Books we are talking about

Chris Schluep on September 11, 2020
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Books we are talking about

The books we are talking about this week are mostly books that we have either had recommended to us or, in one instance, that we have recommended to our mom. That's an interesting result of having the job we have—people really like to tell us what they've read and liked. And as you will see below, we appreciate it. The Amazon editors consider it their job to connect you with your next great read. Here are several ways that people have connected us with great reads.


Stoner by John Williams

As students return to school—physically or over Zoom—I've been thinking a lot about the role of teachers and their life-long commitment to learning and wisdom. I remember the first time someone suggested Stoner by John Williams to me, I thought for sure it was going to be a snoozefest despite the high praise from a trusted pal. But I couldn't have been more wrong, and she more right. We've been exchanging passages of the book lately and it's been a pleasure to go back in time and read about a solitary, but love-struck teacher, at the turn of the century and his appetite for knowledge: “Sometimes, immersed in his books, there would come to him the awareness of all that he did not know, of all that he had not read; and the serenity for which he labored was shattered as he realized the little time he had in life to read so much, to learn what he had to know.” —Al Woodworth


This Is Not a T-Shirt: A Brand, a Culture, a Community—a Life in Streetwear by Bobby Hundreds

I am perhaps an unlikely fan of Bobby Hundreds, the well-known streetwear designer behind the company The Hundreds, and author of the book This is Not a T-Shirt: A Brand, a Culture, a Community—a Life in Streetwear. But after meeting Bobby at an author lunch last summer, I was struck by his intelligence, passion and honesty. Those publisher lunches do work, because I read This is Not a T-Shirt, interviewed Bobby for the Amazon Book Review, and invited him to Amazon’s headquarters for an internal speaking event co-hosted by our Asians @ Amazon group. Not only did I learn a lot from his book, but I walked away with a new appreciation of fashion and streetwear, and for Bobby as a writer. This is Not a T-Shirt has just been published in paperback with a new introduction that tackles, among other things, the oft asked question of why Bobby would write a book, of all things. It also contains a pretty impressive insert, another feature that’s new to the paperback. While the hardcover is a beautiful object, I found myself searching online for designs from The Hundreds, so this visual component is a welcome addition to the paperback. Need further proof that Bobby is a multi-hyphenate? During the first protests around the killing of George Floyd, the blocks around The Hundreds’ flagship store were destroyed, and Bobby has written extensively on his blog about both the fight for racial equity and our current pandemic. But this writer isn’t giving up his design roots: he recently announced that he’s been chosen to contribute to the 2028 Olympics and Paralympics logo, which is being held in Los Angeles. —Sarah Gelman


Be Bad, Be Bold, Be Billie: Live Life the Billie Eilish Way by Scarlett Russell

One of the teens in my orbit is not just a fan of Grammy Award-winning pop star Billie Eilish, she's a bit obsessed. So I was very excited to share a copy of the new book Be Bad, Be Bold, Be Billie: Live Life the Billie Eilish Way with her. Biographical info is coupled with things for the reader to consider from their own life and/or write about. There’s a positive, inspirational message to be yourself and help others within these brightly colored pages, and if that’s the Billie way, then count me in. I would never have imagined that this would be the book I'm talking about this week, but finding books that connect us with our friends and family is a beautiful thing. And getting a teen to put away their phone and READ is magic. —Seira Wilson


The Erratics by Vicki Laveau-Harvie

A rave review from Margaret Atwood caught my eye this week. In a Twitter post she described The Erratics as "...a searing, brilliantly-written memoir about a destructive and cunning mother; reads like a novel..." My fondness for dysfunctional family memoirs goes back to Mary Carr and Frank McCourt, and based on The Handmaid’s Tale alone, you have to figure that Margaret Atwood knows a thing or three about dysfunction and dread. In this memoir, two sisters visit their (“mad as a meat-ax”) mother in hospital. Any concern they may have over the accident that landed her there is overridden by their relief that she’s no longer at home, and therefore no longer able to alternately starve and bully their father, a man with as classic a case of Stockholm syndrome as any you’ll see. What elevates this memoir so far are the sisters: one swinging perpetually between anger and bewilderment, the other defiantly using humor to keep at bay her helplessness in the face of the malevolent tornado that is their mother. Utterly fascinating. —Vannessa Cronin


The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd

One of the benefits of having friends and family in the books biz is an endless font of recommendations. For my mom, she gets book care packages, too, full of things I’ve read and think she would enjoy. If I haven’t sent one in a while, I’ll hear about it. But the thing is, something happens between the time she gets the box and the time she gets to the books. I’ll ask her, “Hey, did you read [something I sent her 6 months ago] yet?” Nope. Then a year-plus later she’ll say: “I just read the best book…” And then not only tell me about it, but recommend it to me. This time, when I sent Sue Monk Kidd’s The Book of Longings she hesitated for other reasons. A novel that depicts Jesus’ wife? Sacrilege! But, being Catholic and needing something to feel guilty about, she cracked it open last week and hasn’t stopped talking about it ever since. Of her desire to portray Jesus as "fully human," Kidd said: “Writing from a novelist’s perspective and not a religious one, I was drawn to his humanity, which can often be overlooked." Mom is drawn to it, too, and suggests I read it as soon as I get a chance. —Erin Kodicek


Dune by Frank Herbert

There's a new Dune movie coming out, which means that lots of adults of a certain age will be cringing and hoping that the movie holds up to their memory of the novel. The trailer was just released, and so far so good. I was surprised to read that Dune was originally published in 1965, perhaps before most Dune fans were born. It tied for the Hugo Award and won the inaugural Nebula Award. The director of the new film, Denis Villeneuve, also directed Blade Runner 2049. —Chris Schluep


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