This year, Bookselling This Week surveyed the staff of the American Booksellers Association to find out what books they are reading and what books they are giving as gifts this holiday season. Here are their answers (names in alphabetical order):
Emily Behnke, Junior Writer/Researcher
What I’m reading: I’m actually listening to Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson on Libro.fm (HarperAudio)! I got it as an ALC and am just now getting around to it. It’s a murder mystery set in a boarding school, which are probably my two favorite things (to read about).
What I’m giving: To celebrate the end of a very long semester, I’m gifting myself Art Matters by Neil Gaiman (William Morrow). I haven’t made any final decisions as to what I’m gifting others yet.
Kate Brennan, Membership Assistant
What I’m reading: I’ve started The Trial of Lizzie Borden by Cara Robertson (Simon & Schuster). I am so excited to read Robertson’s research and hopefully learn something new about the case. I also recently finished The Library Book by Susan Orlean (Simon & Schuster) and it is the perfect gift for any bookworm on your list!
What I’m giving: I am giving my mom 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die by James Mustich (Workman). My mom is a big fan of classic literature and I was able to get the book signed at Byrd’s Books during a reading they hosted. I am giving my brother, Greg, The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them Now by Meg Jay (Twelve). Greg is a junior in college and I also read this book in college. I’m hoping it will help him in the years to come.
Liz Button, Senior Writer/Researcher
What I’m reading: The Ministry of Fear by Graham Greene. I’m a fan of Greene’s writing and just finished The Quiet American, so I decided to move right along to the next!
What I’m giving: My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh (Penguin Press), to a friend I think will appreciate the coal-black humor.
Dan Cullen, Senior Strategy Officer
What I’m reading: The Springs of Affection: Stories of Dublin by Maeve Brennan (Houghton Mifflin).
What I’m giving: The Assassin’s Cloak: An Anthology of the World’s Greatest Diarists, ed. by Alan Taylor and Irene Taylor (Canongate Books).
Joy Dallanegra-Sanger, Senior Program Officer
What I’m reading: I’m currently reading Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs (Grove), Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves by Glory Edim (Ballantine Books), and Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered: The Definitive How-To Guide by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark (Forge Books).
What I’m giving: When I volunteer as a bookseller this holiday season at The Doylestown Bookshop and The Lahaska Bookshop in Doylestown and Lahaska, Pennsylvania, I’ll be handselling: for nonfiction, Educated by Tara Westover (Random House), Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist by Eli Saslow (Doubleday), and Small Fry; for fiction: The Friend by Sigrid Nunez (Riverhead), The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai (Viking), Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver (Harper), and An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (Algonquin); for YA, Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram (Dial Books), The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (HarperTeen), The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth (HarperTeen), Heartseeker by Melinda Beatty (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers), and The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser (HMH); and, for picture books: Dreamers by Yuyi Morales (Neal Porter Books) and all of Ryan Higgins’ books.
Phil Davies, IndieCommerce Director
What I’m reading: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (Crown) because it’s the actual guide to hitchhiking around the galaxy. Why wouldn’t you want to read it again?
What I’m giving: Recommended for gifting: a great backlist children’s book called Josephine’s Catastrophes: Three Great Cat Tales by D. Marion, illustrated by Daniel Vasconcellos (Silver Burdett). It’s a somewhat twisted children’s book that should be read aloud to children whose parents are somewhat twisted. My kids are now in their 20s and still talk about this book.
Gen de Botton, ABC Children’s Group Manager
What I’m reading: This year, I made it a point to only read books by diverse and #OwnVoices authors. I ended up reading frontlist, backlist, debuts, fiction, nonfiction, kids, adult... I read it all. Having a focus for a year’s worth of reading has proven to be extremely rewarding. My 2019 goal is to only read titles that are informative or educational. It’s a pretty broad theme, and my TBR pile currently includes Was the Cat in the Hat Black? by Philip Nel (Oxford University Press), Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom by Leonard Marcus (HarperCollins Children’s), and Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States (Harper).
What I’m giving (to everyone regardless of age): Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love (Candlewick). The illustrations are stunning, the message is beautiful, and who doesn’t love mermaids?! It is my most favorite picture book since Mr. and Mrs. God in the Creation Kitchen by Nancy Wood, illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering (Candlewick).
Robyn DesHotel, Chief Financial Officer
What I’m reading: I finished reading Ken Follett’s Night Over Water (William Morrow) a week ago...and I still can’t stop thinking about the characters and the romantic ending! It’s going onto my list of all-time favorites.
What I’m giving: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Knopf) and Jason Reynolds’ Track series (Simon & Schuster).
Greg Galloway, Director of ABA Technology
What I’m reading: Old Christmas by Washington Irving. Irving is a local hero here where I live, in Tarrytown, New York, and while I’d always heard his Old Christmas was sort of a plot-free cousin to another seasonal favorite of mine, A Christmas Carol, I’d never read it. It totally hits the spot — like reading a wassail-scented candle.
