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The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

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Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Fiction (2014)
Librarian's note: An alternate cover edition can be found here

A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. He lives alone, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. But when a mysterious package appears at the bookstore, its unexpected arrival gives Fikry the chance to make his life over--and see everything anew.

288 pages, Paperback

First published April 1, 2014

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About the author

GABRIELLE ZEVIN is a New York Times best-selling novelist whose books have been translated into forty languages.

Her tenth novel, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow was published by Knopf in July of 2022 and was an instant New York Times Best Seller, a Sunday Times Best Seller, a USA Today Best Seller, a #1 National Indie Best Seller, and a selection of the Tonight Show’s Fallon Book Club. Maureen Corrigan of NPR’s Fresh Air called it, “a big beautifully written novel…that succeeds in being both serious art and immersive entertainment.” Following a twenty-five-bidder auction, the feature film rights to Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow were acquired by Temple Hill and Paramount Studios. She is currently writing the screenplay.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry spent many months on the New York Times Best Seller List, reached #1 on the National Indie Best Seller List, was a USA Today Best Seller, and has been a best seller all around the world. A.J. Fikry was honored with the Southern California Independent Booksellers Award for Fiction, the Japan Booksellers’ Prize, and was long listed for the International Dublin Literary Award, among other honors. To date, the book has sold over five-million copies worldwide. It is now a feature film with a screenplay by Zevin. Young Jane Young won the Southern Book Prize and was one of the Washington Post’s Fifty Notable Works of Fiction.

She is the screenwriter of Conversations with Other Women (Helena Bonham Carter) for which she received an Independent Spirit Award Nomination for Best First Screenplay. She has occasionally written criticism for the New York Times Book Review and NPR’s All Things Considered, and she began her writing career, at age fourteen, as a music critic for the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. Zevin is a graduate of Harvard University. She lives in Los Angeles.

NOTE: Apologies, but Gabrielle doesn't reply to messages on Goodreads.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 32,574 reviews
Profile Image for Rebecca.
3,509 reviews2,510 followers
May 7, 2014
I’m starting to think I’m the only bibliophile on earth who didn’t care for this book. After everything I’d read about it, I didn’t think it could possibly fail to be fantastic. For me, though, it tips way too far into chick lit and YA territory, and succumbs too often (and too early) to schmaltz and melodrama.

Now, there are certainly some good points. A.J. himself, an independent bookseller and just-coping widower, is a delightfully irascible character with some decided literary prejudices that I can certainly affirm: no series, no genre mash-ups, no celebrity memoirs, and – please, dear God – no vampires. Zevin’s literary references range from the classical to the contemporary and are bang on-trend (e.g. Alice Munro and David Foster Wallace).

I truly enjoyed the first two chapters, with the quaint mystery of the stolen Poe first edition, and as a believer in bibliotherapy I appreciated Zevin’s insistence on “the necessity of encountering stories at precisely the right time in our lives.” I could even stomach the burgeoning romance between A.J. and Amelia, the quirky Knightley Press sales rep who takes the ferry out from Hyannis to visit Island Books. “Her specialty is persnickety little bookstores and the particular breed that runs them,” so it seems she’s found the perfect place.

Then comes Chapter 3 and its plot twist, so coyly avoided by the jacket blurb but so central to the plot that I hardly think it’s worth calling it a spoiler: It seems A.J.’s “porcupine heart” is finally softening. Awwwwwwwwww. As the novel continues, it becomes more and more like a YA romance, especially with the increasing focus on .

The disastrous event A.J. holds with the author of Amelia’s favorite memoir is good fun, but in general I didn’t much enjoy the last two-thirds of the book. The romance plot is boring and predictable; the mystery elements are solved too neatly and unrealistically; a debate over whether e-readers will replace paper books is shoehorned in; and the foreshadowing is as subtle as a brick to the head. I’m sorry, am I just a big cynic? The novel soon descends into a third-rate knock-off of The Fault in Our Stars (a book I loved, by the way, and one of the few YA gems I’ve found).

Here’s my main problem with the book: it doesn’t know what it wants to be. Does it mean to be a quaint romance, an independent bookstore lover’s Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society? If so, the gratuitous swearing and one-night stands will offend your more traditional types. Zevin should have made Fikry a restrained Anglo-Indian hermit in Hay-on-Wye instead. Or is it an edgy, youthful take on some chick lit tropes? If that’s the case, haters (like me) will object to the frequently sentimental content.

The book helped me pass a flight to America pleasantly enough back in March, but as I go back through my notes and scan some newspaper reviews to write it up for Bookmarks, I’m reminded of everything I found so frustrating about it. “Everything is explained, and all the loose ends are tied up with a bow,” Keith Donohue wrote in his Washington Post review. Well, if you ask me, that’s not always a good thing.

A big disappointment for this bibliophile, especially given the novel’s great potential.
Profile Image for Delee.
243 reviews1,092 followers
February 20, 2017
5+

We read to know we're not alone. We read because we are alone. We read and we are not alone. We are not alone.

Once in a while a book comes along that captures your heart and soul- where the characters become like friends and family, and a part of you wants to pack a bag and travel to that magical place forever. At the start you just know it is going to be something special- by the end you feel physical pain knowing that these people are gone from your life...One day you may pick it back up to read again - but you know it will never be the same as that first experience. THE STORIED LIFE OF A.J. FIKRY made me smile, laugh out loud, cry uncontrollably...and my grinchy heart might have even grown three sizes.

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39 year-old A.J. Fikry is the owner of a failing bookstore -Island Books- on Alice Island- it should be successful- being the only bookstore in the area and because of A.J.'s passion for books...but A.J. doesn't like people very much. His wife- Nic- was the people person, the one that kept the bookstore running, the love of his life- and now she is dead- killed in a car accident a year and a half ago...

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...For the last year and a half A.J. has been barely getting by- he drinks too much, lives on frozen dinners, has stopped exercising, pushes people away, and is even grumpy to his staff and customers...but at least he has a plan- Sell the bookstore and auction off his copy of Tamerlane. An extremely rare collection of poems by Edgar Allan Poe- worth 400 thousand dollars. Then he can retire. But fate steps in and throws another gut-wrenching blow at Mr. Fikry- when the uninsured Tamerlane is stolen right out of his home during a night of binge drinking. It is the first wake up call A.J gets. The second is only weeks away...

