Reading Round-Up: November

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

Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell


Page count: 356
Genre: Fantasy
Publish date: 2019

A few of us in the office are forever obsessed with Carry On, the first novel in this series. It’s a charming fantasy/mystery novel that follows three young mages who attempt to defeat a big, bad, magical villain at their school in England. Sound familiar? Rowell’s Carry On may have been inspired by the Harry Potter series, but it’s a unique tale with lovable characters and complex relationships.

In her sequel, Wayward Son, we get another chance to engage with Penny, Baz, and Simon as they face another magical mystery—this time, in the USA, where all the magical rules have changed. While the first novel of the series dealt with themes of coming-of-age and bravery, the second grapples with grayer themes of relationships, identity, and friendship. This book and its prequel are cleverly written with fast-paced action and slow-building relationships. It will make you laugh, maybe tear up a little, and you’ll definitely come out of it with some new favorite fictional characters.

—Kate, Marketing Coordinator

Peter the Great by Robert Massie


Page count: 909
Genre: History
Publish date: 2001

In light of the passing of Robert Massie, I’m reminded of his Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, Peter the Great. Massie became interested in Russian history while researching a condition, hemophilia, that afflicted his son. One of the most famous cases of hemophilia was that of Alexei, a son of Nicholas and Alexandra, the last of the Romanov dynasty. Ten years later his 1,000 page book on Nicholas and Alexandra became a best-seller.

He spent nearly as much time on his masterpiece, Peter the Great, a vivid and gripping account of the life of the late 17th-century Tsar. Peter took Russia into the modern world. The city that bears his name, St. Petersburg, once a swamp, is now one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I’ve never read a better non-fiction historical narrative. Massie brings to life the people and landscape of Russia and the boundless energy of the Tsar.

—Brad, CEO

Severance by Ling Ma


Page count: 291
Genre: Science Fiction
Publish date: 2018

Ling Ma’s debut novel Severance sat on my “to read” list for months based solely on its cover and a half-remembered The New Yorker review. It was worth the wait. The onset of winter is the perfect time to sink into this subtle apocalypse—the city slows down and the streets empty, and societal halt feels just a little closer.

In Severance, the shutdown of the world is caused by a virus that traps people in loops of routine, and if you’re looking for a lift out of the holiday doldrums then this isn’t the book for you. What I got was new ways to describe the function of a city, and a sharp reminder: I am what I do, and much of what I do is probably boring.

I blasted through the last few chapters—the downside of a library book is its due date— which did a disservice to Ma’s careful pacing. So, I anticipate returning to Severance. It’s both fluid and dense, and I’ll be thinking about it for months.

— Caitlin, Associate Editor

Normal People by Sally Rooney


Page count: 273
Genre: Fiction
Publish date: 2019

Normal People, Sally Rooney’s second novel, is an incisive and careful rendering of the relationship between two young people, Connell and Marianne. The novel spans four years of its protagonists’ lives—between secondary school in western Ireland and university in Dublin—and the ways their relationship grows and changes over that time, moving between romance, close friendship, and the somewhat blurry space between the two.

What is stable over that time is connection. Despite their initial reluctance to lean on one another, the characters come to understand that dependence on others is what life is: 

“No one can be independent of other people completely,” Marianne thinks, “so why not give up the attempt, she thought, go running in the other direction, depend on people for everything, allow them to depend on you, why not.”

Rooney recently told a reporter for The New Yorker that “a lot of critics have noticed that my books are basically nineteenth-century novels dressed up in contemporary clothing.” This is one of the (many) joys of Normal People: its careful attention to the ways people connect in both daily and lifelong ways.

—Emma, Associate Editor

Guards! Guards! By Terry Pratchett


Page count: 376
Genre: Fantasy
Publish date: 2001

With winter on the horizon, it was time to cozy up with a Discworld novel. If you’ve followed this blog, you know that many of us are big fans of Terry Pratchett’s work. In November, I read Guards! Guards!—the first in his “Watch” series which follows the exploits of Captain Sam Vimes, Sergeant Colon, Corporal Nobbs, and a new recruit, Carrot Ironfoundersson—a human raised by dwarves who is still pretty sure he’s basically a dwarf despite being over six feet tall. 

The City Watch is underfunded, understaffed, and the subject of ridicule in Ank-Morpork, but when a real, live dragon begins terrorizing the city, only the Watch is prepared to deal with the threat. If you’re looking for a foray into Discworld books, either start with this one or go with the Witches storyline that begins with Equal Rites and introduces the incomparable Granny Weatherwax.

—Wes, Project Manager

Severance by Ling Ma


Page count: 291
Genre: Science Fiction
Publish date: 2018

Set in a dystopian 2011, Shen Fever has nearly destroyed the global population, leaving only a handful of survivors. The epidemic transforms infected humans into non-violent, routine-centric zombies, who become mindlessly stuck in familiar tasks that once consumed their livelihoods.  

The narrator, Candace Chen, is one of the only survivors left in New York City. Through a series of flashbacks, readers learn about Candace’s life as a young twenty-something stuck in a monotonous, corporate job with no direction of what to do with her life. Can you sense the metaphor yet? As Cadace joins a group of other survivors, they must regain control of their personal narratives and band together in order to stay alive. 

Severance is your run-of-the-mill zombie apocalypse novel with a millenial twist. If you like reading about the end times and you enjoy a good ol’ fashioned zombie stand-off at a mall, then you’re in for a treat!   

—Savannah, Social Media Manager

She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey


Page count: 310
Genre: Nonfiction; Politics
Publish date: 2019

I recently read the page-turning She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement by Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey. We need a phrase for something that fascinates you, fills you with righteous journalistic justice, and sprinkles you with hearty lady-powered hope—but also patriarchal dread—because that’s what this thrilling book did for me. Maybe Athenian ennui

Kantor and Twohey reveal their previously untold story of how they uncovered the indisputable truth about Harvey Weinstein’s treatment of women and the lurid labyrinth of lies, coverups, and even spies he used to conceal his wrongdoings. The authors’ work not only helped ignite the #MeToo movement, but also coincided with (further) revelations about Donald Trump’s treatment of women, the similar ways in which concealment of said treatment was employed, and the sexual assault allegations and public hearing from Christine Blasey Ford about Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh. 

This book will make you want to go back to journalism school (or at least subscribe to The New York Times) to help topple real-world bad guys and find the capital “T” truth. And to maybe take a long hot shower.

—Sam, Marketing Manager