How can I define what we're talking about this week? It certainly seems like a hodgepodge, although each book is worth mentioning.
It makes sense that Al is talking about Mindy Kaling. Her new collection has just released from Amazon Original Stories, and she just did an Amazon Live interview this week. See more about that below. It also makes sense that Adrian, whom I have known for decades now, would be connecting karaoke with a book. She has loved both for as long as I've known her.
Seira Wilson, our kids expert with a daughter of her own, was able to recommend a book to said daughter this week—you can tell that was a thrill. Vannessa is talking about a book that lots of people are talking about, and not just because it's a thriller. We have all talked about this one.
And finally, Erin is breaking her own rules as commandant, I mean the person who runs the Best Books program, by reading a novel that doesn't even publish until 2021. Lots of people are looking forward to that one. Read ahead, and you'll see why.
Kind of Hindu (Nothing Like I Imagined) by Mindy Kaling
For a variety of reasons, we’re talking about Mindy Kaling’s new collection of essays, Nothing Like I Imagined (the first of which is Kind of Hindu). One, because she brings her trademark hilarity, self-deprecation, and insight to everything from wrestling with how Indian she wants her daughter to be, social anxiety, friendships, baby nurses, and so much more. Two, because it’s free for Prime Members (it’s also digital only and there are six discreet essays). Three, our Editorial Director, Sarah Gelman interviewed Mindy on AmazonLive. They talked about what it’s like being "America’s Best Friend," learning that babies can smell fear, style, and how she multitasks (“not well”). Mindy Kaling is as thoughtful and engaging as ever, and I for one, am thrilled to have this collection of essays to dip in and out of. —Al Woodworth
Sweet Child o' Mine by Guns N' Roses, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin
My and my husband’s go-to karoke song is “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi, so I have a soft spot for certain late 1980s rock. Now a new generation can grow up knowing the lyrics of another enormously popular song from that era, Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” by poring over a new, joyfully illustrated picture book. I never knew the song was actually about a child (the deep-voiced and ominous ending seems a little weird, if so), but this picture book certainly is. Enjoy. —Adrian Liang
I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick
This week I actually talked about a book with my teenager (be still my heart…). She has a class that required students to read a mystery this month, and my daughter chose one I really liked, I Killed Zoe Spanos. A young woman named Anna moves to a new town, and finds herself drawn into the disappearance of a local teen named Zoe. When Zoe's body is found, Anna confesses to her murder but a young podcast host who has focused on the case thinks something is amiss. Perfect for readers who loved Sadie, listeners of the Serial podcast, or anyone who enjoys a good twisty suspense novel. Teen recommended. —Seira Wilson
Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith
We didn't get a pre-publication review copy of Troubled Blood, the new book by Robert Galbraith, but watched with interest as it climbed the bestseller lists despite controversy over one of its characters. British newspaper The Telegraph called it “a book whose moral seems to be: never trust a man in a dress.” Galbraith is, of course, the nom de plume of J.K. Rowling, who's been in hot water over her comments on trans issues in the past, and far from backing away from those comments, has doubled down on them. What we're talking about right now is cancel culture, positive representation, and whether readers can or should separate the writer from his/her opinions. –Vannessa Cronin
The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
When it comes to Best of the Month contenders, we review advanced reading copies a few months ahead of a book’s publication. Right now we’re wrapping up December and it’s tough not to skip ahead to 2021, especially when something shows up that we’re particularly excited about. A few weeks ago Kristin Hannah’s The Four Winds landed on our doorsteps, and I have taken the wind out of a few of my colleagues’ sails by admonishing them for dipping into it now, given that it doesn’t come out until February. And now I’m going to have to flog myself for doing the same thing (raised half Catholic/half Jewish, this happens every other Tuesday anyway, but never on Saturdays). Set during the Dust Bowl era, Hannah's new novel evokes the anguish, but also the courage, of families who had to flee the Great Plains—and the only lives they’ve ever known, and loved—for (supposedly) greener pastures out West. Her descriptions of the dust storms themselves are so palpable my Swiffer has never gotten so much mileage. And, like many of her novels, The Four Winds features unlikely heroes whose valor is shown in quiet but potent ways. In an interview with People Hannah said: "Three years ago, I had no idea the Great Depression would become so relevant to today. But history offers us hope.” I’ll take it. —Erin Kodicek
It's a bit of a hodgepodge this week, but it all makes sense.