In The Club

In the Club 07/28/21

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed. This week I’m settling into my new digs in Jersey City, NJ. I’ve lived here before, but this feels like a new adventure, probably since it was a few years ago, I’m in a different apartment, and of course I now have this job. I’m definitely in a “new job, new phone, who dis?” mood.

I’m also happy to be near NYC again and able to visit my old haunts from when I was a 20-something-year-old scalawag, who did not traipse around Manhattan at all hours of the night with my friends acting grown *ahem*.

To the Club!

Nibbles and Sips

So stone fruit are very much in season now and I’ve been seeing fresh apricots each time I’ve been in my fav. new grocery store, Lidl. Seeing them there made me realize that I’ve never really had apricots unless they were dried and/or in preserves (or baked into brie). So obviously, I had to get some. I will say, they’re cute little fruit, albeit a little tart. I actually thought they would go perfectly in a tarte (ha!). New York Times Cooking came through with an apricot tart recipe that also has pistachios (which I love). The ingredients list is fairly short. Tip: If you can’t find phyllo dough, try puff pasty.

Now, let’s get into this week’s topic.

BIPOC Mental Health Month

July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. Sadly, I’ve only recently found out about this, but of course bringing awareness to mental health care within communities of color is a yearlong concern.

As with other issues pertaining to race and class, the issues surrounding mental health care and people of color is complex. On the one hand, colonizers have gone to great lengths to eradicate non-European cultural practices and convince us that our beliefs are not rooted in sanity. The many horrors of residency schools that have been surfacing lately are a great example of this attempt at cultural erasure (like this one in Colorado, Minnesota, and Canada). As a result, many of us have tried our best to avoid adding yet another stigma to an already fraught social standing by denying the presence of any mental health issues we may experience.

On the other hand, it has also been well documented how communities of color don’t receive much needed health care, mental health care included. The books I’ve included here bring us one step closer to where we should be in terms of understanding by showing what it’s like to 1) be of color, 2) have a mental illness, and 3) have both of those identities at the same time.

The following books need a trigger warning for: sexual abuse and assault, child abuse, domestic violence

cover of heartberries by Terese Marie Mailhot

Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot

Mailhot tells a poetic and lyrical story of her experiences with child abuse and neglect, being bipolar, and an Indian. I almost felt at times like I was experiencing things as one of her friends or even as her. This is a result of her somewhat stream-of-conscious style of writing and how honest she was about everything. She could be cruel and selfish and contradicted herself at times. She could also be forgiving and vulnerable, and really just seemed to be in search of validation. I felt as though I was finding things out with her, including the huge revelation towards the end. This is a short read, but has so much packed into it.

Book Club Bonus: In the book, Mailhot is almost apologetic for merely existing as a poor child. What are some other seemingly unusual ways poverty influences children? Also, how may conflicting cultural views of the world (for instance, Indigenous views versus European views on things such as property and ownership) dictate one’s sense of self and place in the world when you belong to more than one culture?

cover image of the collected schizophrenias by Esme Wang

The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang

With this collection of essays, Wang chronicles her experiences with having late-stage Lyme disease, PTSD, and schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. We follow Wang as she details her experiences with audible and visual hallucinations, her stay in mental hospitals, how she experienced PTSD following an abusive relationship, and more. There’s even a chapter that she wrote while experiencing a particular kind of psychosis known as Cotard’s delusion, which is a rare condition that causes someone to believe they are dead. She’s very honest about being ashamed of her mental illness when she confesses things like “I’m uncomfortable because I don’t want to be lumped in with the screaming man on the bus, or the woman who claims that she’s the reincarnation of God.”

Book Club Bonus: The criteria for having mental illness has changed through the years. How should we reconcile cultural differences in terms of spirituality, etc. with what is considered mental illness? Who dictates what is considered mental illness and what is not?

cover image of black girl unlimited by echo brown

Black Girl Unlimited by Echo Brown

Echo’s life as a wizard on the East Side is rife with substance abuse, child abuse, depression, racism, classism, and sexism. Despite this, there is magic everywhere. This YA coming-of-age story is a mix of surrealism and metaphor that shows how Black women’s resilience manifests as magic. This can be hard to read, but is so necessary.

Book Club Bonus: How can the idea of Black women being resilient actually be damaging? Also, how does this book explore intergenerational trauma?

Bonus Bonus: All of the books mentioned here focus on women/girls of color dealing with mental health issues. All of the books also have sexual assault. Discuss the intersection of mental health concerns with the prevalence of assault.

Suggestion Section

An article on how Reese Witherspoon’s book club is driving book sales. The impact of book clubs!

In case you hadn’t heard, Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen have a new book.

Here is a list of 2021 releases from Book Riot sure to start some great book club conversations!

Thanks for chilling with me! As always, If you have any comments or just want to connect, send an email to

See you next week,


In The Club

In the Club 07/21/21

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed. Thanks for joining me for my second In the Club newsletter! As I continue to settle into Book Riot, I’m also trading in D.C. for N.Y.C. I love aspects of living in both areas, but the move comes just in time for me to avoid the onslaught of monstrous bugs no one told me the DMV had. To quote Shangela: Halleloo to that!

Let’s get to the club!

Nibbles and Sips

When the heat advisories caution me to stay inside, I listen. The time I do spend outside begs for an icy, refreshing companion. Since it’s summer, I figure that companion should be an alcoholic one. And I don’t know about you, but sometimes reading while just a little turnt makes for a mighty good time.

This watermelon mojito sounds really refreshing and is a combination of two of my summer loves. Making the watermelon purée can be a little annoying, so I recommend making it in batches if you think you’ll want more than a few (you will).

Now, for the books!

