31 Books You Can Get At Target That Are Absolutely Worth Reading
BRB, watching my TBR pile growing precipitously taller.
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In 2018, Michelle Zauner, the indie musician who heads up the band Japanese Breakfast, published a beautiful and heartbreaking
essay in the New Yorker titled "Crying in H Mart" about growing up Korean American, coping with loss, and the connection between food and identity. Her memoir, which shares its title with the essay, expands on the original piece, following Zauner through her childhood as one of the only Asian American kids in her predominantly white Pacific Northwest town, her move to the East Coast in early adulthood, the continual negotiation of complicated family relationships and dynamics throughout her life, and the navigation of grief following the death of her mother. With lyrical prose and honest storytelling, this one will hit you right in the heart and stick with you.
Johnson’s sparkling YA debut follows teenager Liz Lighty — who has always felt “too Black, too poor, too
awkward” for the small and wealthy Midwestern town in which she’s growing up — as she attempts to survive high school and escape out into the big, wide world. But when the music scholarship she’d been pinning her hopes on falls through, she finds herself coming up with an… unexpected backup plan: Her town is obsessed with prom — and although Liz herself couldn’t care less about it, it does just so happen that her school has a scholarship reserved for the prom’s elected royalty. Johnson’s smart, hilarious protagonist and the story’s delightful queer romance have stolen readers’ hearts.
If you’re obsessed with the podcast
, this one’s for you. Reid’s dazzling novel brings you along with struggling magazine reporter Monique Grant as she records the life and times of reclusive former Hollywood starlet Evelyn Hugo, who, after years out of the spotlight, is finally ready to step forward and set the record straight. Bringing to life both Old Hollywood’s glitz and glamour and its seedy underbelly, this one will keep you turning page after page until every last secret has been uncovered. You Must Remember This
This delicious romance sees Eva Mercy and Shane Hall — both writers, although working in different arenas, and who had a whirlwind, weeklong love affair years earlier — unexpectedly reconnecting at a literary event in New York. Sparks subsequently fly — and so do, as
Rumaan Alam put it, keen observations “exploring personal pain, family entanglements, and the negotiation of Black identity in a world defined by whiteness.”
A Pulitzer Prize finalist and winner of the National Book Award, Coates’s memoir is much more than the sum of its parts — and given how astonishing each of those parts are on their own, that’s
really saying something. Structured as a letter to his son, Between the World and Me blends together journalism, history, and personal narrative to examine and reframe the racial history of the United States in both big-picture ways and as lived experience. Looking not only to the past and present, but also to the future — to where there is to go from here — this one is, as Toni Morrison noted, absolutely required reading.
Flora is a survivor. That’s why she’s sailing aboard the ship
Dove as Florian; she’s safer as Florian amongst a crew of marauders and pirates. But Lady Evelyn Hasegawa — one of the passengers on the ship who was captured when the crew revealed its true, villainous nature — is a survivor too, and she, like Flora, is tired of playing by the rules. With the two of them increasingly drawn to each other, they’re both determined to create their own destinies — together. Full of swashbuckling, magic, and queer romance, but also sharp-eyed examinations of imperialism and gender dynamics, The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea will suck you into a world you’ll never get tired of exploring.
( The Duke and I Bridgerton, 1) by Julia Quinn
Can’t wait for Season 2 of
Bridgerton? Why not give the Regency romance series on which it’s based a try? The Duke and I, which provided much of the plot for the first season of the show, will let you revisit the world of Regency London in a whole new way. The first installment in the series, this volume introduces us to Daphne Bridgerton, Simon Bassett, and their devious courtship arrangement — and to what happens that arrangement starts to get a bit…complicated. The course of true love never did run smooth, right?
There’s a reason the KonMarie method has become such a phenomenon: It’s not just about clearing up literal clutter from your home; it’s a full-on life philosophy. As Kondo herself puts it in the introduction to
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, “When you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too. As a result, you can see quite clearly what you need in life and what you don’t, and what you should and shouldn’t do.” Her gentle warmth and excellent suggestions and strategies definitely spark joy.
Pro tip: Don’t read this one before bed. You’ll just keep turning page after page, telling yourself, “Just one more chapter… Okay, one more…
Just one more, I swear,” until suddenly, you realize, oh no, you have literally stayed up all night reading and did not actually sleep. Or at least, that was my experience with Foley’s follow-up to her 2018 hit, . The Hunting Party The Guest List has it all: a secluded location; an over-the-top wedding; absurdly wealthy people behaving very, very badly; and, of course, a murder mystery to solve. For a thriller with all the twists and turns your adrenaline-fueled little heart could wish for, look no further.
