Books

STEELE MAIDEN BOOK CLUB: CHAPTER THIRTEEN

The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger: If you’re a fan of Big Little Lies, you’ll like this drama-filled dynamic in this story. Focused on a group of parents and children in an idyllic Colorado town as parental pressures to succeed, children’s attempts to define themselves and long-held secrets start to unravel a group of old friends. (3.5 out of 5 stars)

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga: This book got a ton of buzz but it was a tough one for me. I don’t mind a dark story – in fact I often really love them – but I don’t know that I ever truly was able to connect to the characters. Also, this was originally written in Polish and then translated, and despite thinking it’s super important to read writing from other points of view and cultures, I do think that a little bit of the finesse of the native tongue always gets lost in translation. So.. buyer beware? (2.5 out of 5 stars)

The Grammarians by Cathleen Schine: Like a love letter to language itself, this is a quick read about the lives of two twin sisters with an affinity for grammar and a healthy amount of sibling rivalry. I loved the quick-quipped writing and the way the sisters lives intertwined. (4 out of 5 stars)

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner: From 1950s through present day this story follows two sisters and their search to find themselves as they understand and define their relationship with each other, their mother and the women closest to them. While I didn’t think this book was perfect I thought it was a great example of how much, and how little, has changed for women since mid-century. (4 out of 5 stars)

Marilou is Everywhere by Sarah Elaine Smith: A coming of age story told through the strangest and darkest scenario, set in rural Pennsylvania. There’s plenty of heartbreak in this story but it’s so beautifully written you find yourself wanting more of it. One of my favorite books I’ve read so far this year. (5 out of 5 stars)

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett: Already honestly one of my all time favorite books. I wanted to live inside this story and certainly want to read it again. Centered on the relationship between siblings Danny and Maeve and the house that raised them, broke them and largely defined them. I can’t say enough good things here – just please go read it. (5 out of 5 stars)

SHOP MY BOOK CLUB PICKS:

I’ve been reading more than ever this year thanks to the extra push of starting a new #bookstagram IG account with my best friend from college Claire (you can follow along here) – so I’m already through several of these and can’t wait to share what I think with you all!

My stack includes: The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott, Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur, Red White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin, Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson and The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller.

SHOP MY NEXT BOOK CLUB PICKS:

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THE STEELE MAIDEN BOOK CLUB: CHAPTER TWELVE

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I just realized that my last book club post was in 3 months ago (!) but honestly the time between October and the end of the year always flies by to me. So here we are. A new year and a new stack of books. Below – my reviews for the books I finished (many of which were some of the best books I read all of last year!) and what I’ve got on my shelf to read next.

P.S. In case you missed me mentioning it, my best friend from college and I started a new Instagram account @prettywords dedicated solely to our love of all things reading. A #bookstagram if you will. It’s been so fun to create a little space that has no pressure and is all about one of things I love most in life. Follow along if you want, but don’t worry – I’ll be continuing these posts as well!

SHOP MY BOOK CLUBS PICKS:

Circe by Madeline Miller – This book really took me by surprise. I’m not usually a fantasy genre reader but after hearing good things about this book I picked it up on a whim from the library and really fell in love with it. A Greek mythology story that spans literally thousands of years but somehow still manages to be a page turner. Highly recommend. (5 out of 5 stars)

The Good Neighbor by Maxwell King – A look at the life and work of the inimitable Fred Rogers. This book was admittedly, pretty dry. But at the same time it was super endearing to hear the back story of such a known and loved public figure and I found myself collecting tidbits of parenting tips for the future. I definitely skimmed some bits – but my friend Claire listened to this on audiobook which I think may have been an even better option to easily digest. (3.5 out of 5 stars)

Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl – This memoir follow’s Ruth’s time as the Editor in Chief of Gourmet magazine in the late nineties/early 2000s. A time when Condé Nast editors were celebrities in their own right and magazines had seemingly unlimited budgets. Such a fun look into a glittering world that I always dreamed about from afar. (4.5 out of 5 stars)

Toil & Trouble by Augusten Burroughs – Aside from David Sedaris, Burroughs (who wrote Running with Scissors) is one of my favorite authors in a genre I like to call ‘anecdotal memoirs’. Short stories about their lives and observations about the world around them are told with equal parts honesty and humor. This particular set of stories focuses on the theme that Burroughs is in fact, a witch. I read it around Halloween which was fun, but honestly I would have loved it any time of year. (5 out of 5 stars)

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert – Last year I waited months for this book to come out. I bought a signed copy as soon as I could get my hands on one. And then I didn’t open the book for about 6 months. As friends read it and text me to say how much I’d love it, I waited.. already knowing I’d be sad once I’d finished it. Which is silly I know. But as suspected I loved this book. And was in fact sad once it was over. It starts out in New York in the 1940s in a whirlwind of showgirl glamour and ends quietly in the same Gramercy neighborhood that I live. It’s so much fun and also heartbreaking and just all around wonderful. (5 out of 5 stars)

SHOP MY NEXT BOOK CLUB PICKS:

To be honest, this post is so delayed that I’m already halfway through the next stack – so expect another round of reviews soon! Most of these are recent library finds aside from Marilou is Everywhere which was recommended to me and The Dutch House which I’ve been excited about ever since getting bit by the Ann Patchett bug last summer when I read her novel Commonwealth. Happy reading!

