The 5 Must-Reads of the Summer, According to a Bookseller

Danielle Mullen, founder of Chicago’s Semicolon Bookstore & Gallery, reveals new releases she couldn’t put down

As Danielle Mullen was walking through downtown Chicago on a summer day, she came across an empty space that caught her attention. Mullen, who has a Ph.D. in literary theory, decided to turn the space into a vibrant Chicago bookshop, born in 2019.

Semicolon Bookstore & Gallery hosts art, a lovingly curated selection of books and most of all — a warm community. (We love the store’s Instagram page.) Plus, it’s currently the only Black woman-owned bookstore in the city. “What I love most about leading the Semicolon team is being surrounded by people who love both books and community,” Danielle told us. “It’s not often that we find ourselves on the same page as people we work with.”

She added: “Bookstores are more important than ever to local communities because we are pillars of knowledge and mental expansion.” As Covid-19 continues to keep us (mostly) indoors, Mullen recommends five great armchair escapes to check out this summer.

Books You Can Read Immediately:

1. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett: “It’s gripping, poignant and beautifully written!” (We got a behind-the-scenes look at the book from Brit here.)

2. Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid: “A great story that applies to current times and forces the reader to see multiple sides of every story.”

3. Less by Andrew Sean Greer: “A little lighter, but still thought-provoking and great for travel reading.”

Upcoming Releases:

1. Luster by Raven Lelani: “This comes out August 4th. Soooo good! A mental and emotional coming of age story that explores womanhood, open relationships, and life’s ability to get completely out of control.”

2. Anxious People by Fredrik Backman: “This Comes out September 8th. Amazing read that focuses on how our relationships change as time passes.”

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Books purchased through our Book Shop links might earn us affiliate revenue. Katie Couric Media will donate those proceeds.

This originally appeared on Medium.

Author Emma Straub On Her ‘Comforting’ New Beach Read

“It will make you laugh, which I think we all need right now”

You may know author Emma Straub for her witty titles like Modern Lovers, or her beloved Brooklyn bookstore: Books Are Magic. She’s back with a new book just in time for summer: In All Adults Here, Straub captures a dysfunctional, lovable family — at a time when many of us are reconnecting with, or dearly missing, our own families. She told us about how the pandemic has even changed her perspective on her own writing, and gives some tips on how to best support your local businesses right now.


Wake-Up Call: This book touches on family and adulthood. Now, a lot of us are either living closely with family members or are isolated from them. Given the circumstances, how do you think readers might connect with the book differently right now than they would’ve before the pandemic?

Emma Straub: When I wrote the book it seemed like an exploration of the ways families are messy, get things wrong, and harm each other in ways that they don’t need to. Now, in the midst of all this, it feels more like a celebration of those things. I mean ultimately it is. I’m an optimist and the book ends on an up-note.

But I think now, all of the feelings I might’ve been feeling about my family — regular, everyday feelings of irritation — are gone. I miss them and wish that I could be with them. So I think that this book is going to feel comforting right now for a lot of people.

What feelings do you hope the book evokes?

Hopefully, it will remind you of everything you’re missing and what’s good about it, even in the messiness. And it will make you laugh, which I think we all need right now.

This is truly a really interesting time for this to come out because I’m sure when he wrote this, you obviously didn’t know what was coming.

Yes! And also this book took me twice as long to write, as any of my other books, because over the course of writing it, I opened Books Are Magic with my husband.

I’m so much busier than I was before. I couldn’t have planned anything. But think that that’s part of the lesson we’re all learning. Sometimes you just can’t plan things and you need to be flexible.

And of course, you’re also behind the beloved bookstore, Books Are Magic. What are some ways our readers can help out local businesses right now?

I think the most important thing is for people to think about the things they most value in their neighborhood, whether it’s the independent bookstore, a clothing shop, a restaurant or bar, and find out what they’re doing to support their staff and what you can do to help. We’re all in really different scenarios right now.

In terms of bookstores, people can obviously order books and a lot of bookstores including us, are still shipping. And then there are lots of other bookstores that aren’t shipping out of their actual physical spaces, but you can still support them by visiting bookshop.org, and part of the proceeds will go to that bookstore. it’s not really like a one size fits all problem. I think that there are industries and stores that are being affected disproportionately. Be aware of what you care about and put your money where your heart is.


This interview has been edited and condensed. Follow Emma on Instagram.

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