Thomas’s rollicking, paranormal YA debut introduces us to Yadriel, a trans, queer, Latinx brujo with the ability to free the spirits of the dead so they can cross over to the other side. But Yadriel’s traditional family has trouble accepting his gender — and, by extension, his skills as a brujo — so he summons a ghost in order to prove himself to them and hopefully gain their acceptance. Unfortunately, though, Yadriel summons the
wrong ghost — and the newly arrived spirit doesn’t seem keen on leaving just yet. A powerful and big-hearted story about love, family — biological and chosen — and friendship, and a gorgeous celebration of culture and identity, Cemetery Boys is, as BuzzFeed’s Rachel Strolle wrote in 2020, 100% “the kind of book that you read and then immediately go force all your friends to read so they can share the pleasure.”
True crime is tricky; it can easily become exploitative, and it sometimes has a habit of putting the perpetrators on pedestals while ignoring or blaming the victims.
I’ll Be Gone in ThetDark, however, is a shining example of true crime done well. Devoted to tracking the serial killer operating in California in the 1970s and ‘80s whom McNamara dubbed the Golden State Killer, the book builds off of her 2013 Los Angeles Magazine piece on the case; it’s also as much about the Golden State Killer as it is about McNamara’s own relationship with the case — published posthumously, the final third of it was pieced together from her remaining notes by investigative journalist Bill Jensen, crime writer Paul Haynes, and McNamara’s husband, Patton Oswalt. Sensitive and gripping, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark showcases the genre at its best.
Felix Love has a lot going on. A Black, trans, queer art student attending a prestigious art program in New York on scholarship, he’s working his hardest to secure a spot at Brown University while also trying to figure out love: What does it mean? What’s it supposed to feel like? How do you know if you’re worthy of it? When Felix is targeted in a transphobic act by another, anonymous student, he cooks up a catfishing scheme in retaliation — but the scheme doesn’t quite go as planned, putting him on a path of self-discovery that might help him finally figure love out once and for all. Described by readers and reviewers alike as "warm," "effervescent," and "hopeful,"
Felix Ever After deserves a spot on everyone’s bookshelf.
If you’ve read or watched the Hulu series based on
, you owe it to yourself to pick up Ng’s earlier novel, too (if you haven’t already, that is). Set in a small, predominantly white town in Ohio in the 1970s, it follows a Chinese American family reeling from the death of the family’s favored daughter. Equal parts murder mystery, portrait of an unraveling family, and examination of racial, gender, and generational dynamics, Ng’s debut is stirring and unputdownable. Little Fires Everywhere
The follow-up to Allie Brosh’s first book, 2013’s
was a long time coming — and it turns out that story of Hyperbole and a Half, Solutions and Other Problems is, at least in part, about why. Through a combination of her signature “bad”-but-actually-not-bad-at-all illustrations and witty yet poignant writing, Brosh tells us stories about her childhood and talks frankly about struggling with depression, grief, and her health as an adult, peppered here and there with anecdotes that seem unrelated to anything else surrounding them, but that actually have a great deal of meaning if you think about them in the right way. If you need a hilarious and powerful reminder that it’s OK not to be OK, Solutions and Other Problems is it.
It seems baffling to think of now, but in the early 20th century, radium was seen as something of a miracle substance: You could find it in everything from toothpaste to extremely misguided health supplements. It was also used to make luminous paint for use on watch and clock faces — paint that soon began to poison and, in some cases, kill many of the young women employed by the factories to handle these painting jobs, despite the factories’ claim to the contrary. But in New Jersey, a group of these “Radium Girls,” as they were called, went up against their employer in a legal case that has a significant and long-lasting impact in both medicine and labor rights. In her superbly researched book, Moore gives voice to the Radium Girls, amplifying their stories and solidifying their place in history.
Sydney Green has lived in Brooklyn her entire life — but suddenly, she sees...changes. Huge, expensive condos rising out of the skyline. "For Sale" signs popping up everywhere. And, most upsettingly, the vanishing of her longtime neighbors and friends. When she starts to dig, though, she finds that there might be more going on than at first it seems — and that the disappearances of her old neighbors might not just be a result of them moving away. Described as what might happen if
Rear Window met Get Out (a winning combination in my book!), When No One Is Watching takes on gentrification, racism, and capitalism within the frame of a can’t-put-it-down thriller.
