Books we are talking about

Chris Schluep on September 24, 2020
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Books we are talking about

The past week or so has been a combination of good news and bad news. The good news is that awards season is picking up steam: the Booker Prize shortlist was announced, as were the longlists for the National Book Awards. We always look forward to this time of year when the book world celebrates. And then there's the bad news - quite a few authors passed away last week. The noted fantasy author Terry Goodkind died last Thursday. So did Winston Groom, author of Forrest Gump. The poet Stanley Crouch died last week as well. And so did children's author Sam McBratney, who gave us the line, "I love you right up to the moon - and back."

And then there is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died at the age of 87. It would have been difficult to miss her loss - RBG's passing has been front page news for a variety of reasons. So we are talking about these authors who fall into one of the good news/bad news slots, along with a handful of other books. Read below to see the books we are talking about.


Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik

We haven't seen such an outpouring of emotion for a Supreme Court Justice since Thurgood Marshall died in 1993. That also happens to be the year that Ruth Bader Ginsburg began serving on the nation's highest court (she replaced Byron White; Marshall had retired in 1991). As the second woman on the Supreme Court, Ginsberg established herself as a great legal mind and a valued colleague to her fellow justices. Her warm relationships with the more conservative judges on the court are well documented. But she also became an icon. She became the Notorious RBG, and she was famous in a way that no other judge has been famous. This book, in ways both playful and serious, highlights Ruth Bader Ginsburg's unique place in society and the great contributions that she made to it.  - Chris Schluep


A Knock at Midnight: A Story of Hope, Justice, and Freedom by Brittany K. Barnett

We've been talking about this one for a while. My colleague, Al, initially championed Brittany K. Barnett's A Knock at Midnight and it became our Debut Spotlight pick for the Best Books of September. A deeply personal deep dive into the ways in which institutionalized racism permeates our judicial system, it is certainly a book that speaks to the times. And I find myself recommending it with even more urgency since Ruth Bader Ginsburg's passing (Barnett's favorite justice, and one whose opinions she occasionally turned to for motivation and guidance). When times became bleak, Barnett's grandfather would say to her, 'C'mon, Big Girl, ain't nothin' but a step for a stepper! You just gotta keep on steppin.' We are so fortunate that there are people out there like Barnett, and RBG - forces of nature who persevered in their pursuit of equality and justice despite overwhelming obstacles, the rewards of which all of us have reaped. But we also have to remember that we can't count on other people to do the steppin' for us. Need some inspiration? Read A Knock at Midnight- Erin Kodicek


Halsey Street by Naima Coster

This week, the National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honorees were announced and for the first time in the National Book Foundation's history, all of the honorees are women of color. The list is filled with writers whose work I've personally loved: K-Ming Chang's Bestiary, a lyrical dreamy novel of identity and family myths, Raven Leilani's Luster and C Pam Zhang's How Much of These Hills is Gold, both of which we named Best Books of the Month, Fatima Farheen Mirza's family epic, A Place for Us, and the one that's closest to my heart, Naima Coster and her novel, Halsey Street. Back when I was a book publicist and working on Naima's book, I remember what a joy it was to shout from the rooftops about this quiet gut-punch of a novel about race and gentrification, family and memory, feeling stuck but wanting to be free. There's nothing like watching writers you love rise and be acknowledged for the beauty of their work. Congrats 5 Under 35 honorees and thank you for writing these stories that quite simply, dazzle. - Al Woodworth


Long Time Coming: Reckoning with Race in America by Michael Eric Dyson

Dyson - author of Tears We Cannot Stop - has a new book coming in December that explores the longstanding racism in the US and the social forces that keep it alive. Dyson has a way with words: powerful, convincing, hopeful, and heart-deep. And while December is typically a tough month for new books, and this year will be even more of a challenge for those books with Barak Obama's A Promised Land hitting shelves on November 17, I'm sure Long Time Coming will shine for a long, long time. - Adrian Liang


The Guest List by Lucy Foley

We've got stormy weather in Seattle right now and it's perfect for the audio book I'm listening to: The Guest List. Admittedly, I was slightly reluctant to read this one, thinking it was going to be a remake of my favorite Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None. But I was very wrong. Yes, the setting is an isolated island, a storm, a group of guests - in this case, there for a wedding - and secrets revealed. But Foley does her own thing, and I'm loving the multiple narrators, and the twists that have kept me guessing. I'm still not sure who's going to end up dead, but someone is, and I can't wait to see who! - Seira Wilson


Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker by Stanley Crouch

I first came across Stanley Crouch when he appeared in the 2004 documentary Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson. Crouch related the story of Johnson, who when asked why women preferred Black lovers, delivered the slyest of bum-rushes by replying "We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." I don't know what was more fun: Johnson's nonsensical reply or Crouch's evident enjoyment of it. Crouch was such a presence in that documentary that I sought him out after that, delighted by his knowledge of everything from boxing to jazz, but especially jazz. I wasn't even a jazz fan when I started Kansas City Lightning, the story of saxophonist Charlie Parker. I just trusted that Crouch would get to the heart of a great but tragic story, and give a legend his due, while shedding a respectful but insightful light on a fascinating figure. And that Crouch would understand Parker through his music as only a fellow musician could. As always, Stanley didn't disappoint. Crouch passed away last week, and honestly, I shed a tear. R.I.P. - Vannessa Cronin


The Home Edit Life: The No-Guilt Guide to Owning What You Want and Organizing Everything by Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin

A few weeks ago I interviewed the co-owners of the company The Home Edit about their new book, The Home Edit Life. It was the launch day of their Netflix show Get Organized with The Home Edit, and one week before their book's publication. The Home Edit Life by Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin has been holding its place on Amazon Charts' Most Sold list and it seems like everyone is adapting this new way of sparking joy in their homes. I gave my dog-eared copy to my husband and insisted he at least check out their work in kitchens, pantries, and playrooms. I was so inspired by their beautifully organized rainbows of products that I took a personal day this week to organize my kids' playroom while they are at school. That's right. I took a personal day to clean. With all of us spending so much time at home, it's the right time to indulge in some organization porn (that's a thing, right?) and make our spaces functional and pretty. I love The Home Edit's philosophy that you don't need to be a minimalist to be organized, because this pack rat has a lot of books. - Sarah Gelman


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