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I will leave my review right there- because I think part of loving this book came from knowing practically nothing about it. It was full of so many little and BIG surprises along the way and I am soooooo glad I went against my first instinct of passing this one by. THE STORIED LIFE OF A.J. FIKRY is a story of love, loss, and second chances. I cannot recommend this one enough!!

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I won an advanced reader's copy from First-Reads.
Profile Image for Alejandro.
1,106 reviews3,542 followers
June 11, 2015
Every word the right one and exactly where it should be. That's basically the highest compliment I can give...

...and I am truly glad that it didn't took me so long to read it!!!

The words you can't find, you borrow...

Maybe I could find the words but honestly, that first quote from this wonderful book was the right way to compliment it. And to do that, well I quote a second one too.

And you will find several quotes in this review since honestly, this is one of the most quotable novels that I ever read. And believe it or not, they won't be all the quotes that I loved here.

I LOVE THIS BOOK AND IT'S ONE OF THE BEST NOVELS THAT I EVER READ!

And that it isn't a quote! That's my honest thinking about it!

I have read several positive reviews about the novel and I was expecting a good book, but I never expected that it will be SOOOOOO good and a truly wonderful reading experience!

This is a book about books. I mean, this story is about novels, novellas, short stories, readers, writers, bookstores... so indeed I think that this a "must-read" to every person with passion for reading and love for books.

The style of the novel is quite particular since it's without a question a novel per se but each chapter is constructed as a kinda self-contained short story but all of them are one big storyline. And a priceless detail is that each chapter is titled for some famous short story written by some other author in the past and that it's related in some way to something on the chapter.

A good book has characters with evolution and due that... this is an exceptional book! Since the evolution of each character is truly remarkable and taking unsuspected paths but all of them interconnected in such wonderful way. Even characters that you don't expect much at first, they will surprise you totally.

A place isn't a place until it has a bookstore.

I love Alice Island! I didn't want to reseach if Alice Island was a real place or not until finishing the book and the author explained that it was an invented place. Maybe it will sound odd, but I love that it is a fictional place. Since from the beginning I was playing the idea of that the place got its name from the Alice from Wonderland, that it's one of my favorite fairy tales, and while that wasn't confirmed on the novel, there was a reference to the tale, so there is hope...

...the necessity of encountering stories at precisely the right time in our lives.

Definitely, I want to believe that about this wonderful book, while it was published until this year (2014), so I wouldn't be able to read it before, still, it was the right time for me, since it would be very likely that even two years ago, I wouldn't be able to appreciate it in the same way.

...the things we respond to at twenty are not necessarily the same things we will respond to at forty and vice versa. This is true in books and also in life.

Definitely, we aren't the same people twice, each year we change for better or worse and that's why that you also never read the same book twice, maybe the first time you hate it and twenty years later you got amazed for the same novel. Experiences in life define how we perceive the following things on it.

...forcing kids to read books like that that make them think they hate reading.

Never force a book to a kid, even if you think that you are doing them a favor. That's why usually kids and even more teenagers hate to read the assigned books in schools. Let them find their genres, let them find their kind of books. Everybody is a reader, only some of them are still looking for the right book.

...the easiest way to get old is to be technologically behind.

Don't fight between paper books and e-readers. I love my printed books but now I am used to read several stuff on my tablet. For me, the important thing is to read, not matter in which way, but to read. Any book in any way. Just read.

Most people's problems would be solved if they would only give more things a chance.

So, let's give it a chance to this novel! Maybe your problem won't be solved reading this book, but certainly it will put your soul at peace and with that, being able to find a solution.

P.S.

I am accountant but luckily the book that impacted me most in my life wasn't... Principles of Accounting, Part II !!!

Not even close! Hahaha!

P.P.S.

Siberian huskies in Arizona?!! Only me found that odd? Hehehe!

P.P.P.S.

The old kind cops rule! 'Nuff said!!!










Profile Image for Emily May.
1,921 reviews290k followers
December 16, 2014
"There ain't nobody in the world like book people."

It's a bit embarrassing to admit how emotional this book made me. I'm not even a fan of Zevin's work; I quite liked the concept behind Elsewhere but not the execution, and I pretty much hated All These Things I've Done. But this book is just so warm and funny and bittersweet. It speaks to the thing inside me that has always loved books, will always love books, and has allowed my life to be swept in certain directions by my love for literature.

A.J. Fikry is one of my favourite kinds of characters - he's cynical and grumpy, but simultaneously witty, clever, funny and lovable. This is essentially the tale of his life after the death of his beloved wife. He must somehow pick up the pieces of his world and continue managing his bookstore, while all he really wants to do is drink away his problems.

One day, A.J. receives an unexpected package that is guaranteed to completely change his life. Like many great books, his life twists in a strange new direction, introducing him to new people and new ways of thinking. He soon begins to realise that he still has many things worth living for.

Woven with allusions to many works of literature - especially short stories - this novel should resonate with many book lovers. Those of us who have been truly affected, influenced, changed or - dare I be so melodramatic - even saved by them. I don't know if Zevin intended to make a point about the death of the bookstore and physical books in favour of ereaders, but I found myself feeling a little melancholy as time went by and more people stopped buying physical books. Though ultimately relieved, as I realised how important bookstores and paper books still are to many people.

