Andrea Briceño Ortega's picks
With everything going on globally, and in the United States in particular, it's easy to romanticize other parts of the world that seem to be handling things better, particularly truly democratic countries with strong economies (ahem, Scandinavia). I started reading this book by Booth, a British journalist, to challenge my assumptions that the grass is greener up north, and it has provided the nuanced analysis, by a local, that I was searching for, with witty anecdotes I wasn't expecting. The only drawback is that now I know nobody is really doing that much better.
After a short-lived but intense Jane Austen phase, my reading appetite — although still thrilled with Regency drama — fancied something meatier, darker. The natural turn, of course, was Charlotte Brontë, and I finally understand the enduring popularity of Jane Eyre. It's impossible to pin down. It looks like a romance, but not really. It could be interpreted as both feminist and traditionalist. It's kind of gothic, but that's not the point. It's fascinating!
Ashley McDonnell's picks
Zhao’s Iron Widow was easily my favorite book from last year, so I knew I would get sucked into their sophomore novel, Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor. Think Yu-Gi-Oh!, but with entities from Chinese history possessing 12-year-olds through augmented reality devices instead of a Pharaoh from Ancient Egypt and the Millennium Puzzle. If that sentence made sense to you, then jump right in for a fun and unsurprisingly educational time.
I’m not one to turn down a good dystopian novel, and in this crowded niche, “Wool” came highly recommended. Yet, a few pages in, I thought I knew where it was going, that the trajectory of the story would be boring and hackneyed. I was deeply mistaken. Who knew being trapped in an underground silo could be so full of dark, delightfully unexpected twists and turns? The suspense, coupled with the lyrical prose and wide cast of characters, had me hooked.
Nagamatsu masterfully twists science fiction’s greatest tropes in a series of interconnected dystopian stories about the discovery of a deadly virus. Widely considered one of the best books of 2022, this quietly devastating novel full of isolated, lonely people still beats with a heart that’s fully human, one whose beat tethers us across tragedy, time, and space.
This history of America’s mail system proves that there's perhaps nothing more American than arguing over the worth of the United States Postal Service. Its founding and subsequent efficiency improvements have always been at the whims of powerful people with personal stakes (from bankers to pilots to stamp collectors), and its utility has constantly been the subject of intense scrutiny. But the fact remains that it’s one of the fastest and most robust mail systems in the world today, albeit with a rollicking history.
Twin sisters Tegan and Sara have been releasing indie pop and alternative jams since 1998 and have been critically acclaimed darlings ever since. As someone who thinks “The Con” is one of the greatest songs ever made, I'm excited to finally be reading their memoir. It chronicles their tumultuous high school years, full of sibling squabbles, sexual discovery, and songwriting. If you’ve ever jammed out to a Tegan and Sara song (and you probably have, because there are so many, including “Everything is AWESOME!!!” from The Lego Movie), the audiobook is a must: It’s narrated by the sisters and contains recordings of their earliest music. (Read it now before the TV adaptation comes out!)
Emma Contreras' picks
Finlay Donovan is a single mom and struggling writer who gets caught up in a crazy murder-for-hire scheme. Highly recommend it if you're looking for a thriller that lands on the more comedic side of things; there are plenty of plot twists and the body count is high but it's also a fun and light-hearted read.
As an enthusiastic novice diver and long-time Lisa See fan, this one's been on my TBR shelf for a while. I was fascinated by both Young-sook and Mi-ja's friendship, told over the span of roughly 70 years, and the determination and grit required of haenyeo, the sea women who troll the bottom of the ocean floors in search of shellfish and sea creatures to sell. The time and care that went into researching this book is truly impressive and helps to give the reader an eye-opening look at the horrors the resilient people of Jeju endured throughout WWII and the Korean War.
Katie Winters' picks
I loved Cosby’s first novel, Blacktop Wasteland, so when Barack Obama picked Razorblade Tears as one of his favorites of 2022 so far, I had to listen. It’s pitch perfect pulp, blending heart-pounding noir thrills with heart-wrenching topics like homophobia and racism. Adam Lazarre-White nails the narration, rendering Cosby’s words even more indelible.
