Recommendations: 12/27/2020

T'was a couple nights after Christmas

I spent the bulk of the afternoon reading Charles Yu’s Interior Chinatown, which recently won the National Book Award. It is inventive, thoughtful, and moving. Sundays tend to be my best days for reading when I remember to take the time, and when I haven’t left undone work from the week that I’m chipping away at on Sunday in order to keep from facing a time crunch on Monday.

I’m the kind of reader who likes a little background music to read by. Today it was Robert Glasper, who is a pianist, producer, and songwriter whose vibe I just dig.

Since we’re a small (but mighty!) community at this point, it feels safe to turn on the comments, so if folks are so inclined, head to the post on the Substack website and share your favorite music to read by if you’re like me, and enjoy having a soundtrack to the experience.

Below, I’ve got some recommendations for folks who were kind enough to write in with their recent reads. If you want a book recommendation, send me an email to with:

  1. The last 5 books you read, including title and author

  2. Your first name and last initial

  3. Your current hometown

I can’t guarantee I’ll get to everyone, but I’ll do as many as time allows.

I’ve established a Biblioracle Recommends storefront at All books purchased through links here will generate affiliate income for Open Books in Chicago, a non-profit dedicated to putting books in the hands of children, and making the world of writing and expression accessible to all.

If you’re not one of the recipients of a specific recommendation, let me suggest you start with my Biblioracle Books of the year for 2020.

Recommendations for December 27, 2020.

1. A Promised Land by Barack Obama
2. Capitol  (Worthing #1) by Orson Scott Card
3. The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
4. Little Gods  by Meng Jin
5. The Man Who Came Uptown  by George Pelecanos

Tali L. - San Diego, California

If Tali can handle the emotional gut punch of The Great Believers and the length of A Promised Land, she’s up for Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life, which is a book that will colonize your brain and leave you shaken. If that sounds like the kind of experience you enjoy as a reader, I highly recommend it, but it’s not a book for everybody.

1. Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
2. To Be Taught If Fortunate by Becky Chambers
3. Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
4. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
5. Saint X by Alexis Schaitkin

Sara C. - Worcester, MA

Megan Abbott is one of my favorite writers working today. Her novels always grip me from the start and never let me go. I think Sara will have some fun with Dare Me.

1. The Cold Six Thousand by James Ellroy
2. Parting the Waters by Taylor Branch
3. Titan by Ron Chernow
4. The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
5. Dubliners by James Joyce 

Howard W. - Aurora, IL

For Howard, I’m thinking of something in the Dubliners vein, a linked series of stories where the individual episodes add up to more than the sum of the parts” The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman.

1. Luster by Raven Leilani
2. Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell
3. The Perfect Nine by Ngugi wa Thiong'o
4. Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn
5. Oval by Elvia Wilk

Brooks M. - Lisle, IL

I cannot let my first official installment of The Biblioracle Recommends Substack go by without putting in a good word for Oreo by Fran Ross, one of the great cult books of all time that deserves to be far more than cultishly popular.

Quite a few in the queue I didn’t get to this time around, so stay tuned for another installment this week!

(And don’t forget to share the music you read by in the comments.)