Top Reads for January

Kick the new year off right by tearing off your blindfold and reading Bird Box, tidying up your house while listening to everyone’s favorite cleaning consultant, Marie Kondo, getting engrossed in a fascinating real-life con, and more.

Bird Box

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Ashley: Unless you live under a rock, you already know that Netflix’s adaptation of Bird Box blew up over the holidays and has become a meme machine. Personally, I heard whispers and bafflement about the movie when I went home for the holidays, as cousins and friends tried to figure out the origin of the phenomenon. Of course, the origin is this debut novel by Josh Malerman.

Written in third person present, Malerman’s apocalyptic world is a horror that immediately grabs you and doesn’t let go. In it, there’s a type of creature that causes people who see it to commit suicide. So everyone starts doing everything blindfolded when they leave the confines of their house (which they try very hard not to do, obviously). The story follows Malorie, a young woman who’s pregnant when the creatures first appear and then begins living in a communal home with others who band together to survive. The past and the present constantly collide during Malorie’s journey downriver with her young children, called only Boy and Girl, as they finally decide to flee the house they’ve been confined to for years. The scenario might be highly memeable, but the tension that builds throughout the story is seriously frightening.

Also available as an audiobook.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

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Marissa: Just in time for the new year, Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up on Netflix has us all talking about cleaning up and decluttering our lives. The KonMari method from the show was popularized with her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which is similarly charming and uncomplicated. The simple tenet of the book (and show) is keeping the things in your house that ‘spark joy’ and getting rid of anything that doesn’t, after thanking it for fulfilling its intended purpose. Even if you don’t feel a particular need to clean out the house, the audiobook is very soothing and a delightful book to listen to, with a focus on being mindful about the things you keep in your life. If you’ve watched her Netflix show and want more of the same pleasant, calming vibes, or want to delve a little deeper into the #konmari magic, definitely check out the audiobook.

Billion Dollar Whale

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Katie: Bad Blood meets The Wolf of Wall Street in this deeply-reported, absorbing story of how a con man pulled off a recklessly bold — and infuriating — international theft. It’s no surprise that both the Financial Times and Fortune named it one of the best books of 2018.

Cristal-drenched parties packed with celebrities, like Leonardo DiCaprio, Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton, and Jamie Foxx. Super yachts, mansions, high-roller gambling, Imelda Marcos-like shopping sprees, and million dollar jewelry gifts for supermodel Miranda Kerr. This book has it all. And all of it was paid for with stolen money.

At its heart, Billion Dollar Whale is a detective story. Written by two investigative reporters from The Wall Street Journal who helped blow the lid off the scam, it exposes one of the biggest, most audacious financial heists ever. The reporters chart how Jho Low scammed billions of dollars and laundered it around the world to fuel his over-the-top lifestyle. In a gold-standard work of journalism, they follow the money trail, untangling a dizzying web of secret offshore bank accounts, corrupt heads of state, the world of finance, and Hollywood, where life became art. Low buddied up with DiCaprio and bankrolled the movie version of The Wolf of Wall Street.

Beautiful Boy

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Jen: Living in San Francisco, it’s impossible to avoid the societal impact of addiction on a population; however, it is easy to craft a narrative about those impacted while diverting one’s eyes from those who are suffering. Bay Area local David Sheff’s Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction puts a face onto addiction by taking readers on a journey through his son Nic’s struggle with meth.

Beautiful Boy is heartbreaking for several reasons. Through deeply personal and honest storytelling, the book highlights the physical and mental destruction caused by Nic’s addiction alongside sobering facts about the state of the rehabilitation industry and the science behind addiction. It will leave the reader with a deeper understanding of the crisis that is sweeping the country and empathy for those who are suffering. Perhaps most of all, it will help readers understand the complex relationships between addicts and their loved ones who struggle with guilt, fear, anger, and the saddest realization of all: no amount of money, love, or hope from others can cure an addict.

Beautiful Boy was adapted into a Golden Globe-nominated movie starring Steve Carrell and Timothée Chalamet.

Blindsight

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Andrew: When Blindsight was published in 2006 it was well-deservedly nominated for a Hugo Award, a John W. Campbell Award, and a Locus Award. This is hard science fiction at its finest, loaded with jargon and philosophical concepts about the very notion of self and identity, taking place at the moment of first contact with an alien species at the edge of our solar system.

The book is loaded with exciting ideas, and Peter Watts provides author’s notes detailing his sources for concepts like the illusions of self and free will, the possibilities of extreme technical augmentation of human bodies, and even using paleogenetics to revive ancient (theoretical) species of vampires!

I was deeply engrossed from the moment I started reading, and now that I’ve finished it I’ve already started on the sequel, Echopraxia. Peter Watts is one of the most exciting voices in hard science fiction and if you’re a fan of the genre you owe it to yourself to read this book.

Also available as an audiobook.


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