Location, Location

This week’s books will be ones where the setting is so fully fleshed out, it becomes its own character.

cover of heaven my home

Heaven, My Home by Attica Locke

The last we hear of nine-year-old Levi King is when he takes a small boat into Caddo Lake– a huge swampy lake that crosses the border from East Texas into Louisiana– and his boat’s motor just died. Texas Ranger Darren Mathews sets out to look for Levi, although it’s the white supremacists the boy is related to that really interest him. This is the second installation of a series following Darren Matthews after he forgoes a career as an attorney to protect and serve an area that wants him to do neither. He battles a faction of the Aryan Brotherhood all while racing against the clock to find a little boy who is being exposed to the harshest of elements. These elements are why I have grouped this book with the others. At times, Caddo Lake felt like its own living, breathing thing whose darkness could swallow you forever with no one the wiser.

Book Club Bonus: This brings about a great opportunity to talk about being a Black policeman or other authority figure. What challenges do officers of color face from their own community as well as from the white community?

cover of force of nature

Force of Nature: A Novel by Jane Harper

Five women go into the Australian wilderness for a work retreat. When the group makes it out of the forest, one of the women– Alice Russell– is missing. It turns out that Alice was also a whistleblower. Detective Aaron Falk investigates what might have happened to Alice and the story is told in the present as well as with well-timed flashbacks. As pieces of each woman’s past are revealed, it becomes clear that they’re not telling the whole truth. The setting– the Giralang Ranges, a fictional place meant to embody many aspects of the Australian bushland– may be what’s either keeping Alice or what has killed her. Harper’s description of the Australian wilderness is both beautiful and frightening. There’s a constant sense of dread as you feel the characters being watched by someone (or some thing) from the densely packed trees. The Ranges also offer danger in the form of intense weather and the threat of dangerous animals.

Book Club Bonus: This novel makes a bit of a statement on what we’re really like if you remove the mocha frappé lattes and what not (no shade). Do you feel this is an accurate portrayal of our inherent nature? Also, do you feel like the ending is believable?

cover of my sister the serial killer

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Okay, so the title is literal. This girl’s sister, Ayoola, is literally a serial killer. Ummm… and she protects her. Yeah, couldn’t be me, but this is darkly funny and describes what life would be like if your sister was a vapid serial killer who called you to clean up her messes. Things become more complicated when Ayooola sets her sights on a doctor her sister fancies. Braithwaite makes the city of Lagos, Nigeria come alive. I felt like I was plopped right in the middle of the hustle and bustle to witness Ayoola’s murderous shenanigans.

Book Club Bonus: There’s a lot to explore here as far as familial loyalty is concerned. Also, how do female beauty standards in a patriarchal society play a role here?

cover of flyaway

Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings

This one is a little different from the others in that it’s not dealing so much with murder as it is with family secrets and horrors. It also takes place in a small town in Queensland, Australia. Bettina, a reserved girl whose mother has become the center of her world, has her life upended when she sees a message written on a white fence in her neighborhood. This message makes her question everything she knows about her family. Jennings’ mix of Australian lore, family dysfunction, and nuanced prose all combine in a setting that unnerves and is just as affected by the magical elements in the story as the characters are.

Book Club Bonus: What does this say about the element of control in families?

Suggestion Section

Billie Jean King’s All In is the L.A. Times Book Club’s August Pick.

Here are some details on Rapper Noname’s Book Club that meets virtually every month.

Royal-Tea 🍵 (get it? Okay, let me stop): Prince Harry is writing an ‘intimate and heartfelt’ memoir

Again, thanks for joining me! If you have any comments or just want to connect, send an email to


In The Club

In the Club 07/14/21

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed.

Firstly, introductions are in order! My name is Erica and I’m new to In the Club and Book Riot overall. I’m super geeked to be a new Associate Editor (okurrt!) as well as the writer for this newsletter. I only hope that I am half as entertaining as Vanessa was. I’m going to warn you right now that, as you may have already noticed, I may make the occasional Cardi B. reference. I apologize in advance.

To the club!!

Nibbles and Sips

I just spent a wonderful birthday week in New Orleans, courtesy of the good sis Pfizer, and thought I’d share one of the many new things I tried while there. Although I got to sample all the heartier dishes, like étouffée, gumbo, and jambalaya, I figured I’d share something a little more low-key. If you’re up for it, please try these wonderful Creole pralines. Yes, they’re full of sugar, but I think we all deserve a treat for dealing with this heat!

New Orleans was as musical as it’s rumored to be, and it’s got me in a jazzy, nostalgic mood. I’d like to keep the N’awlins vibes going just a while longer as I discuss books set in the idyllic Jazz Age. Now let’s get to the books!

The Other 20s

gods of jade and shadow

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

I love mythology! Couple that with an intriguing setting like Mexico City in the 20s, and I’m good to go. I essentially finished this one in a day and a half with a combination of the physical copy as well as the audiobook (which I highly recommend!).

Here, we follow Casiopea Tun as she carries out her life as little more than a servant in her grandfather’s house. She discovers a curious box in his room and opens it, accidentally freeing the Mayan God of Death, Hun-Kamé. The romance that manifests during the journey they take to return Hun-Kamé to his rightful throne is juxtaposed against vivid descriptions of the Mayan underworld and skirmishes with those that oppose his return.

Book Club Bonus: There’s a good opportunity here to discuss how Mayan mythology compares with other religions, mythology, and lore. What similarities are there? What differences? Also, how do colorism and colonialism play a role in the social hierarchy here? Why did Casiopea have the status she did in her grandfather’s house?

cover of dead dead girls

Dead Dead Girls by Nekesa Afia

Louise Lloyd is a young, queer Black woman living in Harlem in the 1920s. As a teenager, someone tried to violently kidnap her. Although she got away, this ever-present threat of violence finds her again as Black girls are murdered in her neighborhood. After being arrested following an episode of police brutality, she’s given the option to help solve the murders in exchange for her freedom. This is maybe what the show Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries would be with the addition of 20s-era racism+sexism. It’s also the first in a series called the Harlem Renaissance Mysteries, so there’s more to look forward to.

