While I think we’ve all come to the conclusion that social media is mostly bad, I know that my life and my reading wouldn’t be the same without #bookstagram, the special little corner of Instagram for bibliophiles. I have made so many reader friends and discovered so many great books through this strange little world, and I’m eternally grateful for the role it plays in my reading life. As of this week, I have 80,000 people following along on my bookish journey. That number is incomprehensible to me, as is the pure fact that people care what I read and like. Today, I’m sharing eight of my favorite books that I never would have picked up without bookstagram. I wish I could share 80 books in honor of this number but time constraints and social obligations mean I had to whittle it down to the best of the best. I hope you find a book you love on this list, or maybe there are already books you’ve read based on my recommendation. Either way, I’m so grateful you’re here.
In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
Before bookstagram, I read very few nonfiction books and was particularly averse to memoirs. Over the last few years, I’ve discovered the type of memoirs I do love, and I’m particularly grateful to @lupita.reads for advocating for this one. In the Dream House is the story of an abusive lesbian relationship told in the most innovative style with hauntingly beautiful writing. This is hands-down one of the best books I’ve read in years.
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
While I’ve yet to see this 2008 YA novel all over bookstagram, it was a bookstagram friend who pressed it into my hands. @allisonreadsdc cited The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks as her favorite assigned reading in high school. The book features a whip-smart sophomore girl who’s beginning to develop a keen awareness of the power imbalances around her. Not only did I read and love it, but I added it to my Women in Literature curriculum, where many students have now claimed it as their favorite assigned reading.
Bunny by Mona Awad
This wild ride was recommended to me by Audra of @ouija.reads. Bunny is a book I might have picked up on my own because of jacket copy, but probably would have put aside far too early if not for Audra’s encouragement. Bunny is a campus novel about a clique of women writers who are engaging in weirder creative pursuits than I ever could have imagined. It’s wickedly funny and thoroughly original.
Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
Silver Sparrow was published before bookstagram was big, but Tayari Jones’s 2018 showstopper An American Marriage prompted me to dig into her backlist. Silver Sparrow came to me by way of its publisher, Algonquin Books--one of the most generous and groundbreaking imprints I’m lucky enough to work with. The novel is a family saga told through the perspective of two daughters of a bigamist father, half-sisters who are forbidden to be in each other’s lives. It’s a beautiful and sorrowful examination on the necessity of sisterhood and female companionship.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
I confess: in my pre-bookstagram days, I was a total book snob. I never would have picked up this light and lovely epistolary novel, and I would have been missing out. Set on the channel island of Guernsey during WWII, the novel features a cast of book loving friends who band together to resist the Nazi occupation of their home. It’s almost too sweet, but it’s also one of the most heartwarming books I’ve ever read.
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
When this book came out in January of 2018, it was all over Instagram, undoubtedly due in large part to its striking cover. I admit that this was a book I bought because I wanted to photograph more than wanting to read it, but it turned out to be one of the best books I read this year. I love a book that plays with structure and perspective without sacrificing heart and plot.
Beartown by Frederick Backman
Beartown was everywhere a couple of years ago, but it was the lovely @readwithkat who finally convinced me to pick this one up. I’d heard rave reviews of Backman’s earlier work, especially A Man Called Ove, but I assumed his writing was too feel-good for my taste. Beartown does contain a lot of warmth, but it’s also a challenging read that approaches difficult subjects and relationships with complexity and courage. The characters in this small Swedish town will stick with me for years to come.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
This is another one of those books that I can’t contribute to a single recommendation source. But since joining the bookstagram community, I’ve heard countless readers I trust cite this as one of their all-time favorites. This post apocalyptic novel bends the limits of what I’d previously thought dystopian fiction could do. It’s a page turner that’s also a beautiful depiction of the human capacity for resilience and need for art.