Seira Wilson: A couple weeks ago I was looking forward to meeting Gail Simmons, Top Chef judge and author of the cookbook, Bringing It Home, which was one of our Best Cookbooks of October. But alas the airlines had other plans and Simmons dealt with delayed flights and endless baggage claim lines while we ate lunch with only her cookbook beside us at glorious Ba Bar… So in tribute to her efforts (and my sweet tooth) I’m going to make her Chocolate Banoffee Pie. Banana, caramel, whipped cream, and a chocolate wafer crust. Oh-so-good food coma to follow. I’m also planning to finish American Radical. This memoir of a Muslim FBI agent who went undercover in a U.S terrorist cell had already sucked me in, and then I saw the author, Tamer Elnoury, on an episode of 60 Minutes and that really got me itching to put everything else aside (except the above-mentioned pie) and read the rest of his story…
Jon Foro: The Hollow Woods is a game, not a book. But it’s described as “a storytelling card game,” so it counts. It consists of 20 illustrated cards depicting all the things you find in a dark forest: ravens, werewolves, human skulls, grim reapers, you get the picture. All the cards fit together in one way or another, and you lay them out to create a seamless story (“over two quintillion storyscaping possibilities”), and the turn of a card can make the difference between life and death. And face it: we all hate Monopoly.
Erin Kodicek: I am not typically a thriller fan, but I'm excited to check out Need to Know by Karen Cleveland. In it, a CIA analyst's job uncovering Russian sleeper cells hits way too close to home. Cleveland was once a a bonafide agent herself, but her writing chops must be impressive; the film rights for this debut have already sold and the protagonist will be played by...wait for it...Charlize Theron.
Adrian Liang: The buzz around the film version of Murder on the Orient Express reminded me of my favorite Agatha Christie novels: And Then There Were None, The Secret Adversary, They Came to Baghdad, and my all-time favorite, Sleeping Murder. I think the on-screen characters of Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot often signal that these stories are more puff and less stuff, but the books themselves are marvelously chilling and give a fascinating glimpse of postwar England.
Sarah Harrison Smith: The National Book Awards is an awfully fun party. This year, it was incredible to hear President Clinton talk about the importance of reading in his family life, and Annie Proulx talk about her love of landscape and commitment to the environment. And then there were the winners’ acceptance speeches. But exciting as it was to see those brilliant writers receive their awards, it was the night before, when the finalists read their work, that was really thrilling. You can watch a video of the event on the National Book Awards site. It’s sampler of some of the best writing from 2017, and you might choose your next book based on what strikes your fancy. For me, it’s Her Body and Other Stories, by Carmen Maria Machado. Machado’s reading on finalists’ night was sexy and enthralling, and the adjective that seems to come up most often in reviews of the book is “wild,” so might be just the thing to read on a cold, dark winter’s night.