We asked everyone in the office to talk about their favorite books from last month. Take a look at our favorite reads from May, and let us know in the comments which books you’ll be adding to your to-read list. From graphic novels to fantasy, there’s something for everyone here!
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Page count: 552
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publish date: 2006
I started off the month with this delightful, impactful, and downright beautiful read. I started it the way I start most books—that is to say, I went in without a clue about the plot simply because I heard the book is good—and fell in love with Zusak’s word craft and creative narrative style.
The Book Thief is narrated by Death himself, but it is done so in a tactful, poetic, and very much not-creepy way. He tells the story of a young German girl and her family during World War II. Unlike other Holocaust stories I’ve read, the novel focuses on a non-Jewish family. Growing up and learning about World War II, it’s hard not to get desensitized to the topic. Zusak made it real again by showing us a glimpse of the daily lives of an everyday family just trying to do the right thing. The Book Thief is a haunting, yet touching, tale that everyone needs to read at least once.
—Kate, Marketing Coordinator
Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett
Page count: 228
Publish date: 2005
Thanks to Sam’s thoughtful recommendation, this month I read Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett. In a world named “Bad Ass,” wizards can only be men and witches can only be women—that is, until Eskarina Smith comes along. Nine-year-old Esk breaks the stereotypes on her journey to becoming the world’s first female wizard. With the help of her strong-willed, sassy grandmother, Granny Weatherwax, Esk embarks on a fantastical adventure to seek her destiny. Terry Pratchett crafts a hilarious, charming narrative that rings with relevance over thirty years after its original publication. I highly recommend this read to anyone looking to escape our current reality and indulge in a magical universe where feminine power rules. Plus, if your reading experience is anything like mine, you’ll adopt Granny Weatherwax as your bossy new muse.
She’d be a witch and a wizard, too. And she would show them.
—Savannah, Social Media Manager
Naked by David Sedaris
Page count: 304
Genre: Humor; Memoir
Publish date: 1998
If you, too, are also a student in the throes of midterms and finals, I would highly recommend reading one (or more) of David Sedaris’s collections of short stories. They are a dose of positivity for me, perfect for a quick read between classes, during breaks from homework, or during commutes on the bus. If you’re a fan of audio books, Sedaris’s voice adds to his distinctive comic style. His specialty—stories about family dynamics and idiosyncrasies—can give readers a comedic perspective on their own family dramas. I’m a fan of short story collections, but even if you’re not a regular short story reader, Naked is a good place to start.
—Sophie, Editorial Intern
“Liking What You See: A Documentary” by Ted Chiang
Page count: 20
Genre: Science Fiction; Short Story
Publish date: 2010
This month I read a sci-fi short story by Ted Chiang called “Liking What You See: A Documentary.” The story is formatted as the transcript of a documentary in which people are interviewed about an operation that prevents people from being able to perceive attractiveness. Essentially, those who get the operation are able to see everything as usual—except for physical beauty or its lack. The story follows a campaign at a university that tries to make this operation a requirement for all students.
I found this story to be quite thought-provoking and entertaining to read. Considering a world without discrimination based on appearance is a fascinating concept, and I enjoyed reading about a society in which conventional beauty may no longer play a role in our interactions with one another. Chiang’s writing is fun and very readable, and he does a wonderful job of writing about this concept from multiple perspectives.
—Mary, Editorial Intern
Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett
Page count: 496
Publish date: 2003
That’s the trouble about the good guys and the bad guys! They’re all guys!
Since I’ve been on a Terry Pratchett kick lately, my good friend lent me his favorite Pratchett novel, Monstrous Regiment. (Elegant and impressive choice, by the way, Jeff!) Monstrous Regiment is set in Pratchett’s renowned Discworld, but the book itself is a stand-alone read—and a great initial foray for anyone new to this fantasy realm. Unfortunately, it’s pretty hard to write much of anything about this book without giving away serious spoilers, but if you enjoy books about gender and identity colliding with the topics of war, tradition, and religion—or, even, if you’re just a fan of the Disney movie Mulan—you’ll love this read. This endearing satire is one I’m sure to revisit many, many times with half an onion and a pair of socks (just in case) in tow.
—Sam, Marketing Manager
The Letters of Vita Sackville-West to Virginia Woolf edited by Louise De Salvo and Mitchell Leaska
Page count: 480
Publish date: 2004
This May, I read The Letters of Vita Sackville-West to Virginia Woolf, compiled and edited by Louise De Salvo and Mitchell Leaska. Going in, I knew only that Woolf and Sackville-West were lovers and that Sackville-West was the inspiration for Woolf’s novel Orlando, which features a gender-traversing protagonist. By the end, I was enraptured by the passionate, witty, and complicated love between these two brilliant women. Their letters, spanning nineteen years, are a mixture of poetic musings, society gossip, grand declarations of love, petty arguments, and day-to-day concerns. However, some of the most iconic and memorable exchanges stem from atheir mutual longing to simply spend more time together:
I am reduced to a thing that wants Virginia. I composed a beautiful letter to you in the sleepless nightmare hours of the night, and it has all gone: I just miss you, in a quite simple desperate human way.
–Vita Sackville-West, 1926
Look here Vita—throw over your man… and I’ll tell you all the things I have in my head, millions, myriads—They won’t stir by day, only by dark on the river. Think of that. Throw over your man, I say, and come. –Virginia Woolf, 1927
—Marissa, Editorial Intern
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
Page count: 303
Publish date: 2006
I’ve spent this May slowly reading through Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, in Gregory Hays’s 2002 translation. Many consider Meditations a source of Stoic wisdom and one of the most profound works of ethical reflection ever written. And it’s this latter part that most intrigues me; I’m drawn to Marcus as a flawed human, writing down thoughts to himself as a way of processing his philosophy and struggling with his convictions. The best parts of Meditations are the passages in which he concerns himself with doing what is good, with doing what Nature—with that capital N—requires. Perhaps the most appealing parts of this book are how similar Marcus’s concerns are to my own—even though we’re separated by nearly two thousand years. This is definitely a text I’ll revisit more than once.
—Wes, Project Manager
My Brother’s Husband by Gengoroh Tagame
Page count: 352
Genre: Graphic Novel; Manga
Publish date: 2017
This month, on a recommendation from our local bookstore, the Elliott Bay Book Company, I started reading Gengoroh Tagame’s manga masterpiece My Brother’s Husband. Published in two omnibus editions, it’s the story of a single Japanese dad, named Yaichi, who receives a visit from Mike, the widowed husband of Yaichi’s estranged gay twin. While he initially invites Mike into his home with plenty of trepidation, Yaichi soon finds his ideas about sexual identity, family, and Japanese versus Western traditions expanding in the presence of this kindly Canadian in cargo shorts. Yaichi’s acceptance of Mike is helped along by his young daughter, Kana, who loves Mike instantly and only needs the briefest of explanations to understand that—at least where Mike comes from—boys can marry each other. (Learning that in Canada you can order tempura sushi comes as more of a shock!) I love the sweetness of this story and as well as the way Tagame doesn’t shy away from exploring the painful moments that can arise when people look deeply into their own unexamined prejudices. In all, My Brother’s Husband is a feel-good read with a refreshingly calm pace; clean, expressive lines; and a moving degree of vulnerability in its characters. And while much of queer life remains under wraps in Japan (and for many in the US, too), Tagame’s manga—and its receipt of both American and Japanese literary awards—shows that things are slowly but surely changing for the better.