I’m also reading Farsighted: How We Make the Decisions That Matter Most by Steven Johnson (Riverhead). Johnson wraps up society, history, and the intricacies of decision-making in well-woven stories. He details how we have arrived at the world we have today and how we will (or should) make the choices that will shape our future.
What I’m giving: The boxed set of George O’Connor’s Olympians graphic novels (First Second) is going to my daughter. It has just the right amount of magic, history, and sword-wielding ladies.
Ana Gonzalez, Account Receivables Coordinator
What I’m reading: You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone by Rachel Lynn Salomon (Simon Pulse). I enjoy all romance novels. I don’t buy many books for myself; I just take from the ARC shelf in the ABA kitchen. I’ve found lots of treasures there.
What I’m giving: I’m gifting my daughter Project Semicolon: Your Story Isn’t Over by Amy Bleuel (HarperCollins).
Dave Grogan, Director of ABFE, Advocacy & Public Policy
What I’m reading: I am reading Origin by Dan Brown (Doubleday). I like mysteries and puzzles, so Origin is a fun read.
What I’m giving: I’ll be giving Dog Man by Dav Pilkey (Graphix) to my youngest son, Patrick, who is seven. He thinks it is hysterical. I have not decided what books to give my 11-year-old. Something dealing with astronomy.
Josh Harding, System Administrator
What I’m reading: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (William Morrow). It’s a fabulously ridiculous book, and one of my all-time favorites. They’re making a movie of it, so it’s time to reread it. I’m also reading Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (Harper). I spent a while working in rural Appalachia, and this takes me right back to that time. I’ve recommended this to everyone I know who doesn’t like my usual fantasy/sci-fi fare.
What I’m giving: Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver (Harper) — it’s my mom’s January reading club book. And Sunshine by Robin McKinley (Berkley) for my sister, who does like my usual diet of fantasy and sci-fi. A fun and well-constructed contemporary fantasy novel that uses all the usual post-Twilight era tropes (vampires, werewolves, etc.) without feeling tired.
Sydney Jarrard, Content Development Director
What I’m reading: The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes (Minotaur), because I miss Downton Abbey and I wanted something a little less heavy after reading A Night to Remember: The Classic Account of the Final Hours of the Titanic by Walter Lord (Holt Paperbacks).
What I’m giving: We are doing a gift-free Christmas and instead opting to buy something the whole family can enjoy, which this year is The Vintage Baker: More Than 50 Recipes From Butterscotch Pecan Curls to Sour Cream Jumbles by Jessie Sheehan (Chronicle).
Chanthee Keokhaw, IndieCommerce Specialist
What I’m giving: Beartown by Fredrik Backman (Atria). Think Friday Night Lights, but hockey instead of football and Sweden instead of Texas. A small town beset by unemployment, where hockey is the only game in town, literally. The high school hockey teams are the only hope of lifeblood, but a crime splits the town in two and pits friend against friend, family against family. I loved the less-than-perfect but wholly engaging characters, whose humanity sometimes surprised you but gave you hope.
Scott Nafz, IndieCommerce Training Manager
What I’m reading: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas. I’ve been on a bit of a classics kick over the past few years, reading many of the books I was supposed to have read in high school but didn’t. Of the 30 or so that I’ve tackled, The Count of Monte Cristo is, by far, my favorite. Dumas has a way of saying in 50 words what most authors can say in 10, which is why the mere size of the book puts people off. But where other 19th century writers can be difficult to slog through, The Count of Monte Cristo advances the plot early and moves pretty quickly (for a book with 117 chapters). I love the dialogue between the characters, as well as their individual schemes. When I read it the first time, I was reading every spare minute, because I HAD to find out what happened next!
I’m also reading Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard (St. Martin’s Press). This book is over 1,100 pages, but when I finished the last one, I closed the book, turned it over, and opened it up to the beginning! This book was not long enough! Come along for a great ride as the last vestiges of humankind try to reclaim Earth from a race of nefarious, pangalactic miners, with a chokehold on 17 known universes! Oh... and try to forget that it was written by L. Ron Hubbard, or that John Travolta hacked it up with a blunt axe for the big screen.
What I’m giving: One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss (HarperCollins Children’s Books). The creative and learned use of anapestic tetrameter, along with the brilliantly executed and masterful artwork, deftly juxtaposes the base frivolity of childhood with the then-growing atmosphere of neo-existentialism in post-war France.
Melissa Napolitano, Graphic Designer
What I’m reading: A book I recently read that I really enjoyed is called You, the 2014 novel by Caroline Kepnes (Atria). It’s a dark thriller and kind of a love story. What sets it apart from other thrillers I’ve read is it’s in the perspective of the stalker/murderer, who happens to actually be a likable guy that you tend to root for. It’s a real page-turner and I’ve definitely been recommending it to others. It was also made into a TV series on Lifetime, and the main character works at an independent bookstore in New York City. I thought that was cool!
