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The Last Bookstore Book Haul: Modern Fiction, Nonfiction, and Romance

Last week, I took myself on a date to the bookstore, which was long overdue. My mission yesterday felt twofold. For one, I'd been severely neglecting the privilege of living so close to an indie bookstore for the first time in my life, and I needed to remedy that. I also wanted to surround myself with books again and be reminded of what's at the end of the drafting, editing, and revising process. I've looked at books in such a piecemeal way for so many years now as a blogger who needs to keep up on releases and reviews, a writer piecing together words in the hopes they'd one day become a physical object people could purchase and enjoy, and then also, for a time, as a bookseller. It honestly took me a while after my time in the bookstore ended to detach enough from the mechanics of working in a bookstore to enjoy them once again. 

I got to experience the pure, genuine joy of books for the first time in a while yesterday as I got lost between the towering shelves. The Last Bookstore here in LA is like a massive warehouse of books set up nearly like a maze in a historic building. It's well curated, not just because of the large quantity. I started in Modern Fiction and wandered through YA and romance and classics with gorgeous covers and the fashion, music, and film sections. Upstairs housed mysteries and science fiction and history books. There's absolutely no cell service which makes it even easier to get lost in the store's world. My arms quickly filled up with books, and eventually, I settled on one of the plush couches to figure out exactly how expensive this date was going to be. I read the first page of all of my options because, too often, I get sucked in by summaries and then completely don't click with the voice. One of the great luxuries of going places alone is that you can spend as long there as you'd like, and I took full advantage of that. Here's what I settled on bringing home with me.

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Chelsea Martin
I found this book thanks to one of the central book tables where it sat face out. Given the nature of the trip, Tell Me I'm an Artist was a title apt to grab me. The pink cover with the vague sketch of a girl also helped draw me in. As I read the flap copy, I discovered it was a book about a girl in art school who's decided to remake the movie Rushmore for class without ever having seen it. I'll read any book set in university, honestly, but what fully got me (for the first time in my life), was a blurb. "Anyone who has ever tried to do meaningful work in spite of a growing suspicion that nothing matters will find a home in this hilariousheart-piercing book, and a memorable companion in its young but while narrator," Emily Gould professes in the top blurb. I was sold. 

Official Summary: At her San Francisco art school, Joey enrolls in a film elective that requires her to complete what seems like a straightforward assignment: create a self-portrait. Joey inexplicably decides to remake Wes Anderson’s Rushmore despite having never seen the movie. As Tell Me I’m An Artist unfolds over the course of the semester, the assignment hangs over her as she struggles to exist in a well-heeled world that is hugely different from any she has known.
Miles away, Joey’s sister goes missing, leaving her toddler with their mother, who in turn suggests that Joey might be the selfish one for pursuing her dreams. Meanwhile, her only friend at school, the enigmatic Suz, makes meaningful, appealing art, a product of Suz’s own singular drive and talent as well as decades of careful nurturing by wealthy, sophisticated parents.
A masterful novel from an author known for her candid and searching prose, Tell Me I’m An Artist examines the invisible divide created by class and privilege, ruminates on the shame that follows choosing a path that has not been laid out for you, and interrogates what makes someone an artist at all.

Erin Hahn
I've been a fan of Erin Hahn's books since I read an ARC of her very first YA novel, You'd Be Mine. I subsequently did one of my favorite interviews in this blog's history with her, revealed the cover of her sophomore novel, and the rest is history. Now, all these years later, Erin released her first romance novel for adults in the middle of the month. I'd been meaning to pick it up, but it got a little lost in the blur of midterms season. I wandered over to the romance section to see if it would be on the shelf, and I found two copies waiting for me, which was such a lovely discovery. I immediately knew I had to grab a copy.

Official Summary: Shelby Springfield has spent the last ten years trying to overcome her past, sanding it away like the rough spots on the vintage furniture she makes over. But as a former child star, it’s hard to forget a widely documented meltdown and huge public break up with her former co-star Lyle Jessup. It’s also hard to forget her other co-star and childhood sweetheart, Cameron Riggs—the one who got away.
Anytime Shelby has called, Cameron has come running… And then he runs right off again to chase stories around the world by making documentaries, too scared to admit what he really wants. But when Lyle stirs the pot, getting the two back in the spotlight with a home renovation show, Cameron can't help but get on board.
There's something in it for everyone—almost. Cameron wants to set down some roots. Shelby wants to prove she's not the messy party girl anymore. And a jealous Lyle can’t help but try to get in the way. But for his two childhood friends who had more chemistry than he could ever dream of, nothing is getting in the way of their second chance at love.

Isabel Kaplan
I first heard about NSFW on Twitter well before its release. I bookmarked it, excited to read it whenever it came out and then promptly forgot it existed like I so often do. But I was drawn to the bright orange spine on the shelf and the intriguing title, and as soon as I revealed the cover, I remembered. The story chronicles a fresh out of college twenty-something trying to navigate the entertainment industry which seemed all too relatable, as I like all the books I read to be. I wasn't totally sold on the purchase, though, until I read the opening sentence. "The thing about Los Angeles is that it's awful and I hate it, but when I'm there, nowhere else exists, and I can't imagine leaving." I've never, ever related to a statement more in my life, and I knew I had to read this book. 

Official Summary: From the outside, the unnamed protagonist in NSFW appears to be the vision of success. She has landed an entry-level position at a leading TV network that thousands of college grads would kill for. And sure, she has much to learn. The daughter of a prominent feminist attorney, she grew up outside the industry. But she’s resourceful and hardworking. What could go wrong?
At first, the high adrenaline work environment motivates her. Yet as she climbs the ranks, she confronts the reality of creating change from the inside. Her points only get attention when echoed by male colleagues; she hears whispers of abuse and sexual misconduct. Her mother says to keep her head down until she’s the one in charge—a scenario that seems idealistic at best, morally questionable at worst. When her personal and professional lives collide, threatening both the network and her future, she must decide what to protect: the career she’s given everything for or the empowered woman she claims to be.
Fusing page-turning prose with dark humor and riveting commentary on the truths of starting out professionally, Isabel Kaplan’s NSFW is an unflinching exploration of the gray area between empowerment and complicity. The result is a stunning portrait of what success costs in today’s patriarchal world, asking us: Is it ever worth it?

bell hooks
This book is actually the reason I went to the bookstore in the first place. I'd seen it around enough times that I was starting to think that I should probably read it. Then, I clicked on a BookTube video from Jack Edwards going through his latest book haul, and he was holding a copy. It made me wonder if they had a copy at my own local bookstore. Lo and behold, it was front and center on the table right by the door. Love, both romantic and platonic, has always felt illusive and baffling and fascinating to me, so the subject roped me in immediately. I'm not sure what I'm hoping to get from this book, but I'm curious to get into the thick of it and find the lessons that it has in store for how to love and where we might be able to find it from an iconic author and thinker.

Official Summary: Author bell hooks gives us a non-academic, though personally profound look into this universal and ageless question in her book, ‘All About Love: New Visions.’ One can assimilate Hooks’ analysis to love to Scott M. Peck’s view of life from ‘A Road Less Traveled’: “Life is difficult” as Peck says… once one accepts that life is, in fact difficult, it’s easier to accept the natural course of life.

Venture with Hooks into her perspective on love in her value-filled chapters about what love is. This non-academic, though the intellectually written book, will allow you to consider your own thoughts and views on what love is while giving you cultural awareness on what society allows us to accept and what we are taught to believe love is.


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