Book Club Bonus: Discuss the prevalence of violence in women’s lives, and the compounding effect of otherness (being queer, a person of color, and/or disabled). What may be some of the lasting effects of these kind of experiences? Also, how did you like the structure of the mystery (how the killer was revealed) compared to other murder mysteries?

zora Neale hurston and langston hughes drawn

Zora and Langston by Yuval Taylor

This gives a rare glimpse into Zora Neale Hurston’s and Langston Hughes’ intense friendship that shaped the Harlem Renaissance. Their friendship was such that they wrote intimate letters to each other, traveled the rural South in Hurston’s car collecting Black lore (that would later be used in plays and books like Barracoon), and collaborated on creative projects (Mulebone). Their intimacy also meant they shared a patron in the form of a controlling white woman named Charlotte Osgood Mason, who went by “Godmother.” Despite such intimacy, their friendship would be forever damaged in the early 30s.

Book Club Bonus: Discuss what the cost of patronage was as a Black artist. What were the different stances on respectability and how did Zora and Langston fit within them? Why did Zora die in obscurity while Langston remained a well respected literary figure?

Suggestion Section

Luckily for us, Obama has shared his summer reading list, so you can have even more things to add.

Here’s yet another super handy link to the tea 🍵 on other book clubs from all over the interwebs.

And, as always, there are also our other newsletters to keep you well-read.

Thanks for staying a while! If you have any comments or just want to connect, send an email to

In The Club

In the Club 07/07/21

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed. If you will, please picture me singing those first dulcet notes of Adele’s Skyfall like a loser because this, indeed, is the end. After just shy of three years bringing you nibbles, sips, and tips for book club, this is my final edition of In the Club.

The good news is that I’m now Book Riot’s Managing Editor (wut wut!)! I’ll still be around doing all the Book Riot things, it’s just time to pass the club torch to someone new. So allow me to introduce our new Associate Editor Erica Ezeifedi! She’ll be taking over this newsletter as of next week. Give her a warm club welcome!

For my final newsletter, I’m hitting you with the club’s greatest hits: random club memories from the last three years that even I have looked back on and went, “how do you have friends?” Then I’ll drop a few club lessons before I bid you adieu.

To the club!!

Nibbles and Sips

Listen, I can’t write my final newsletter and not suggest a toast. Next time you gather for book club, grab some bubbly. Add a little juice for a brunchy mimosa (tangerine has been a recent fave for me), or maybe a little St. Germaine for that sweet, delicate floral flavor. Raise your glass to me—just kidding! Raise your glass to yourselves—to good company, good books, and for just making it through the last couple of years. As for me, I will indeed raise a glass to endings, new beginnings, and the wonderful unifying power of the written word. Salud!

A Look Back at Three Years In the Club

image of two people reading at a wooden table

My Very First Newsletter

First things first — I’m not Jenn! My name is Vanessa and I will be taking over this here newsletter. I’ve been writing for Book Riot for just shy of a year and am super jazzed to be the new bouncer of this club. Get it? Because clubs have bouncers. No? I’m sorry, I’ll stop.

From my very first newsletter back in August 2018

The First of Many Cheesy Song Remixes

This feels like the right time to confess that every time I type the words “in the club,” I most definitely start rapping my very own remix of what was once a college party anthem:

You can find me in the club… of books so there’s no snubs
Look buddy I got the blurbs if you’re into bookish plugs
I’m into reading ARCs from the big and the indie pubs…

What’s that? I’m a loser? Right. Let’s get back to bookish things.

From my second newsletter in April 2018, after which I was shockingly not canned.

P is for Poison

… I really did ask myself, “Would it be weird if I suggested concocting poisons from A is for Arsenic as a book club activity?” I mean, it’s really just chemistry. Yay science! Since I’m really not trying to go down for a mass poisoning though, I do have an alternate suggestion.

From June 2019’s “Please Don’t Get Me Arrested” newsletter

Has Anyone Checked on Andrew Keegan?

…Ah, the film that had all the girls thinking they could drop it low to Biggie’s “Hypnotize” just because Julia Stiles tried it. Shade aside, I love this movie and instantly start singing “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” when I think of it. I invite you to join me in spending a little time with Willy Shakespeare, then with Heath Ledger. Also, when’s the last time anyone checked on Andrew Keegan? Is he okay? Does he have snacks? Is he living comfortably off that Tiger Beat money?

From April 2020, book + adaptation pairings
still frame of Andrew Keegan and Larisa Oleynik from movie 10 Things I Hate About You
“Do you know who I am? I have TIGER BEAT money!” – a thing Andrew Keegan probably said

That Poor, Poor Family

…After a fire drill and a miscommunication result in a rescue gone viral, the two embark on a fakelationship with some very steamy sexy time scenes. In case you’ve forgotten, I learned this while audiobooking in my car as Dani went on about her throbbing clitoris right as I pulled up next to a family in a Subaru at a stoplight.

From November 2020’s “pick a mood and I’ll give you a book to read” newsletter. I still think about that Subaru.

That Time I Called a Character Hottie McGuapo

… To prove that he’s a brujo, he performs the sacred coming-of-age ritual wherein brujx come into their powers; with the help of his BFF cousin, he uses his powers to summon the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free. Pero….. the ghost he summons isn’t his cousin. His name is Julian, he refuses to leave, and he’s what I’ve affectingly dubbed a Hottie McGuapo. The book is inspired by lots of different Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) rituals and is full of Spanish much to my heart’s delight. It’s a sweet, funny and romantic read with great conversation potential.

