Celebrate Books & Booksellers
2020 is a year that has made me feel especially grateful for the comforts and joys which I have been afforded; the big ones like health and friendship, and the smaller ones like a park to walk in, or, yes, a book. Books feel like a welcome bright spot of 2020. They are a world to escape into, and a way to connect with the world. They entertain and educate. They bring people together by helping us see different perspectives and creating empathy, or even through sharing the experience of loving the same books. The bestseller lists filling with black voices and social justice titles this summer, including How to Be an Antiracist, filled me with hope that even in the midst of incredible hardship, the majority of Americans are trying hard to understand and do right by each other. I think these are some of the reasons that bookselling (including publishing) has held its own in the face of massive economic shifts this year. And of course, conversations with friends (virtual cocktail hours?) about books, and on the unique challenges so many of us are facing right now, or about something completely mindless, made all the difference in keeping many of us (ok, I’m really just speaking about me here, but maybe you can relate) relatively sane and functional. So, I thought it was worth taking the time to recognize those bright spots and start a new conversation. I asked some of our best friends in bookselling, from all across Hudson, to Publishers, to Independent Booksellers, and more, to share the books (new and old) that gave them a reason to celebrate (or just provided a little comfort) this year. We received a wonderfully diverse selection of responses, from some amazing people, all of whom are fighting the good fight to keep bringing books to readers through independent and alternative channels. Please consider supporting Hudson or your favorite Independent Bookseller whenever you buy books. And please join the conversation. Which books made 2020 better for you? Why? Share @HudsonBooks. Let’s celebrate!
- Sara Hinckley, Senior Vice President of Books, Hudson
Read of the Month
Pete Mulvihill Co-Owner, Green Apple Books, San Francisco, CARecommends Breath By James Nestor
For me, much of 2020 has been about breathing, both on land and during the swims in the ocean and SF Bay that kept me semi-sane during lockdown, semi-lockdown, etc.. So I have to most heartily endorse Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor. This is an exploration of something we do unthinkingly, a scientific and personal journey into breathing. So much science is now affirming ancient wisdom from non-Western cultures on the health effects of breathing in certain ways. This book will help make your last breaths of 2020 more intentional, setting you up for a 2021 of hope and peace.
Adrian Newell Book Buyer, Warwick's, La Jolla, CARecommends Blacktop Wasteland By S. A. Cosby
A gritty rural noir that's not for the faint of heart...or those who aren't comfortable with a healthy dose of ethical or moral ambiguity. But if you are game, this thriller is one hell of a ride & Beauregard "Bug" Montage is the unforgettable driver!
Amy Einhorn President & Publisher, Henry Holt & CompanyRecommends This Is How It Always Is By Laurie Frankel
The first few weeks of the pandemic, I couldn't read anything (not a great admission for a book editor, I realize). Instead I found myself reading again and again a novel I was editing by the wonderful Laurie Frankel. Laurie has this ability to write funny yet poignant, important yet not self-important. While her new novel is not out till 2021, her most recent novel is, This is How it Always Is. This novel has quietly been surprising everyone. It has now been read by over 350,000 readers and I wouldn't be surprised if that number reaches more than a million given how many word of mouth recommendations it receives. Ostensibly it is about a family of five boys, the youngest of whom becomes a girl. But it's really about how when we expand our definition of normal -- when we open our hearts and our minds -- the world becomes a better place...which is how it always is. In this difficult year, this is a message I know I can never get tired of hearing.
Ann Patchett Co-Owner, Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN, International Bestselling AuthorRecommends The Resisters By Gish Jen
The Resisters by Gish Gen is so crisp and funny and smart, so easy and natural, you might forget it's a dystopian novel about climate change, totalitarian government, and baseball. I read it in January and I'm still thinking about it.
Anne Krinkie Manager, Book Buying & Promotions, HudsonRecommends Harrow the Ninth By Tamsyn Muir
A psychedelic dive into youth, love, religion & space. The second book in a trilogy, Harrow the Ninth is seriously hard to describe. Best to just pick it up and enjoy the ride.
