Welcome to Shelf Life, ELLE.com’s books column, in which authors share their most memorable reads. Whether you’re on the hunt for a book to console you, move you profoundly, or make you laugh, consider a recommendation from the writers in our series, who, like you (since you’re here), love books. Perhaps one of their favorite titles will become one of yours, too.
Tomi Adeyemi gave herself a one-week break between writing Children of Blood and Bone (the first draft of which took a month) and Children of Virtue and Vengeance. Good for her that she’s given herself more time and space for the final installment in the West African fantasy Legacy of Orïsha trilogy, whose title she teased in an IG post as “CAA.” (Patience—she’s working on it.)
And better for us that she wasn’t discouraged when she was told as a Harvard English literature major she had no future as a writer, or after a first novel was rejected by 63 agents. Children of Blood and Bone and Children of Virtue and Vengeance (Henry Holt) have not only spent more than a combined 150 weeks topping or on the NYT bestseller list, but the former is being adapted for the big screen at Disney/Fox/Lucasfilm (its first non-Star Wars or Indiana Jones project).
The Chicago-raised, San Diego-based Nigerian-American author has two siblings (older brother musical artist Tobi Lou and younger sister Toni), is a Leo, was one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People of 2020, teaches creative writing, has a Bernese Mountain dog, calls her fans “Tominators,” wrote for the forthcoming animated Netflix series My Dad the Bounty Hunter (from the animator of the Oscar-winning short Hair Love), and starts every story with a Pinterest board (Idris Elba was on her mood board for Children of Virtue and Vengeance.)
Likes: SZA and Queen, Valentino, Fenty Gloss Bomb, The Devil Wears Prada, Giordano’s Deep Dish Stuffed Spinach Pizza, dating reality shows, K-pop band Seventeen, boxing. Here are contenders for your next read.
The book that…
…helped me through a breakup:
Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown. I highly recommend the audiobook if you want to be comforted by Bréne’s calming voice as well as be inspired to change and transform.
…made me rethink a long-held belief:
12 Rules for Life by Jordan B. Peterson.
…made me weep uncontrollably:
A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi.
…I swear I’ll finish one day:
Story by Robert McKee. It was assigned to me as a freshman in college, and I have literally been trying to work my way through it for six years.
…I’d gift to a new graduate:
Goddesses in Everywoman by Jean Shinoda Bolen.
…I’d want signed by the author for my library:
Becoming Bulletproof by Evy Poumpouras. For me, Evy Poumpouras is a paragon of female strength, courage, and power. It would be incredible to meet someone who has fought through and conquered so much.
…made me laugh out loud:
Everything’s Trash, But It’s Okay by Phoebe Robinson.
…I’d like turned into a Netflix show:
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir.
…I first bought:
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (also the first book to ever make me cry).
…I recommend over and over again:
Zen As F*ck: A Journal for Practicing the Mindful Art of Not Giving a Sh*t by Monica Sweeney.
…I asked for one Christmas as a kid:
The Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne. I was practically raised on this magical series. Still love to revisit from time to time.
…currently sits on my nightstand:
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. Not cheating (lol); currently re-reading the first book for book three!
…makes me feel seen:
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo.
…made me miss a train stop:
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo.
…I’d pass onto my kid:
Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o. So she would never doubt her light or her beauty.
…features the most beautiful book jacket:
Hurricane Summer by Asha Bromfield.
If I could live in any library or bookstore in the world, it would be: One that sells snickerdoodles and provides fuzzy blankets and reading nooks.
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