The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

The Storied Life of AJ. Fikry is truly a heartwarmer, and a tribute to bookstores and booksellers everywhere. I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone.


I liked everything about this book; the story, the characters, the many references to books and stories. Each chapter of the book starts out with a little letter from Fikry to his daughter about a short story he thinks she would like, and tying it in to some fatherly advice.

Remember, Maya: 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.

At the beginning of the book, A.J. is a prickly, grouchy widower on the road to alcoholism. Maya comes along and saves him.

…he feels a vaguely familiar, slightly intolerable bubbling inside him. He wants to laugh out loud or punch a wall. He feels drunk or at least carbonated. Insane. At first he think s this is happiness, but then he determines it’s love. F***ing 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.

Maya lives a book-lovers dream. She grows up above a bookstore, spending her days reading and helping in the store. Maya’s character struck me as wise beyond her years, and her voice in the story was endearing.

From her vantage point on the floor, people are shoes. In summer, sandals. In the winter, boots. Molly Klock sometimes wears red platform boots up to her knees. A.J. is black sneakers or running shoes. Lambiase wears black dress shoes. Ismay wears colourful flats. Daniel Parish wears brown loafers with a penny in them.

The first way Maya approaches a book is to smell it. She strips the book of its jacket, then holds it up to her face and wraps the boards around her ears. Books typically smell like Daddy’s soap, grass, the sea, the kitchen table and cheese.

She knows that her mother is dead. And she knows that dead is when you go to sleep and you do not wake up. She feels very sorry for her mother because people who don’t wake up can’t go downstairs to the bookstore in the morning.

As you are reading this book, you might think you know what is going to happen, but it is not as predictable as you may think. Sometimes things seem to work out conveniently, but other things may take you by surprise. In short, I’ll just tell you what everyone else is saying- go read this book! It won’t take long. If nothing else, you will feel an overwhelming urge to visit your local independent bookstore, which is always a good thing.

Since I haven’t got anything more to say that hasn’t already been said by other reviewers, I will just leave you with a few more quotes from the book:

In the future, he will rethink his unlocked door policy. It had only occurred to him that someone might steal something, not that someone might leave something.

People tell boring lies about politics, God, and love. You know everything you need to know about a person from the answer to the question: What is your favorite book?

(on e-readers, which does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the writer of this blog)  Why should I calm down? I do not like the present. I do not like that thing and certainly not three of that thing in my house. I would rather you have bought my daughter something less destructive like a crack pipe.

No man is an island; every book is a world.

You can read more reviews of this book at Honey, I’m Reading!, One Little Library, What Me ReadDoing Dewey, One More Page, and Reeder ReadsI have read quite a few in recent weeks, so if I forgot you, I’m sorry! You can add yours to the comments below.

I’m curious- do any of you out there know anyone who did not like this book?


20 thoughts on “The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

    • Naomi says:

      Thanks! I’ve read so many reviews of this book lately, that I thought it would be fun to list as many as I could remember. Everyone is struck by different things in the book, and gives a slightly different point of view.

  1. kmn04books says:

    Thank you for linking to my review! Every time I think about this book I get warm fuzzies. How wonderful was Lambiase’s character development?

    • Naomi says:

      Yes, I agree. I thought it was wonderful how he quickly became an important friend to A.J., and eventually to the whole family. He was a warm fuzzy. 🙂

  2. ebookclassics says:

    Thanks for linking to my post! I loved this book so much, but I have to agree with Care that it’s getting so much exposure, I’ve started to tune out anything to do with it. But I would still whole-heartedly recommend it to anyone.

  3. Cecilia says:

    I have only read positive things about this book. I’ve put a hold on it at the library, but there are 7 people ahead of me (and only one copy of the book)! I may try to see if I can borrow their e-book version. Or is it good enough to own, in your opinion?

    • Naomi says:

      The book is quick to read, so the lineup might go by pretty fast, but I’m happy to own mine so I can lend it to people. I also think that it might be a good one for my daughter in a few years.

  4. Naomi Baltuck says:

    Hi Naomi,
    I know I will enjoy this book. It sounds wonderfully quirky and amusing and the excerpts are so compelling. I love your style of reviewing a book. Your choice of books is excellent, and your choice of excerpts is always just enough to tease us into adding that book to our to-read list.

    At our house the war between paintings and bookshelves for wall space was won long ago because of our love of books. I grew up in a house where every wall was covered with bookshelves, and I have taken after my mother. When we were all practicing duck and cover and expecting Russian bombs to fall on us at any moment, my mother comforted us by telling us that books were not only beautiful to look at, but they provided good insulation from the cold, and probably radiation too!

    Thanks for another great post!


    • Naomi says:

      I am going to remember what your mother said- I love that!

      Thanks for your kind words about my reviews. I am so glad you enjoy them. Picking out the excerpts is my favourite part!

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