Anne Marie Tallberg Vice President, Publishing Director, SMP Trade EditorialRecommends Everything Is Spiritual By Rob Bell
Everything is Spiritual speaks to finding meaning in this vast universe, which is especially apt in this crazy year. I just love Rob Bell. He is passionately curious and engaged with the world and the humans around him. I love his enthusiasm and his way of looking at complex subjects in a holistic way.
Bob Miller President & Publisher, Flatiron BooksRecommends The Friend By Sigrid Nunez
The book that effected me the most during this pandemic year is The Friend by Sigrid Nunez. For most of this short book, we think we are following a woman as she copes with her grief over the death of a man she once loved. Her adoption of his enormous Great Dane is a metaphor for this grief...until we learn that perhaps this grief is hers alone. This has been a time of so much grief, both personal and global, that somehow this book gave me solace, and helped me turn inward. It's a deeply wise novel, with a lot to teach us about loss and recovery from loss.
Catherine Connell Book Operations Manager, Atlanta, HudsonRecommends The Book of Longings By Sue Monk Kidd
This is a thought provoking and inspiring story set in the first Century, centering on Ana, a fierce and independent woman who was taught to write as a young girl. When she is expected to give up writing for a pre-arranged marriage, Ana makes her own way in the world, eventually marrying Jesus. Ana continues to write, think, and seek God during her marriage, and well after, when Jesus' ministry becomes his priority. Sue Monk Kidd has written an amazing story that will linger and inspire long after its ending.
Cherish Barrett Sales Representative, Ingram Content GroupRecommends The Lying Life of Adults By Elena Ferrante
A powerful new novel by Elena Ferrante, the New York Times best-selling author of My Brilliant Friend. In The Lying Life of Adults, readers will discover another gripping, highly addictive, and totally unforgettable Neapolitan story all told from the perspective of a teenage narrator who offers a wholly unique view of Naples.
Dellarom Afzal Book Buyer, HudsonRecommends Oona Out of Order By Margarita Montimore
Oona Out of Order is a lighthearted, inventive, and sometimes heart-wrenching take on time travel. Fun to read and nearly impossible to put down, this debut novel also has an important and timely message: no matter what moment of chaos we find ourselves in, or how unpredictable the world may seem, there is always a way forward.
Elise Supovitz Executive Director of Independent Retail and Canada Sales, Candlewick PressRecommends The Black Friend By Frederick Joseph
Writing from the perspective of a friend, Frederick Joseph offers candid reflections on his own experiences with racism and conversations with prominent artists and activists about theirs—creating an essential read for white people who are committed anti-racists and those newly come to the cause of racial justice.
Hank Cochrane Vice President, Associate Publisher, Picador USARecommends Severance By Ling Ma
Severance by Ling Ma is one of the best of books I've read in or out of the house in the past year. It was the first book I read when I took over at Picador, and it speaks to our current moment in a way that is both hilarious and ferocious. It stares down the collapse of civilization asking the reader all the right questions along the way - what should we value and what makes a life worth living?
Jay Cosgrove Sales Director, Yale University PressRecommends Pictures at a Revolution By Mark Harris
The kind of book I love: intricately woven stories about five movies, put together in a compelling and superbly researched way, leaving the reader a whole lot smarter, informed, and appreciative of solid journalism, history and chutzpah! The bets (made by studio heads, directors, writers, producers, actors), the behind the scenes chemistry and conflict (oh, the stories about Rex Harrison, Katharine Hepburn, Warren Beatty, Dustin Hoffman and more) and the sheer writing skill and confidence of the author make this a must read for film fans and anyone interested in the creative and business zeitgeist of the mid to late 1960’s.
Jessica Ko Director, Mass Merch Field Sales & National Accounts, Penguin Random HouseRecommends The Glass Hotel By Emily St. John Mandel
Though vastly different from her breakout novel Station Eleven, The Glass Hotel is a beautifully written novel about the disappearance of a woman at sea and the collapse of an elaborate Ponzi scheme. Though the two seem so unrelated, it’s about the choices we make and the intended/unintended consequences of these actions. It’s about chance encounters and how those interactions follow you and shape who you become.
