Compiled by Nicole Tomassi, Marketing & Conference Manager
As a year truly unlike any other winds down, I was curious about the books that my colleagues have read or would like to read during the next few months. Once again, they have shared interesting titles across multiple genres and topics. For the first time, we are also telling you about some of the independent bookstores we purchase our books from.
By clicking on the cover image, you’ll be directed to the Indiebound website to purchase from a bookstore near you. You can also check out the Bookshop.org site, where purchases can be made from a specific independent bookstore, or proceeds from your purchase are placed into a general fund that is distributed to all independent bookstores, including those not currently using the Bookshop platform.
Below the selections of my colleagues, I’ve shared several “Best of” lists where you can find additional noteworthy titles that were released this year. Season’s readings, and wishes for continued safety, health, and well-being.
Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
Publisher: Penguin Classics, Annotated
Why I Wanted to Read This Book: This comedy was performed around Christmas in 1602, and the title itself is a reference to the Twelfth Night after Christmas. With all of the revelry in the play, I think it makes for a good holiday read.
Selected by: Tim Yetzina, Senior Supervising Editor, STEM, Westchester Education Services
My Bookstore: Powell’s Books Chicago
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab
Publisher: Tor Books (an imprint of Macmillan Publishers, a Westchester client)
Why I wanted to read this book: I’ve enjoyed books by this author in the past, and when I read the premise—a woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets—I had to know what happens. It did not disappoint!
Selected by: Kimberly Giambattisto, Senior Production Editor
My Bookstore: Powell’s City of Books, Portland, OR
Beer and Racism: How Beer Became White, Why It Matters, and the Movements to Change It by Nathaniel Chapman and David Brunsma
Publisher: Bristol University Press
Why I wanted to read this book: I am a former craft beer writer and a beer festival organizer. I loved the diversity of styles of craft beer, but was always bothered by how homogenous the industry is: lots of bearded white dudes. An English professor friend who specializes in critical race theory and examining structural racism and is an avowed craft beer geek organized a reading group for this book that is made up of academics and beer industry vets. As Westchester works to change the diversity in the educational publishing industry, it’s been interesting to see the parallel challenges in the craft beer industry.
Selected by: Kevin J. Gray, President and Chief Content Officer, Westchester Education Services
My Bookstore: Bookshop.org
A Promised Land by Barack Obama
Publisher: Crown Publishing
Why I wanted to read this book: A Promised Land is an introspective tale of the 44th President of the United States. We get an insight into US partisan politics as well as international diplomacy. It is a very inspiring story and written so well that it is very pleasurable to read, with elegant prose and vivid details. He is poetic at times and super smart at others (even choice of words). And then there is a lot of introspection throughout the book, multiple angles are presented. He questions at one point whether his is a “blind ambition wrapped in the gauzy language of service.” Perhaps it is just “a deep self-consciousness. A sensitivity to rejection or looking stupid.” But this does give you a peek into his thinking process. It is not very personal and is a very sanitized account of events in his life, but if you like reading about politics and international diplomacy, this is a great pick.
Selected by: Mona Tiwary, Director of Publishing Services, Westchester Publishing Services India
The Sellout by Paul Beatty
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (an imprint of Macmillan Publishers, a Westchester client)
Why I wanted to read this book: Paul Beatty is the first American to win the Man Booker prize for humor (British award), in 2016. Brits and critics—primarily white—wrote many reviews praising the satirical nature of the novel. Beatty, who is Black, often responded to these reviews with confusion because he does not categorize the book as satire. I was curious to understand the certainly racialized disconnect. This book critiques the bizarre, enduring violence of American white supremacy and somehow presents all with obvious, shocking humor; satire it most definitely is not. I adore Beatty’s brain. This book knocked me out.