Whether this book is for you or not, I cannot say. It is both funny and serious, happy and sad, light and dark... but I wouldn't have it any other way.
Profile Image for karen.
3,968 reviews170k followers
June 26, 2018
A town isn't a town without a bookstore.

while it's true that this is the literary equivalent of a stone skipped over a pond, it's a pretty damn charming stone. reading about other booknerds, even when they are better described as bookcranks, is delightful to me. A Novel Bookstore, Salamander, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, etc are among my favorite books. are they the best books ever written? nah. but they have characters whose sensibilities are so close to my own, it's hard not to feel a little heartswell when you encounter them. because if you're on goodreads at all, you know that books matter. whether you read the kinds of vampire books that fikry laments or the more serious tomes he applauds (although considering he esteems The Book Thief, hasn't finished proust's ISOLT, and dismisses Infinite Jest, i'm taking his purported book-snobbery with a grain of salt), you know the power of a good story, even when it's just a sweet little piece of light escapism.

this is a love letter to booklovers about the power of the written word to bring people together whether the relationships be romantic, parental, or book-clubby.

several of these relationships involve the titular a.j. fikry; a bookstore owner and widower living on a small island somewhere new england-y who finds himself entrusted with the care of a two-year-old named maya after she is abandoned in his bookstore. he's already old-man curmudgeonly although still in his thirties, but finds the raising of maya and instilling in her his own love of books to be one of those rewarding experiences that enriches one's life and is all sorts of inspirational. although he expresses it differently.

Fucking love, he thinks. What a bother. It's completely gotten in the way of his plan to drink himself to death, to drive his business to ruin. The most annoying thing about it is that once a person gives a shit about one thing, he finds he has to start giving a shit about everything.

and give a shit he does, as his love for maya allows him to nurture other feelings including reluctantly acknowledged romantic ones for a vibrant book-loving woman with her own relationship baggage. in a comment that sounds like something ripped right out of Madame Bovary,

Her mother likes to say that novels have ruined Amelia for real men.

thankfully for fikry, this is not true, because he is indeed a real, flawed man.

but he's also the kind of man whose first-date chatter involves "In what restaurant based on a novel would you have preferred to dine*?"

so he's got some good points.

so it's a romance and a sort-of cozy mystery (although the theft of his copy of Tamerlane: Poem is not important to the story - until it is), and one of those cheeky feel-good smalltown books in which suicides both occur and are contemplated and people die and there are miscarriages and infidelity, but it's all glossed over in the same way as those other pesky realities like how an abandoned-child scenario would really be handled. because, no.



so despite the supremely precocious maya and the novel's relentlessly cheerful tone, both of which i would ordinarily find irritating, i enjoyed the bookyness of it more than i was irritated by its greeting card outlook. all the discussions about the perils of e-books and chain bookstores (the only thing worse than a world with big chain bookstores was a world with NO big chain bookstores.),the methods of publishing reps, the assessment that blurbs are the blood diamonds of publishing, "nerd" as a term of endearment, all the meta stuff at the beginning "if this were a book…." - it's all stuff from "my" world, so it's easy to love.

it's a very quick read about bookfolk that may not be the most cerebral thing on the shelves, but it's hard not to get caught up in its genuine enthusiasm and start nodding along nerdily at certain moments.

it's summer- enjoy yourself.

* my answer - James and the Giant Peach. with giant animatronic bugs, slightly scarier than the ones on the film, and a menu including

baked peaches with ricotta and honey



chicken with peach chutney



peach cobbler



peach crisp



peach and pancetta pizza



peach soup



peanut butter and bacon burger with peach chutney



salmon and peaches



now, if you will excuse me.
all those peaches have made me feel daring.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Kristin (KC).
251 reviews25.1k followers
June 1, 2018
*4.5 Stars* — because how can any bonafide book-nerd not adore this quirky and heartfelt tribute to literature!

I don’t know about you, but I could dwell inside the richly entertaining mind of one A.J. Fickry forever. Or at least every other weekend.

Because that’s exactly what this novel simulates: a casual stroll through the mind of a complex, yet vastly simple middle-aged widower whose outlook on life has deflated.

Life has knocked him down, as it tends to do, and A.J. finds comfort in the cold embrace of pessimism and gloom…And, of course, in his ownership of the town’s one and only bookstore.

But a mysterious “package” popping up in his store will spark a powerful change in A.J., and even the townspeople, who typically view him as a grouchy ol’ book-snob will take notice.

The heart of this story explores the process of grief and the regaining of hope—but in a very gentle manner. The tragedies, although deep, are not pronounced within its writing.

This plot mimics life in the way that it keeps moving forward. And despite the fact that its reader will likely be moved to tears, the next chapter follows, bringing with it the inevitable “new day” whether you’re ready for it or not.

Along with the side-effects of heartache, this author infuses generous amounts humor, a wholesome romance, and a sprinkle of mystery within these pages. A.J.’s selective taste for quality literature is endearing, and his judgments of the rest of the book world—comical.

I loved the various references to classics, and how each chapter begins with the mention of one—A.J.’s unique perspective included. He often views the people in his world as characters in a book, predicting their next move based off his astute knowledge of fictional-being-behavior.

The more I think about it, the more this book just seems so incredibly simple, yet has hit me with such surprising force that I can still feel it buzzing. I’ve claimed more times than I can count how I’ll “never forget” a book. But time passes, and only a select few truly stand out. I think this will be one of those few.

Just some of my favorite A.J. quotes:
”What a stupid melodramatic thing for her to do. What a goddamn Danielle Steel move, Nic! If this were a novel, I’d stop reading right now. I’d throw it across the room.”

“You know everything you need to know about a person from the answer to the question, what is your favorite book?”

“Someday, you may think of marrying. Pick someone who thinks you're the only person in the room.”

“We read to know we’re not alone. We read because we are alone. We read and we are not alone. We are not alone.


*Shout out to Crumb, whose enthusiastic review of this one made me rush to purchase on amazon!*
Profile Image for Carmen.
2,048 reviews1,802 followers
March 29, 2016
This is the most precious, adorable, cutesy-wootsey bunch of tripe I have ever read in my life. How is this book so popular? It's cliché after cliché after cliché ad nauseam. Ugh.

A grumpy-grumpy bookseller who is a widower leads a sad and lonely Scrooge-like life until a chubby, perfect, articulate, beautiful baby is left in his book shop and teaches him to love and live again! Excuse me while I go vomit in the corner. Then to top it all off

Don't read this unless you want extremely predictable, emotionally manipulative schmaltz. Every character has the same kind of perky, intelligent, isn't-life-cute? voice. Everything is made "cute." Cute suicide, cute violent sudden death, cute , cute baby abandonment, cute heartlessness, cute infidelity, cute alcoholism.

