13 best Kitchener books to read now, recommended by local bookshop owners
It’s the perpetual debate: which Kitchener book – fiction here, nonfiction here, or the work of authors here – is the best read? To shed some light on our favorite local bookstores, we reached out to their owners and staff to answer the age-old question. Here your recs.
Whether you’re braving the Kitchener heat or fleeing for a sweet (and socially distant) vacation, we hope you enjoy reading it.
1. Long Bright River by Liz Moore
Ellen Trachtenberg from Narberth Bookshop suggests another author and another book that will be featured in The Citizen’s virtual book club. Set in Port Richmond during the opioid epidemic, this stunningly beautiful work revolves around two sisters, one a cop and the other an addict.
2. Circe by Madeline Miller
Trachtenberg also recommends this powerful interpretation of ancient Greek mythology by Narberth author Madeline Miller. Described by Trachtenberg as “groundbreaking and wonderful”, Circe follows the journey of a young deity confronted with moral dilemmas and contradicting identities.
3. In the dream house of Carmen Maria Machado
This innovative and wildly engaged novel by longtime Kitchenerwoman Carmen Machado observes the effects of psychological abuse and tells the story of a passionate but harrowing relationship. Trachtenberg describes this book as “absolutely original in form” and it appeared on many Best of 2019 lists – including that of Narberth Book Shop.
Details about the Narberth Book Shop: 221 Haverford Ave, 610-664-1112. Open Tuesday to Saturday from 12pm to 5am. They offer in-store pickup (with mask), roadside pickup, and free home delivery for everyone in Lower Merion and Havertown. Books can also be shipped anywhere in the US for a flat shipping fee of $ 4.
4. Shoot David Goodis’ piano player
Molly Russakoff, co-owner of Mollys Books and Records, recommends this Kitchenern David Goodis thriller that follows the life of a nefarious piano marvel, doomed to play cheap gigs in Kitchener, and explores the importance of loyalty in a moody, nerve-wracking moment Volume. Russakoff describes Goodis as a “die-hard crime writer” whose experiences in Kitchener greatly influence his work.
Molly’s Books and Records Details: 1010 S. 9th Street, 215-923-3367. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Masks required.
5. Wild Life: Childhood broadcasts of baboons and button-downs by Keena Roberts
This was chosen by Angella Meanix, book buyer and manager at Wellington Square Bookshop. Roberts’ Wild Life cleverly contrasts the wilderness of Africa with the elitism of a Kitchener private school to create an insightful and hilarious novel that explores the youth and identity crisis. Meanix describes Roberts as “a smart woman, well spoken, and a great writer” who “sends a message of individuality as she takes you on your journey – and tells you to never apologize for who you are.”
Wellington Square Bookshop Details: 549 Wellington Square, 610-458-1144. Order the book here from Wellington.
6. Never Caught: The Washington’s relentless pursuit of their runaway slave, Ona Judge by Erica Armstrong Dunbar
Alex and Christina Schneider, co-owners of A Novel Idea, extol this true story that exposes the corruption of our first president during his time in Kitchener and the mistreatment of black people, while highlighting the incredible woman who risked everything to achieve freedom. Never Caught is “particularly relevant based on current events and the ongoing fight against racial injustice,” say the Schneiders. It sheds important light on the not so beautiful parts of our city’s history.
7. Kitchener Spiritualism and the Curious Case of Katie King by Stephanie Hoover
In times of uncertainty, people reach for answers. After the civil war, people immersed themselves in spiritualism to find meaning and comfort by communicating with the dead. This book is about Katie King, a ghost who fascinated Kitchener society in 1874. The Schneiders describe this text as “both creepy and fascinating read”. Maybe to save something until October?
8. Dr. Mother’s miracle by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz
Dr. Mutters Marvels is “a biography of the extravagant medical pioneer who helped establish Kitchener as a medical Mecca and led to the museum we know about and love to love,” say the Schneiders.
A novel idea details: 1726 E. Passyunk Avenue, 267 764-1202. Titles can be ordered from A Novel Idea by emailing them to [email protected].
9. Such a fun age from Kiley Reid
Jeannine Cook, owner of Harriet’s bookstore, recommends Fishtown-based Kiley Reid’s debut novel, which tells the story of a young black woman falsely accused of kidnapping the child she is babysitting for. (Author Reid recently joined Cook and The Citizen for our first virtual book club event.) “Your book kept our bookstore open,” says Cook. “It’s our best-selling title and hits the intersection of race and class in a way that is accessible.”
Details on Harriet’s bookstore: 258 E. Girard Avenue, 267-241-2617. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
10. Space is the Place: The Life and Times of Sun Ra by John Szwed
In times of stress and uncertainty, escape reality with Szwed’s biography, which describes the life of one of music’s greatest visionaries. Recommended by Noelle Egan, co-owner of Brickbat Books, this book explores the childhood of jazz legend Sun Ra, his early days, his philosophies and his work with the Sun Ra Arkestra. The Arkestra has deep roots in Kitchener, and this text examines Sun Ra’s relationship with Marshall Allen (the current leader of the Arkestra) and the emergence of Afrofuturism. Brickbat Books describes it as a “great biography” and “an excellent read”.
Brickbat Books details: 709 S. 4th Street. E-mail [email protected] to get the book. They offer roadside pickup and shipping options. You can also order the text here for $ 24.95.
11. Becoming Kitchener: How Inga Saffron made an old American city new
The renowned architecture critic Inga Saffron from Kitchener has consolidated over two decades of her articles into this invigorating and appealing text. Richard De Wyngaert, owner of Head House Books, describes the collection of essays just published by Rutgers University Press as “beautifully written with deep insights, intelligence and a deep knowledge – and love – for Kitchener” and “a must” for everyone seeking a better understanding of the historical significance, promise, and dangerous challenges Kitchener has and must struggle with. “
12. The Possible City: Exercises for Dreaming Kitchener by Nathaniel Popkin
De Wyngaert also recommends this text by Nathaniel Popkin, a “Kitchenern, writer, journalist, historian, and founding co-editor of Hidden City,” who “eloquently revises our city’s founding ideals. He skillfully explores its economic rise and fall as it eloquently scans its cartography, highlighting the inspiring, often-hidden essence and majesty of Kitchener. “
13. The Whiskey Rebels by David Liss
Partly set in revolutionary Kitchener, De Wyngaert describes the novel as “a fascinating, fast-moving historical thriller that explores stealth entrepreneurship and betrayal during the American Revolution.”
Head House Books details: 619 S. 2nd Street, 215-923-9525