Porter Square Books Staff Picks: April 2022

Porter Square Books: Boston Edition, located on the first floor of GrubStreet's Center for Creative Writing, is open and ready to fulfill all of your book-browsing desires! Staff Picks are 20% off, so you can add to your TBR pile guilt-free. Whether you want to read about something deeply weird, grief & the power of family, or the systemic issues of the American healthcare system, PSB has a pick for you. We're located on the southeast side of 50 Liberty, facing the Marina and the ICA. Come visit!


Canopy by Linda Gregerson

If you're only going to read one book for National Poetry Month, you can't go wrong with this one. Linda Gregerson covers a variety of topics but approaches them all with the type of beautiful verse that had me rereading poems over and over again. — Katherine

Ablaze with Color by Jeanne Walker Harvey

Ablaze with Color tells the story of Alma Thomas, a pioneer of the art world and the first Black woman to have art displayed in the White House. The beautiful, brightly colored illustrations along with the engaging storytelling makes this the perfect book for young artists. — Katherine

Lives of the Monster Dogs by Kirsten Bakis

Have you ever finished reading a book and thought to yourself, "God damn, that is exactly the book I want to write"? This is that book for me. Harsh, beautiful, sad, and deeply, deeply weird, Lives of the Monster Dogs follows each question to its brutal end. — Piera

Messy Roots by Laura Gao

This graphic memoir about Laura Gao's experience as a queer immigrant from Wuhan to Texas is great — funny, infuriating, and heartwrenching in turns, with a really smart and compelling approach to rendering bilingual conversation. Throw in Laura Gao and Weiwei Xu's expressive lines, gorgeous palettes, and energetic composition, and you've got a really lovely comic! — Piera

Jade City by Fonda Lee

With her proclaimed Green Bone Saga, Fonda Lee has cemented herself as one of the great fantasy voices of our time. I picked this book up after hearing numerous people sing its praises, and after finishing it, I'm delighted to say that I have joined the chorus. In Janloon, jade is power—literally. To possess jade is to have access to magical power. The Kaul family has used it for centuries to defend their island from foreign invasion. Now that the island is at peace, this generation of Kauls are surprised when tradition is thrown out the window, war between the Green Bone Clans thrown in its place. This book is perfect for fans of N.K. Jemisin's The Fifth Season and R.F. Kuang's The Poppy War. — Engel

Have You Ever Seen a Flower by Shawn Harris

Sean Harris makes a stunning authorial debut with Have You Ever Seen a Flower? This picture book explores what it means to be connected to the earth and is illustrated in a soft, homey, worn colored pencil style that is juxtaposed brilliantly with its neon coloring. A perfect reminder of the opportunity that spring brings to lay down in the grass and relish in the beauty of our world, this book is a great read for anyone looking to shed the cold and bring on the season of sunshine and flowers! — Cindy

Time is a Mother by Ocean Vuong

Much like Ocean Vuong's past work, Time is a Mother grapples with grief, remembrance, the power of family, the persistence of hope in the act of surviving. His first work since his mother's passing, this collection builds upon his past work, carving itself into something existential, stunning, and horrendously poignant in the most beautiful way. Time is a Mother is a sure hit this spring—and it might just make the perfect gift for Mother’s Day. (Just be prepared with the tissues!) — Cindy

In the Garden with Flori by Sonja Danowski

This book is perfect for your burgeoning illustrators, artists, and writers! In her story of patience, love, and resilience, Sonja Danowski has created a lovely story that they can reread or stare at for hours to find new and interesting details. There are also two pages at the end that pulls readers back into real life and educates them about the science that happens in a garden. This is the kind of book I would have obsessed over as a young child! — Engel

Refuse to be Done by Matt Bell

I've read a ton of craft books. This is the first one about novel writing that fully acknowledges how messy a process it is, while also giving concrete steps to navigate the hard parts. Buried within these tips is a philosophy that the act of creation is in itself, beautiful. It hasn't left my desk since I finished it. — Dave

Sirens of the Titan by Kurt Vonnegut

Someone once said to me that Kurt Vonnegut writes children's books for adults. They meant it as a compliment, and I totally agree. His stories are often fantastical and funny, with a ton of heart at the center. This is my favorite of his books, and in my top 5 of all time. It's the story of Malachi Constant, who wanders into a vast conspiracy that takes him from Earth, to Mars, back to Earth, and to a moon of Saturn. — Dave

Cost of Living by Emily Maloney

Emily Maloney writes in clean prose—that sings—about the messiness of being human. In turns humorous and harrowing, the sixteen essays of Cost of Living tackle the systemic issues of the American healthcare system through the lens of Maloney's individual experiences as both patient and provider. Reading this book feels like talking to a friend. A friend who's been through a lot, knows what's up, and is simply (and masterfully) telling you how it is. And it’s bad. But Maloney’s writings on it are so, so good, perfectly packed with facts and storytelling. You don’t want to miss reading the world according to Emily. — Lev, GrubStreet 

(This pick is discounted in Porter Square Books: Boston Edition exclusively.)

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