Jessie fashions herself a Jack of All Genres, her tastes range from body horror to gentle lit fic, microhistories to memoirs, queer fantasy to cringe-y Amish romances, and everything in-between. Regardless of genre, Jessie enjoys beautiful language, complex characters, family drama, fever dreams, and slow burns. She is an unabashed fan of "bad books," especially when they are paired with good friends and stiff drinks.
(Her very niche specialty is New Zealand fiction and non-fiction. Aroha nui ki ōku hoa!)
A middlingly-successful gay novelist on the cusp of turning 50, the awkward yet charming Arthur Less says yes to a bunch of lame literary events around the world instead of responding to an invite to his ex's wedding. Globetrotting hijinks ensue. This low-stakes, whimsical little book is full of gentle humor, lyrical prose, and philosophical ruminations. The writing style gives off big Pushing Daisies vibes, and reading it is like being embraced in the warmest of hugs. I LOVE Arthur Less! ~Jessie
After their parents are involved in a deadly car accident, estranged siblings Louise and Mark must work together if they have ANY hope of selling their childhood home. There's just one problem. The house maaaaaaaaay be haunted...
HOLY [EXPLETIVE]. This is a stunner of novel. What starts out with THE corniest horror trope on Earth turns DEEPLY unsettling... and ends up becoming a poignant, tender meditation on grief, loss, generational trauma, and what it means to be alive and loved. Utter perfection. A tremendous achievement. 6 out of 5 stars. No notes. ~Jessie
Secrets, social alienation, and a frustratingly familar lack of communication abound in this heartrending portrait of a mixed race family in 1970s Ohio, charting the events that lead up to and follow the mysterious death of the middle "golden" child, Lydia. This book is for all of us former gifted children who ever buckled under the crushing weight of parental and academic expectations. I wept like a dang baby. Ng's prose is simply exquisite. ~Jessie
You ever read a book so good you wish you could literally consume it??? Well, the secret society of people in this book can do just that. It's the only thing they CAN eat, actually. Except for the rarities among them who are born with the insatiable hunger for minds... Part fantasy, part horror, and 100% feminist, The Book Eaters is a delightfully FERAL read, with some top-notch world-building. Let's just say that the main character, Devon, takes "overprotective mother" to the EXTREME! ~Jessie
A beautifully-written, multigenerational saga of kinship, loss, and redemption. Equal parts brutal and achingly tender, this award-winning debut novel will give you the kind of look into New Zealand culture and modern Maori life that you will never get from a travel guide. ~Jessie
Do you like... dads? Do you like serial killers? What about dads who are serial killers? Emotionally unavailable moms? Creepy houses with basement secrets? If you answered "YES" to any of these questions, this might be just the book for you! ~Jessie
Recently widowed and pregnant, Elsie finds herself holed up in her husband's family's grand-yet-dilapidated country estate, with only the hired help and her cousin-in-law for company. Inside her new home lies a locked door, beyond which is a painted wooden figure--a silent companion--that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself. The servants are terrified of it, but Elsie tries to shrug this off as simple superstition--that is, until she notices the figure's eyes following her.
I read a LOT of horror, so believe me when I say that this is one of THE scariest effing books I've ever read! Absolutely dripping with slow burning, Victorian gothic dread from beginning to end! ~Jessie
Five kids receive the power to morph into any creature they touch, and must work together to save Earth from the mind-controlling, brain-infesting, slug-like aliens called Yeerks. This is a fantastic graphic novel adaptation of the BEST '90s book series EVER! Come relive my childhood with me! <3
Great for kids (and adults) who love animals, aliens, war, and morally grey ethical quandaries! ~Jessie
Socially maladjusted teenage druggie Roberta, recently busted for dropping acid, writes in her diary about what really happened when she was a kid, discovered wandering through the desert and covered in blood.
If "Quentin TaranTWEENo" was a genre, Cruddy would be the pinnacle text. Featuring gritty illustrations, big '60s/'70s vibes, the Worst Father Ever™, wacky side characters, and a gory, rollicking road trip through the heart of America. This was my FAVE book back when I was, uhhhh, probably too young to read it (Thanks Dad!), and it has haunted me ever since. Magnificent! ~Jessie
Set in an alternate reality, police state Great Britain where time travel is real, cloning is commonplace, and literature is taken VERY seriously (unless you're attending an interactive, Rocky Horror-style production of Shakespeare, that is). Literary detective Thursday Next takes on the case of her life when a supervillain jumps into the world of Jane Eyre and kidnaps the titular heroine right out of her own book.