From December 2020, Best Book Club Books of 2020

What the Club Life Taught Me

Finally, I leave you with lessons I’ve learned from writing this newsletter.

  • Book clubs can be big and boisterous or a one-person affair. Whether you’re gathering with a large group or reading independently at a silent book club, it all counts.
  • People want to be heard, or at least know that they could be. One of the most important aspects of book club is to make sure it isn’t just one or two people dominating the conversation. Everyone should feel like they can contribute, or like they could at any given time. Sometimes it takes a minute for some folks to speak up, but they should feel empowered to do so.
  • Life Happens. So you can’t make this month’s meeting, or maybe the whole things gets postponed. Maybe it’s still on but you didn’t finish the book. It’s all fine! Book club should be a thing that adds to your life, not one detracts from it or gives you feelings of guilt. Jump in and out as you see fit, meet irregularly, go to the meeting for discussion even if you haven’t read the book.
  • Book club is a great place to learn. We’re all on different paths on our journey to be our best selves, and while I certainly don’t think books alone are going to save the world, they can be a fruitful start. I’ve suggested a lot of uncomfortable topics in the last three years and I’ve received a ton of great feedback about the discussions these topics have encouraged. I hope you’ll always read for joy, but that you’ll also take the time to read to learn, grow, and challenge the status quo.

Suggestion Section

This Bronx-based book club shows how community can help anyone build wealth at any age.

A review of Oprah’s latest book club pick, The Sweetness of Water

BuzzFeed’s July book club pick asks: what would you do if your best friend was all, “Hey, so, I’m starting a cult!”?

Thanks for hanging with me today! Shoot me an email at with your burning book club questions or find me on Twitter and the gram @buenosdiazsd. Sign up for the Audiobooks newsletter and catch me once a month on the All the Books podcast.

Stay bad & bookish, my friends. 

In The Club

In the Club 06/30/21

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed. Two more newsletters to go together, people of the club! Today I’m going to hit you with some of my favorite book club picks of the year so far. The truth is I could have added another 10 titles from the list of books I have read this year, and another 10 from my TBR. But I’m not trying to go out with a 4,000 word newsletter, you know?

To the club!!

Nibbles and Sips, and Sometimes Tips

I came back to Portland just in time to miss the epic heatwave that smashed temperature records in the Pacific Northwest three days in a row. Bruuuuuh 116 degrees? No quiero! I’ve experienced that ish before and have absolutely no desire to do so again. Climate change!!!!

Because super hot temps are popping up all over the place, I thought today I’d share this thread all of helpful tips for staying cool when you don’t have AC. I used to do A LOT of these when I lived in inland San Diego and my brother unknowingly bought a house with no AC. I hope these will come in handy in helping you beat the heat!

Best of the Club, So Far

cover image of Women and Other Monsters: Building a New Mythology by Jess Zimmerman

Women and Other Monsters: Building a New Mythology by Jess Zimmerman

I love this book so much (I know, I know: Vanessa likes a book about mythology. Shocking!). This cultural analysis dedicates one chapter to each of 11 mythological female monsters to illustrate how women have been labeled as monstrous throughout history. She examines the lore surrounding creatures like Scylla, Medusa, and the Sphinx to show how women’s anger, sexuality, and even ugliness have been used to turn us into villains. You’ll find yourself looking at these “monsters” in whole new light.

Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark

What do the words “magical steampunk Egypt,” matcha, floral cocktails, and cheese have in common? Putting any one of those on a string is easy bait to lure me. In alternative Cairo in 1912, djinn and humans exist alongside one another. Special Investigator Fatma el Sha-arawi is the youngest woman working for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities and she’s just been tasked with investigating the killing of a brotherhood dedicated to a famed Sudanese mystic. That man, known as al-Jahiz, is said to have torn a hole in the veil between the magical and mundane worlds decades ago before disappearing, and the man claiming responsibility for the killings claims to be al-Jahiz returned. Together with her new partner and her mysterious lover, Fatma sets out to solve the case and uncover the truth about this self-professed prophet.

cover image of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw

The collection of nine stories explores “the raw and tender places where Black women and girls dare to follow their desires and pursue a momentary reprieve from being good.” It does it so perfectly, painfully, and poignantly, the kind of read you need to stop and savor. My favorite stories include one about two 40-year-old lifelong friends whose relationship turned sexual years ago; when the narrator drops suggest to her friend that they could be more than occasional lovers, the friend stills dream of life as a “good Christian woman” and recoils in horrified disgust. Another favorite is one about two women who fled their hometown in the South to live freely and safely as a same-sex couple. But one of the women grapples with the concept of home, of belonging, of community, of longing for people and places that made you but may no longer serve you (this passage KILLED ME). The collection is a slim one but packs such a punch. The stories are so vulnerable and revelatory. It almost feels like an invasion of privacy to witness this beautiful if sometimes heart-breaking intimacy, these slices of life that often go unseen.

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine is a biracial, unenrolled tribal member with dreams of studying medicine. She defers enrollment to stay local and care for her mother and grandmother, then witnesses the murder of her best friend. When the killing is followed by a strings of other suspicious deaths, the murders appear to be linked to a new lethal cocktail of meth wreaking havoc on the res. Daunis gets pulled into an undercover investigation into the source of the meth, one that brings her into close contact with a new boy in town who might be hiding something about himself. She also pursues her own secret investigation, using her knowledge of chemistry and Ojibwe traditional medicine to uncover buried secrets in her community. 

cover image of The Bombay Prince by Sujata Massey

The Bombay Prince by Sujata Massey

All of the books in the Perveen Mistry series are fun, smart historical mysteries with a feminist message, but this one also has something to say about colonial rule. In 1920s Bombay, Perveen Mistry is India’s first female lawyer. The Bombay Prince opens in November 1921 as the Prince of Wales is getting ready to come to India on a four month tour. There’s major unrest in India and a lot of tension surrounding the visit; people are getting tired of British rule and they’re pushing back against it. When a young Parsi student falls from a second story window just as the Prince Edward’s grand procession is passing by her college, the death rattles Perveen. That very young woman had come to her for a legal consultation just days before her death, asked about the legality of skipping classes on the day Edward would be visiting Bombay. Plagued with guilt and a sneaking suspicion that this death wasn’t accidental, Perveen promises to get justice for the woman. Can Perveen help a suffering family when her own is in danger, and in the middle of so much turmoil?

