As we approach the long weekend, some of us have already departed for an even longer weekend, and some of us have remained to inform you of the books we are talking about. Erin shares news that should have book clubs rejoicing around the country, as our #1 best book of last year is publishing in paperback next week. Vannessa is reading a fun, dishy book about heirs and spares (mostly spares). Al is loving a novel that most of us won't get to read until next year. I have picked up Gail Sheehy's most famous work. And Sarah recommends a book reminiscent of one of her all-time favorite reads.
The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
It seems like it was five years ago, but nope, it was 2019 when we selected Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments as our favorite book of the year. Out in paperback next week, this sequel to her pioneering work of speculative fiction, The Handmaid’s Tale, was well worth the wait. While The Handmaid’s Tale explored how totalitarian regimes come to power, The Testaments delves into how they begin to fracture. Sometimes 2020 feels like something out of a dystopian novel. I’d rather Atwood be controlling the pen. —Erin Kodicek
Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family by Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand
When it comes to Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family, the chatter has been all about the royal scores settled, the gripes aired, and the secrets unlocked. With its publication last week, we get to read for ourselves. Quite frankly, the level of detail may be a bit much for all but the most ardent royal followers. Two things emerge though: As tough as it is being the heir, being the spare sounds like even less fun. The spare starts at #2 in the pecking order and spends the rest of their life being demoted, forced to scrounge for whatever resources aren’t snapped up by the heir. Also, the Queen Mum's much-admired advice: "Never complain, never explain" appears not to have been handed down to her red-haired great-grandson. The single most interesting thing I learned? When carrying her around the country, the Queen's train slows to a crawl at 7:30am each day so as not to slosh HM's bathwater. That's top of the pecking order. —Vannessa Cronin
Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour
One of the perks of working in the book biz is being invited to author breakfasts and lunches and getting the opportunity to meet and hear from an author before their book publishes. In spite of Covid, publishers are continuing to hold these early celebrations, albeit virtually, and I was lucky enough to attend one recently where Mateo Askaripour downright dazzled. His debut novel, Black Buck is about a “Black dude” who hatches a plan to help Black people get into tech and in so doing tries to redefine what it means to be a minority in the workplace. His editor described the book as “fun and wild” and as soon as Askaripour described one of his characters as a “free corner philosopher, talkin’ trash and choppin’ it up”…well, I was sold. The novel doesn’t come out until January 12, but from what I gleaned from Asakaripour’s engaging and euphoric delivery, this book and this author are going to make a splash come 2021. —Al Woodworth
Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life by Gail Sheehy
Gail Sheehy passed away this week at the age of 83. She was the author of 17 books, her most famous being Passages, which was published in 1976. Sheehy was also a noted journalist, having written for New York Magazine and Vanity Fair. But it was Passages, a pop psychology look at the various stages of adulthood, that most marked her career. Sheehy noted that there were many books written about children, just as there were many written about the twilight years. But what about the ages of 20 through 50? And so she set out, through interviews and journalistic observation, to delineate the stages we go through in adulthood. Readers ate it up. In her New York Times review of the book, Sara Sanborn wrote, "Books of popular psychology … are generally awful. Gail Sheehy’s new book is different. For one thing, it appears to have been written by an adult for other adults.” —Chris Schluep
Dear Child by Romy Hausmann
One of my favorite books of the last decade is Room by Emma Donoghue. I still remember reading it—I was almost at the end when it was time to leave for a friend’s dinner party. I asked my then-boyfriend/now-husband if I could bring my Kindle to the party to finish the book, and I got a look that I confess I got many times growing up, when I preferred reading over engaging at a meal, watching a baseball game, or playing at recess. So when I heard that an upcoming thriller, Dear Child by Romy Hausmann (October 6), was being compared to Room, I rearranged my busy weekend of playing LEGOs with my kids to read it. And fellow Room fans, it didn’t disappoint. But be prepared to skip whatever socially distant plans you have once you start, because you won’t be able to put it down. Luckily, another colleague also recently read this book, so we got to compare notes, and she bested me by picking it up and not putting the book down until she finished. My only regret is that it’s not out until October, so I’m hoping I can wrangle a few more editors into reading it so we can discuss. —Sarah Gelman
As we approach the end of summer, our thoughts turn to books. As usual.