Nothing exists in life that is not adorable, apparently.

People seem to love this book for either two reasons:
1.) They want an uplifting, cutesy book about how everything in life happens for a reason, and aren't people and all their quirks just adorable?!?

2.) They like talking about books, reading about books, reading books about books, listening to people spout on about books.

Look, I get it, I understand. I love talking about books, too. It's why I joined GR. But I just couldn't take this constant book-loving masturbatory exercise which is like a never-ending stream of BOOKS ARE THE BEST AND MOST IMPORTANT THINGS IN LIFE. I love books, I read every day, but I like to read books that are about stuff like life and people. I haven't really reached the meta point of wanting to read books that are about books and just constant praise of books.

Tl;dr - Predictable, schmaltzy tripe that serves no purpose except to offer a fluffy escape from life (which sometimes you need, I'll admit) OR a book-loving masturbatory session where you can think about books and squee over books WHILE reading a book. Not my cup of tea. Two stars and not one because it's cute and made me laugh three times. Also, bonus points for having the two MCs be non-white.
Profile Image for Crumb.
189 reviews505 followers
May 22, 2018
What can I say?
This novel was the ruination of me.. and I couldn't be happier. Sometimes when i love a book to pieces, it is easy to write a review and sometimes it is difficult. For this novel, the latter is true. I lack the adequate language needed to evoke the emotion that The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry stirred within me. You can't help but fall in love with the curmudgeon, bookseller A.J. I don't know if I've ever loved a character more than him. Although the plot was simplistic, the subtleties and intricacies of the characterization were not. Gabrielle Zevin used nuanced language to describe the character relationships. She is a masterful storyteller and is not just a writer, she is an artist. She blew life into her characters and made them come alive on the pages. If you consider yourself a book lover..
I dare you not to fall in love with this book.

Profile Image for Emily (Books with Emily Fox).
525 reviews56.7k followers
August 3, 2018
Well shit this was good...

If you're looking for a fun summer read, a book that will make you laugh and cry, grab this one!

Just wish there wasn't a spoiler for The Awakening :/
Profile Image for MarilynW.
1,036 reviews2,572 followers
September 2, 2022
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin, Scott Brick (Narrator)

After listening to Zevin's latest book I decided to listen to her The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry and I enjoyed it a lot. Part of my enjoyment came from Scott Brick's narration, which seemed just right for this story. I laughed at the lines in the story but also at the way they were delivered.

I didn't remember a lot about this story from what I'd read about it in the past so it was like going in blind. I had thought it would be about a store owner who was much older than A.J. especially when we meet him and he's such a snarly curmudgeon, but A.J. isn't even forty when he meets Amelia, who is the sales rep at Knightley Press. We realize there are chinks in A.J.'s grumpy armor when we find out he's sad that the last sales rep has died and then learn of an even more traumatic loss in his life.

This is a slow moving story and we get to know some of A.J.'s friends and relatives. He is so very lonely now but he does have people who care about him. My favorite character is Police Chief Lambiase, who has more layers to him than you would first expect. Lambiase becomes someone that A.J. will eventually learn to lean on and that's a good thing.

There are a lot of little and big things that happen that seem to have no connection that might turn out to be very connected. On one drunken night, A.J. loses something very important and valuable and soon after he finds something even more important. This is a gentle story and I enjoyed the way it was told.

Pub April 1, 2014 by Highbridge
Profile Image for Ann.
957 reviews62 followers
June 11, 2015
Thank you to the publisher for an advance reading copy.

I shouldn't have read this. A book marketed as "heartwarming" is never for me. But I read it anyway because I love books about books so much, and it sounded so good! Based on the book's description and marketing, I know that it's meant to really appeal to book clubs and librarians and bookstores, and I think the author is doing everything humanly possible to kiss up to those groups without delivering anything with any depth. I don't think it necessarily has to be literary, but the story is told in a completely shallow way and is spread unbelievably thin, which renders the message pretty meaningless. The author is trying so hard to be cute and clever, and I rolled my eyes over and over again because it all felt so calculated to be gobbled up by book lovers. I know she can write some really lovely things since some of the quotes from fictional books were wonderful. She would have made better use of her efforts to concentrate on that kind of writing style. (I also thought that it was funny that a book that talked about the importance carefully chosen language had so much filler; the Book Thief exchange was mindbogglingly unnecessary, and that was one of many).

I believe that there are heartwarming books out there that can touch my cold black vortex of a heart. But this is insanely overhyped fluff, and I'm shocked that it's getting this much buzz.
Profile Image for Always Pouting.
568 reviews677 followers
February 16, 2020
I wanted to like this book, the writing was good and the characters were interesting but I just couldn't. I know that A.J. is the one being critical and snobbish about what entails good writing or literature but it just felt like I was being lectured to and god I resent being told what to do so much, also I think short stories are rarely good so I want to fight A.J. At one point also there's this passage about how if you see something mentioned in the beginning of the book you want it to come back at the end and play a part out and then that happens in the story itself with a lot of things and it didn't seem like cute and self aware but again it just came off as the author patting themselves on the back for how much they know about writing. How am I supposed to get into the story when the author keeps jarring me away from it by talking about things like that man. Also for someone who makes a good chunk of the book be about what makes a book or story good, the author seems not to have developed the story she was writing that well. I don't think we needed to follow A.J. for so many years the way the story does and towards the end the story started to get kind of flat. I know the author was trying to be clever with the plot and usually I like when everything comes back full circle but I just don't think it worked here. The writing was good and the characters and premise interesting and I wish it had been written differently so we only got the story for those few days before he gets left with Maya or something. I don't know I feel like I could've enjoyed this more if it was just structured different or something and I don't get why at the end that thing happens to AJ like was that necessary...


Profile Image for Carol.
822 reviews477 followers
December 27, 2013
There's joy in my heart and a skip in my step today after closing the last page of this jewel of a book. A must for book lovers and booksellers alike, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is an affirmation of the love of books and reading and how they meld lives together.

