Books we are talking about

Chris Schluep on July 09, 2020
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The big news for us is that our list of the Best Books of the Year So Far is up for customers to peruse. You can see our top 20 list, or you can look for books in a number of categories. You can also read about a few of those books below, because we are talking about them to anyone who will listen. In addition, it seems like some of the team is reading ahead in the nonfiction category, while others are anticipating new books by big, best-selling writers. Read on to see the books we are talking about this week.



The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré

A few weeks ago, we released our picks for the Best Book of the Year So Far, and our #1 pick was the debut novel The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré. Since the list has gone live, I’ve talked about this book a lot—during radio interviews, with friends, and of course, the team. Call 2020 what you will, but it’s been a good year for books, so choosing a “best” book is a tough task. But the word we kept using to describe Daré’s debut was “hopeful.” The titular girl is Adunni, a 14-year old who is sold into servitude by her father after her mother, a strong proponent for female education, passes away. And despite the hand she’s been dealt, Adunni never loses her determination and hope. As we get deeper into the year that spawned a million memes—and none of them good—I’m using Adunni as my guide for how to navigate the day to day. This is a book to be read, and shared. —Sarah Gelman


Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker

The scandal around the virtual water cooler this week is the discovery of Robert Kolker’s fascinating Hidden Valley Road in a free library in one of my colleague’s neighborhoods. The only explanation I can muster is that whomever donated it must have mistakenly thought it was a book about salad dressing instead of a memoir about a family with twelve children, six of whom were diagnosed with schizophrenia. Most of what we know about this still very mysterious illness was learned by studying this family, and Kolker’s compassionate account is a revelation. Granted, so is Hidden Valley Ranch dressing. —Erin Kodicek


Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

Over the holiday weekend a friend of mine told me she’d just finished a really great book, which is always music to my ears. What was the book? Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah. Full disclosure: when I heard the title, I didn’t recognize it, but I also came to the Kristin Hannah party late (with The Nightingale). Our conversation pretty much became a Kristin Hannah lovefest. We talked about the author, her earlier books that I haven’t read, and of course, The Great Alone. Hannah’s next book, The Four Winds, doesn’t come out until February 2021, but this little book club of two is ready. —Seira Wilson


The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

The Vanishing Half has been one of the most talked about novels of the summer and for good reason—it's a brilliant inquisition into black female identity and sisterhood. We named it one of our Best Books of the Month, Good Morning America selected it as their Book Club Pick, it hit the #1 New York Times fiction list, and it rose to #1 Most Sold Fiction on Amazon Charts. And, the good news continues—Bennett's novel is being made into a limited series by HBO. I loved this book for the questions it asks about identity: What is your identity if not your past? What is gained in personal reinvention, what is lost? I love talking about this book with my colleagues and am over the moon that there continues to be reasons to do so! —Al Woodworth


Calling Bullshit: The Art of Skepticism in a Data-Driven World by Carl T. Bergstrom and Jevin D. West

With the 2020 election, a global pandemic, and a reckoning on longstanding racism all intersecting this summer, I’m turning to Calling Bullshit to help guide me through. While it’s fairly easy to recognize others’ tendencies to proclaim BS or to believe BS, I’m more interested in discovering my own blind spots and areas of gullibility. Should be fun! —Adrian Liang


Surrender, White People!: Our Unconditional Terms for Peace by D.L. Hughley

I love D.L. Hughley's social media presence. I can always count on him to make me laugh, that's a given, but he invariably has a thoughtful, pragmatic take on the political issues of the day, too. I'm excited about his new book, Surrender, White People! where he sums up where we're at on race: "What we have here in America is a dysfunctional relationship. It's an unhappy marriage after a shotgun wedding.” And where he lays out a plan: "Look your history in the face, put aside all your visions of superiority, open up your institutions so they benefit everyone in this nation, and join the rest of us as equals. That's what I mean by surrender." I'm looking forward to reading (and talking) more about an issue that's been talked around for way too long. Vannessa Cronin


Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

The title to Backman's latest novel was the first thing to catch my attention. We may be social distancing, but I'm fairly certain that there are a lot of anxious people pacing around inside their houses and apartments these days. That is also true in this novel, which features a wealthy bank director who likes to attend open houses to see how normal people live, as well as a couple on the constant hunt for fixer-uppers to hide the fact that they can't fix up their marriage. Backman is a true storyteller who is able to burrow his way into his characters', and his readers', emotions. You will laugh, wipe away a tear or two, and gain some insight into the human condition. I think this book may resonate with a lot of readers.Chris Schluep


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