Weekend Reading

Al Woodworth on November 20, 2020

Weekend reading

This week was one of our favorites: we announced the Best Books of 2020! It's always a thrill to share the books we loved and that we think you'll love. Of course, we always strive to do that. Weekend Reading is case and point. It's where we first wrote about A Knock at Midnight ("impossible to put down"), Migrations ("this is quickly becoming one of my favorite books I’ve read this year"), Blacktop Wasteland ("I'm about 100 pages in, and completely besotted with this novel") and so many others.

This weekend, editors are reading Barack Obama's memoir, buzzy (or soon-to-be buzzy) books coming out in 2021, and getting cooking advice for Thanksgiving. So here's to reading on the weekend, and the possibility of discovering the Best Books of 2021!

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

Before I started typing this, I cracked the spine on Barack Obama’s brand-new memoir, A Promised Land, for the first time. Fellow book lovers will understand the satisfaction of that sound. While we editors are lucky enough to usually read highly-anticipated books before they’re published, we had to wait until the publication date to get our hands on this one. I ordered it in both hardcover (for my bookshelf) and in audio, so I could listen to President Obama’s voice reading his own words. Listening to Michelle Obama’s Becoming was an experience I will never forget. I took my then-newborn on walks with her wisdom streaming into my ear, and even once trudged through an unusual Seattle snowstorm while listening to the book. I suspect this will be a similar experience. I’m ready to wrap up 2020 with Obama’s measured words and wisdom. I’m not making a daring prediction when I say this book will be huge, and the perfect gift to give this holiday season. —Sarah Gelman

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Ishiguro is an author who I’ll read no matter what his book is about. And indeed I started reading an advance copy of Klara and the Sun (March 2021) on my Kindle this week, not knowing what the book was about. It’s told from the perspective of a protagonist who lives in a store watched over by a person referred to as Manager. At first I thought I was reading about mannequins. That’s interesting, I thought. I guess it’s a book about mannequins. But there was more life to them than is exhibited by the typical mannequin—so a few pages in, I decided it was about puppies. Is Ishiguro actually writing about puppies? That didn't quite seem right either. Finally, it dawned on me that this was a book about robots, or AFs, as they are described in the book. Artificial Friends. And they want to find a child to go home with. There's a real Tales of Hoffman vibe going on here that I like a lot. Looking forward to the weekend even more now. —Chris Schluep

Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas

I’m really looking forward to starting this new novel from Angie Thomas, which follows the 2020 trend of writing prequels for big blockbuster books. In this case, Thomas is writing something of a prequel to her best-seller, The Hate U Give, telling the story of Starr’s dad, Maverick, as a young man in Garden Heights, 17 years before the events of The Hate U Give. I love a good backstory, and Concrete Rose fills in the details of Mav’s life with the King Lords and how he broke free, which Thomas only touched on before. Clearing my Saturday afternoon for this one. —Seira Wilson

Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth by Avi Loeb

I admit, I missed the hubbub in 2017 when we realized that an interstellar object had passed by the sun and then headed out of the solar system. Not only was it the first confirmed interstellar object—meaning, the first object to come from outside of our solar system—but as scientists began to crunch the data, the object proved to be…well…weird. Really bright. Strangely shaped. And it changed direction, slightly, as it whipped away from the sun. I love both science and sci-fi, and I’m absolutely riveted by this real-life mystery. The author, an astrophysics expert and a professor at Harvard, pulls together the clues and waves off red herrings as he investigates explanations for this anomalous object. I read a lot of woo-woo paranormal/Big Foot/alien stuff in my younger days, and this book is not those books. I can’t wait to get back to Extraterrestrial (January 26) this weekend. —Adrian Liang

Sheet Pan Suppers: 120 Recipes for Simple, Surprising, Hands-Off Meals Straight from the Oven by Molly Gilbert

This Thanksgiving will be very different from ones past. I’m in the midst of a move, and I will be under quarantine per our state’s guidelines, which means I can’t enjoy turkey with close friends…who actually know how to cook. Being culinarily challenged, this is especially heartbreaking, which is why I’m going to crack open a cookbook another friend gifted me after noticing how uncomfortable I look in the kitchen (did I mention I set myself on fire making bacon once?), and practice one or two things in anticipation of the holiday. Sheet Pan Suppers is full of mouth-watering recipes that even I can’t mess up. Granted, the last time I tackled one of the recipes I did set two smoke alarms off, but in my defense the alarms are very close together and unusually sensitive. At least I didn’t need any skin grafts afterwards. Progress! Going to try something else this go-around, a festive sheet pan meal (if there is such a thing, and I bet there is!). Wish me luck. —Erin Kodicek

Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner

I loved Lisa Gardner's new book Before She Disappeared the minute I read the epigraph: "To all those who search, so that others may find." The world needs searchers, like Frankie Elkin, a middle-aged woman "with more regrets than belongings, more sad stories than happy ones," who hunts for people the police have given up on. Minorities, in particular. Like Lili Badeau, a Haitian teenager missing from her Boston home. So far, with great characters—especially the tormented Frankie—and a missing girl who pulls at your heart, Before She Disappeared is the read I need this weekend. Vannessa Cronin

Dog Flowers: A Memoir by Danielle Geller

I picked this up on a whim and haven't been able to put it down since. The writing and story surprise at every turn, in both quiet and tectonic ways. And I should qualify the tectonic: a homeless mother, an alcoholic father, a stripping sister, and the constant hum of a bipolar disorder. Danielle Geller seems to bare it all in this absorbing and beautifully written memoir about grappling with the death of her mom—"I trace my fingers over my mother's careful cursive, over the destruction that unfolds." I'm so grateful that writers like Geller share their stories (Dog Flowers is publishing January 12), so this weekend I'll be rooting for Geller to find calm and closure. —Al Woodworth

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