A.J. Fikry, is the owner of the independent bookstore, Island Books. Fikry is grieving the loss of his wife, sales are down, a rare book worth scads of money is stolen from the shop leaving him irritable, and irritating. Frankly he's depressed and is turning more and more inward, cutting himself off more than the normal isolation of Alice Island living. Fate or something else entirely steps in when one night he finds a special package on his bookshop floor changing his life forever.

Gabrielle Zevon treats us to some of the most likeable, memorable characters I've met in a long time. Though I adore them all, even cranky Fikry, my favorite is the cop, Lambiase, who in the line of duty must visit the store frequently and so buys books. Not wanting to waste his hard earned money, he reads the books and eventually leads the Chief's Choice Book Club.

A question asked as part of A.J.F's reviews that head each chapter
"Is a twist less satisfying if you know it's coming?"
My answer, "No A.J., No Gabrielle!"

If you've ever wondered about the inner workings of an independent bookstore or how it might feel to be a sales rep pitching a publisher's catalog, put this on your list. If you like a feel good, romantic story that will make you smile with a need for a few tissues, put this on your list.

To give credit where credit is due, my sincere thanks to Michael Rockliff of Workman Publishing for his spirited recommendation of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry (April 2014) which sent me flying to Edelweiss to snag an advance copy. A nod to Algonquin for their trust in allowing me this reading experience.
Profile Image for Ariel.
301 reviews64.2k followers
December 7, 2014
☺️☺️☺️☺️

This was really lovely. It was perfectly written (seriously, Gabrielle Zevin has mastered using the English language), and heartfelt. It was a little sappy at times, but it felt appropriate. I loved the span of this book - over a decade of fascinating stuff happened. And I loved the setting - a book store on a tiny island. I loved the emphasis on books and love and trying to be a good person.

I'm not giving a 5/5 simply because I don't think it did anything particularly new, and didn't make me think about something I'd never thought about before. That's okay, and it doesn't make this book in anyway bad, but it didn't leave me blown away and so four stars it is.
Profile Image for emma.
1,785 reviews43k followers
October 23, 2019
SOS.

HELP.

THE SITUATION IS DIRE.

I can’t stop reading books about bookstores.

A book about a bookworm will do in a pinch, but really bookstores are the only way to go. And it’s gotten so grim that I’ve resorted to rereading books I read a few years ago and vaguely remember being pretty good but had no intention of rereading.

Luckily, in this case, it turned out to be better than pretty good.

I read this in between a couple of romancey fluffy things about bookstores, which really were more vessels for two people making gushy eye contact with each other over 300 pages than any sort of bibliophilia.

This had a good amount of both of those things, which is a compromise I can live with. Mostly because it had significantly more bookishness than lovey dovey gushiness. And I’m in it for the bookstores, after all.

This is also refreshing because...not all of the gushiness and emotions are romantic?? Far from it, actually. Lots of found family stuff going on here and that is always good in my book. (Get it? Good in MY BOOK? Like, it’s always good in the book that I’m reading? Ah, we have fun.)

This isn’t exactly life changing, or anything, and I won’t think about it often (as opposed to books I five star, which I think about for 45 minutes each and every day), but it is sweet and nice and bookish.

What more could you want?!

Bottom line: Yippee! (Don’t think I’ve ever used that word before and I’m already regretting it now.)

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this was a complete delight.

review to come / 4.5 stars (for now)

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i think if i only read books about bookstores for the rest of my life i'd be okay with that
Profile Image for Shelby *trains flying monkeys*.
1,560 reviews5,818 followers
November 3, 2014
I love getting books from Netgalley. You never know what you are going to get. It might be a complete dud or it might be something like this book. A book that sweeps you up. A book that makes you want more. I sit up tonight reading this because I just couldn't stop.


AJ Fikry is a snarky man who owns a bookstore. Every bookworm's dream, and he is a major bookworm. "Despite the fact that he loves books and owns a bookstore, AJ does not particulary care for writers".
AJ has a rare book worth enough money that he could retire and just live the life of luxury. But he gets drunk and someone comes into his home and steals the book. In the next few days he discovers a baby in his bookstore with a note from the mother telling him that she wants him to have the child. The poor man has never been around a baby must less changed a diaper.
Babies move more than books and aren't as convienently shaped.

He and Google manage to find their way through the baby info though. She is a very smart little girl and one of her first words to him is love. Of course he doesn't want her at first and tells her to be careful with giving her love away.
Fucking love-what a bother. It's completely gotten in the way of his plan to drink himself to death.

This book is a book for booklovers. It has a bit of a love story without ever being too mushy.
I simply loved it. Now I need to go to bed before I start snoring here at the keyboard.
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,878 reviews22.6k followers
October 5, 2019
It's entirely possible that I'm as much of a curmudgeon as A.J. Fikry.

Reading a book about a bookstore and books and the people who love them seemed like a can't-miss proposition. And, in fact, there were parts of this book that I liked very much: the police chief who unexpectedly turns himself and most of his force into readers; the subplot with the theft of Poe's Tamerlane: Poem; the brief chapter intros where A.J. talks about various stories.

But overall the novel just felt a lot more superficial and clichéd than I was expecting or hoping. And then the ending doubled down on the sentimentalism with an overused trope ().

I'll confess that I'm a person who cries way too easily in sentimental scenes in movies or books. (One of the more embarrassing moments of my life was when I was on a date and we were watching one of those silly old Arnold Schwarzenegger Conan the Barbarian movies and laughing about how dumb it was, and then the girl dies and Conan is sad and I start to leak tears, hiding my face from my date because I was so mortified that I was crying over this idiotic movie). Just so you know this is coming from someone who easily gets sucked in by sentimentalism. But the ending of this book? Didn't move me in the slightest. I was just mildly annoyed at the over-familiar direction the plot took.

Still, there were some good moments and several delightful scenes, like this description of the book club started by Police Chief Lambiase:
Years ago, Lambiase had had to institute a "leave your weapons" policy after a young cop had pulled a gun on another cop during a particularly heated discussion of The House of Sand and Fog. (Lambiase would later reflect to A.J. that the selection had been a mistake. "Had an interesting cop character but too much moral ambiguity in that one. I'm going to stick to easier genre stuff from now on.")
3.5 stars.

