36 Great Books You Might Not Know About

A lot of people who work in bookstores are out of a job right now — but they’re still sharing their best suggestions online, from true crime to YA to underrated Shakespeare.

As a series of sweeping social distancing measures keep people home to stop the spread of the coronavirus, independent bookstores are among the many small businesses impacted by government-mandated shutdowns — which means a lot of staffers have been laid off, furloughed, are have had their hours significantly cut. Now a band of unemployed booksellers have come together to create The Bookstore at the End of the World: a virtual bookstore, hosted by Bookshop, where they can share their literary love and expertise, and see some commission (30% of the purchase price, to be exact).

"The virtue of independent bookstores has always been the people at work in them, and this has been best represented in the breadth and depth of our staff picks," the team writes. "This is no substitute for the sense of community in our home stores, but until we can work again, we're more than happy to share our favorite books. We're unemployed and open for business. Happy reading."

Here are some of the most exciting books in the shop, with blurbs from the sellers who recommend them. To see more, click on any seller's name, or visit the shop's homepage here.

1. Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

"Racism, police brutality, and death can feel impossible to talk about, so Jewell Parker Rhodes allows these young boys to tell their own stories and help each other through conversation. This haunting and engrossing book with spark conversation, understanding, and hard-won hope. I want everyone to read this book." —Parrish Turner

2. The Strange Case of Dr. Couney: How a Mysterious European Showman Saved Thousands of American Babies by Dawn Raffel

"Who was this man who saved the lives of over 7000 babies through his incubator sideshows? After discovering evidence of his existence in her late father’s record of visiting the 1933 World Expo, Dawn Raffel went in search of this humane practitioner of vigilante medicine who believed that ‘Everybody Loves a Baby’ and earned the respect and admiration of a group of renowned neonatologists and Couney enthusiasts. Eventually tracking down a few surviving Couney babies, Dawn Raffel beautifully presents the artifacts of Dr. Couney’s extraordinary life that proves the adage that truth is often stranger than fiction." —Cheryl Pearl Sucher

3. Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys

"Good Morning, Midnight is the epitome of glamorous self-destruction. Rhys lays bare the depths where wallowing can take us, never apologizing for her characters' choices but not letting them off the hook, either. A cozily devastating read." —Rebecca Gans

4. The Street by Ann Petry

"Ann Petry is a legend for a reason. This 1946 book could not be fresher and bolder. Like James Baldwin’s fiction, Petry’s style is blunt, lyrical, brutal, and achingly nuanced, making you feel as if her characters are still walking the streets of Harlem today. A perfect trapped-indoors read; I'm so glad it's been reprinted." —Nora Tjossem

5. The Stranger Beside Me: The Shocking Inside Story of Serial Killer Ted Bundy by Ann Rule

"Could you imagine working late nights with someone who turned out to be one of the most prolific killers of an era? Then imagine being handed a book deal to write about the disappearances of multiple young women before a suspect was arrested, and the suspect turns out to be a friend. This book gives a unique perspective on an infamous killer, Ted Bundy, and in the process shows great respect to each victim and every person working on the case, not to mention the inner turmoil the author faced as she wrote this book and maintained a friendship with Bundy, simultaneously." —Lizzy Nahum-Albright

6. Cymbeline by William Shakespeare

"If you love reading books or plays about strong, tender, independent, multifaceted female leads, you must read what I regard as Shakespeare’s finest work. Underperformed due to the heightened language and its complex multiple narrative, Cymbeline is, without a doubt, Shakespeare’s most poetic play, and it happens to center around the woman I consider to be his strongest female lead, Imogen. The romantic tragedy of Romeo and Juliet combines with the political intrigue and murder plots of Julius Caesar, and makes this show the pinnacle of Shakespeare’s work. With language that transcends any of his previous shows, this indelibly gorgeous piece has all of the potential to be your new Shakespearean favorite." —Rayna Johnston

7. Tentacle by Rita Indiana

"As a personal challenge to diversify my own book selections I came upon this gem, it’s characters’ spanning the gamut of queer identity in a dystopian sci-fi novella. It’s infused with the life of the Caribbean Sea, love letters to the culture of Santería, and the moral consideration of ecological disaster. Indiana writes this novel in a third-person stream of consciousness, effortlessly weaving between characters and time, creating a disorienting effect where you’re not always sure if you’re a buccaneer pirate in the 17th century or a disgraced, aging artist grasping for a lifeline." —James Gurley-Dawkins