Suggestion Section

Good Morning America announces its July Book Club

This Bushwick-based book club writes original songs for every book they read. This is amazing, and also feels like a challenge…. *begins scheming in Spanish*

Thanks for hanging with me today! Shoot me an email at with your burning book club questions or find me on Twitter and the gram @buenosdiazsd. Sign up for the Audiobooks newsletter and catch me once a month on the All the Books podcast.

Stay bad & bookish, my friends. 

In The Club

In the Club 06/23/21

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed.I have some news for you, people of the club: the July 7th edition of In the Club will be my final one! It’s been almost three years since I made my club debut and it’s been a blast getting to spend time in your inbox weekly. Fret not, I’m not leaving Book Riot so I’ll still be around. More info for you soon as to your new Club host; for now, let’s enjoy the time we have together.

To the club!!

Nibbles and Sips

As the weather gets warmer, I start to look for meals that involve as little time near an oven or sweating over a hot stove as I can. The instant pot comes in clutch here, but sometimes all I want is a no-cook or low-cook salad.

Thing is, I very often find lettuce so boring! While I do love a tender butter lettuce, or even romaine in a delicious Cobb, I’m always looking for lettuce-less salads that are hearty, filling, and bursting with flavor. I add chicken to this salad my family used to make a lot when I was a kid and I’m obsessed! Bust this one out at book club meetings—plus this strawberry cucumber margarita I’m throwing in as a bonus—when you need to beat the heat.

Avocado Cucumber Salad: combine all of the ingredients below in a large bowl. The olive oil and seasoning should be to your taste. If you can, def add that bouillon powder, but go easy on it! It adds a nice salty bite, but a little goes a very long way.

  • 1 large cucumber, 1-2 Roma tomatoes, and 1-2 avocados, all diced (I like a decent sized chunk)
  • Half of a red onion, thinly sliced
  • Juice of 1-2 lemons depending on how citrusy you like things. Me? I have no respect for my tooth enamel.
  • 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Seasonings: salt, lemon pepper (yes, lemon pepper specifically), chicken bouillon powder
  • Parsley or spinach, finely chopped (I sneak spinach into my food this way for some extra nutrition)

Ouch, My Brain

I was going to call this week’s theme “What the F*ck” Books, and that still holds! I recently read the first book in this week’s roundup and it made my brain hurt a little in a wonderful way. That got me thinking about some of the other books that have made me go, “Huh.” Put your thinking caps on, friends.

cover image of Slipping by by Mohamed Kheir, translated by Robin Moger

Slipping by Mohamed Kheir, translated by Robin Moger

The story takes place in Cairo and nearby Egyptian towns during the Arab Spring. Struggling journalist and magazine writer Seif is grief-stricken after his girlfriend, Alya is killed during a protest. He been assigned to accompany a former exile on excursions to unfamiliar places, a man who possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of Egypt’s obscure, magical places. Together they embark on a very surreal journey to see the elusive corners of the world the Arab Spring left behind: a place where giant corpse flowers fall from the sky, another where it’s said you can walk on the water of the Nile. The further they go and the more stories Bahr tells, the more reality starts to blur for Seif as memories of past trauma begin to surface.

Book Club Bonus: The very structure of the book is a huge discussion point; Bahr’s anecdotes are woven into the story in alternating chapters, which if you don’t know right away may leave you hella confused. But keep going: you’ll see how the stories are linked as you get further in. Discuss, also, the lasting effects of trauma and how it alters our perceptions of reality.

cover image of The Third Hotel by Laura van den Berg

The Third Hotel by Lara van den Berg

A woman travels to Havana, Cuba to attend a Latin film festival, one her husband, a horror scholar, was supposed to attend. Then she sees him standing outside a museum in a white linen suit she’s never seen before, but that can’t be–because he’s super dead. She trails him throughout the crowded city, always seemingly a few steps behind him, as the line between delusion and reality is distorted further and further. Through flashbacks to her childhood in Florida and moments in her marriage, the truth of her role in her husband’s death and reappearance is revealed. I recommended this book a lot as a bookseller, and my shelf talker for the title just said, “What the f*ck did I just read?”

Book Club Bonus: Book Riot Editor Kelly Jensen is always telling readers that horror is not a genre, but a feeling. This is the kind of book that makes that statement make sense for me. There’s no gore or ghosts or big giant scares of the kind many might associate with horror, but there’s a sense of dread and unease that just sort of looms on the page from beginning to end. The fog of grief is almost a character all on its own. Discuss!

cover image of The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander

The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander

This alternate history novelette was recommended to me back in my bookseller days by a customer. I looked it up and saw it described as Radium Girls but with sentient elephants and I thought, “Sure, let’s do this!” In the early 1900s, a group of female factory workers in Newark, New Jersey slowly died of radiation poisoning. Around that same time, Topsy the elephant was deliberately put to death by electricity in Coney Island. Both of these things are true. In the book, elephants have inherited the earth and a mama elephant is telling her calf a lil story. How did we get here? You’ll have to read to find out.