Content notes: a handful of F-bombs and some characters sleeping together, but nothing explicit.
Profile Image for Diane.
1,079 reviews2,609 followers
January 8, 2016
This is not a perfect novel, but it is filled with bookish charm and easy grace.

I picked up The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry at just the right time. I wanted something light and entertaining, and (hopefully) with a happy ending. And that is what I got, with the bonus of lots of literary references, some small-town whimsy and even a little romance.

A. J. Fikry is a cranky bookstore owner in New England. His life is in a rut: He lost his wife, his store is struggling and then his rare copy of Edgar Allen Poe poems is stolen. His fortunes change when a precocious child is abandoned in his store, and Fikry surprises everyone in the town by deciding to adopt her.

While the plot is formulaic — Grouchy Man Finds Love! — what kicked it into the Charming category were its fun bookish comments. Fikry is a man who has lots of opinions about books. Check out this rant he delivers to a publisher's sales rep:


"I do not like postmodernism, postapocalyptic settings, postmortem narrators, or magic realism. I rarely respond to supposedly clever formal devices, multiple fonts, pictures where they shouldn't be -- basically, gimmicks of any kind. I find literary fiction about the Holocaust or any other major world tragedy to be distasteful -- nonfiction only, please. I do not like genre mash-ups a la the literary detective novel or the literary fantasy. Literary should be literary, and genre should be genre, and crossbreeding rarely results in anything satisfying. I do not like children's books, especially ones with orphans, and I prefer not to clutter my shelves with young adult. I do not like anything over four hundred pages or under one hundred fifty pages. I am repulsed by ghostwritten novels by reality television stars, celebrity pictures books, sports memoirs, movie tie-in editions, novelty items, and — I imagined this goes without saying — vampires. I rarely stock debuts, chick lit, poetry, or translations. I would prefer not to stock series, but the demands of my pocketbook require me to. For your part, you needn't tell me about the 'next big series' until it is ensconced on the New York Times Best Sellers list."


Hahaha! While I agree with some but not all of that speech, the point is that I enjoy characters who themselves are well-read and literary. Fikry lists different authors and stories throughout the book, and I'm excited to go look up those I have not yet read.

The book has some good bookish quotes and your usual colorful cast of small-town characters. This is a pleasant, entertaining novel and was perfect for summer.
Profile Image for Whitney Atkinson.
903 reviews13.7k followers
January 10, 2018
When people would say, "Every book lover needs to read this book," I always thought it was such a stupid basis to recommend a book off of. Just because a book breaks a fourth wall and presents a story about a fellow book lover doesn't mean it's better than any other book out there. But after reading this book, I get it. I get it so much. This book is for every book lover. And I will never shame someone for recommending it on that front ever again. This story will truly connect to people who live and breathe books, much like the characters themselves. Even though I was like none of these characters, I saw myself in them nevertheless just because of our shared passion for literature.

This is another one of those books that has emotional parts to it but I don't ever cry until I finish it and close the book and the weight of it finally descends upon me. It's not a heavy story, but it's just so phenomenally done. It reads with the simplicity of a short story but still carries its own weight throughout the progression of the entire lifetime of its characters. And the characters were the best part about this--SO many threads came together and not one detail goes unwoven somewhere into this story. Nothing is meaningless. I loathe this book for how much I wish I could write like it.

I anticipate this book will be sticking with me for a long time. It was so heartfelt and although I questioned if it's truly deserving of 5 stars, the sheer structure of this and the mastery of connecting every little detail together was so precise, I had to give it the credit it deserves.
Profile Image for Chelsea (chelseadolling reads).
1,471 reviews19.1k followers
July 6, 2022
Re-reading all of the Gabrielle Zevin books I've read in preparation for her latest release and I am so glad that I started with The Storied Life of AJ Fikry! While this book isn't perfect, it has *so* much heart and I absolutely adored it almost as much on re-read as I did the first time I read it back in 2018. So excited to carry on with my re-reading from here!!

CW: death of a loved one, suicide, miscarriage, terminal illness (brain cancer)
Profile Image for Lisa.
750 reviews131 followers
December 2, 2014
I remember being ten years old and all my friends really loving New Kids on the Block. I watched them all go crazy for it and I wanted in on this amazing, musical lifestyle. So I begged my mom to buy me the tape and she finally did. I listened to it on my purple boom box the whole way through, side A and side B. And when that tape ended I knew I was in a big pickle because.... I didn't like it.

You know where this is going.

So the next time we were all together, I worked up the nerve and confessed to my friends: I just don't like New Kids on the Block. I prepared for some major backlash, and... there was none. They were still my friends! (in fact, Lisa M.- the other Lisa - asked me if she could have my tape as a spare and I handed it right over, so I actually might have gained some points with her).

The only difference in my New Kids story and my Fikry story is that I bought Fikry with my own money. I'm even going to pass along my copy to Kandice to enjoy and give out the stars freely and as she sees fit. I was happy that my friends were able to bond and get down to the musical stylings of The New Kids on the Block, and I'm just as delighted that all my Goodreads gals (oh, and guys! I have a few of them now, too!) loved this book. It wasn't for me. But I'm really, sincerely happy that it was for the majority of all of you.

Now here are some more thoughts I have on this book, hidden by this spoiler tag for two reasons: #1. They contain (very light) spoilers. #2. They are my honest thoughts about this book, so I must preface this by saying: if you click on this spoiler, you are assuming the responsibility of not getting upset with me for not liking this book for these reasons. I completely respect any reader for loving this book. I just didn't, and these are my reasons:

Profile Image for Carol.
1,370 reviews2,121 followers
January 4, 2015
Don't you just love reading a book that you can't wait to get back to, a book you want to savour yet must keep on reading. This UNPUTDOWNABLE delightful story about a charming little bookstore (and so much more) fit into that category for me. It combines laugh-out-loud moments with an occasional need for a tissue, engaging characters with real life problems and a twist or two along the way.