Jordi Martin-Consuegra Chief Administrative Officer and Deputy CEO, HudsonRecommends Robert Frank: The Americans By Robert Frank
I got to this one because of these strange times: in the middle of the Covid-19 lockdown, I felt the need to do something completely new. I took a free online photography course from the Museum Of Modern Art, where I found out about this book. It was published in the 50's and over time became a classic of photography, as it was one of the first to portray everyday people, places and situations, the result of a road trip Robert Frank took all across the USA during many months. Just regular lives and people, in all their beauty and plainness, without additives, comment or interpretations. Anything from a Georgia couple crossing the street, to a man and a jukebox in a lonely Vegas bar, to a family crammed into a car, to a cocktail party. Sixty years on, those images are still a portrait of all of us. A liberating window onto the deep wonder of America, from the confinement of our rooms.
Justin Hennequant Director, Books, HudsonRecommends Humankind By Rutger Bregman
Philosophers and economists often start with the premise that humans are bad or primarily driven by self-interest. This has a profound effect on how society and our economy operates. However, what if humans are intrinsically kind and wired to get along with our neighbors above all else? This is the well-researched case that Berman makes and I think he argues it very convincingly. If he is correct and how we think about our fellow humans has a direct effect on how we act, can you imagine the impact it would have if we all changed our assumptions and thought more kindly of each other?
Karen Hayes Co-Owner, Parnassus Books, Nashville, TNRecommends A Children's Bible By Lydia Millet
This allegorical and satirical novel depicts adults that have abdicated all responsibility, dangerous storms, infectious diseases and children that have to take the reins of responsibility for their own lives.
Kelley Ragland Vice President, Associate Publisher/Editorial Director, MinotaurRecommends The Long Call By Ann Cleeves
The Long Call is the first in an atmospheric new series featuring Detective Matthew Venn, and set in Devon, where Ann grew up. Judging from the critical praise and the bestseller list, the book has undoubtedly turned a lot of mystery readers into brand-new Ann Cleeves fans. Here at Minotaur, we love to help readers "discover" their new favorite writers, and this book has been a gateway for many fans into a goldmine of books, with her two other series (Vera and Shetland) as well as more in this new series to come.
Kristyn Hodgdon National Accounts Manager, Penguin Random HouseRecommends Such a Fun Age By Kiley Reid
This is such an impressive debut novel from an exciting new voice in fiction, Kiley Reid. An instant New York Times bestseller, a Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick, and now longlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize, Such a Fun Age is a page-turning story about race and privilege set around a young black babysitter, her well-intentioned employer, and a surprising connection that threatens to undo them both.
Laura Clark Vice President, Associate Publisher, SMP Trade EditorialRecommends GLORY By Kahran Bethencourt
Is there anything more worthy of celebration than this most gorgeous of books? Get ready to open the first page and fall in love. Wife and husband duo Kahran and Regis Bethencourt have created something so inspiring, so world-trotting and world-building, so exquisite, that it's overwhelming. As Glory's editor Monique Patterson says, this is like taking home a piece of Wakanda. Open Glory and I dare you to try not to hug it in joy.
Laura Pennock Vice President, Distribution & Adult Mass Merch Sales, MacmillanRecommends American Dirt By Jeanine Cummins
For me, the book that's stuck with me through this entire roller coaster of a year is American Dirt. Ann Patchett's review was simple, to the point, and, for me, spot on: I'll never stop thinking about it. I was enthralled, engulfed, enraged by this book from the first sentence, and I remember the reading experience like it was yesterday. I would want to rush through the sentences to get to the next section -- but then an image, a description, a scene would grab me by the throat and I'd have to stop. And savor. And think, And, more than once, cry. This tale of a woman on the run reads like the best edge-of-your-seat thrillers; fast-paced with a truly memorable villain. This story of a mother's love and desperation breaks your heart in the best possible way -- and then heals it again, stronger in the broken places (a'la Hemingway). This novel's depiction of a gut-wrenching journey to America acts as a cultural flashpoint, sparking difficult thoughts and conversations for readers and industry professionals alike. I love this book. It's a book that I'd very much like the chance to read for the first time one more time.