Set in a future where children can be genetically engineered — “lifted,” as it’s called — for optimized academic aptitude and where AI is advanced enough for androids to become household fixtures for those privileged enough to be able to afford them,
Klara and the Sun examines questions about humanity, what defines it, and, crucially, whether humanity has more to do with what you are by nature or with how you treat and behave towards others. In this world, the wealthiest of children have access to androids called Artificial Friends, or AFs, to aid with socialization. Klara is one such AF, chosen as a companion for 13-year-old Josie. But “lifting” can have complications, and it soon becomes clear that Klara wasn’t chosen just to be a friend to Josie. If you’re familiar with Nobel Prize winner Ishiguro's earlier novel , Never Let Me Go Klara and the Sun tackles similar themes, although it goes about them in quite a different way. This one is beautiful, melancholy, and hopeful, all at once.
by Michelle Obama Becoming
Michelle Obama’s deeply inspiring memoir shot up the bestseller lists pretty much as soon as it hit shelves in November of 2018; within a mere 15 days, it had already sold so many copies as to become the
bestselling book of that year. And it’s no wonder: Obama writes with warmth and thoughtfulness as she recounts her life thus far, from her childhood in Chicago through her university and law school years to her political career and her marriage and beyond. Read this one when you need a pick-me-up; it’s sure to lift your spirits.
Atlas Obscura is one of the most delightful corners of the internet; chronicling some of the more unusual wonders the world has to offer, it’s the modern-day equivalent of spinning a globe, putting your finger down in a random spot, and then heading off to the library to read up on wherever your finger located. The Atlas Obscura book, now in its second edition, is similarly charming — and it’s great both as an actual travel resource, and as a way to hit the road without, y’know, actually hitting the road. I’ve cracked it open to find some off-the-beaten path things to add to my own travel itineraries, and to do a little armchair traveling during times when I’m stuck at home. This one is a must for anyone who harbors a little (or a lot) of wanderlust in their day-to-day life.
In the modern day, Libby Jones turns 25 and receives the most important letter she'll ever get — one that reveals who she truly is, where she comes from, and her inheritance: a crumbling, abandoned mansion in one of London's poshest neighborhoods. Meanwhile, two and a half decades years earlier, police are called to that same mansion and find a baby in a crib upstairs and three dead adults in the kitchen downstairs. And as Jewell’s enthralling thriller unfolds, bouncing back and forth between the past and the present, it becomes clear that what happened 25 years ago is…not quite what anyone thought at the time. If you’re a fan of unreliable narrators, there’s a terrific example of one in this page-turner — but I won’t spoil who it is. You’ll have to find that out for yourself.
In 2015, Meichi Ng began writing and drawing
“Barely Functional Adult,” a webcomic about “the low-key struggles of adulthood.” With its friendly, minimalist aesthetic and extremely relatable subject matter, it quickly became a favorite of anyone who’s ever felt like adulting is sometimes Just Too Much. Ng’s book, also titled Barely Functional Adult, combines that same art style and subject matter with frank and honest storytelling about everything from the trials and tribulations of pet ownership to anxiety, depression, and other experiences with mental health. We’ve all been there; it’s just nice to be reminded of that fact every now and again — and Barely Functional Adult does it with aplomb.
Educated by Tara Westover
Tara Westover was 17 before she entered a classroom for the first time — ever. Raised in a religious, survivalist family in rural Idaho, she spent the first nearly two decades of her life learning to make herbal remedies instead of going to the doctor and scavenging and stockpiling supplies for future disasters in isolation instead of participating in any wider society. But she would later go on to receive an undergraduate degree from Brigham Young University and both a master's degree and a PhD from Trinity College at Cambridge University. Her memoir tracks her extraordinary story in her quest for knowledge and her complicated relationships with family members both abusive and supportive. An instant bestseller,
Educated was named one of the best books of 2018 by everyone from NPR to Barack Obama.
Bennett’s debut novel, 2016’s
, was a smash hit and set the bar high for her follow-up. The Mothers The Vanishing Half, published in 2020, not only met that bar, but leapt above it. Following identical twins Desiree and Stella Vignes, who were raised together in the same small town in Louisiana founded by their ancestor as a place for light-skinned Black folks, it tackles themes of racism, colorism, and identity in a deeply affecting story spanning generations. At 16, Desiree and Stella run away to New Orleans — and there, their paths begin to diverge: Within a year, they’ve gone their separate ways, determined to live their lives in very different ways. As Bennett writes: “After a year, the twins scattered, their lives splitting as evenly as their shared egg. Stella became white and Desiree married the darkest man she could find.” A bestseller numerous times over and longlisted for the National Book Award for Fiction, among others, this one is not to be missed.
