Megan is the co-owner of Hills & Hamlets Bookshop and its sister store Underground Books. You'll mostly find her at Underground Books, where she also manages, researches, and catalogs our rare and antiquarian online inventory (browse at UndergroundBooks.Net). Megan has been a part of the Underground Books family since just after the shop opened, shelving books to woo Josh (totally worked), scouting, pinch hitting at the register, and hauling boxes at book fairs, house calls, and dollar book sales. She graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from the University of West Georgia and the UWG Honors College, where she binged on postmodern lit and poetry.
Jesuits in space! A philosophical, psychological, moral, theological, anthropological science fiction novel that explores the intersections of science and faith, this book asks all the big questions and resolutely faces all the sweetest and most bitter moments that arise from great discovery and horrifying sacrifice. This novel is a true work of art and won all the big science fiction awards upon its publication. It’s an utterly brilliant, wondrous, and harrowing tale that will leave you both satisfied and shaken.
This book is a masterpiece and full of so much heart and so much thought, so much empathy and so much wisdom about being in the world. The Faraway Nearby feels like it’s about…everything…apricots and ailing parents, unfulfilling childhoods, what books are and what reading does, fairy tales, Iceland, Che Guevara, Frankenstein, moths who drink bird tears, saying yes—all quite disparate things that you wouldn’t think could cohere into a seamless story, but do, because ultimately The Faraway Nearby is about stories, how we build our lives from narrative, and how we find meaning in the midst of fracture. I felt known reading this book, and, by the last page, more prepared to face the world.
In the years after the end of civilization (flu pandemic, wouldn’t you know), scavengers roam the abandoned highways, bands of survivors toil without electricity or running water, and a traveling Shakespearean troupe brings the works of the Bard to the remnants of society. Station Eleven is surprisingly realistic and a very well considered and multilayered dystopic elegy to what we know as the everyday.
Where'd You Go, Bernadette manages to be hilarious, fun, and heartwarming as well as sharp, smart, perceptive, and heart wrenching. Plus, Microsoft, radical architecture, Antarctica, and agoraphobic geniuses. It’s a pleasure.
A novel inspired by the life of anthropologist Margaret Mead? Uh, yes please. Euphoria is heady, sensual, fierce, and intellectually stimulating.
Your childhood fairytales and your grandmama’s folktales from the old country have grown up. Wild, earthy, sexy, smartly written, deeply satisfying, and, yes, magical, Uprooted is everything you ever wanted from a bedtime story. Don’t take it from me; it also won the Nebula Award for best novel.
When fifteen-year-old Anna can’t stand her home life, she steals her stepmother’s credit card and runs away to Los Angeles to stay with her aspiring actress half-sister and ends up getting hired to research the Manson girls, a real group of murderous young women in the 1960s, for an indie film. What Anna ends up finding isn’t quite refuge; instead, it’s a clear look at herself and a realization about the dark heart of American girldom (as well as a little romance).
There’s a reason Cheryl Strayed carried this poetry book on her back through miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. Well, yeah, it’s lightweight, but it’s mostly because it packs some pretty big punches, personally, socially, and politically through meditations on power, love, and woman’s relationship to nature.
The first work by an African-American or by a woman of color to win the Hugo Award for best novel, The Fifth Season is a breakthrough, genre-redefining, and altogether mind-blowing work of science fiction/fantasy that I still find difficult to describe. In part, the novel is so impressive because of the sheer height from which it world-builds. Jemisin gives us a macro level view onto systems of power, oppression, and identity, all playing out in a world shaped by millennia of climate change and geological activity. Wait—there’s more: an academy for young people with superpowers, a butt-kicking heroine, a mature feminist love triangle…Just read it so you can help me describe it more succinctly!
While our President may not give a clear answer about when exactly America was particularly “great,” the authors of The New Grand Strategy not only urge us to make America strategic again, they explore the history of American grand strategy and supply a detailed vision and an implementation plan for how to become strategic again. In practical and refreshingly nonpartisan language, Mykleby, Doherty, and Makower lay out a plan to “restore America’s prosperity, security, and sustainability in the 21st Century,” in part by meeting the great opportunities available to our nation today, opportunities many Chatt Hillians are already embracing: walkable communities, regenerative agriculture, and resource productivity. Read The New Grand Strategy for a breath of head-clearing air in this political moment.