8. The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing

"Said to be the first thing to grow in the bomb-blasted ruins of Hiroshima, the matsutake holds an extraordinary place in Japanese life, and the logistics around importing this elusive mushroom have far-reaching and extraordinary connections to distant lands and far-flung people. Tsing's storytelling here is expansive, and this book is the key to understanding the role that a single commodity can have in a global network, and the hope that we still can have when it seems that everything is coming apart." —Jeff Waxman

9. On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden

"On a Sunbeam is truly the perfect, queer, sci-fi adventure. A group of women and a non-binary person travel space repairing old buildings, while one laments a love she lost. Worlds collide and they're off on an intergalactic rescue mission filled with anticipation and yearning. This is one of the most impressive works of art to come out of contemporary comics in the last decade and has sealed Walden's status as a modern great." —Brianna Bonham

10. Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

"Talia Hibbert never fails to deliver dynamic, realistic characters within the lofty world of romance, making the material all the more lovely to connect with. As a Black woman with chronic illnesses, it is rare and lovely to see myself in pages of any world, especially romance, and this book is just a delight! Embarrassingly laugh-out-loud funny and beautifully endearing, Ms. Hibbert has once again published a more-than-just-cozy romance novel — she's made characters you wouldn't mind knowing and celebrating in real life." —Teri Clarke

11. You Think That's Bad by Jim Shepard

"Catastrophe — historical and imagined, rendered enormous and personal — echoes through these indelible short stories. Terrifying and achingly rendered." —Jacob Schraer

12. The Grotesque by Patrick McGrath

"Sir Hugo is confined to his wheelchair, completely paralyzed and forced to witness his former butler, Fledge, romance his wife and forgo the care-taking of his crumbling home and archaeological work. But how did Sir Hugo end up paralyzed, forced to watch his wife philandering under his own nose? The story is full of suspense and dark humor, a mysterious crime and grim characters who skulk around Sir Hugo's dark and dreary manor. A treat of a novel from the modern king of Gothic, McGrath's novel is what you want to be reading on a dark, rainy day." —Wynne Kontos

13. The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge

"If you, like me, find yourself obsessed with stories of literary obsession; if you’re a fan of weird fiction, metafiction, stories-within-stories, queering the canon; if you have even a passing interest in (the works and/or thorny reputations of) H. P. Lovecraft, William S. Burroughs, or cult-famous early sci-fi writers; if you're looking for a gorgeous puzzle-box of a novel — then I implore you to read this book. Using a literary mystery as his jumping-off point, La Farge toys with the sometimes razor-thin line between history and historical fiction, raising questions that threaten to linger, like stubborn ghosts, over your every reading experience to come." —Anneliese Cooper

14. The Seventh Day by Yu Hua

"Having just crossed over, Yang Fei arrives in the afterlife which acts more as a waiting room for people who have yet to be cremated back on earth. Here, he meets the souls of people he's lost, whose stories from their lives offer us thoughtful observations of modern China. The stories, while often tragic, are told all so beautifully, and they show that when the physical world of greed, power, and status is removed, we're left with only the most fundamental aspects of our life: empathy, compassion, and human bonding." —Kestin Thomas

15. The City & the City by China Miéville

"Mieville is a master of the 'weird, but in a really good way!' fiction. The City & the City is a lot more down-to-earth than most of his work, but still has that distinctive edge of strangeness. It starts out as a modern noir novel, as a police detective in an eastern European city investigates a murder that seems to have crossed borders from a neighboring nation. It's at some point after this the reader realizes the 'neighboring' foreign city occupies the same physical space as the detective's, and their entire two societies revolve around keeping to their defined areas of their overlapping territories, and determinedly ignoring each other when they can't. In addition to the detective and procedural elements, the book is a really fascinating examination of the ways human beings create boundaries, both literal and figurative, and how much the sense of national identity is a purely social construct. This book manages the job of being incredibly surreal and perfectly readable simultaneously." —Sean McGowan

16. Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration by David Wojnarowicz

"This book was released in the early 90's but manages to maintain a tone of urgency that transcends time. Wojnarowicz paints a picture of his world in this intimate memoir where he's surrounded by sickness, drugs, and death during the AIDs crisis in NYC. I believe his criticisms of power structures are still relevant today." —Amanda Rivera