Book Club Bonus: There’s a ton of symbolism in the use of an elephant as a narrator, an animal knows for its memory. Can we ever really forget the wrongs that have been done to us, especially if those wrongs weren’t mere slights but an attempt to eradicate? There’s also a lot of commentary here on our need to reckon with the long term effects of nuclear waste.

Suggestion Section

at The Washington Post: KidsPost Summer Book Club: ‘Clues to the Universe’

BuzzFeed announces their July book club pick (how is July around the corner already?!!)

This brief announcement about a Martha’s Vineyard book club got me thinking: why don’t I see more walk & talk book clubs!? We so often think of book club as “gather round and sit in a circle” situation with possible food & drink, but taking book club for a stroll seems like an excellent idea!

Publishers Weekly shares a list of book club picks for June

Thanks for hanging with me today! Shoot me an email at with your burning book club questions or find me on Twitter and the gram @buenosdiazsd. Sign up for the Audiobooks newsletter and catch me once a month on the All the Books podcast.

Stay bad & bookish, my friends. 

In The Club

In the Club 06/16/21

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed. I’m so excited because I’m headed down to San Diego for a couple of weeks to see my family, and you know what that means: snuggles with my nephew and niece! Translation: I am going to get kicked in the face by a toddler who loves to wrestle and feel my arms go numb from holding a little chonk of an almost-three-month-old. Oh, and tacos. TODOS LOS TACOS. It’s also going to be 90 degrees so…. let me just start applying the sunscreen now.

To the club!!

Nibbles and Sips

You all know I’m the most basic when it comes to my love of brunch, and I own that basic status because brunch is awesome. I’ve been making these cheesy eggs recently (I’ve seen them referred to as “keto friendly breakfast tacos” but I couldn’t care less about the keto part). In a small nonstick saucepan over medium-low heat, add a layer of cheese (I fill the whole saucepan, so I have a circle of cheese) and then crack one or two eggs on top of that. Place a lid on the saucepan and let the eggs cook to your desired consistency–I like a runny yolk, but you could flip and cook on the other side for a bit if you want the eggs hard over. Season with a tiny bit of salt and other spices of your choice, then slide that whole concoction onto a plate. I top mine with crushed red pepper flakes, some sliced avocado, and a little bit of Cholula or fresh green salsa, then fold it up and eat it like a taco. The bottom layer should be crisp, golden, just-shy-of-burnt cheese cooked just to your liking. So easy, so cheesy, so delish.

In Celebration of Juneteenth

Juneteenth, a portmanteau of “June” and “nineteenth,” marks the day in 1865 when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to take control of the state and declare the abolition of slavery. Sadly, I’ve found that A TON of white folks and non-Black POCs still don’t know about about Juneteenth and its historical significance (I didn’t learn about it until after college, yikes). Since June 19th is right around the corner, I thought I’d suggest reads that dive into the history of Juneteenth and the legacy of slavery.

A note on my picks: this time last year, copies of titles like How to be an Anti Racist and White Fragility topped all the anti-racist reading lists and flew off the shelves. Part of me wanted to see those sales as hope for the future, but another part of me feared those purchases were just displays of performative allyship. Perhaps the truth is somewhere in the middle. I say all that to say that those books are certainly worth reading in one’s anti-racist journey. Here though, I’ve tried to select ones that really dive into the history of slavery and its aftermath, ones I didn’t see making the rounds with as much frequency and/or ones that are newer.

My Book Club Bonus is the same for all three of these titles. A hard lesson 2020 taught me is that I didn’t have enough knowledge in my toolkit for combatting that good ol’ “slavery was forever ago, why can’t you just get over it” refrain and all its hateful variants. I knew that slavery shaped this country and does till this day, I knew that systemic racism wasn’t (and isn’t) an accident. But I made a goal for myself to be able to cite examples of these truths with more specificity (events, policies, laws, trends, etc). So as you read these books, make note of some of these specifics for yourself and draw connections to the racial disparity we still see today.

cover image of Stony the Road by Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow by Henry Louis Gates Jr.

The title of this book is a reference to “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” a song still widely known as the “Negro national anthem.” It is a living history of the Reconstruction era, the period between the abolition of slavery at the end of the Civil War and the rise of Jim Crow. This isn’t your average history, though; Gates dissects and catalogues the visual culture of the era—postcards, photographs, newspaper cartoons, political broadsides, theater posters, playing cards, children’s books, and more—to paint a vivid portrait of white supremacy and its virulent backlash to the end of slavery.

cover image of How the World is Passed by Clint Smith

How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America by Clint Smith

I am a huge, huge fan of writer and poet Clint Smith’s wonderful work in The Atlantic. This is his debut work of nonfiction, a “deeply researched and transporting exploration of the legacy of slavery and its imprint on centuries of American history.” He starts with his hometown of New Orleans and takes readers on a tour of moments and landmarks that tell an intergenerational story of how slavery was central in shaping this nation from the ground up. Yeah, slavery ended in theory; but it was’t that long ago at all and other racist policies have just replaced it to disenfranchise Black Americans at every turn.

cover image of On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed

On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed

Pulitzer Prize–winning historian and Texas native Annette Gordon-Reed combines American history, family chronicles, and memoir to create a a historian’s view of the long road to Juneteenth, from its origins in Texas and the enormous hardships that African Americans have endured (and continue to endure) in the aftermath. Gordon-Reed, who is herself the descendant of enslaved people brought to Texas as early as the 1820s, “shows how, from the earliest presence of Black people in Texas to the day in Galveston on June 19, 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger announced the end of legalized slavery in the state, African-Americans played an integral role in the Texas story.”

Suggestion Section

Oprah selects Emancipation-era novel The Sweetness of Water as her next book club pick

from the L.A. Times book Club Newsletter: How an ER doctor found her purpose

over at Book Riot: take book club on an armchair travel expedition to the Emerald Isle and brush up on its classics – lots of book club discussion in these titles!

