Staff Picks: Favorite New Release Books

By Kate Whitman

My mom loves to tell the story of how, as a toddler, I would sleep with books in favor of stuffed animals or dolls. She says I loved listening to her read to me so much that I could not part with the books once it was time to go to sleep, insisting upon cuddling with them all night. I can still recall my favorite books from those days, titles like The Saggy Baggy Elephant and The Little Engine That Could.

As I got a little older, the reading material changed, and Little Golden Books were replaced with the Encyclopedia Brown series, Beverly Cleary’s books about that spunky girl Ramona, and Ann Martin’s The Babysitter’s Club series. However, one thing remained—I would go to bed with books, sometimes hiding them so I could read way past bedtime.

All these years later, reading has remained one of my favorite pastimes, and, as luck would have it, my museum career led me to the opportunity of a lifetime—getting to curate and direct Atlanta History Center’s Author Program series. There are so many perks to this job. I get to meet authors I admire, connect with a community of readers who love books as much I do, and receive free books. Yes, you read that right. Publishers send me books for free, and I read as many as I can.

Here are some of my favorite reads this spring:

Daisy Jones & The Six: A Novel Taylor Jenkins Reid

I am obsessed with this book and cannot stop telling anyone who will listen how much I love it. The best way to describe it would be if VH1’S Behind the Music and the movie Almost Famous spawned a book. Told from alternating viewpoints, like a rock documentary, readers are brought behind the scenes to the formation of one of the greatest rock bands of the 70s, Daisy Jones & the Six, and left to reconstruct why at the height of their fame they broke up and never performed together again.

This book not only has all the sex, drugs, and rock & roll you would expect from a 70s rock band tell all, but it’s also full of emotionally realized and complicated characters that feel incredibly real. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a gifted storyteller, and you’ll have a blast reading her newest book.

I Miss You When I Blink: Essays Mary Laura Philpott

What I love about Mary Laura Philpott’s collection of essays is that they feel like conversations, but not like the conversations you would have with your kid’s classmate’s mom. These feel like laugh out loud, enthusiastically nod, and high five conversations you would have with your closest and funniest friend. They are the musings of a soon-to-be middle age wife and mother wondering, “Is this all there is?” It makes you laugh, and also cry, all while reassuring you that you are not alone and that it is never too late to change your life’s trajectory.

Watching You Lisa Jewell

I hear readers say all the time that they’re bored with the over-abundance of thrillers that have hit the market place since Gone Girl and Girl on a Train became international bestsellers. I agree that there are many writers trying to recreate that magic, but I would argue that British thriller writer Lisa Jewell is in a class all her own, and that her gripping works of fiction should be on your list of must reads if you like mystery and suspense.

Her latest novel Watching You is set in the wealthy and idyllic town of Melville Heights in Bristol, England. This charming community is hardly the type of town where someone would be brutally murdered in their kitchen, and yet that is exactly what has happened. The cast of characters introduced all seem to be hiding something, and as their secrets and pasts are revealed, the story meets a dramatic climax you won’t see coming.

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls Anissa Gray

This impressive debut tells the story of a family in crisis in a small town in Michigan. The Butler sisters are no strangers to tragedy—their mom died at a young age, leaving the three sisters and one brother often fending for themselves. The eldest sister, Althea, becomes the reluctant caregiver for her siblings until she is old enough to break free and marry Proctor, a sturdy and caring man.

The novel opens with Althea and Proctor imprisoned and the two Butler sisters in care of their teenage nieces. Told in the alternating voices of each sister, the novel follows the aftermath of Althea’s imprisonment and the devastating consequences her actions have had on both her sisters and daughters.

This book is as tender and hopeful as it is heartbreaking.

Southern Lady Code: Essays Helen Ellis

What’s that old saying? “If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all.” Well, Helen Ellis has thankfully updated that for all of us Southern ladies: if you don’t have anything nice to say, say something not so nice in a nice way. In this book of twenty three essays, Ellis charms you with her wit and wisdom and has you questioning why your life seems so boring in comparison.

Join me as I host hosting Helen Ellis at our Midtown location on Monday, April 30. Come on out for a night of good fun.

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American Spy Lauren Wilkinson

Political spy thrillers are typically not my thing. In fact, I can probably count on one hand all the books I have read that fit this genre. But after hearing about Lauren Wilkinson’s American Spy, I was intrigued by the premise of a female African American intelligence officer infiltrating an African government by marrying the country’s president.

Marie Mitchell is working a seemingly dead end job at the FBI when she accepts an offer to be a CIA operative. The reason the CIA wants her is the exact reason she fears the FBI is passing her over—she is a young black woman. The CIA wants Marie to begin a romantic entanglement with the revolutionary young president of Burkina Faso, Thomas Sankara, and gain intelligence about his political ambitions during the Cold War.

Inspired by real events, American Spy is a thrilling read, one that signals a new and diverse voice in the spy genre.

About the Author

Kate Whitman is Atlanta History Center’s Vice President of Author and Family Programs. Her expertise in and passion for good literature is well known around the office. Everyone makes sure to stop by her desk for book suggestions before they go on vacation.

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