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THE BEST BOOKS I READ IN 2019

I was originally going to save this post for the last week of the year, but it occurred to me that some of you may be in need of an affordable or last minute gift idea or something to read while you’re on a plane during holiday travel or have days off work. So for that you’ll need a great book. Of which I’ve read many this year. Here – the 10 best books I read in 2019 (in no particular order). A few of these are going to be fully reviewed in my next Steele Maiden Book Club post before the end of the year, but in the meantime I wanted to include them here. Get yourself to a local bookstore (or express ship it through Amazon if you’re in a pinch) and happy reading!

1. Circe by Madeline Miller: An obvious choice for fans of greek mythology or fantasy fiction, but a surprising choice for those who don’t think they are (like myself) who still may end up loving this story (like I did).

2. Three Women by Lisa Taddeo: For your favorite feminist. Or honestly, for the man in your life that could use some perspective. This non-fiction is a striking read that speaks to human desire and emotion in a really raw way.

3. Becoming by Michelle Obama: From yourself to your mom to your boss, there’s something in this story that will likely speak to every woman in your life. An incredibly inspiring reflection from a humble and hard-working woman that just so happened to become the First Lady.

4. City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert: For all your best girlfriends (especially the one who just moved to New York City). This story is a love letter to youth and freedom and the city that I love so much.

5. Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid: If you worshipped Penny Lane in Almost Famous (and I still do) you’re going to love this book. Like reading a memoir straight from the members of your favorite 70s rock band.

6. Blue Nights by Joan Didion: For anyone that considers themselves a Didion disciple – but would be particularly poignant for someone who has lived through loss this year. Her words on living through the loss of her husband and daughter are both relatable and also unfathomable.

7. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett: Smart fiction at its best, Ann Patchett pulls you into a world so believable you’ll forget it doesn’t truly exist. For anyone who

8. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: If you haven’t already read the beloved story, now is certainly the time before Greta Gerwig’s film adaptation comes out at Christmas. Perfect for a young girl just getting into reading on her own or a grown woman revisiting the classics.

9. Toil & Trouble by Augusten Burroughs: Totally different than anything else on this list – Augusten Burroughs memoirs always get me. This one in particular about the next chapter of his life and staying true to his witch-y roots really spoke to me – and gave me a good laugh.

10. Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl: For the foodie in your life or the one nostalgic for the days when the publishing world lived large in New York – this easy read is such a fun romp through 90s-00s at Gourmet Magazine.

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THE STEELE MAIDEN BOOK CLUB: CHAPTER ELEVEN

It’s taken me two months to get through my last round of book club picks, with some that I loved and one that I couldn’t even finish (which almost never happens to me!). Below – my thoughts + what’s stacked up on my shelf for the month ahead.

SHOP THIS MONTH’S BOOK CLUB PICKS:

My Year of Rest & Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh – While I can’t say this book was a feel good read (perhaps the exact opposite).. it was definitely interesting. Okay it was depressing. But interesting too. It’s essentially a cautionary tale about a younger generation becoming disillusioned and out of touch with reality and follows one girl’s desire to escape it all. (2.5 out of 5 stars)

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman – This one isn’t a feel good book either (apparently that was my accidental theme here), but it’s a book that speaks to trauma, loneliness and human connection. There are definite moments of humor in here too and overall I really enjoyed it. I’m going to a book club meet-up in a few weeks that discusses this and I’m interested to hear what everyone thought of it. (4 out of 5 stars)


Leading Men by Christopher Castellani – Historical fiction based on Tennessee Williams and his real life, long time partner Frank Merlo, the story flashes between the 1950s and present day – following a group of characters that met while traveling through Southern Italy in the 50s. Overall I really enjoyed this story for the American literary cast and the fact that all of the “love stories” were less conventional than popular fiction usually focuses on. That being said, I definitely found some parts to be slow and it took me more time than expected to get through this. (3.5 out of 5 stars)


Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi – Ahh. I really wanted to love this. The concept is so interesting (set in modern day London, but following the mythical story of three generations of women who bake magic gingerbread and are essentially from a fairytale land. In the first chapter I was so full of hope and loved the writing.. but somewhere around the middle I couldn’t keep going. The writing style became more and more scattered to me and I just had to set this one aside. I’d say it was just me but I had two friends who tried the book and felt the exact same way. (1.5 out of 5 stars)


Three Women by Lisa Taddeo – There has been a lot of hype surrounding this book which usually makes me feel cautious, but this was an incredible work of non-fiction that was unlike anything else I’ve read. It follows the true lives of three women and their honest accounts and feelings about their love lives. I heard some critics of this book that said they found the situations extreme and the details cringeworthy + wanted the hear the men’s side of the story. I couldn’t disagree more. I found the honesty to be so refreshing and thought that there’s so much relatable truth in each woman’s story – the common theme I think was that we’re all just seeking acceptance and love, no matter the circumstances. (4.5 out of 5 stars)