Leonard Foote Business Partner Manager, Barbara's Bookstores at O'Hare, HudsonRecommends A Very Punchable Face By Colin Jost
Jost's stories about his life are laugh out loud funny and you can see why he's one of the head writers at SNL. Self-deprecating and absurd enough to take your mind off things for a while. It's one of the books that has made me laugh despite all of the rough news of 2020.
Lillie Walsh National Account Rep, HarperCollinsRecommends Nothing to See Here By Kevin Wilson
The HUDSON exclusive edition (limited quantities) includes a letter from the author. “I can’t believe how good this book is.... It’s wholly original. It’s also perfect.... Wilson writes with such a light touch.... The brilliance of the novel [is] that it distracts you with these weirdo characters and mesmerizing and funny sentences and then hits you in a way you didn’t see coming. You’re laughing so hard you don’t even realize that you’ve suddenly caught fire.” —Taffy Brodesser-Akner, New York Times Book Review
Linda R. Clark Demand Planner, ReaderlinkRecommends Becoming Duchess Goldblatt By Anonymous
My shining light in the darkness of 2020 is Duchess Goldblatt, whom I follow on Twitter. Nearly every tweet makes me laugh and marvel at her wit. She has a way of delivering 140 characters like no other. Her creator (Duchess Goldblatt is not a real person, but the people who follow and adore her refer to her as “Your Grace” and act as if she is real) published this book and I am in the middle of reading it now. It’s the story of a woman who went through a bad time in her life and tells of how the Duchess was created and how this persona helped the author deal with the tragedies that shaped her.
Lisette Sanchez Bookseller, Barbara's Bookstores at O'Hare, HudsonRecommends Each of Us a Desert By Mark Oshiro
According to tradition, a Cuentista is to listen to the stories of their people and unburden them of their transgressions by returning these stories to Solis. Xochitl has always taken her duties as her aldea's Cuentista seriously, but when one of the villagers tells her a story that can affect the well-being of her aldea, she refuses to return it to Solis. There begins her path to self-discovery. How much does being a Cuentista dictate her life? Is she a real person or just a means to an end? Does wanting something different make her a bad person? Mark Oshiro weaves a beautiful sapphic coming of age story full of culture and traditions amid a world of ashes where oral stories connect and disconnect people. We are encouraged to challenge our worldviews and explore outside of our comfort zones. Warnings for graphic violence.
Lucille Rettino Vice President, Associate Publisher, Director of Marketing and Publicity, Tor/ForgeRecommends The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue By V. E. Schwab
Addie was a true gift in a time when I needed it the most. It transports you to different times and places, and Schwab's wonderful prose envelopes you and holds on tight to the very end. It is a beautiful story, beautifully told.
Megan Lynch Senior Vice President & Publisher, Flatiron BooksRecommends Migrations By Charlotte McConaghy
The magic of reading fiction is that it makes us look at and think about the world in new ways and takes us to places we've never been. This year, I've needed that feeling more than ever, and Migrations is the book that brought it to me. It is a stunning portrayal of the natural world but also a suspenseful, secret-filled story that will have you racing to the last page.
Pam Brown Senior National Account Manager, Penguin Random HouseRecommends Untamed By Glennon Doyle
Talk about inspiring! The audio experience is incredible, delivered as only the author could do. Her honesty and vulnerability set the stage for so many ah-ha moments where you just have to sit back and think “Is that me? Am I trapped in that cage? Can I live a more authentic life?” When you’re feeling trapped by Covid, this is a fantastic book to get you out of your slump and get you moving to a happier, healthier, more free and genuine life. Hooray for Glennon! And Adele loves her too!
Patricia Doherty Senior National Accounts Manager, MacmillanRecommends The Lincoln Conspiracy By Brad Meltzer
The Lincoln Conspiracy may be a history book, but it reads like a novel and is perfect not only for history buffs but anyone who likes exciting stories of espionage and assassinations.
Paul Nemeth Bookseller, SeaTac International Airport, HudsonRecommends The Women with Silver Wings By Katherine Sharp Landdeck
Women with Silver Wings is the story of the Women's Air Force Service Pilots. In her book, Ms. Landdeck details the founding of the WASPS, their training, and the planes that the WASPS have flown; everything from a Piper Cub to a B-29. Finally, the end of the WASPS and their fight to be recognized as military pilots was extensively discussed. Women with Silver Wings is a well written and researched book based on first person interviews and historical documents that were collected.