This piece isn’t about a specific book, but has excellent potential for discussion in any book club, especially if not everyone enjoyed the read: Books Don’t Have to Explain Themselves To You

Thanks for hanging with me today! Shoot me an email at with your burning book club questions or find me on Twitter and the gram @buenosdiazsd. Sign up for the Audiobooks newsletter and catch me once a month on the All the Books podcast.

Stay bad & bookish, my friends. 

In The Club

In the Club 6/9/21

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed. The rain came back to Portland, but a little moisture won’t bring me down! I’m making actual plans to do fun things this summer—keeping things safe, wearing a mask etc—but hot damn, it feels so good to have stuff to look forward to. Thanks, Moderna!

So listen. I’m going to go look up kayaking equipment. You go and and read about some club-tastic books.

To the club!!

Nibbles and Sips

Am I plugging a Half Baked Harvest recipe for the umpteenth time? Yes I am, but hear me out. I had serious reservations when my friend said she was bringing a “breakfast salad” to the brunch potluck this weekend, but those worries were quickly put to bed from my very first bite into these dreamy Turkish eggs: wilted greens, avocado, and whipped feta crowned with a fried egg. The runny yoke adds a silky richness while the bright dressing and peppery bite of the greens balance out the salty cloud of feta. It’s just divine, I tell you. Divine! Book club must do brunch, and when you do, make this dish.

Happy Pride!

It’s the second week of Pride and a wonderful time to bring some queer reads into book club. Of course, we do that year round: but here are three to pick up in celebration!

Cover for The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo

The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo

Jordan Baker is as set up to win as can be in 1920s America: she has money, education, social clout, even a mean golf handicap. She’s also a queer Vietnamese adoptee who gets treated like an exotic pet by her peers and finds many doors aren’t open to her. Her world isn’t just money and parties though; it’s also full of ghosts, infernal pacts and dazzling illusions. This Gatsby reimagining is full of magic, mystery, and glittering excess—feels perfect not only for Pride, but for delicious summer reading.

cover image of All My Mother's Lovers by Ilana Masad

All My Mother’s Lovers by Ilana Masad

A queer 20-something returns to her hometown after her homophobic mother dies in a tragic car accident. When she finds five letters to five men in her mother’s will—none of whom is her father—she skips the shiva and goes on a mission to deliver each letter in person. On a road trip that takes her over miles of California highways, she discovers how little she really knew about her mother’s life. She’s also forced to confront her own fears as she navigates a new relationship.

cover of with teeth by kristen arnett

With Teeth by Kristin Arnett

Sammie Lucas works from home in the close quarters of the Florida house she shares with her absent wife Monika where she keeps one eye on her son Samson at all times. He’s a sullen unknowable boy who grows from feral toddler to surly teenager, resisting Sammie’s every attempt at bonding. When Samson’s behavior goes from quiet hostility to physical aggression, their picture-perfect queer family begins to unravel. Sammie is forced to confront her role in the mess—and the chance it’ll never be clean again.

Bonus: I can’t mention Kristin Arnett and not remind everyone her first book Mostly Dead Things. Keywords: queerness, grief, lewd taxidermy.

Suggestion Section

The Book Club of My Dreams Was at the Library All Along (seriously, libraries rock)

Okay, so: the “porch pirate snatches books” part of the headline made me cackle. But the part where books intended for a prison book club were stolen off someone’s porch is terrible. The program relies on donations; if you can, consider dropping a few bucks here.

Thanks for hanging with me today! Shoot me an email at with your burning book club questions or find me on Twitter and the gram @buenosdiazsd. Sign up for the Audiobooks newsletter and catch me once a month on the All the Books podcast.

Stay bad & bookish, my friends. 

In The Club

In the Club 06/02/21

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed. I’m coming fresh off a very restful Memorial Day weekend full of nature, cocktails, accidental naps, and reading. I can’t believe it’s already June! In light of this summertime feeling, we’re talking road trip novels today.

To the club!!

Nibbles and Sips

I’ve been on a serious meatball kick lately—they’re so easy to toss together and one batch goes a long way. These sticky Asian meatballs look much fancier than they really are and taste so wonderful over some jasmine rice topped with scallions and sesame seeds. If you don’t mind turning the ol’ oven on as temperatures get a little toasty (for some), make these for the club as a main or even a starter/finger food.

Hop In, Book Nerds

cover image of The Road Trip by Beth O'Leary

The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary

I just finished this chaotic, funny, and heartwarming road trip romance in a day and can’t stop raving about it! Four years ago, Addie and Dylan spent the summer falling in love under the Provence sun. He was a wealthy Oxford student and she a wild-child working as a caretaker at their friend Cherry’s enormous villa, and they were a perfect match…until they weren’t. Now their lives have collided most comically: while on their way to Cherry’s wedding, Dylan and Addie’s cars crash at the start of the journey. With one car wrecked and time a’ticking, Addie and her sister Deb find themselves agreeing—albeit begrudgingly—to drive Dylan and his best friend Marcus to the rural Scotland wedding. Things so super smoothly…not! (tw: sexual assault, non-graphic)

Book Club Bonus: How do you cut ties with a relationship that perhaps no longer serves you, even if doing so would crush the other person? What is there are other factors to consider: age? mental illness? Do you stick around out of obligation, or loyalty? Also: would you have forgiven Marcus? Why or why not? DISCUSS (I have feelings).

cover image of lost children archive by Valeria Luiselli

Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli

A nameless mother and father set out on a cross-country trip from New York City to Arizona in the heat of summer. They’re both documentarians; he’s recording sounds at Apacheria, the place the Apaches once called home, and she hopes to return to New York after the journey is complete to finish up a project involving missing child refugees. The road trip brings the couple and their two young children face to face with the immigration crisis at the southwestern border in an intimate, low-key hilarious, and urgent examination of marriage and parenthood.

