The following books are recommended by booksellers, guests, interns, and one of our owners:
Cameron is a local teen, longtime loyal BOTS customer and worked as our intern this year.
Guy is one of our regular customers with extensive knowledge of, and appetite for, alternative music history.
Kian is a guest kid reviewer.
Percy is a part-time bookseller and has worked in bookstores all over New England.
Rod co-owns Books on the Square with his wife, Merc.
Susannah is an artist, filmmaker, and a part-time bookseller.
Penny is a part-time bookseller.
"Learning the backstory of people we admire can be fascinating. Rebecca Solnit, author of Call Them By Their True Names and Men Explain Things to Me, opens up about her life and the people and places that helped her become who she is today. As she talks about her life, she also talks about the treatment of women in our society. How women are made voiceless, are unheard, and the danger of being violated, hurt, or killed by men. How she felt voiceless and nonexistent. Knowing where she came from has made her even more relatable to me, and shows us how her experiences shaped what she writes about."--Reviewed by Percy
"Jason Reynolds has taken Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning and made it accessible for young adults, or any adult, for that matter. It covers the history of racist ideas in America, and the hope for a better future using the concept of antiracism. An enlightening, clear-cut treatise on racism and antiracism, giving us a look at where we are and where we could be. This book is a great starting point for an understanding of racism in America."--Reviewed by Percy
"Casey is an aspiring writer who gets by waitressing in Cambridge. Her life is a mess with broken relationships and writer’s block is keeping her from finishing her novel. She wonders if she should just hang it all up to go the traditional route like a lot of her friends. Coming back to a more contemporary setting after Euphoria, Lily King takes us on what seems like a semi- autobiographical journey. A fun read about a writer trying to get a handle on love and life while pursuing her dream."--Reviewed by Percy
"I loved this book because it spoke to me. With ornate, steampunk influenced illustrations, Ouimet transmits how those who are quiet and different feel in a crowd, how those who speak softly don’t always get heard, how they brace themselves to function in the world, and how one child finds a way to express their voice. This book is for the quiet ones and those who want to understand them. Picture book for kids ages 6–8."--Reviewed by Percy
"What would happen if the world was suddenly turned into a utopia? What if everyone had an intimate understanding of one another and all our troubles faded away? What would the world be like if anything you can dream became a possibility? Chana Porter’s debut novel puts a new spin on the alien invasion trope. Instead of trying to take over Earth, an alien species known as The Seep gives humans everything they need to have a perfect life. However, perfection doesn’t always bring happiness. When Trina’s wife decides she’d like to leave her life behind and be reborn anew, our protagonist is shattered. Alone and broken-hearted, she navigates a world where instant happiness is not as good as it seems and grief can truly transform a person. This novel is a wonderful exploration of the possibilities and pitfalls of paradise. A recommended read!"--Reviewed by Matt
"The Queen’s Fortune is the story of a remarkable young woman, Desiree Clary, who comes of age during the French Revolution. She secretly becomes engaged to Napoleon Bonaparte until Josephine de Beauharvais comes into his life, changing the course of history for all involved. Desiree marries Napoleon’s best sergeant Jean-Baptiste Bernadette. It’s then that life’s choices draw all of them into once unthinkable directions."--Reviewed by Penny
"Layla is seven, and she loves the night—and wearing purple masks and capes, and being outside, and playing with her friend Juan, and reading poetry with her mom! This is the story of her family, her community, her city, and her happiness: a loving poem by our own Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie of Brown’s Theater Arts and Performance Studies Department, illustrated in bold, joyful colors by Ashleigh Corrin. Layla’s happiness is catching—a soul- sparking reminder to hold our breath sometimes and pause to watch a plant grow or blow a wish to the moon. It is my deep happiness to share this beautiful, introspective book by two Black women, telling the story of a small Black girl’s joy, with all hearts, young and old."--Reviewed by Susannah
"An amazing adventure set in medieval Russia, Sofiya Pasternack’s debut novel is so good you’d think she had been writing for centuries. Anya’s father has been sent off to war and all the happiness has been sucked from the house. To add insult to injury, her whole family, including her mother, grandmother and grandfather, are all going to lose the family home. Anya soon finds a way to get the money they need. She will help catch a mean old dragon and get 500 rubles if they succeed. When the dragon saves her life, she is faced with a dilemma: help kill the last dragon in Kievan Rus’ or save her home. An awesome book, I enjoyed Pasternack’s way of making exciting parts a little slow to build suspense. I am sure this will be a classic someday. Best for ages 8-12."--Kian, guest reviewer