Another 2014 favorite for this book lover!

(It pains me that we are losing our beloved bookstores. I do enjoy my e-reader, but still love my real books more.)

Profile Image for Jeanette (Ms. Feisty).
2,179 reviews1,879 followers
July 29, 2016
3.5 stars

This is a story to be read solely for the nerdistic cachet of getting all the literary references and book biz jokes. Even if you're alone and there's no one to applaud you for being so well read, there's still that little frisson of snobbish self-satisfaction when you recognize the book or short story mentioned or alluded to. And when you know which books and authors are made up, because you've never heard of them. Am I really that much of a book dork that I give a rodent's posterior about such trivia? Why yes. Yes I am. And if you're not that dorky, reading this book might make you wish you were more like us, the beautiful people. The special ones. The winners. No, only kidding. My NPD is showing.

Profile Image for Debra .
2,127 reviews34.9k followers
November 22, 2022
This book was initially recommended to me by a co-worker who handed it to me and said, "I think you will like this book." Well, I did. I really did like this book. I loved how everything came together. For instance, in the beginning, we meet a character and then very little is mentioned of this character after the first chapter. I wondered why the author would introduce so vivid a character and then have the character fade into the background. But I was wrong. All things/characters come together eventually in this book. I loved the book references and the notes that A.J. Fikry left for his daughter at the beginning of the book’s chapters. In short, this book is about a man who owns a bookstore, people who love books, people who learn to love books, people who love people who love books, second chances, finding love, transformation, being loved, friendship, loss, loneliness, and those in our lives who make out family complete. So go ahead...read this book! I think you will like it. P.S. Have you seen the movie? I think you would like that as well.

I read this book 2x, first when my co-worker recommended it and again after I was approached by the publisher as this book inspired a movie! Such a joy to read a beautiful and moving piece of work that will stay with me.

Well written, hard to put down, riveting and full of wonderful characters which left me smiling.

Thank you to Algonquin Books who provided me with the book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions are my own.


Read more of my reviews at www.openbookposts.com
Profile Image for Marialyce (absltmom, yaya).
1,909 reviews727 followers
October 26, 2022
A glorious story for people who write and love books, and our beloved book stores.

Calling all book lovers, and yes, that would be us. This books was made for us. Meet A.J. Fikry, a man living on an island, owning a bookstore, who has lost his wife. He is pretty much of a curmudgeon until fate intervened and left a surprise in his store. That surprise would change his life in so many ways, ways that he would never have seen in his future.

A.J. seemed mad at the world so he retreated into his world of books but this lovely loving surprise made A.J. fiercely aware of value in all things. A.J. had lost his most prized possession. a book containing the poems of Edgar Allen Poe. It was his priceless book but now it is missing, A.J.'s life seemed destined for obscurity and poverty.

His bookstore seemed a losing proposition as well, and yet, his wonderful surprise awakened him to the joys of life and those found in the pages of a book.

Sometimes. a surprise changes our lives, and perhaps makes us a happier, more fulfilled person, and such was the case for A.J. as he carries his life forward and finds the happiness and life he always felt had eluded him.

A story that is both lovely and paid tribute to the lovely art of love and the force a book can have on one's life. "On the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is the motto “No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World.”

I loved it!

Profile Image for Nataliya.
714 reviews11.3k followers
March 1, 2015
Unexpectedly and unabashedly charming. Cozy, sweet and life-affirming and yet somehow avoiding the overt sentimentality, managing to remain quietly refreshing and, again, charming in the nicest meaning of that word.
"The most annoying thing about it is that once a person gives a shit about one thing, he finds he has to start giving a shit about everything."
It's a lovely quiet story about the way a life of a lonely and surly bookseller on a remote New England island gets turned around when he unexpectedly finds himself a guardian and then a father of an adorable toddler abandoned in his bookstore. It's a story of how one event can help reaffirm life and steer it into a completely new direction, soothing old wounds and opening new possibilities.

"What I say is, a town isn't a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it's got a bookstore it knows it's not fooling a soul." ("American Gods" by Neil Gaiman)
It's also a story of the world of book selling and book publishing, about the role a brick-and-mortar bookstore can - and should - play in a small community, about the love of books and the connections that they can help form. In the world of e-readers replacing 'dead tree' book and vanishing bookstores outcompeted by online retail giants this book is infused with optimism about the survival of the neighborhood bookstore - and what's more important, the simple necessity of such a survival.

Lovely and charming book that can generously give it's readers a few hours of quiet feel-good time - and who doesn't need these feelings from time to time? I know I do. 4 stars.
"We read to know we’re not alone. We read because we are alone. We read and we are not alone. We are not alone."
Profile Image for Julie .
3,976 reviews58.9k followers
December 10, 2016
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin is a 2014 Algonquin Books publication.

Thanks to my Goodreads friend, Carol, for introducing me to this book!


ISLAND BOOKS
Alice Island’s Exclusive Provider of Fine Literary Content since 1999

“No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World”

This is the second ‘books about books’ novel I’ve read this week, and I have to say, it’s nice to know so many people share the same enthusiasm for books that I do.

This story is poignant and bittersweet, but is also charming, touching and heartwarming. It’s a reader’s paradise and will soothe the brow of any book nerd who can’t help but feel a strong kinship with the characters, and maybe even recognize yourself in them just a little bit.

A.J. owns and operates the independent books store, “Island Books”, located on Alice Island, Massachusetts, alone after his wife is killed in a car accident. As he stumbles through each day in a fog of bitter grief, a series of events snaps him to attention and his life takes on a new direction, one he never could have imagined.

The first part of the book kept me in stitches. I’ve known literary snobs, and A.J. is one. I laughed out loud at his aversion to stocking Young Adult and children's books, and his opinion on series, and vampires. Then we got to the part where A.J. deals with customers and if you have worked in a bookstore or library you’ll relate, and again I’m laughing hysterically.

“Why is any one book different from any other book? They are different, A.J. decides, because they are. We have to look inside many. We have to believe. We agree to be disappointed sometimes so that we can be exhilarated every now and again.”

