Reading Recs: The 6 Best New Books We Read This Year
The 2010s were a wild decade for book publishing. At the beginning, I put my money on a flash fiction boom—a big moment for stories as short as our attention spans seemed poised to become. But by 2015, I was already proven totally wrong, when one of the most anticipated books on the market was a 900-plus-page debut novel that had fetched a record-breaking $2 million advance. (A Little Life, another literally and figuratively huge book that year, clocked in at 720 pages.) Turns out people wanted to concentrate on something after all.
The books of 2019 have not been extreme in length, but, in other ways, they still tell us a lot about what it’s like to be alive right now. They speak to our desires to become better leaders as a new labor movement kicks off (Leandra’s pick), explore stories related to #MeToo in unique ways (Amalie and Gyan’s picks), and point out that at the end of the day (and decade) a good love story will still always hit the spot. (That one’s Jasmin’s pick.)
So, if you’re looking for one more new book to read before the year ends, here are six that Team MR read and loved.
Recommended by: Leandra Medine, Founder & CCO
Six-word synopsis: Self-help but make it corporate.
Why I picked it up: I’m a big fan of Brené Brown’s. I was turned on to her work after listening to her TED Talk on shame all those years ago and it really informed the way I thought and spoke about my difficulty getting pregnant. I’ve kept tabs on her writing and research ever since because, in my view, she seems to espouse the most valuable virtues of Buddhism, but does it for the modern world and from the point of view of an integrated member of society and the workforce. Also, Brown is vulnerable as hell (another gigantic area of research in her overall body of work), which is not typical fare for a business book, but very welcome among heavyweight carriers of capital-F Feelings such as myself.
How it made me feel during the best part: Like I’m fulfilling my ~purpose~.
The takeaway that’s stuck with me: While I have no real tangible idea of what “mindfulness” means, “paying attention,” which is how she defines it, is a concept I can get behind.
How I’d recommend it: I’d only recommend it to someone in either a position of leadership, or looking to grow into one. At that point I’d tell them this book encompasses a “soft skill” approach to leading, but that soft skills in leadership are often actually the hardest (and most important) of them all.
Recommended by: Gyan Yankovich, Managing Editor
Six-word synopsis: A survivor is talking, so listen.
Why I picked it up: I thought about the victim statement letter Chanel Miller read to Brock Turner in court, which was published under a pseudonym on BuzzFeed, every day for months. So when I heard she was releasing a book, I knew I had to read it.
How it made me feel during the best part: It’s hard to find a “best part” in this book, but the pride and respect I felt for Miller throughout the whole thing was completely overwhelming.
The takeaway that’s stuck with me: It’s okay to wait until you’re ready to tell your story.
How I would recommend it: Simply, this book should be required reading.
Recommended by: Sabrina Santiago, Photographer and Photo Editor
Six-word synopsis: A dream-like dictation of Smith’s 2016.
Why I picked it up: I’m a Patti Smith fangirl, 100%.
How it made me feel during the best part: Like I wanted to take a solo cross country trip and only bring a backpack.
The takeaway that’s stuck with me: We cannot be without optimism, and we should never stop making pictures.
How I’d recommend it: A beautiful, sincere and honest reflection on mortality—both of the current political landscape and the inevitable parts of life.
Recommended by: Amalie MacGowan, Social Media Manager
Six-word synopsis: Why must women suffer so much?
Why I picked it up: It was a gift for my 26th birthday from my roommate. I swallowed it whole in about a week.
How it made me feel during the best part: It’s hard to say that there is a “best part” to this book, but the writing would occasionally bring me directly into Taddeo’s narrative–and into her shoes–even though it felt nothing like my experience. It takes a unique finessing of language to do that.
The takeaway that’s stuck with me: Like I said, female suffering. But also the warmth, empathy, heart, strength, weakness, and desire that womanhood entails. The only thing I wish this book had more of was diversity of experience. Though I loved the storytelling, I felt like the reader was robbed of the breadth of female experience (considering the stated purpose of the book).
How I’d recommend it: With a quote: “It’s the nuances of desire that hold the truth of who we are at our rawest moments. I set out to register the heat and sting of female want so that men and other women might more easily comprehend before they condemn.”
Recommended by: Jasmin Aujla, Director of Partnerships
Six-word synopsis: Your go-to for a good cry. (Is that 6 or 7 words?)
Why I picked it up: I forgot my book en-route to Mexico City and picked this up at the airport. It felt like a no-brainer.
How it made me feel during the best part: Understood.
The takeaway that’s stuck with me: There’s so much that has been and will be written on the topic of love, and yet it still feels like we’re only scratching the surface.
How I’d recommend it: A collection of short stories that are so touching and heart-wrenching but also uplifting without any of the commitment of having to read a whoooole book.
Recommended by: Haley Nahman, Deputy Editor
Six-word synopsis: Rich interior monologues brought to life.
Why I picked it up: I was drawn to the title (which turned out to be perfectly evocative), heard from friends who loved it, and remembered loving this essay by the author about competitive debate.
How it made me feel during the best part: Completely, heartbreakingly connected to the characters. Dramatically invested like I was 15 again and in love with some dude who didn’t know I existed. Understood.
The takeaway that’s stuck with me: A story doesn’t need to be complex to resonate.
How I’d recommend it: I feel sheepish recommending such a popular new book, but it’s genuinely the best one I’ve read this year. It will keep you up late, I swear.
Graphic by Lorenza Centi.