Independent Bookstore Day takes place on April 29th this year, and we’re ready to celebrate! In honor of IBD, we asked Celeste Ng, the 2023 Independent Bookstore Day Author Ambassador, for her reading recommendations.
For me, independent bookstores aren’t just places to buy books. They’re also places where I come to have fun—for real! In indies, I stumble across new ideas, chat with booksellers (and sometimes fellow shoppers), and discover things I didn’t know I wanted but now have to have: an exciting novel by a debut author, a game or a puzzle to dive into with my family, or the latest volume by one of my favorite writers. So here are eight books that embody the spirit of independent bookstores—books that are both thought-provoking and, quite simply, a ton of fun.
By Charles Yu
Willis never gets to be the main character, even in his own life—he usually plays Generic Asian Man, but he dreams of breaking out as Kung Fu Guy. Then he starts to learn more about his own family, and his dreams—and his life—start to expand. Written in the form of a screenplay, Charles Yu’s novel is clever, funny, and deeply moving.
By Andrew Sean Greer
Arthur Less, a middle-aged novelist wrestling with heartbreak, is a huge mess—but I loved him all the more for his all-too-human foibles and shortcomings. I rooted for him from the first page of this whirlwind romp to the last, and you will too.
By Mira Jacob
This is Mira Jacob’s first graphic memoir, but I pray it won’t be her last. In it, she explores her relationships with her family, her friends, and her career with honesty, love, and deadpan wit. I think I’ve given more copies of Good Talk as a gift than any other book; it’s that good.
By Salman Rushdie
Part fairy tale, part adventure, part ode to storytelling itself, Haroun is full of whimsical characters and outlandish, often absurd events, but beneath it all are the big themes and questions that Rushdie explores in all of his work. It’s the rare book that both adults and children can enjoy on two different levels.
By Sanjena Sathian
If you’ve ever felt pressured by your family to overachieve, you’ll love this novel about a pair of suburban teens who discover a potion that might help them live up to their parents’ ambitions. It’s a slyly funny, deeply moving coming of age story, with a healthy dash of weirdness swirled in.
By Weike Wang
I laughed out loud again and again while reading: Joan’s voice is so remarkable, and her struggles as she deals with difficulties in her life—her father’s death, her needy mother, her stressful work—are hilarious and often relatable. You’ll finish this book believing that yes, Joan is okay, and you probably will be, too.
By Sonora Jha
Anyone who’s spent a minute in academia—as a professor, student, or anything in between—will love this novel, and so will anyone who’s dealt with an out-of-touch colleague. I cringe-laughed throughout and immediately recommended it to all my friends.
By Jason Mott
This is a novel about what it’s like to be a Black man in America—but it’s also a touching family story, an attempt to reckon with police violence, a testament to the power of stories, and a satire about a writer getting himself into ridiculous scrapes. It’s hard to sum up, and I don’t know how Jason Mott managed to pull it off, but trust me: it lives up to the title. Just read it.
Explore Celeste’s picks
Porter Square Books, located in Cambridge, MA and Celeste Ng’s local independent bookstore, is one of more than 2,000 bookstores you can support with your audiobook purchases through Libro.fm!
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Photo © Kieran Kesner