"Winterson uses the story of Frankenstein to expound on the future of sex, gender, AI, and transformation. Starting with the conditions under which Mary Shelley wrote the original Frankenstein and moving into the near-future where Ry is at a tech show featuring what’s next in AI (artificial intelligence) and interviewing different people in the industry, including a man who manufactures sexbots. Winterson masterfully weaves her philosophy into a rollicking, good story."--Reviewed by Percy
"An exciting fantasy fiction story in which Ember St. George is a dragon-well, she was, until her adoptive father turned her into a human girl to save her life. She still has invisible wings and an unpredictable tendency to go up in flames which makes her dangerous. She sends herself to Antarctica to visit her aunt at the research station where adventures happen including meeting a snotty prince, a lightening bolt shooting penguin, and an ice-dragon hunt. Fun adventure with a hint of mystery. I would recommend this to anyone who likes dragons."--Reviewed by Kian
"This book slowly builds, one story upon another, with everyday observations on nature and life. Interspersing her grandmother’s stories with her own, each essay is accompanied by an illustration done by the author’s brother. Life in all of its ups and downs, the cycle of life and death explored on a personal level, small details add up in these beautiful essays."--Reviewed by Percy
"Though it begins and ends simply—with the misted image of a nineteenth-century woman dancing on a bridge—this extraordinary novel by Ta-Nehisi Coates somehow also conjures the whole nation’s history between her feet. Its disjointed memories are narrated by Hiram Walker, the son a plantation owner and an enslaved mother whose early removal from Hiram’s life—like so many other forced absences throughout the history of our country—haunts him relentlessly. In a story that strips bare the human costs of forgetting, this devastating underground narrative also offers some of the most nuanced, insightful renderings of personal relationships in contemporary fiction. Ignited by the same fire as Coates’s powerful nonfiction works, The Water Dancer easily takes its place beside them, and beyond: a stunning reply to the mythical works of Toni Morrison, Octavia Butler, and other pillars of imaginative historical fiction. An insistent telling that conducts its readers from the most private corners of American history into an urgent contemplation of their own complicities...This book is a must-read."--Reviewed by Susannah
"Abby is stuck in her small town working a dead-end job while she follows her childhood friend, who became a movie star, in the tabloids. At their 10th high-school reunion, Elise says if you’re ever in L.A., look me up. So Abby runs off to Hollywood and lands at her doorstep. Written from Abby’s point of view, it is hard to tell where reality ends and fantasy begins, definitely an unreliable narrator. However, the story is a doozie and it’s fun to read."--Reviewed by Percy
"Robert Macfarlane takes you on a journey beneath the earth. His travels include exploring caves under the trees, sinkholes, what lies under cities, and more. In one essay, he is under the streets of Paris in a crawlspace he can barely fit through. I am somewhat claustrophobic and I could feel it, but, luckily, I was not the one under the earth. After reading this, I felt like the words “solid ground” should never be used again. His writing is superb and pulls you along on all of his adventures, truly breathtaking."--Reviewed by Percy
"Rebecca Solnit usually writes in-depth essays on what it means to be a woman in the 21st century and the state of current events. Cinderella Liberator is her first children’s book. She takes the story of Cinderella and gives it a feminist twist where happily ever after is not marrying the handsome prince. All of the characters get a chance for a better life by choosing to become their best selves. A book that gives you hope that everyone can live better when they are liberated and tells us that endings are not defined by ingrained beliefs."--Reviewed by Percy
"This picture book by Chris Gall, released just in time for the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing, is nothing short of stunning. Sweeping full-page illustrations combine the sleek outlines and muted color palette of vintage travel posters with the detailed artistry of author/illustrators such as Chris Van Allsburg and David Wiesner. The nonfiction book begins with the introduction of a young boy—none other than Chris Gall, himself—anxiously awaiting the impending Moon landing. Inset panels on most pages lead us through the narrator’s fascination and ecstasy as he designs and builds his own working model rocket; prepares and stays in a cardboard “lunar module;" and watches the Apollo 11 launch, landing, and subsequent return to Earth on television. Although this book is visually appealing and cleanly laid-out, it may be difficult for some younger readers to follow on their own, and scientific explanations may pass over the heads of little ones. Best for ages 8 to 11, although younger children may find it interesting when read with or simplified by an adult."--Reviewed by Beth