I first read this series way back in high school and it played an integral part of who I am as a reader. Perfect for lovers of literature, history, and groan-inducing puns. ~Jessie
A remarkable tale of stubbornness, community, faith, and the sort of hardscrabble way of life that you are hard-pressed to find these days. Swift spent 18 months living amongst the crabbers of Tangier Island, and he expertly weaves together history, science, personal anecdotes, and vivid snapshots of the 300-ish folks who call this disappearing island home. I loved this book!
An A+ pick for dads, husbands, and crab cake enthusiasts of all genders! ~Jessie
South African comedian Trevor Noah was born to a Swiss father and black Xhosa mother, at a time where this was punishable by up to 5 years in prison. Reading this book, it feels like Trevor is right there in the room, tells you crazy tales from his youth over a shared beer or two. One of my all-time favorite memoirs! ~ Jessie
'90s R&B, Facebook creeping, mouthwatering descriptions of Indian food, romantic longing, the road not traveled, and family secrets abound in this snarky yet disarmingly devastating debut novel, told alternatingly from the POVs of a seemingly perfect Indian widow and her alcoholic, closeted gay son, both suffering similar burdens while stubbornly refusing to open up to each other. One passage in particular had me full-bodied SOBBING, so loud and so forcefully that my partner had to check on me because he was convinced someone close to me had DIED.
Fun fact: The audiobook for this is PARTICULARLY incredible. Hands down the best narration I've ever listened to. ~Jessie
Every year, 100 teen boys enter a televised competition to walk the length of I-95, starting from the top of Maine. All they need is to keep up the pace, stay on the road, and keep their hands to themselves. The last boy left walking gets everything his heart desires.
A brisk stroll through scenic New England has NEVER been so dang riveting! Did you enjoy The Hunger Games but wish there had been less love triangles and more death? This might be the book for you!
Hey Parents: If you have a pre-teen who is getting "King-curious," this is a great choice to start them on! When I was the tender age of 12, it was the second SK novel I ever read (and the first book he ever wrote). To this day, it remains my favorite of his. ~ Jessie
Upton Sinclair's The Jungle meets Soylent Green by way of 1984, this disturbingly clinical nightmare of a book has some of the most beautifully bleak prose I've ever read. I will be thinking about this one for a very, very long time.
CONTENT WARNINGS: Umm... everything? ~Jessie
memoirnovel of toxic friendship, creepy furniture, dead bodies, punk rock music, possible vampirism, and a whole lot of... uhh, heart. Complete with snarky annotations!
Fun fact: Most of this book takes place in Beverly, Massachusetts! Copper Dog makes an appearance as a bar, and co-owner Meg makes an appearance as a bartender!
YET ANOTHER FUN FACT!: I created a playlist of bands and/or songs that are referenced in Pallbearers Club, meant to be enjoyed by itself or as a reading accompaniment: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/1YwxObJ3tdVetcnaYmBS4h?si=037e9e55e5f24044
Mary Roach takes you on a fascinating, grossly magical journey from chewer to pooper, spit to sh*t, and all of the organs in-between. I have NEVER laughed so hard from reading footnotes! ~ Jessie
This romcom is super steamy, sapphic af, and delightfully MILF-tastic!! (I needed MULTIPLE cold showers while reading it, hehehe...)
There's a murder most foul at a Hogwarts-esque American school for mages? And the detective on the case is essentially an alchoholic Aunt Petunia??? NEAT.
(Bonus: not written by a trans person, not a TERF)
Told in free verse and touching on themes of loss, belonging, queer identity, and monstrosity, this lovely, tenderhearted novel is a fantastic choice for Mothman enthusiasts of all ages and genders!
Anthony Bourdain meets Mary Roach on a raunchy, pro-labor, anti-capitalist, glizzy-guzzling road trip mapped out by Sarah Vowell and the ghost of Hunter S. Thompson.