Reading Round-Up: January

We asked everyone in the office to talk about their favorite books from the last month. Take a look at our favorite reads from January, and let us know in the comments which books you’ll be adding to your to-read list. From nonfiction to comedy to graphic novel, there’s something for everyone here!

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

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Washington Black, narrated by an enslaved 11-year-old boy named Washington “Wash” Black, begins on a sugar plantation in Barbados. After witnessing unspeakable brutality on the plantation, Wash is able to escape on a hot-air balloon with the assistance of the master’s younger brother. His escape is the start of a lifelong adventure around the world that exposes Wash to a whole new realm of science and discovery. It’s a deeply heartfelt story that leaves the reader with a new perspective from which to see the world and a realization that “everything has value. Or if not value, at least merits investigation.”

— Heather, Customer Service

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

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This January, I read Andrew Sean Greer’s Less, a Pulitzer-prize winning novel full of wit, heart, and humor. This cleverly crafted novel stars a man named Arthur Less as he decides whether to attend his ex-boyfriend’s wedding. Fearing the awkwardness of attending and unwilling to admit defeat by declining, Less devises a plan to skip town by accepting invitations to literary events around the world—what could go wrong?

Well, your publisher could drop your new novel, the person you’re interviewing could be violently ill, your jokes could not translate, and your frenemy could be waiting to pounce. Tragic as that sounds, Less is a comedy. From the “evenings with Arthur Less” to the delightfully overconfident way he speaks German, I was laughing out loud from the start. And underneath the humor, Greer’s novel explores an all-too-common fear: growing old, being alone, and wanting to be loved. Part satire, part love story, and all heart, Less should be the next book you pick up.

— Wes, Managing Editor

Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides

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Middlesex is a book that had been on my radar for a while. When I stumbled across a copy of it at Goodwill, I had to see why it was worthy of Oprah’s praise and a Pulitzer. In my opinion, Jeffery Eugenides’s writing style is absolutely captivating. Embellished in striking metaphors and witty remarks, Eugenides’s novel gracefully transforms a multi-generational family saga into a modern-day Greek drama. The narrator and protagonist, Cal Stephanides, invites readers along an intimate journey of self-exploration through the moral dilemmas and twists of fate that have shaped his identity. This story is an intoxicating hybrid of genre and culture that parallels Cal’s own experience as a hermaphrodite, a hybrid of two genders. Overall, Middlesex is a thoughtful read and powerful reminder that we have the ability to choose who we want to be, regardless of where we’ve come from.

— Savannah, Social Media Manager

Tribe by Sebastian Junger

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If you’ve followed along with some of our previous book recommendation blogs, you won’t be surprised to learn that I usually stick with fiction. This month, however, I stumbled across Tribe and ended up loving it. Simply put, Junger explains how modern society—in exchange for technological and medicinal advances—has removed our ability to bond in the egalitarian, close-knit communities in which humans evolve to thrive. The book is jam-packed with research and always takes an objective stance, so I finished it not with an opinion of how we should or should not live as people, but instead with a better understanding of why chronic loneliness and mental illness have become so prevalent in today’s society.

— Kate, Marketing Coordinator

Where’d You Go, Bernadette

By Marie Semple

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After reading Democracy Hacked: Political Turmoil and Information Warfare in the Digital Age and Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory, I needed something a bit light(er) and not non-fiction, as you can image. So, I decided to pick up Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Marie Semple after seeing it on the Local Authors shelf at our friendly local bookstore The Elliott Bay Book Company.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette is a comedy novel set in Seattle and published in 2012, about Bernadette Fox, a witty and slightly agoraphobic architect, who goes missing after her husband tries to get her committed to a facility. It is narrated by Bernadette’s 15-year-old daughter, Bee, as she tries to cobble together the moving parts that lead up to Bernadette’s disappearance. I realize this summary sounds a bit bleaker than the actual plot—but this book is equal parts sweet and amusing. Semple, who is a Seattle resident and was a writer for Arrested Development, perfectly captures the laugh-out-loud (and deserved) snark toward Seattle drivers, mega-tech corporations like Microsoft, and PTA parents with maybe a little too much time on their hands. It was an enjoyable read and I really look forward to the movie coming out later this year, starring Cate Blanchett(!) as Bernadette.

— Sam, Head of Marketing and User Experience

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

5

The Prince and the Dressmaker is a coming-of-age story about identity, friendship, hard work, and beautiful dresses. It’s also possibly the sweetest love story I’ve ever read—I was reaching for the tissues by the end of Frances and Prince Sebastian’s tale. Not to mention that Jen Wang’s art is some of the most sumptuous I’ve ever seen in a graphic novel: you can almost feel the fabric of Lady Crystallia’s gowns and taste the French pastries. Grab a copy of this book, cozy up with a cup of tea, and prepare to feel your feelings.

— Jules, Editor