17. Spain by Caren Beilin

"The way Caren Beilin messes with time is exciting and dizzying, like riding a roller-coaster — and both everyone you have ever loved and everyone you have ever been hurt by (if these are separate people) are on the roller-coaster with you, and they are all telling you jokes, and you cannot see the tracks but you can feel the air rushing." —Kyle Williams

18. Beverly by Nick Drnaso

"The world of Nick Drnaso's Beverly is at once mundane and bizarre, serving as the backdrop to a collection of interconnected (or are they?) stories that are full of eerie suspense despite the everyday scenes they depict. As someone who grew up in a small upstate NY town, I found myself relating all too much to these cleanly yet unflatteringly rendered characters. And Drnaso's art speaks for itself." —Althea Meer

19. Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

"Looking for a thriller that will leave you guessing until the last page? I was captivated by Jackson's writing of a teen imprisoned for a murder she — wait for it — allegedly did not commit. When she becomes pregnant, the fear of being separated from her own child after the birth forces her to profess her innocence." —Tara Sonin Schlesinger

20. The Old Man and Me by Elaine Dundy

"When my bookstore did blind dates, I wrapped this one and wrote, 'If you like Bridget Jones and the Caroline Calloway scammer discourse, you’ll love this.' Elaine Dundy has been overlooked. I read her books whenever I need to read something that is as funny as it is smart, and they never fail." —Sophia Kaufman

21. Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans

"A masterful storyteller, Rachel Held Evans had me enthralled from the introduction. For the long-time self-professed Christian to the skeptic, to the curious one, this book takes you on a thoughtful and thorough journey through the Bible — engaging many of our questions and refusing to offer simple answers, but rather offering the gift of companionship inside the tension. This book is a gift to the seeker." —Genay Jackson

22. A Moon for Moe and Mo by Mehrdokht Amini and Jane Breskin Zalben

"Moe and Mo both live on Flatbush Avenue. When their mothers go shopping for their respective holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Ramadan, the shopkeeper assumes they are twins. The two become friends and find the parallels in their lives. A hopeful story of coming together to enjoy our similarities — and the back matter tells more about the holidays in the book." —Anna Jordan

23. Before Night Falls by Reinaldo Arenas

"This is a beautiful memoir by one of my favorite novelists — moving from a rural childhood to a life as member of Castro’s revolutionary army, to detailed accounts of the Cuban literati, and finally transitioning to a struggle against the plague of New York City in the 80s, always with a poet’s eye. Throughout these radical transitions Arenas consistently writes and has sex — lots of sex. Even while fleeing the agents of Fidel who chase him into the woods, he finds a way to cavort with hot young Cuban men and rewrite seized novels. Sodomy, war, Castro — this is a great gateway drug for Arenas's lengthy, beautiful, novels." —Jeff Verlanic

24. The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck

"What if the infinite possibilities held in each moment could be explored — if we could walk down the different paths opened up by every choice, every stroke of fate? In this flawlessly intricate, powerful, deeply moving book, Jenny Erpenbeck does exactly that, telling the story of a family through the upheavals of 20th-century Europe. Between each chapter, a detail is changed that sets the protagonists’ lives on completely different courses. Taken together, these parallel lives form an astonishingly complex yet vivid mosaic of human experience and suffering — a stirring reflection on memory, fate, and our relationship with history." —Edoardo Andreoni

25. Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware

"Even as a person who only occasionally diverges into the world of graphic novels, it was very apparent to me right away that this book was something special. Jimmy is an isolated, lonely man who is confronted with the prospect of finally meeting his father. From the impossibly complex and beautiful artwork, to the deeply felt emotional climax, this book helped the medium attain new heights, all without capes or tights. The only superhero in this story is the human spirit. (Did I just write that?)" —Jorge Villalta

26. Seasonal Associate by Heike Geissler

"An affecting account of precarious labor and demoralizing drudgery, Seasonal Associate exemplifies the minimum wage memoir we need right now. With a keen sense of plain-spoken perspective, Geissler never sensationalizes, instead opting to recount the tedium in terms of unflinching honesty. An exemplary piece of work." —Justin Walls

27. Atlantic Hotel by João Gilberto Noll

"This enchantingly spare novel follows an amorphous man on a seemingly uninspired and random journey through Brazil. With addictive noir-inspired prose, this short novel will surprise you with its humor and unsettling atmosphere." —Ely Watson