SHOP NEXT MONTH’S BOOK CLUB PICKS:

I’m so excited about the stack of books I’ve got lined up next – City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love – this fiction story follows 1940’s showgirls in NYC, basically my dream book and several people have already told me how much they think I’ll love this one), Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl (follows the wild world of publishing at CondéNast and Gourmet Mag back when it was all booming), Circe by Madeline Miller (this one is out of my normal lane but I’m excited to dive into the world of Greek mythology), The Good Neighbor by Maxwell King (because who doesn’t love Mr. Rogers?) and lastly – because it’s October and I love a theme Toil & Trouble by Augusten Burroughs (I’m a big fan of his brutally honest and hilarious memoir Running with Scissors so I’m excited for his brand new book). Now who wants to give me 2 extra hours every day to read? 

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MY FAVORITE BOOKSTORES IN THE WORLD

Bookstores have always been one of my happiest places. My Mom worked in a library when I was a little girl and there’s something about being surrounded by books that I find deeply comforting. A tiny corner to hideaway from the world and explore one that might be completely foreign to you.

Not surprisingly, I’ve got a handful of tried and true favorite bookstores here in New York and almost always seek out bookstores when we travel (I like to buy books when I travel that remind me of that specific place – Little Women from a bookshop in New England for instance or Hemingway’s ‘A Moveable Feast’ in Paris).

I thought it might be fun to share some of my favorite shops around the world and hope that if you have a favorite that’s not on this list in your town (or someplace great that you’ve traveled) you’ll share it with me so that I can add it to my list.

  1. Strand Bookstore (Union Square, NYC) – This is my home court so to speak. For 6 of my 10 years in New York I’ve lived within walking distance to the Strand – and you can bet that if I’m within a few blocks of passing by, I’m going in. So many books on my shelf have come from here and I love that they also will buy books back in good condition – in the case that your tiny apartment no longer holds your collection. It gets packed on the weekends but I love the feeling of New Yorkers (and a good fill of tourists) all jammed in together, excited to get a new book.
  2. Shakespeare & Co (Paris, France) –  If it’s good enough for Hemingway, it’s good enough for me. That logic applies to both bars and bookstores, but in the case of Shakespeare & Co. you can get your fill of reading. The original opened in 1918 and then passed along its name to the new location, which sits along the banks of the Seine and opened in the 1950s. From F. Scott Fitzgerald to Allen Ginsberg to Zadie Smith, generations of American writers have passed through the doors of this tiny English-language bookstore in the City of Light. It’s a must visit before you browse the vintage book sellers along the river.
  3. The Spotted Dog (Hudson, NY) – Less than two hours north of Manhattan, along the quaint main street of Hudson – The Spotted Dog earns a spot on this list because it combines two of my favorite things – books and beer. A full bar with craft beer on tap sits right among the shelves. Adam and I passed an entire rainy afternoon in this sweet little spot and I can’t wait to go back again this Fall.
  4. Blue Bicycle Books (Charleston, SC) – A cute little shop right along upper King Street. There’s a lot of shopping in this stretch that feels touristy but Blue Bicycle has an authentic Southern hospitality in my opinion, with friendly staff and a great selection. Don’t miss grabbing a biscuit at Callie’s afterwards.
  5. Albertine (Upper East Side, NYC) – An extension of the French Embassy, this swoon-worthy bookstore is devoted to French & English books and sits across from Central Park on Fifth Avenue. After a stroll through the park, I suggest popping in just to see the grand ceilings alone and picking up a tres bien livre (very good book).
  6. Daunt (London, England) – This one really has my heart. A travel-focused bookshop set in London’s very posh Marylebone neighborhood, my study abroad University was just a few blocks away from this so I passed many hours between classes by popping into this shop. It’s just beautiful inside and when I finally had a chance to go back a couple of years ago, it was still as charming as ever.
  7. Brattle Bookshop (Boston, MA) – One of the oldest and largest used bookstores in America, this one fits well with Boston’s historic charm. You’ll find plenty of great affordable options plus rare first editions all just a skip away from a stroll through Boston Common.
  8. Rizzoli (Flatiron, NYC) – Another NYC favorite – I couldn’t possibly just pick one.. or two – is conveniently located in the Flatiron district and is a wealth of beautiful coffee table books, new fiction, hobby sections like cooking or photography and a cute kids section. I often pop in on my lunch break just because its so pretty inside.
  9. South Congress Books (Austin, TX) – This place has exactly the sort of quirky charm you expect in Austin’s hip South Congress neighborhood. Pick out a used or vintage book here before heading to grab tacos at nearby Guero’s.
  10. Bookmarc (West Village, NYC) – Okay, okay, one more in New York. Bookmarc is a mainstay in the West Village to me and while it’s small it has a perfectly curated, highly fashionable offering that’s always worth stopping by to see. Plus, they carry Olympia Le Tan clutches (hand-embroidered small box clutches that look like famous book covers) which I will continue to swoon over until I can one day afford.

(pictured below: The Spotted Dog and Daunt)

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