I devoured Talty’s interlinked short story collection after hearing it hyped as one of the best books of the summer by what feels like every media outlet. It did not disappoint. Like its amazing title, Night of the Living Rez has a helluva way with words. A little bit dark and a little bit funny with a whole lot of heart, the stories explore the complicated relationship between a son and his mother on the Penobscot reservation in Maine.
Lanie Pemberton's picks
We all know that plants are alive, but it’s quite another thing to consider them living beings with families, language, and preferences. The Hidden Life of Trees is the first book that truly made me consider what trees experience instead of what they provide, and with that comes newfound appreciation and compassion. Wohlleben combines knowledge and empathy in this book, and the effect is an engrossing education on sustainable forestry.
We’re all trying to be more eco-conscious, so understanding animals and nature is more important than ever. Goldfarb’s book explores beavers, a “keystone species” (animals who create thriving, diverse ecosystems) and their role in fostering healthy habitats for humans and animals alike. While humankind has been an overwhelming source of havoc on beavers, from fur traders of yore to farmers and homesteaders of today, Goldfarb goes beyond detailing how we went wrong and examines what we can do to protect beavers (and restore the land they tirelessly improve). (The book also includes the perfect cocktail party anecdote about paratrooping beavers.)
Sarah Sung's picks
Mika in Real Life makes for a good summer read. It doesn’t cover the lightest of topics — mother-daughter tensions, rape, teen pregnancy, immigration, adoption, cancer, loss, to name a few — but it also includes a plot-twisting enemies-to-lovers trope that helps lighten things up. Even though it takes place in 35-year-old Mika’s present-day, it feels like a coming-of-age novel that has you rooting for Mika until the final page.
Combining the best of travel, food, and Hollywood, this light and easy read makes for a great audiobook to listen to while making dinner. It’s a welcoming read that, in effect, invites you to the table of Tucci’s youth in New York and Italy as well as a few meals with friends and actors. His humor and conversational style made me think (as someone who loves food and checking out new restaurants myself) that I could be friends with Tucci and we could compare notes on our favorite meals and destinations.
Just by passively listening to Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, I felt like I was getting a masterclass on the secrets of cooking. However, there’s nothing secret or exclusive about Nosrat’s book that got turned into a Netflix series. It’s a book for people who would never follow a recipe, but end up cooking the perfect meal on instinct.
This book follows three Black Americans who left the south and went to Chicago, New York, and California for a fresh start. It’s a true story of indignity after indignity, setbacks, and dashed hopes as they encounter racism no matter where they go to seek a better life — if not for themselves, then for their children and generations to follow. In some ways the book made me thankful for where we are, but also made me wonder: How much progress have we actually made?
While this novel was published in 2018 (and takes place in 2011), it was disconcerting to read it in 2022, just as we’re coming out of Covid-19. The parallels of a fictional pandemic that changes the world as we know it and our recent one are eerily strong. In Severance, the virus essentially turns people into zombies that are stuck in a loop of doing the same rote thing over and over. Categorized as “satirical science fiction,” I found the commentary on the state of the world to be sharp and thought-provoking.
Sharing her two seemingly opposite perspectives — Indigenous versus scientific — Kimmerer is able to explain how we got here. “Here” being a climate crisis that continues to be dismissed. She argues it all comes down to storytelling. Indigenous peoples pass their knowledge down through relatable stories that frame humans as part of a bigger whole, whereas science gives plants technical names, holds nature at a distance, and therefore trains people to believe that everything revolves around us. Kimmerer argues that we must fundamentally change our mindsets from overconsumption to respect for the abundant resources we have; we must exercise restraint and humility to take only what we need — and maybe even a little less.
About the Author: Ashley McDonnell
Ashley is a Senior Editorial Associate at Scribd who loves Ernest Hemingway, “The Hunger Games,” and ice hockey. When she’s not reading or at the rink, she’s making nerdy podcasts about anime and manga.