After a year living alone, we know which activities make us feel the best. We’ll settle for “just distracted,” but we’ll be happy with that. We’ve made sourdough starters, worked out at home, and tried to call our friends instead of scrolling through Instagram.
Reading has been one of those things that has made me feel good. A great book is a cheap ticket to hours of fun. In our phones, it’s the thing we want to talk about with our friends. Or we send it to their door as an apology for not being able to talk right now, but we’re thinking of you gift.
Here are the stories that made us laugh, expanded our minds, or just gave us a three-book break from our “Emily in Paris” binges this year. In the hope that you enjoy them too.
“The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett
One of those books I read quickly, then very slowly on the last few pages as a way to make it last longer. This was one of them. They are two black twin sisters who leave their small town in the 1950s and start a new life as white women. One of them leaves without telling anyone and starts a new life as a white woman (and hiding her past from her husband and daughter). It’s a heart-wrenching and deeply cinematic story that looks at the lives of two sisters who have been separated for a long time. The e-learning editor is Julia Pugachevsky.
‘Maybe You Should Talk to Someone’ by Lori Gottlieb
As a psychotherapist, Lori Gottlieb lets us into the lives and sessions of her patients, including a Hollywood producer and a young newlywed with terminal cancer. At the same time, she tells the story of her own therapy sessions, which are taking place at the same time. Gottlieb tells us about these personal stories with honesty, humor, and a conversational tone that makes therapy very easy to understand and even fun.
A game like this helps you learn useful truths and gives you a chance to face some of the fears we all have, like being vulnerable, without putting all of your own skin in the game. There were a lot of things that were making me not want to go to therapy. The senior reporter is Mara Leighton.
‘Such a Fun Age’ by Kiley Reid
This is a coming-of-age story that talks about racism, prejudice, and hypocrisy. Kiley Reid manages to make the book fun (even funny) to read, even though the subject matter is hard. It was on the short list for the 2020 Booker Prize. There is a PFI editor named Laura Grace Tarpley.
“The Naked Truth” by Leslie Morgan
You might think that a memoir about a 50-year-old divorced mother who starts dating again in Philadelphia at 31 isn’t for you. But I couldn’t put this book down. I read it in just one and a half days. Leslie Morgan’s memoir is the perfect mix of a steamy beach read and a heartfelt piece of writing about her own life. Through her experiment, she thinks about what a “good” woman of a certain age should be doing and what she wants in life, love, and sex. It made me think about how I think about sex and aging while also being a really good book. There’s a style and beauty guide editor named Maria Del Russo, who says that.
“Girl, Woman, Other” by Bernardine Evaristo
There are so many people in “Girl, Woman, Other,” and it’s hard to sum it up because it deftly explores their lives, backstories, and thoughts. It turns what you thought were small side characters into fully developed people in their own right. It tells the stories of a lot of different women, mostly black and mostly British. It connects their stories in ways that keep you guessing and smiling as you read. This book is fresh, moving, and unlike any other book I’ve read in the last year. It deserves all the praise it’s getting. As an associate travel editor, Hannah Freedman writes about places to go and how to get there.
“No One Is Talking About This” by Patricia Lockwood
This book blew me away. When we were in quarantine, many of us probably went online more than ever. This is a very in-depth and important look at the dark side of social media. The book is very abstract and broken down into small, non-linear chunks, which kind of makes it feel like you’re navigating Twitter (except actually rewarding). Once in a while, an emergency text pulls the narrator out of her virtual world. The events that follow make the narrator wonder if her digital life really has the same depth as she thinks. The e-learning editor is Julia Pugachevsky.
“Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine” by Gail Honeyman
The main character in this book reminded me of Anne Hathaway’s character in “The Princess Diaries.” She was a lonely and quirky girl who became more confident and fulfilled. It will be hard for you to forget Eleanor’s subtle sarcasm and unique personality. Once you read the book, you’ll see what I’m getting at. Not to mention, the ending was jaw-dropping and the whole book is about getting help when you need it the most. Excellent is not enough to say. A friend of mine, Victoria Giardina, has written a lot of buying guides for other people.
“Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland” by Patrick Radden Keefe
If you want every historical fiction book to be like “Say Nothing,” you should read this one. It is so captivating that you can’t believe it’s not real. After the first chapter, I double-checked to make sure everything was right. Radden-Keefe is a master at telling stories, and his skills are put to the best use here, in the chaos of the Troubles.
When someone reads a book review, they call “Say Nothing” a “architectural feat.” It is, too. Radden-Keefe weaves the needle of meticulous research through the lives of the war’s big-name actors, real people who can be villain, hero, or martyr at any given moment. This makes the war-that-wasn’t-a-war both brutal and fair.
Radden-careful Keefe’s and unflinching look at collective memory, martyrdom, and a desire for noble failure was especially poignant to me because I grew up in an Irish-American family and had a lot of Irish-American friends. I can’t say enough about this. — ‘Senior reporter’ Mara Leighton is here with us.
“The Waves” by Virginia Woolf
It is made up of nine soliloquies by six different people with very different personalities. In this book, the language is beautiful and poetic, and it blurs the lines between the two types of writing. These nine interludes show how each character grows up to be an adult and dies, and they talk about love, loneliness, fear, and how they think about life in general. It’s fun to see how these characters look at their lives through their own thoughts and experiences, and then go back to their earliest memories from when they were young. Highly recommend this book for people who like to read poems and write in their own words. Cathy Huang is an analyst for e-commerce.
“The Wedding Date” series by Jasmine Guillory
As it turns out, I read a lot of these books in 2019. I only read the fourth and fifth books, which were both lovely romances, in 2020. In Jasmine Guillory’s writing, you can find things that are clever, spirited, and even fun. They are strong black women who know what they want and how to get it, whether in love, life, or work. The stories often connect to each other, so you get a surprise when characters come back into the story after they have found happiness. It’s not all fun and games in these romance novels. There are a lot of honest talks about race and wealth and prejudice. When Malarie Gokey isn’t writing for the magazine, she is a deputy editor.
“Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right” by Jane Mayer
Until I read this book, I didn’t know how important money is in politics. It was only after I read it that I learned how important money is in the American government. She does a great job unraveling the Koch brothers’ family history and showing how they helped the radical right rise through think tanks, universities, and other groups that you might think of as bipartisan. This is what Jane Mayer did. It’s possible that this book will make you angry and cynical, but it also gives you a clear understanding of how and why American democracy is so broken right now. She is a senior reporter for the home and kitchen.
“The Left Hand of Darkness” by Ursula K. Le Guin
In the story, people on the planet Gethen are ambiguous, with no set sex. I like this because it makes the story more interesting. It talks about sexual fluidity and then looks into how gender and sex affect culture and society even more. I also like the part that shows how different religions on the planet of Gethen were and how they fought when an unknown civilization was discovered. The book also talks about how different cultures mix and fight with each other, and it wonders about the future and existence of humans. I think this book is good for people who like sci-fi that has a lot of anthropological thought. Cathy Huang is an analyst for e-commerce.