28. Stoner by John Williams

"There’s a lot of talk out there about Stoner being a lost classic, or a perfect novel. Please know that all these rumors are true, and somehow still don't do this book justice. Better people have tried and failed to express what is so wondrous about this book, and on the surface it’s such a simple story: A man leaves his humble beginnings, falls in love with literature, experiences several personal failures in his professional and personal life, and has a quiet death. Yet Williams manages to wring out something so beautiful, so poignant from that spare setup that manages to make nearly every other novel pale in comparison." —David Glickman

29. The Stories of Alice Adams by Alice Adams

"The best collection of short stories I have ever read, and worth every single page. While these stories are not ambitious, they are so small and incisive that whenever one emotionally blew me out of the water, I felt it deep in my bones. These stories mostly range within my favorite genre: women on the edge. Whether it is a woman's remembrance of a childhood friend, or a woman desperate to find her lost cat, these stories have lingered with me like no others." —Walker Iverson

30. Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton

"The world seems to have ended — we don't know how or why. Augustine, an astronomer isolated in the Arctic, and Sully, an astronaut on her way back from Jupiter, are each stuck endlessly scanning the ruthlessly silent radio waves, hoping to find other survivors. Both characters are unforgettable, as are their respective mental reckonings with the loss of absolutely everything. Thought-provoking, atmospheric, and emotionally acute, this one is perfect for fans of Station Eleven." —Sarah Goewey

31. The Shades by Evgenia Citkowitz

"This book perfectly combines the nuance of a modern family drama and the suspense of a psychological thriller with the archetypal feel of a Bronte-esque gothic novel set in the English countryside. It opens with the gruesome death of a mysterious young woman, and the rest of the novel recounts the events leading up to it. The characters are compelling, and watching them go through the motions of ordinary life in the wake of personal tragedy is all too familiar. I lived in this book." —Althea Lamel

32. The Moviegoer by Walker Percy

"Dissatisfied with 'living the most ordinary life imaginable' — one of detachment, casual sex, and moviegoing — Binx Bolling begins a pilgrimage in search for authenticity. Philosophical and droll, Walker Percy transforms the drab 'everydayness' of the suburbs into a Kierkegaardian meditation on despair in post-war America. This novel is the perfect distillation of what it feels like to be alone in a crowd, or a ghost in your own town." —Franki Gambino

33. The Best of Richard Matheson by Richard Matheson

"This collection of horror, fantasy, and science fiction stories will show you why Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Ray Bradbury, and Stephen Spielberg sang Matheson’s praises. He scares me in just a few pages with tales about a little boy who wants to be a vampire, a picture-perfect family with a secret in their basement, a tail-gating truck driver from hell, a married couple with a powerful little button that will change their lives forever, and a naïve young woman who has purchased an eccentric little doll." —Tim Durbin

34. Don't Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno

"From the smell of the pastelitos baking, to the sound of the viejitos gossiping and playing domino, I was completely transported to Port Coral. Within these pages I laughed and cried alongside Rosa. Sweet, fun, and relatable, this is the best YA of 2019." —Jocelyn Bright

35. Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire

"Warsan Shire’s collection of poetry is a beautiful and painful meditation on what it means to be a woman, a refugee, a mother, a daughter, and a person who has to fight for their right to exist. Shire immerses the reader in a world that is being ripped apart, where thousands of people are displaced and forced to flee in order to survive. She then zooms in on individual experiences of those in migration, acknowledging their bodies, their sexuality, their desires and wants. Although it exposes the brutal realities of racism, systematic oppression, and violence, Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth is ultimately a portrayal of resilience — it is a voice that claims its right to be heard." —Anna Jastrzembski

36. Bowls: Vibrant Recipes with Endless Possibilities by America's Test Kitchen

"Another flawless entry in the America's Test Kitchen canon, Bowls guides readers of all culinary skill levels in composing one-bowl meals from a variety of cuisines. This cookbook not only provides dozens of amazing recipes for pre-designed bowls, but it also explains how home cooks can make modifications or mix and match elements to suit their tastes. Filled with vibrant veggies and sumptuous sauces, Bowls is the newest addition to my cookbook collection, and already a family favorite. Recipe highlight: Chimichurri Couscous Bowl." —Anna Saum

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