"A historical novel based on Stalin’s daughter’s defection to the West, The Red Daughter is a compelling read. I don’t remember this historical event, but it was known around the world when it happened. Based on her journals and papers, the author intersperses journal entries to tell her story, and embellish it. He wrote the story after reading her obituary and realizing that a picture in his family home was of her and his father, and that his father was the one who clandestinely brought her into the United States."--Reviewed by Percy
"Beginning, Middle, End is stamped into our brains at an early age, but is that how stories really go? Jane Allison looks at stories through the lens of nature and sees different patterns. Stories can meander, come and go in wavelets, spiral, and explode, among others. Allison uses examples from literature to make her points. Whether you agree with her or not, her postulation will make you look at stories differently and expand your perspective on reading."--Reviewed by Percy
"This stunning collection of speculative stories by N. K. Jemisin, Hugo Award-winning author of The Broken Earth trilogy, shatters any lingering preconceptions about what fantasy and science-fiction should be in the most glorious way: by showing us what it could be. More imaginative. More subversive. More diverse. People are just people—black, brown, android, superpredator...wait, what are people? Magic is free from its citadels: roaming the streets of New York City or simmering inside restaurants, storming across cloud-dragon skies and lurking within the deepest possibilities of space and cyberspace. As Jemisin explains in the introduction, this collection is her answer to a genre that has systematically excluded black characters and futures from its pages—but it offers a diversity that extends beyond that, too, opening conventionally medieval and colonial-based realms into an expanding universe. Devoted fans will uncover gems here—Jemisin’s first brushes with now-familiar worlds—but for anyone who hasn’t yet traveled her mindscapes, it’s a gorgeous first journey in. Happy Black Future Month!"--Reviewed by Susannah
"My Sister the Serial Killer sums up its own plot in the title. The debut novel by Oyinkan Braithwaite centers on the lives of two sisters, one gorgeous and impetuous, the other solemn and overshadowed. Narrated by the latter, the story introduces us to the (sometimes darkly funny) heartbreak and frustrations that stem from having a serial killer in the family. While one woman lives her life without care, dating a string of men and casually disposing of them when she sees fit, her responsible older sister is left to literally clean up the mess and anticipate the consequences. Braithwaite paints a colorful and biting image of the ties that bind as the limits of sibling love are tested and the sisters discover who they really are, and how far they are willing to go for each other."--Reviewed by Meghan
"Since fall is prime whale watching time you might like to know more about these spectacular creatures. Spying on Whales by Nick Pyenson, the curator of fossil marine mammals at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington,D.C., takes us into their secret lives from their evolution from land to sea mammals. He weaves scienti c discovery with fascinating storytelling as he answers how they eat enough to maintain their size. He also looks ahead to a possible future for the whales as climate warming continues."--Reviewed by Penny
"Fiona Davis, author of The Dollhouse and The Address, weaves an intriguing story of love and art, lost and rediscovered. It is centered all within the walls of the historic New York Grand Central Terminal. Davis weaves the story of Clara Darden, an artist of the famed Grand Central School of Art in the late 1920’s, and Virginia Clay, whose life is turned upside down in the 1970’s as she struggles to make a new life for herself and her daughter Ruby. It’s good to see strong women find their way back while uncovering secrets and intrigue with humor. A great read, especially for fans of historical fiction!"--Reviewed by Penny
"Joel Selvin’s exhaustively researched new book, Altamont asks if order can emerge from disorder. The answer is ‘no,’ particularly if disorder is wound up on speed and bad LSD and is packing a gun. This very interesting books examines the infamous rock festival that occurred at the Altamont speedway
in late 1969. The colossal arrogance of The Rolling Stones and blithe ignorance of Gram Parsons rub against The Hell’s Angels’ increasing discomfort with having to play cops for a bunch of wealthy hippies. Dozens of mysterious people make promises and claims, none of which are fulfilled. At the end, 4 people are dead."