What I’m giving: A book I plan to give as a gift is a memoir called My Thoughts Exactly by British pop star Lily Allen (Blink Publishing). My sister and I are both big fans of her music. Much like her music, Lily wasn’t afraid to express herself and open up on her life in detail in her memoir. In her book, she talks about a sexual assault encounter and how the music industry is rife with abuse. She has become an advocate in the #MeToo movement and I appreciate her passion to teach the next generation to be stronger and more resilient.
Maria Peroni, Advocacy and Public Policy Coordinator
What I’m reading: Elena Ferrante’s The Story of the Lost Child (Europa Editions) I had been putting off reading the final installment of Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels because I didn’t want the series to end! I’m open to post-Ferrante recommendations because everything has paled in comparison since first reading My Brilliant Friend.
What I’m giving: John Boyne’s A Ladder to the Sky (Hogarth). I’m gifting this one because its recipient and I had bonded over Boyne’s 2017 novel The Heart’s Invisible Furies (Hogarth). I’m looking forward to reading it myself, too.
Ryan Quinn, IndieCommerce Specialist
What I’m reading: I pretty much like to spend from the day after Thanksgiving through Christmas reading Christmas romance reads. I read romance all year round but there’s just something extra fun about these this time of year (the cheesier the better!). I’m on my seventh one this season right now: Maybe This Christmas by Sarah Morgan (Mills & Boon) — ahh, the warm fuzzy feelings…I can’t get enough!
What I’m giving: The first book in the Chicagoland Vampires series by Chloe Neill (Berkley) is going to a fellow reader who shares my love of fantasy, romance, and vampires. I started reading the series a few years ago when it came out and eagerly await each new book!
One of my friends who just started to enjoy baking is getting Dorie’s Cookies by Dorie Greenspan (Rux Martin/HMH). I love her recipes and they’ve never failed me yet. Last, but certainly not least, I’m gifting a copy of We Have a Good Time...Don’t We? by Maeve Higgins (Hachette Ireland) to a friend who enjoys a book that makes you laugh because I just know she’s going to love it. It’s relatable and definitely gave me a laugh…or five.
Pete Reynolds, Project Manager
What I’m reading: I’m currently reading Donna Tartt’s second novel, The Little Friend (Knopf). I really enjoyed The Secret History (Knopf) and The Goldfinch (Little, Brown), but for some reason I didn’t think I would enjoy The Little Friend. I was wrong! I’m loving every page of it, and I don’t want it to end.
What I’m giving: I will be giving Cook Like a Pro: Recipes and Tips for Home Cooks by Ina Garten (Clarkson Potter) to a couple of people. They’re both big fans of hers, so this new book is an easy gift choice!
Liz Roberts, Member Relationship Manager
What I’m reading: I’m currently reading Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness (Vintage). She tells a spellbinding story while effectively and poignantly situating it within the struggles and truths of the real world. I love her tenderness, political incisiveness, and sense of humor.
What I’m giving: I just gave my dear friend Ariel Dorfman’s new novel, Darwin’s Ghost (Seven Stories Press). We both love Dorfman and this friend studied with him, so I was glad to give him a copy before he knew it was on shelves!
Meg Smith, Membership and Marketing Officer
What I’m reading: Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (Penguin Press) because I am going to see the show (tonight…it’s a long book so I won’t have it finished).
What I’m giving: The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy by Michael E. Mann and Tom Toles (Columbia University Press).
Jessica Stauffer, Program and Development Coordinator
What I’m reading: The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon (Bloomsbury) and The Dreamblood Duology by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit). One epic fantasy at the office for my lunch break, one at home for bedtime reading, and no toting them back and forth!
What I’m giving: MEM by Bethany Morrow (The Unnamed Press). This beautiful debut (which was an Indies Introduce title that came out this summer) is for my brother who is a photographer/filmmaker. It reads like watching a European art film and I know he’s going to love it as much as I do.
Oren Teicher, Chief Executive Officer
What I’m reading: Barbara Kingsolver’s new book, Unsheltered (Harper).
What I’m giving: My two must-read recommendations for this holiday season are Educated by Tara Westover (Random House) and Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist by Eli Saslow (Doubleday).
Lisa Winn, Education Manager
What I’m reading: I’m reading The Reef by Edith Wharton because I am always reading either Edith Wharton or Henry James. I’m reading A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking (Bantam) because I read a lot of sci-fi and decided it was time to find the truth in the fiction.
What I’m giving: I’m giving A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline (William Morrow) to my mother, who will enjoy the quiet in this story.
Matt Zoni, Director of Development and Publisher Relations
What I’m reading: Just a Shot Away: Peace, Love, and Tragedy With the Rolling Stones at Altamont by Saul Austerlitz (Thomas Dunne Books). Next up is probably The Library Book by Susan Orlean (S&S).
What I’m giving: National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Space by Catherine D. Hughes, illustrated by David A. Aguilar (National Geographic Children’s Books), for my six-year-old son because he still pores over the dinosaur book in this series, which helped make him an expert on that subject, and now he is equally obsessed with outer space. And I’m giving Uni the Unicorn by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Brigette Barrager (Random House Books for Young Readers), to my three-year-old daughter because she asked for a unicorn for Christmas, and this book and the plush are the best Santa can do.