The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

This warm, gentle novel reads like a love letter to bookshops. It follows the life of A.J. Fikry, a man who is left as the sole owner of a small bookstore after his young wife tragically dies in a car accident. A.J. is drowning his sorrows in alcohol, alienating everyone in his life and doing a pretty bad job of running his business when an unexpected turn of events changes everything – a two-year-old girl, Maya, is abandoned in his store. His life becomes entwined with Maya’s, and the novel follows them over the ensuing years.

This is a charming tale of the small moments in one man’s life. A.J. and his friends grapple with grief, fall in love, build unconventional families and find solace in literature. There is no high drama, but journeying through these everyday moments makes for comforting, and surprisingly compelling, reading.

One of the main themes of the narrative is the importance of books to each character. The novel is filled with discussions of contemporary literature, and devoted readers (especially those who spend a lot of time in bookshops, and belong to book clubs) will find much to enjoy. Sentimental but not cloying, The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry is a feel-good story (the kind that just might reduce you to weeping in its final chapters). The less you expect from this quiet book, the more you’ll find.

Nina Kenwood is the Online Manager for Readings.