Phil Canterbury Vice President, Divisional Sales Director, Penguin Random HouseRecommends The Evening and the Morning By Ken Follett
Reading this reminded me of how much I loved the Pillars of the Earth trilogy. In fact I started it all over again. This book is the prelude to that trilogy, and I was totally taken in by the way it drew a vivid picture of England at the end of the Dark Ages.
Sandra Monk Book Manager, SeaTac International Airport, HudsonRecommends Stamped By Jason Reynolds
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi is a remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning. If our future lies in the hands of the youth, this is a must-read and a call to action. “Let’s learn all there is to know about the tree of racism. The root. The fruit. The sap and trunk. The nests built over time, the changing leaves. That way, your generation can finally, actively chop it down.”
Sara Hinckley Senior Vice President, Books, HudsonRecommends Vesper Flights By Helen MacDonald
Vesper Flights is outstanding. There were phrases in each essay that I found beautiful, insightful, intriguing. My memory of it though is fairly abstract, since I listened to it as I went to sleep at night, Helen Macdonald reading with a depth of sincerity, a calm and deliberate authority, somehow conveying, as her prose does, a blend of intellectual agility with an emotional engagement approaching spirituality. A collection of mainly pre-published pieces, each can be appreciated singly, but their cumulative effect is wonderful (in the author’s intended sense of Wunderkammer, or “Cabinet of Wonders”), and perhaps even, for me, fortifying in their sensibility and subjects. Macdonald’s range of exploration is wide indeed, even if nominally she writes mainly about nature and animals, and our interactions with them. She is equally compelling on almost every topic.
Spenser Lee Senior Vice President, Director of Sales, Farrar, Straus & GirouxRecommends Luster By Raven Leilani
With unflinching honesty, and a sharp, devastating understanding of human nature, Raven Leilani has written a dark, funny, poignant story about relationships, desire, family, and social issues. I love the book for its sexiness; for its embrace of life's messiness and complexity. There are many moments of delights and surprises in the writing and in the storytelling as well as brilliant observations about life. It has given me tremendous pleasure to be part of the team working on the book, and to see Luster resonating with so many booksellers, reviewers and readers.
Stella K. Galatis Director of Field Sales, Mass Market Key Accounts, Random Childrens Books, Penguin Random HouseRecommends This Is My America By Kim Johnson
“Incredible and searing” –Nic Stone, #1 NYT bestselling author of Dear Martin
POWERFUL TEEN VOICE: Kim Johnson writes with raw, unflinching and accessible teen voice, giving immediacy to the issues facing Black teenagers today. Unflinching, yet uplifting first novel that explores the racist injustices in the American justice system. You won’t want to miss this provocative and gripping debut novel by Kim Johnson.
Stu Smith National Account Manager, Simon & SchusterRecommends Circe By Madeline Miller
In this incredibly humanizing portrayal of Circe, Madeline Miller brings heart to an often villainized character. This incredible fantasy looks at parental relationships from every angle, and is candid in its portrayal of a woman shut out by her family and shunned by her peers. This is perfect for fans of Wicked by Gregory MacGuire and Miller’s first book Song of Achillles.
Susan St Claire Bookseller, Pittsburgh, HudsonRecommends Her Last Flight By Beatriz Williams
Her Last Flight is a gem!! This aviation story by Beatriz Williams was exceptional, with an enjoyable and exhilarating female character.
William Preston Senior Account Executive, SourcebooksRecommends Apeirogon By Colum McCann
I picked up Colum McCann’s Apeirogon on the recommendation of Sydne Waller, one of Hudson's Book Buyers. Apeirogon is a lyrical, compelling, and at times heartbreaking story of the ever-lingering conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis, told from the perspectives of two fathers who both lost daughters to violence and used that terrible motivation to form a bridge rather than a deeper chasm. Absolutely terrific.
From Apeirogon: ""It’s a disaster to discover the humanity of your enemy, his nobility, because then he is not your enemy anymore, he just can’t be."
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