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The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

A.J. Fikry is a grumpy bookseller who knows exactly what he likes (short story collections) and what he dislikes (almost everything else, including his customers). He is struggling to get by alone after the loss of his wife and the theft of his most prized possession. When two-year-old Maya is left in the shop with a note asking A.J. to look after her, his plans to burrow down and isolate himself come to a halt. After all, it’s hard to completely avoid life when you have an inquisitive toddler to take care of.

Being set largely in a bookshop, literature is central to the novel and its characters. As well as bookseller A.J, there is publisher sales rep Amelia, novelist Daniel, and countless other bookworms both new and old. The novel is also cleverly framed through a literary lens: each chapter begins with a description of one of A.J.’s favourite short stories. The plot develops through these short interludes as well as in the main text, so be sure to pay attention!

While this earlier novel of Zevin’s does not quite live up to Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, it is a beautiful and gentle story about the love of books, one that it’s hard not to smile, laugh, and even cry your way through. Perfect for fans of A Man Called Ove or Diary of a Bookseller, this would make a great gift for the book lover in your life.

Recommended by Siobhán.

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