Book Club Bonus: Who immediately comes to mind when you read “lost children” in the book title? What are the sources of conflict between the husband and wife? And why do the characters go mostly unnamed? Discuss the role of a documentarian and how it serves to further the message of the book.

cover image of The Wangs vs. The World by yJade Chang

The Wangs vs. The World by Jade Chang

Charles Wang is a lovable business man with a giant cosmetics empire to his name, until the financial crisis takes everything from him. Broke and out of options, he pulls his kids—aspiring comedian Andrew and fashionista Grace—from the schools he can no longer afford in the one family car that hasn’t been repossessed. Together with their wealth-addicted stepmom Barbra, they embark on one helluva road trip from Bel Air to upstate New York where the Wangs will hide away in their eldest daughter’s home before their next move. I’ve had this on my TBR forever and reading the premise again just now gave me major Schitts Creek vibes mixed with some Little Miss Sunshine.

Book Club Bonus: How does this story differ from other immigrant stories you may have read? How is it also the same?

Suggestion Section

June book club picks from Today with Jenna Bush Hager and Good Morning America—and can I just say that I am VERY excited about both of these reads!

I like this suggestion: start a family book club this summer.

Thanks for hanging with me today! Shoot me an email at with your burning book club questions or find me on Twitter and the gram @buenosdiazsd. Sign up for the Audiobooks newsletter and catch me once a month on the All the Books podcast.

Stay bad & bookish, my friends. 

In The Club

In the Club 05/26/21

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed. We’re back to rainy weather in PDX, which I’m not altogether mad at because it’s a fair price to pay for all this lovely greenery. I’ve used the rain as an excuse to power through some books lately, and just noticed they fit into an accidental theme. More on that below. Take care of yourselves and one another, book friends!

To the club!!

Nibbles and Sips

I had this fantastic prickly pear collins at my first happy hour in a loooong time (meaning one I had at an establishment and not just from my couch) and now I want to recreate it at home! The tart sweetness of the prickly pear with that floral note from the St. Germaine pairs so well with a little bit of gin. I can’t find the exact recipe, but this one here comes close. Now I just need to find me a prickly pear and get to experimenting. Try it out with your book club and let me know how it goes!

History, Mystery

Today’s club theme is historical mysteries with big cultural critiques baked in, perfect for reading slumps and juicy book club convos alike. Take a trip to 1900s Cairo, 1400s Korea, and 1860s Philadelphia for some mystery, some magic, and a lot of good talk.

Cover of A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark

Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark

Welcome to The Dead Djinn universe, a fantastic series in an alternative, steampunk Cairo in 1912 where djinn and humans exist alongside one another. Special Investigator Fatma el Sha-arawi is the youngest woman working for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities and she’s just been tasked with investigating the killing of an entire brotherhood. That brotherhood was dedicated to al-Jahiz, the famed Sudanese mystic who tore a hole in the veil between the magical and mundane worlds decades ago before disappearing, and the man claiming responsibility for the killings claims to be al-Jahiz returned. Together with her new partner—a partner she didn’t ask for and isn’t sure she wants—and her lover, Fatma sets out to solve the case and uncover the truth about this self-professed prophet.

Book Club Bonus: Holy shiitake mushrooms, friends. This book is one of the most searing indictments of colonialism I have read in awhile. Discuss the symbolism of magic and the djinn as they correlate to discussions about white supremacy.

cover image of The Forest of Stolen Girls

The Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur

In this suspenseful, atmospheric mystery set in Joseon, Korea, Min Hwani and her sister disappeared as children. They were later found unconscious in a nearby forest next to what looked like a grizzly murder scene, but their family hasn’t been the same ever since. Years later in the mid 1400s, their detective father learns that 13 other girls have disappeared in that same forest and travels to their hometown on the island of Jeju—and now he’s gone missing too. Min Hwani sets out find her father and get to the bottom of these mysterious disappearances, but the secrets she unburies suggest the answer could lie within her own buried memories.

Book Club Bonus: There is a good convo to be had here on the constraints of filial piety. Also discuss women’s lack of bodily agency at the time and the dangerous mix that is obsessive protection and misogyny.

cover image of The Conductors by Nicole Glover

The Conductors by Nicole Glover

Constellation magic on the Underground Railroad! In this speculative historical fantasy set after the end of the Civil War, Hetty Rhodes is a former conductor on the Underground Railroad who used both wits and magic to shepherd dozens of people north to safety. She and her husband Benjy have settled in Philadelphia where they dedicate themselves to solving murders and mysteries that white authorities won’t investigate. When Hetty and Benjy find one of their own slain in an alley, they bury the body, head off in search of answers, and soon find that the secrets and lives of Philadelphia’s Black elite leave them with more questions instead. To solve this mystery, they’ll need to confront some ugly truths, including ones about their friends—and each other. This is the first in a series!

Book Club Bonus: Discuss the importance of community in this book, and also in communities of color in present day and throughout history. Examine the idea of community as protection, as survival, as care, as companionship, and as combatting the injustice of a system that was never meant to serve you.

Suggestion Section

June book club picks from Vox and BuzzFeed

From the L.A. Times Book Club newsletter: a conversation with Interior Chinatown author Charles Yu.

This headline made me chuckle: Reading To Your Baby During Pregnancy Is Worth The Book Club With Your Belly Button

Thanks for hanging with me today! Shoot me an email at with your burning book club questions or find me on Twitter and the gram @buenosdiazsd. Sign up for the Audiobooks newsletter and catch me once a month on the All the Books podcast.

Stay bad & bookish, my friends.