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February Midwest Connections Picks

Following the fate of one family over the course of two decades in Nigeria, this debut novel tells the story of each sibling's search for agency, love, and meaning in a society rife with hypocrisy, but also endless life.

Midwest Connection: Tola Rotimi Abraham lives in Iowa City and is currently pursuing a graduate degree in journalism. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, she has taught writing at the University of Iowa.

Perfect for: Readers of literary fiction and stories of family bonds. For fans of Margaret Wilkerson Sexton and Michael Donkor.

Pick this up if you liked: Housegirl by Michael Donkor Stay With Me by Ayò̥bámi Adébáyò̥ She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore

Praise for Black Sunday: "[A] piercing, supple debut . . . Abraham stuffs her novel past brimming, but its sophisticated structure and propulsive narration allow her to tuck in a biting critique of corrupt colonial religion and universally exploitative men . . . Twin sisters cut adrift in a perilous, duplicitous world learn that 'only the wise survive.' A formidable debut."    -- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Hartfield's Best of 2019

Our booksellers read a LOT of great books in 2019. If you visited the bookstore last year, you probably saw some of these books in displays, or as featured staff picks, but here they are all together -- our personal favorites of the year.

It's probably no surprise that this list could have been much longer, but we did our best to exercise some restraint and narrow it down to our top five in each category: Adult Fiction, Adult Non-Fiction, Young Adult and Middle Grade, Graphic Novels, and Picture Books. If you didn't get to them in 2019, it's not too late! There are some great recommendations here to add to your 2020 reading list.

January Midwest Connections Picks

A memoir about fatherhood, family, and what it means to be a man in America.

Midwest Connection: Calvin Hennick grew up in Iowa and Once More to the Rodeo makes stops across the Midwest on this father and son road trip.

Target Readers: Parents, books clubs, readers who enjoy travel memoirs, family stories, humorous books, and books with diverse characters.

Similar to: Wild by Cheryl Strayed Son of a Gun by Justin St. Germain Someone Could Get Hurt by Drew Magary

Guest Post: Why I Read Romance and You Should, Too

Bodice Rippers, chick books, mommy porn… romance books have been referred to in many disparaging terms over the years. Luckily, I’ve never held that bias against this genre. As long as I’ve been reading, I remember being drawn to romance books. In middle school, one of my favorite series to read was called Couples by M.E. Cooper and Linda A. Cooney. In high school, I graduated to anything written by Danielle Steel. Post college, as we began our family, I needed time to relax after work and found myself drawn to The Mitford Series by Jan Karon. Not a traditional romance, but one that has romance at the core.

Over the years my reading life has varied. At times I read more for my students than I do for myself. Three years ago, I found that I was drawn to the world of romance once again. When I began reading these books and recommending them to others, there were two general responses. One, people would ask why I was reading this genre when there were so many better books out there. Or two, friends would quietly message me, confiding they were romance readers as well, and wondered if I had any recommendations.

Today, as we celebrate Bookstore Romance Day, I thought I’d share my top ten reasons to read this genre. If you want any recommendations, head on over to my blog (linked at the bottom of this post) and I have another top ten list for you, my top ten must reads in this genre. Or, stop by Hartfield Book Co. where they'll have my recommendations on display, or Nicole can point you in the direction of another great book. Because romance books or not, we’re not here to judge what you read, just to celebrate that you do.

2019 Sages Read

Last week, we launched the 2019 Sages Read community reading challenge. The brain child of famed local book champion, writer and language arts teacher, Katherine Sokolowski, Sages Read is a true community-wide activity in which I am so grateful and excited to participate.

I'm stoked about the list of categories we've put together and will definitely share what I'm reading as I complete my own challenge sheet. Over the course of the year, Hartfield will also put together lists of recommendations to help you check those categories off your own challenge list (you can download the PDF here and we'll have hard copies available soon). We'll share our book lists online and through social media, put them on display in the store and, generally, try to make it as easy as possible for you to find great books to complete your 2019 reading challenge. You'll also get fantastic recommendations from teachers, our local library and by following the Sages Read Facebook page and #SagesRead. I hope you'll share your own recommendations there, as well!

Another Trip into the Outback

Last week I confessed to being a mystery junkie and, while I am continuing to make a conscious effort to read more broadly, I am physically incapable of avoiding a new Jane Harper novel. Anyone who's come into the bookstore and asked for a mystery recommendation has probably heard me talk about The Dry. It is absolutely one of my favorite books of the last few years, and last year's follow-up, Force of Nature (recently released in paperback), was excellent, too.

The Best Surprise

Sometimes I think I do a pretty good job choosing books by a diverse range of authors and from a variety of genres, but at the end of the year when I flip back through my planner (my current method for tracking my reading), I usually get a cold, hard reality check. It's apparently all too easy for me to slip right into a reading rut. My personal go-tos tend to be literary fiction and mystery/suspense. Don't get me wrong, there can absolutely be diversity within each of those categories, but honestly, I've noticed that unchecked, I tend to gravitate toward very similar types of stories.

Summer Reading

I think I've always been a seasonal reader. As the weather changes, I find myself drawn to specific types of books. I tend to go darker and more complex in the winter months. Faced with evenings and weekends spent inside, cuddled under a blanket on the couch, I'm more apt to dig into a meaty biography or memoir, explore a complicated topic like war, or accompany characters into a richly drawn story that isn't necessarily heading for a happy ending. An introvert to the core, I am perfectly content to spend day after day tucked cozily inside.

 

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