Books we are talking about

Chris Schluep on December 24, 2020

Books we are talking about

A few of the editors have already left for holiday vacations, and Amazon—despite the fact that we're still working from home—seems emptier and a little less busy than normal. Those of us still at our desks (or kitchen tables) have got one eye on the holidays ahead, so for this post I asked the remaining editors to talk about a book that made our Best of the Year list, one that they are recommending to people. Seira, who is always prepared ahead of time, already had a book in mind for this post—one that is publishing in January. It sounds great.

So I offer you three books we chose as Best Books of the Year that we are recommending to people, and one book that Seira is loving that will be published in January.

Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn

This is one of my personal favorites of the year—it's mythical and grounded, humorous and heart-wrenching, contemporary and timeless. From the heat of Hawaii, to the joys and downfalls of sibling rivalries, and to the shattering disappointment of falling short of expectations, Washburn’s novel beats with the complexity of familial love. Since the novel is based in Hawaii, it's no surprise that President Obama gravitated towards it, but it's quite another to get his stamp of approval in being named one of his favorite books of 2020. Now that's something to write home about. —Al Woodworth

The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett

Sometimes popular things make me want to eschew them just by virtue of their popularity. Fortunately this isn’t an all-encompassing affliction or I’d miss out on some great things, including Ken Follett’s juggernaut Kingsbridge series. The prequel, The Evening and the Morning, came out this year, so it seemed like the perfect time to give it a go, and it turns out that the legions of Follett fans know what they’re boasting about. Set at the tail end of the Dark Ages when England was being pinched by the Vikings and the Welsh, it mines the growing pains of a budding legal system, one that wouldn’t only benefit the ruling class and corrupt clergymen. It’s also a star-crossed love story involving a humble boatbuilder and Norman noblewoman, two heroes whose journey provides the emotional center of an otherwise brutal, and yet beautiful, tale. I initially balked at the 928 page count and then was disappointed that The Evening and the Morning didn’t stretch on to the afternoon. —Erin Kodicek

Lore by Alexandra Bracken

I started this new young adult novel last weekend and have been dying to get back to it. Lore takes classic mythology and gives it a dark and deadly spin. Every seven years an event called Agon takes place, and nine of classic Greek gods are dropped into a city—in this case New York—where they become mortal for seven days. Living as a human is bad enough but during this time the old gods are also hunted by descendants of ancient bloodlines who would steal their powers along with their life. Being a god ain't like it used to be...The main character, Lore Perseous, is the only remaining member of her bloodline but she’s gone to great lengths to remove herself from the savagery of it all and hide out—until her past comes calling. I can’t wait to see what happens next… —Seira Wilson

A Burning by Megha Majumdar

Despite making the longlist for the National Book Award and being selected by Jenna, I feel like Megha Majumdar's debut novel A Burning has slipped through the cracks a little bit. A Burning is set in contemporary India. It is told from the perspective of three people, all different, all wholly realized. There's a lot to talk about in this novel, and I think it's a great pick for book clubs, but I think more than anything A Burning marks the debut of a great new voice. I fully expect Megha Majumdar's career to take off from here. A Burning is your opportunity to get in on the ground floor; later you can tell people you read her before she was a household name. —Chris Schluep

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