AI Weirdness blog and newsletter has been a bright spot in my life for several years now. She focuses on training neural nets to generate phrases, titles, and images in a wide array of areas, including holiday pie flavors (tag yourself, I’m Cromberry Yaas) and conversation heart slogans (nothing says “I love you like” like a candy heart reading “ALL HAIL THE CHICKEN”). You Look Like a Thing and I Love You, which gets its title from a neural net–generated pickup line, is a full book of AI Weirdness, including easy-to-follow explanations of how neural nets work in addition to the endless amount of neural net-driven humor. Science is fun!
by Morgan Rogers Honey Girl
At 28, Grace Porter has an impressive set of academic credentials, including a newly acquired PhD in astronomy. She also has the heavy weight of familial expectations on her shoulders, systemic barriers to the job market in a field not friendly to Black, queer women, and a bad case of burnout. It’s in this state that she spends a drunken weekend in Las Vegas — and ends up married to someone she barely knows, despite definitely
not being the kind of person who would do such a thing (she thinks). But it turns out that a summer spent away from her home with her new wife might be just what she needs to figure out where to go from here. Praised by readers as much for the strength of its friendships as it has been for its earnest and genuine romance, Rogers’s debut novel rings true for many, many reasons — and it’s a joy to read.
If you love a good historical mystery
and an enthralling modern-day thriller, The Lost Apothecary will scratch both of those itches. In 18th century London, there’s an apothecary hidden away out of the prying eyes of the public whose clientele have…particular needs. Needs to right wrongs. Needs that require a certain dose of poison to meet. But a new patron — a 12-year-old girl — and a disastrous mistake set into motion events that threaten not only the apothecary and its proprietor, but all of its clients. Meanwhile, in modern-day London, a historian on holiday stumbles upon a vial that might hold the key to unraveling a series of murders from centuries ago — murders that involved a certain apothecary. Fast paced and atmospheric, Penner’s novel is one to file under Can’t Put It Down.
The big-screen adaptation of
Hidden Figures struck it big during awards season in 2017, but if you haven’t read the book it’s based on yet, it’s definitely worth picking up. Following the lives and careers of NASA mathematicians Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson during Jim Crow–era segregation, it paints a clear-eyed and complex picture of both what these remarkable women achieved and what they were up against as they did so. Shetterly is both a superb historian and a terrific storyteller, making this one an unforgettable read.
The first volume of Adeyemi’s Legacy of Orïsha series,
Children Of Blood And Bone brings to vivid life a world where magic, once essential to the country of Orïsha, has been stamped out by a tyrannical king and a royal decree that sent all maji to their deaths. Zélie and her brother Tzain lost their mother in the purge — but Zélie has a plan to both return magic to Orïsha and strike back against the monarchy. Aided by an unlikely ally — the princess Amari — the trio embark on their dangerous mission, with their enemies snapping at their heels. Debuting in the number one slot of the New York Times bestseller list, Children of Blood and Bone has since become a certifiable phenomenon — and there’s more if you want it: The second book, was published in 2019. Children of Virtue and Vengeance,
by Megan Angelo Followers
There are manufactured celebrities, and then there are
manufactured celebrities — and when would-be novelist/current clickbait blogger Orla Cadden meets the aspiring famous-for-being-famous whirlwind that is Flora, the two cook up a scheme they hope will launch Flora into the spotlight, to both their benefits. Decades later, celebrities are government-selected and housed in a closed community where every moment of every day is livestreamed for the masses — and Marlow has had enough. As Followers' interconnected narratives unfold in the present and future, Angelo’s novel presents a disturbingly prescient view of influencer culture — and one possible vision of its future.
There’s just something about a good dark comedy, isn’t there? The combination of hilarity and death is just A-plus.
Dial A for Aunties delivers on all of that and then some, with a blind date who accidentally winds up dead, a body in a cake cooler, a luxury wedding, and a family-run wedding company full of Capital-A Aunties who are prepared to take on anything. There’s blood. There’s buttercream. And there is lots and lots of laughter to be found in Sutanto’s romp of a novel.
by Alison Bechdel Fun Home
Cartoonist Bechdel’s graphic memoir has become a classic in the years since its 2006 publication; detailing her life growing up in the town funeral home — the titular “Fun Home” — coming out in college, and finding out that her father was also gay shortly before his sudden and unexpected death, it’s a smart, reflective, and affecting look at the secrets we keep and the legacies those secrets leave when we’re gone. Bechdel later followed up
Fun Home with two further graphic memoirs — 2012’s , which focuses on her relationship with her mother, and 2021’s Are You My Mother? , about her relationship to health and exercise — but The Secret to Superhuman Strength Fun Home remains the essential read.
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