"Elijah Wald’s Dylan Goes Electric!, on its surface, explores the events leading up to and including the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, where Bob Dylan and his band played a raucous three song set of rock & roll tunes. Folk purists were scandalized by Dylan’s ‘rejection’ of tradition. The sheer volume coming off the stage stunned everybody else. Wald’s book is a fun and unsentimental read that partially deflates many of the overblown myths obscuring the event. The most interesting sections intelligently address the conundrums facing music fans in the 1960s. In the late-50s and early-60s, it was easy for some to differentiate between ‘serious’ folk music (Pete Seeger, Ewan MacColl, Odetta) and frivolous ‘pop’ music (The Kingston Trio, Frankie Avalon, rock & roll.) By 1965, many attendees of the folk festival had to be noticing that the most popular music on the radio (The Beatles, Motown, Bob Dylan) was also the most musically and sonically adventurous. Battle lines were drawn unconsciously. Dylan Goes Electric! is a cool book, and serves as a nice companion piece to David Hajdu’s Positively 4th Street."
"The first I’d ever heard of Jon Fine was in an old issue of Forced Exposure. Steve Albini, the famously opinionated recording engineer, was griping about how Fine’s band, Bitch Magnet, had credited him as a ‘producer’ on their record, despite his specifically asking them not to. If you have ever heard of Forced Exposure, Bitch Magnet or, more likely, Steve Albini, there is a solid chance you will enjoy Your Band Sucks. The autobiography situates itself in the collegerock-transitioning-to-indie-rock environs of the 1980s and early 1990s. Pockets of undergraduates (this writer included) across this great nation zealously followed bands like Naked Raygun, Big Black, Laughing Hyenas, Squirrel Bait, Volcano Suns and Sonic Youth. This was way before Nirvana hit, so these penniless musical ensembles nourished themselves on a bizarre form of earned obscurity. Jon Fine’s book examines how his band, Bitch Magnet, achieved a very specific form of success, one not easily measured by the outside world. If you were there, listening to your local college radio station and buying the latest releases from Homestead and SST, you might very well dig Your Band Sucks. Also worth mentioning, local heroes Six Finger Satellite and Peter Prescott figure prominently."
"It’s pretty cool that John Lydon’s (second) autobiography is called Anger Is An Energy. First off, the book spills a whole lot of ink on the fascinating Public Image Limited, the wildly contrarian combine Lydon assembled after The Sex Pistols expired. The title, Anger Is An Energy, comes from “Rise,” which is likely PiL’s best-known song. Secondly, John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) has virtually bottomless reserves of crankiness, which makes this book a whole lot of fun. Constitutionally incapable of letting even the most well concealed instance of hypocrisy go unnoticed, our pugnacious hero throws shots from beginning to end. It’s stunning and refreshing. Over the course of the hefty volume, Lydon retires some old anecdotes (Richard Branson asked him to join DEVO) and unearths some odd nuggets (Malcolm McLaren wanted Charles Manson to produce The Sex Pistols’ proposed second record from his cell.) Johnny expounds on his love of esoteric reggae, displays unexpected affection for Duran Duran, Alvin Stardust and Status Quo, and fires deserved bile in the direction of Jimmy Savile.This book would make a great companion piece to Viv Albertine’s fantastic Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys!"