Selected by: Samantha Tucker, Cultural Responsiveness Education Lead, Westchester Education Services
My Bookstore: The Book Loft, Columbus, OH
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Publisher: West Margin Press, Mint Editions (a Westchester client)
Why I wanted to read this book: This was one of my favorite books in high school, and I fondly remember reading it during an especially snowy December for English class. With winter coming and all of us doing our best to stay home and socially distant, it feels fitting to revisit this book in the new Mint Editions release from our client West Margin Press.
Information about their edition of this classic (in both print and ebook) is available here, and this post from their blog about reading classic literature is a must-read.
Selected by: Tyler M. Carey, Chief Revenue Officer
Still Life by Louise Penny
Published by: Minotaur (an imprint of Macmillan Publishers, a Westchester client)
Why I wanted to read this book: I read this first installment in Louise Penny’s mystery series in 2017 and immediately fell in love (even in spite of the editing job, which was not handled by Westchester —that just shows you how much I liked it!). I have steadily been reading through her series ever since, and I just finished the eighth book, The Beautiful Mystery. Her mysteries are complex and personal, and her characters have so much depth that I feel I know them all as good friends by now. I escape to Penny’s rich rendition of Quebec whenever I need a book that I know will be both engaging and comforting!
Selected by: Ashley Moore, Copyeditor
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Published by: Penguin Modern Classics
Why I wanted to read this book: As featured on BBC TV’s Between the Covers book club show and recommended by British comedian, Bill Bailey, as his favourite book. Bailey is currently competing on Strictly Come Dancing, the UK’s version of the US’ Dancing with the Stars! Apparently, it’s Billy Connolly’s favourite book too; clearly, it strikes a chord with comedians!
Selected by: Tim Davies, Managing Director, Westchester Publishing Services and Westchester Education Services, UK
Demystifying Shariah: What it is, How it Works, and Why it’s Not Taking Over Our Country by Sumbul Ali-Karamali
Publisher: Beacon Press
Why I wanted to read this book: The author’s tone is conversational, which makes this an easy read. She dives into a topic that is often used to demonize Muslims, and breaks it down into concepts that are understandable by the layperson. I have a lot of people in my circles who still have questions and concerns about Shariah, and I’d like to be able to have clear, simple language to draw upon when discussing their concerns, as well as offer them an accessible book to read.
Selected by: Nilofer Ali, Resources Manager and DEI Committee Lead, Westchester Education Services
Watership Down by Richard Adams
Why I wanted to read this book: I am rereading this inventive work because of its great storyline and characters dealing with society from a rabbit’s perspective.
Selected by: Stephanie Nelson, Proofreader
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
Selected by: Darryl Keck, Layout Specialist
The Birth of Loud: Leo Fender, Les Paul, and the Guitar-Pioneering Rivalry that Shaped Rock ‘N’ Roll by Ian S. Port
Why I wanted to read this book: I wanted to know more about how the solid-body electric guitar came into existence. This book has a fairly narrow focus on Fender and Gibson guitars that provides a portrait of the two personalities (Leo Fender and Les Paul) responsible for major early developments and commercial success. The text follows the arc of their careers and contributions to the electric guitar’s evolution, and how their instruments have influenced the culture at large. A very enjoyable read with lots of song titles and artists to illustrate the sonic evolution of the guitars and amplifiers.
Selected by: JodieAnne Sclafani, Production Supervisor—Design, Graphics, and Proof
My Bookstore: Oblong Books
Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker
Why I want to read this book: I want to gain a better understanding of how mental illness impacts both the person directly suffering from the disease and the repercussions on those who are closest to them. The author shares the harrowing story of Don and Mimi Galvin and their family of two girls and ten boys, as ultimately six of the sons would be diagnosed with schizophrenia. In addition to interviewing some of the researchers who studied the family for decades looking for clues genetic and otherwise to the causes of this disease, he also speaks with Mimi and her daughters, who endured collateral physical and emotional traumas as a result.
Selected by: Nicole Tomassi, Marketing & Conference Manager
For more book selections and reviews, check out the resources below:
New York Times Book Critics Top Books of 2020 (may require login)