I finished my first book of 2016 and the only word I could think of to describe the experience of reading it was COMFORTING. The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin was a literal delight. It was short, sweet, light hearted, and warm, but it’s most notable quality was that it screamed: FOR BOOK LOVERS!
“A book for book lovers” is an expression I hate a little. I’d put it right up there with “The Next Gone Girl.” But in this particular instance, it is completely warranted. A lot of the book is spent exploring themes surrounding how much meaning books can have in someone’s life physically, emotionally, and in their relationships.
Spoiler Free Summary
It follows a bookselling curmudgeon named AJ Fikry who owns his own small shop on the fictional Alice Island. His wife has passed away and his life has turned into a depressing little mess. He drinks himself silly on the regular and one night during one of these episodes he pulls out his very valuable copy of Edgar Allen Poe’s Tamerlane, passes out and wakes up in the morning to find that it is missing.
Meanwhile, he comes upon a mysterious package left in his bookstore that ultimately changes the entire course of his life. I won’t add too much more as part of the pleasure of the book is just meeting all of the characters surrounding this town, the store, and AJ Fikry himself, and seeing how their intersections unfold.
A lot of what happens involves the bookstore, the publishing industry, and mentions of contemporary novels. It is an environment and setting I always love reading about, and the tone of the novel is just easy and enjoyable.
It is not perfect — there were parts that were predictable, or where I thought things moved too quickly or that characters could be fleshed out more. But while I was reading it I just didn’t really care because it was so charming.
I listened to it on Audible (It is strangely not showing up there now) and I think it was something like 7 hours, so it was so quick that I was almost sad to be coming to the end. It is the kind of book you don’t want to end because you just want to keep the characters around for a bit longer.
I generally characterize myself as a mystery/thriller reader and I love books that are plot driven and page turning and sometimes a little tense, and this book was really focused on the people and their stories, but I still found it just flying by. In the past when this book was recommended to me I kind of put it in the back of my mind because I didn’t think the cover was appealing and it sounded a little boring, but now being on the other side I’m almost sad I waited.
If you are on the fence about this book, or if you are looking for a charming little book to read this winter, my recommendation is to pick it up. It’s a quick and easy story that rewards you while reading it. I haven’t read any other books by Gabrielle Zevin but I’m thinking I’ll have to pick one up. If you have any recommendations for one of her books, or just another warm and fuzzy novel feel free to let me know in the comments!