Complex, dynamic characters, rich world building, meditations on friendship and loss, the Harry Potter Series has earned its fame as one of the most beloved series of modern times. The good vs. evil storyline that gives the series its structure has never been a major focal point for me. As a child, it was Hogwarts I was enamored with; I was a nerdy little girl who dreamed of a magical academic environment. As a young adult, I appreciated Rowling’s treatment of the difficulties of human relationships, of not really knowing the pasts of parents and mentors, of grieving, of racial, gender, and economic inequality, activism, and, well, growing up, standing up for what’s right, and coming to have compassion for those who’ve mistreated us. Read these books, and you'll find magic and wisdom and home.
I always describe this book as the perfect balance between literary fiction and airplane reading. I read it three times and wrote two papers about it in the space of a month while in UWG’s English program, and I always have an extra copy on my shelf for lending. Thrilling and thoughtful, Room plays with the mother-child relationship, gender, captivity, postmodernism, television and the media, and the ways in which we come to interpret the world around us. Because this novel is so smart and fast paced, I’d recommend it to those who loved Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl.
My middle school librarian—bless you Ms. Phillips—gave this poetry collection to me when I was 13, and it’s been a major touchstone throughout my life since. An eclectic collection, this book has a poem for everyone, each one featured on Keillor’s popular public radio show “The Writer’s Almanac.” Beginners will find much to like, and poetry veterans will rediscover many of their favorites.
I have no idea how many times I read this book growing up. With a dragon-fighting princess, her faithful steed, and a dire threat to the kingdom, this book could easily fall into gratuitous YA fantasy, but, trust me, it doesn’t. Well crafted, the heroine is no mere strong-willed, butt-kicking female character, but smart, persevering, introspective, and struggling with common self-limitations as well as limitations put on her as a mixed-race, mixed-class woman. This is an excellent book for young people of all genders that stands up to more mature reading as well. Also: a Newberry Award winner. Check out the companion to this novel, The Blue Sword!
This collection of mature, feminist reimaginings of classic fairy and folk tales (including Bluebeard, Beauty and the Beast, and Little Red Riding Hood, among others) doesn’t flinch in its examination of the violence and sexuality latent in children’s bedtime stories. Carter writes her brutal, erotic fables in vivid, sensuous prose; the result: a pleasurable read that packs a serious punch.
A tour de force, urgent and relevant, this is a book I’d be willing to die for. Speculative fiction, this novel imagines a U.S. in which American fundamentalist Christianity’s rhetoric about women is taken to its logical conclusions, with the establishment of a theocratic military dictatorship that employs biblical brutalities. Read this if you want more from your dystopian fiction (and prepare for more than you bargained for). Nolite te bastardes carborundorum!
Beautiful and unflinching, this is to me that elusive thing we call the great American novel. Simultaneously a memorial to the 60 million and more people brutalized by the Atlantic slave trade and an exorcism of the repressed memory of slavery in the American unconscious, Beloved is a powerful masterwork of American fiction. It’s also gorgeously written, haunting, heartrending, and ultimately hopeful.
Orlando blew my mind in college. Time-bending, genre-bending, gender-bending, if Woolf’s literary technical innovations don’t awe you, her lush lyricism and witty satire will. All hail the queen.
This ain’t your papa’s story of manifest destiny and the founding of the American dreamThe only thing more crushingly, brutally violent than its depictions of the massacres, scalping, and rape with which we won the West is its depiction of the ways in which, on our compulsive thrust westward, we obliterated everything autonomous from us, naming and classifying and ultimately destroying these things, from plant and animal life to Native American cultures and systems of meaning. There’s a brilliant juxtaposition here of physical violence and the violence of language. This book is admittedly brimming with these kinds of horror, and many a reader has abandoned it for this reason. Get ready for the most gorgeous sentences about sunset carnage you’ve ever read.