"NPR host Diane Rehm’s memoir On My Own bravely deals with the difficulties she faced once her husband of fifty four years died in 2013. Rehm resists white washing their often challenging marriage while surveying what connected them--their children and times cooking, gardening and walking. Their wrenching decision to place John in an assisted living facility once his Parkinson’s disease made home care too challenging and then their shared frustration that John could not choose his manner and timing of his death have ironically given Rehm a new focus once she retires. Once John is gone, Rehm must make sense of her old life and construct a new one. She does this by talking with dear friends who share how they negotiate widowhood and by remaining committed to the familiar and comforting routine of work. Her writing is most intimate and inspiring when she reveals her own guilt, loneliness and sadness. The reader joins Rehm as she grieves but also witnesses Rehm’s imagining a new and different existence."
--Reviewed by Lisa Peck
"The title of this book is chosen to convey the wonder that lies in our brains. Dr. Ropper, a distinguished neurologist who deals with some of the most difficult neurological cases in the Boston area, focuses on what the patient’s brain can tell us about what ails it. While he continues to prescribe the usual physical tests, he adds extensive conversations with the patient as a key element in diagnosing the underlying causes and in prescribing effective treatment. I found his approach to be compelling and his candor to be exceptional — even including cases where errors contributed to unsuccessful outcomes. I believe that readers of this book will be excited by the insights that it provides into personal, teamwork approaches for treating persons with brain diseases."
--Reviewed by Rod
"Nimona began as a weekly comic online. Slowly, what began as a humorous look into the lives of a villain and his shapeshifter henchwoman transformed into a full length graphic novel packed with action, tragedy, and occasional jokes about sharks. The book takes place in a medieval-sci-fi setting where a supervillain named Lord Blackheart battles the seemingly heroic Institution and its champion, Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin (no typo, no lie). When a shapeshifter named Nimona shows up in Blackheart’s lair asking to be his sidekick, her abilities will put the conflict on a more destructive course… I normally read graphic novels very quickly, and Nimona is no exception. However, the book fits a lot into it’s short length. The jokes are riotous, and even when the plot takes a more serious turn, the writing’s quality never suffers. Even from the very beginning of the book, it is clear that Blackheart is not a very villainous villain, and the reversal of good guy and bad guy makes for interesting reading."
--Reviewed by Nazareth
"There are 2 types of people in this world. The Reds, the color of their blood, are fighters and workers living in poverty. The Silvers, who have silver blood, possess powers that let them be the rulers of the reds. But what happens when Mare, a born Red, possesses a power that enlightens all the Silvers. Mare must learn to know her true self and her true love. With 2 princes vying after her she must learn to follow her heart without getting herself killed. Will she show the world who she really is or will she conform to the future laid out for her by possessive Silvers? Filled with romance, plot-twists, and secrets, this book will keep your hair on end through every page. This is what happens when you defy all stereotypes and bleed your own blood. Best for ages 13 and up."
Cameron, Book Seller
Books on the Square—Providence, RI
"Kim Gordon was the bass player and, later, guitarist in Sonic Youth. In addition to being a celebrated musician, she is a writer, fashion designer, filmmaker and actress, among other things. Girl In A Band allows Ms. Gordon to detail how art and creativity have influenced her perspective on the world. The readable and smart book has a quiet European vibe -- Girl In A Band is described as a memoir, rather than her autobiography – and seems to emulate the French New Wave films so admired by Ms. Gordon; there is no linear quality to the book. Chapters about her childhood in Los Angeles abut passages describing fetid Manhattan of the 1980s. The powerfully observant Gordon avoids clichéd rock star anecdotes and concentrates on how profound the role of art – both hers and others’ -- has been. She has a remarkable eye for architecture and a sophisticated understanding of fine art, particularly painting. Recommended for people who don’t like to take things for granted."
"A prequel to the popular A City of Thousand Dolls, this is a wonderful book is filled with lots of plot twists, thrills and of course romance. The main character Mara is a trained protector and you follow the journey of how she looks for her lifetime charge, the person she protects no matter what, even if it costs her life. She meets a boy as well as a princess who both help Mara realize her true-self and her purpose. Fall in love with this breathtaking novel and believe in the power of friendship and love. Recommended for fans of magic, suspense, and romance. Best for ages 13-17."
--Reviewed by Cameron