914)
Anne Tyler (1941)
Zadie Smith (1975)

October 26
Beryl Markham (1902)
Pat Conroy (1945)

October 27
Dylan Thomas (1914)
Sylvia Plath (1932)
Fran Lebowitz (1950)

October 28
Evelyn Waugh (1903)

October 29
James Boswell (1740)
Lee Child (1954)

October 30
Ezra Pound (1885)

October 31
John Keats (1795)
Dick Francis (1920)

Know of an author who should be on this list? Leave a comment and let us know!


Kate Moretti’s Favorite Modern Whodunits with Unreliable Narrators

Originally published on, an editorially independent division of NetGalley.

The best mysteries keep readers on the edge of their seats from page one and cause them to doubt their own theories about who killed who. This is certainly the case with The Blackbird SeasonKate Moretti’s gripping latest novel. A young girl has disappeared, last seen with a married high school baseball coach. He claims to be innocent, but even his wife doubts his tale. To celebrate the book’s release, Moretti put together a list of her favorite modern whodunits.

When I started writing The Blackbird Season, my main goal was to keep the reader off their game and unbalanced. I wanted readers to constantly second guess themselves and spend the entirety of the book wondering “wait, did they do it?” I didn’t specifically set out to write an unreliable narrator (Nate says he didn’t do it and well, you’ll have to read to find out!). But I wanted to play with the idea of perception, the notion that guilt and innocence aren’t as black and white as Law & Order makes us think they are.

I was largely inspired by the modern “whodunit”. Recent books by female authors are incredibly rich and layered, and often it’s impossible to predict the endings. They are character driven (which I love!) and often involve family life, kids, husbands, wives, neighbors and friends.

The Girl on the Train

Rachel Watson is the ultimate unreliable narrator! Rachel is a black-out drunk who is barely still functioning. She watches a couple every day from her train window, a couple that happens to live next door to her ex and his new family. Readers will ask themselves a million questions: What’s with the bundle of clothes? What is going on with her memory? Did she kill Megan? Who killed Megan? I confess I spent most of the novel pretty sure that Rachel killed Megan. But the end… we’ll just say it was a surprise.

Big Little Lies

There’s a PTA party and a murder, or at least you think it’s a murder. Honestly, with this one, you spend most of the book wondering who, if anyone, has died. The plot winds backwards, putting suburban unrest on full display, and peppered with ludicrous (and sometimes hilarious) police interviews. There’s a light humor throughout the whole book but you have no idea who is dead, or who killed them. Even the minor players are developed enough to be doubted!

I Let You Go

A woman is grieving alone in a coastal cabin. She grieves for her son, who was killed in a car accident. But her narrative is disjointed and while emotional, it’s also detached. Too much so. Something doesn’t add up. Then comes the twist and the revelations and we are left to wonder, page after page, who is guilty? What really happened that night? How fine is the line between guilt and innocence? My kind of book!

You Will Know Me

This book is an intimate look inside the world of elite gymnastics. Megan Abbott deftly navigates a family where the parents have sunk their time, energy, money, and entire lives into the success of their child. When a member of the community is killed in a car accident that may or may not be an accident, suddenly everyone is a suspect. I spent the entire story flip-flopping between who I think did it, sometimes changing my mind mid-chapter. The greatest part of this novel, for me, was how easily the reader could follow the family down this disturbing, insular rabbit hole.

Emma in the Night

Two sisters disappear and three years later only one returns. She comes back with fantastical stories about a mysterious island and kidnapping, but the family psychiatrist is suspicious. Did Cass kidnap or kill her sister? Immediately, the reader realizes that something is not right with the Tanner family, specifically the mother. There is a thread of narcissism woven thoroughly throughout their lives and the dysfunction is uncomfortable and disturbing. I spent page after page wondering: Was it the mother? The father? Cass herself? What exactly happened that night at the beach? There is no way to guess the ending of Emma, but the reader will spend a fair amount of time trying!

Kate Moretti is the New York Times bestselling author of Thought I Knew You, Binds That Tie, and While You Were Gone. She lives in eastern Pennsylvania with her husband and two kids. Find out more at or follow her on Twitter: @KateMoretti1 or Facebook: /KateMorettiWriter.