Nao is a suffering young girl in Tokyo who plans to kill herself, but decides she must first record in her diary the life of her great-grandmother, a centenarian, novelist, feminist, anarchist, and Buddhist nun who lives in a temple on a crumbling mountaintop. Ruth, a struggling writer in British Columbia, finds Nao’s diary in a Hello Kitty lunchbox when it washes ashore. Funny, tender, and heartrending, this is a story full of desperate and complex characters who will break your heart, all while stimulating your mind with awesome big ideas, including: metafiction, quantum physics, Zen Buddhism, anonymity on the internet, WWII kamikaze pilots, Proust, the Neocene, environmental art, Taisho era Japan, and more.
Hillbilly Elegy has been touted as the key to understanding the white working class voters who elected Donald Trump, and it certainly does give a much needed window into the hearts, minds, and homes of our fellow citizens. What we most appreciated about this memoir is how determined Vance is to look clearly at himself, his family, his community, and his demographic, focusing his vision through academic research (“cognitive dissonance,” “learned helplessness”) and more personal observation (an “almost spiritual…cynicism”). Vance’s reasonable conservatism was missing from this election, and this earnest, informed, and moving chronicle of declining white working class culture is vital.
Deep in northern Rus’ lies a village surrounded by a forest as thick with magic as it is with snow, and in that village, a fearless girl caught between the old household gods and the Holy Trinity. Katherine Arden’s debut novel is a brave-hearted, richly woven tale that will enthrall fans of Naomi Novik’s Uprooted and Robin McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown. I’m pleased to learn that this is only the first in a planned trilogy, though The Bear and the Nightingale stands on its own, because I so look forward to spending more time with our fierce, witchy hoyden Vasilisa, her many friends and foes, and the 14th Century Rus’ that Arden imbues with so much wonder, ferocity, and intimacy.
Susan Cain’s Quiet is a godsend. Leaving no stone unturned in her search to understand introversion, how it came to be deplored in our schools, offices, and churches, and how we can better utilize its powers, Cain provides a historical, scientific, and well-researched work that comforts and inspires as well as it instructs. Whether you’re an introvert or a parent, partner, teacher, or employer of an introvert, this is a much-needed guide to leveraging strengths that have gone under-utilized in America for far too long.
Part memoir, part urban history, Hannah Palmer's Flight Path is entirely fascinating, witty, and tender. Years after leaving the South for Brooklyn, Palmer returns to Atlanta ready to start a family and searching for her roots. While her husband doubles down on home improvements, a pregnant Palmer hits the pavement, intent on finding out what happened to her childhood homes, which have disappeared along with entire neighborhoods and cities beneath the sprawling complex of the busiest airport in the world. In gorgeous prose at turns poetic and wry, Palmer investigates not only how Hartsfield-Jackson has shaped the city that gave birth to it, but how a city shapes a person, the human relationship to place, and how much anyone can really know "home." Palmer's journey is enthralling, and I found myself questioning, mourning, and hoping along with her. I'll never look at Atlanta the same way again, or any city for that matter.
This anthology by one of my idols collects his columns for Washington Post Book World and contains warm, beautifully written introductions to over 130 poets, spanning the globe’s breadth of cultures and ranging from ancient times to the present. Poet’s Choice provides the perfect pace for exploring the history of poetry and discovering new poets. I enjoyed every moment I spent with this book, with each new chapter feeling like a revelation, whether it’s learning about hexes as a genre of ancient Greek poetry or reading Vietnamese women poets for the first time.
Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels are a fierce, intimate, and beautifully unflinching account of female friendship--believe the hype--a fever dream that leaves you impossibly clear-headed.
My mind is all kinds of messed up from this book, a very disturbing, thrilling, and thought-provoking meditation on power, gender, religion, and history, plus super morally ambiguous and compelling characters. This one is for all Margaret Atwood fans and anyone who loves a speculative or science fiction story that pushes their buttons and makes them think!