But, A.J.’s persnickety personality is soon softened by a very special surprise delivery to his shop, which gives him a new perspective on life and relationships, including one with the book sales representative, Amelia, who warms up to A.J. after getting off to a pretty rough start, and the local chief of police who becomes one of his best friends.

The story is like an homage to book lovers, reading, and the way books shape us and the impact they can have on our outlook on life, even in our relationships, our attitudes, and how they can inspire us through good and bad times.

I loved A.J. right from the start. I understood where he was in life at that very moment, and while I snickered at his drollness, his deadpan introverted nature, my heart broke for him.

It was an honor to watch him come back to life and embrace it with as much gusto has he could muster. Seeing his life enriched in such an amazing way was only part of the story. A.J. and his little bookstore also touched and enriched other’s lives all of them had a life much better than the one they would have had without him. He built an important legacy over the years, and that legacy, thanks to those he loved, will go on to extend the love of books and reading to people for a long time to come… even to those who love vampires, series, Young Adult, and Children’s books about orphans.

This a delightful story that lifted my spirits and warmed my heart.

5 stars


Profile Image for Debbie.
425 reviews2,688 followers
August 12, 2014
A friend’s 7-year-old daughter once told her, “Mom, you need a trip to paradise.” I wish my kid had said it to me, but never mind. I’m taking it to mean, “Mom, you and Debbie need a trip to paradise.” Well, holy shit, I found it! Island Books, the setting for this book, is located smack in the middle of paradise.

I purposely didn’t read any reviews before diving in, and I’m glad. Strange and wonderful things start happening right from the beginning, and I’m caught off guard and delighted. I thought, oh this is a great author—she knows how to keep the action going lickety-split, and she knows that it works to throw in things that are unexpected. I’ll avoid talking about the actual plot line in the hope that you get the same element of surprise that I did. I’ll only say it’s about a guy who owns a bookstore. If you can, try to avoid reviews that summarize what happens.

I didn’t want it to be over. Okay, it’s cool enough that the book is about a bookstore, but there are tons of other book goodies. First and foremost, you get to hang out with a bunch of other book nuts. That’s cathartic in itself. And there are, naturally, book recommendations that make you want a grab a pencil and write them down. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Want to read a kid’s short story? And attend the short story competition? Want to go to an exciting and bizarre author signing? Want to live above a bookstore? Want to join a book club? Want a few nuggets on writing? But wait, there’s more. There’s a book theft. There’s a publishing company rep pushing titles. And every chapter opens with a reference to a literary work, followed by tender and thoughtful comments about it.

It’s like the author said to herself, hm….what would a book lover salivate over? And she nails it. Think about every permutation of book lust, and it’s here. It’s like crack to all us book addicts. And what a fix we get!

I wasn’t sure going into this one. Will the tone be lecture-y? Will the book titles be esoteric? The answer to both better be no, or I’ll be annoyed big time—though in fact my bristly annoyance would simply be covering up my insecurity about being unread and stupid.

I needn’t have worried. I knew some of the titles, but not all, but I never felt like I was in trouble for not recognizing some of them. Besides, when I go to a bookstore, I’m not going to recognize all the titles, or kick myself for not knowing them. And the author is gentle about it—she creates a main character who is realistic and kind; who talks about books in a way that’s inviting and playful, not arrogant or pedantic. Because his livelihood depends on his selling books, and because he’s basically a nice guy, he’s never condescending to his buyers. He wants to sell books, yes, but he also wants to share his book lust and help people find nirvana through books.

This genius author makes sure the book talk never overpowers the plot; it only enhances it. And there is so much more here. There are a couple of juicy mysteries, and I didn’t have a clue how they’d be solved—but they are wrapped up nicely. There���s humor, romance, pathos, suspense, and a lot of “feel good” (without being all Hallmarky). The characters are engaging: well-drawn, complex, quirky, and sympathetic. The author weaves a really good yarn that flows at a great pace; there are no side trips down the alleys of philosophy or history.

As an ex-editor, I found a couple of minute logistical issues—probably too small to even mention, but with my editor OCD, I must. (Help me stop doing this, please!) The funniest instance was when the main character went to a bar in his underwear and bathrobe—the author just forgot to somehow get him back home so he could get dressed before heading to the bar.

And one more thing, which is not so minute, but which I didn’t care about because I was so sold on this book already: The young kid speaks like an adult. And it was so disconcerting, I repeatedly tried to pinpoint her age, which really was unnecessary and distracting. She is supposed to be precocious, but still--it seemed like she was a toddler with the vocabulary and sentence structure of a 20-year-old. But like I said, I didn’t care. I was a goner as soon as I read the first chapter.

Okay, one final, teensy weensy, unimportant nit: What’s with the name Fikry?? It’s so hard to remember, let alone pronounce! My brain and mouth stumble. Is it Firkry or Frikry or Friky or what? Oh, okay, look up the title for the eighty gazillionth time. Oh, it’s FIKRY—I think. I sort of stutter when I recommend this title to someone, and I lose a little of my umph. And I need all my umph so I can sell it.

I get upset that people say this is a good beach read, or that it’s light and breezy. If a book moves along at a good pace, has an interesting plot, has somewhat happy characters, has no philosophical side roads, and is under 400 pages, is it classified as light? I don’t think that’s fair. This book has depth and wisdom. In my opinion, it’s top-notch literary fiction.

An added perk for me: I lived on Cape Cod for five years, and my husband worked on the ferry boats running to Hyannis. This book takes place on a fictional island near Hyannis and revolves around the fictional Island Books. I visited the islands many times and stopped in at bookstores that were a lot like Island Books, complete with wonderful owners who went out of their way to find the perfect book for me. Fond memories.

I don’t allow myself to reread books, since I have too many new ones in my queue. But for this fantastic book, I might make an exception. Speaking of my book queue, I’d like to read Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore soon for comparison, though I know The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is going to be one hard act to follow.

My friend’s daughter would be happy: I did go to paradise and I LOVED it. It was a fine, fine visit.

HIGHLY recommended. 5 stars all the way, baby.
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