I don’t know how I could ever look at trees the same way again after reading this book. Wohlleben writes with such warmth, sincerity, and enthusiasm, and it makes what would usually be a slow read for me a wonder, transportive. I feel like I live in a different world after finishing this—one with more wonder, mystery, and magic. I was hoping to gain a greater appreciation for nature from this book, and I definitely have!
The Hazel Wood was thrilling, creepy, delightful, and full of surprises. I loved each and every one of Melissa Albert's deftly handled twists and turns, especially because nothing is merely plot in this novel; every detail speaks to fairy tales and folk lore, the readers who love these stories, and the scholars who collect and study them. A fascinating, thought-provoking, and most of all fun read I'll be recommending to teens and adults alike, especially for fans of Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber, Naomi Novik's Uprooted, and Lev Grossman's The Magicians.
Informative, potent, gut-punch of a book. Perfect for pairing with the wildly different and fictional meditation on the subject The Power by Naomi Alderman for an extended, multiple perspective, and challenging study of women, power, and how our view of history impacts our world today.
I never could have anticipated this book, and now I can't imagine a world without it, especially for this moment in American history. The Female Persuasion follows the ambitious but shy Greer Kadetsky, her boyfriend, her best friend, and the feminist icon who launches her into the world. Through these vivid, complex, and lovable characters, Wolitzer explores both the principle and reality of feminism as well as the desire to become our fullest selves and the twists and turns that journey can take. My heart raced reading this book, and I never wanted it to end. The Female Persuasion is powerful, generous, smart, and deeply kind; I can’t wait for the world to meet it.
My 1994 Pontiac Bonneville has a tape deck, and I plan on driving with a tape popped in for Renee Sheffield this winter. Rob Sheffield’s memoir of his late wife, lost after only 5 years of marriage, is of course, a heartbreaker of a book. But Love is a Mix Tape is also full of wisdom (though the author might disagree), kindness, laughs, epic love, and lots of great tunes.
I love Elizabeth Gilbert’s earnestness, sincerity, and enthusiasm. Gilbert speaks about inspiration as a magical, living being, and she also instructs us to be responsible adults, to not torture ourselves or others, and to play. I like the mix of pixie dust and house dust in this book, perfect for anyone who is in a rut, doubting their creative choices, or feeling conflicted about their work.
A truly inspired reworking of Jane Eyre, Re Jane kept me guessing as it wound in and out of the Brontë novel like the 7 in and out of Flushing. The view that emerges is luminous and expansive and nuanced when it comes to ethnicity, class, feminism, immigration, family, and love. I love this Jane and would have followed her anywhere.
Oh man, I did not want this to ever end. I tried so hard to stall and drag my feet and just read it forever. First, We Make the Beast Beautiful is revelatory, full of helpful, informed advice, discussions with leading experts in the field, recent scientific studies, and historical context. It’s lively, funny, wise, and empathetic. But most of all, reading this book is like having the best, deepest, most therapeutic and raucous and tearful and cathartic conversation with a friend (or a stranger, those can happen) and then the feeling afterward, maybe at 4 in the morning, when you’re just resting together in the peace of laying all your cards on the table and knowing and being known. There were so many moments of recognition in this book for me that I can’t wait for others to experience. Sarah Wilson’s honesty, empathy, humor, encouragement, and when it needs to be done, the pushes she gives her reader are all invaluable. This is a book you’ll want to hug about a hundred times, then launch out into the world (or stay at home!) with your beautiful beast beside you.
I'm so glad I finally read this. It was recommended to me by a philosophy professor friend of my father’s when I was eleven, and it was just beyond me at the time. It’s intimidated me since! As you can probably guess, the literary narrative does suffer a bit from the weight of all that philosophical exposition, but this is an enchanting, surprising, fascinating, and even disturbing read that I think will be staying with me for many years to come.
This brief, incredibly lucid essay sheds light on the treatment of undocumented children in America, a pressing human rights crisis that can seem so vast and complex, it’s overwhelming. I’m grateful for how Tell Me How It Ends puts the situation in focus both nationally and internationally, poignantly, clearly, and even hopefully.