We’ve written about how reading books can make you a better writer fairly often here on Media Bullseye, and our friends over at Spin Sucks agree. As voracious readers ourselves, we’re always on the hunt for books to read—particularly when the recommendations come from others within our PR/Communications community.
But, we haven’t been very reciprocal, which is a shame because one of the best ways to discover a new book is to have someone say, “you must read this.”
Without further ado, here are some of our recent favorite books. It’s not too late to add to your summer reading list. Besides, who stops reading just because Labor Day rolls around? Not us! It’s a year-round habit for us.
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin – (Fiction) This novel turns a thought-provoking question—what would you do with your life if you knew the date of your death?—as the framework for a tale about four siblings. The four children, bored one summer afternoon, visit a fortune teller who separately tells each child the year and date of their death. The novel then follows the paths chosen by each sibling and the choices made in light of having this dark knowledge.
Salt Houses by Hala Alyan – (Fiction) This story, about three generations of a Palestinian family who are frequently uprooted in the aftermath of the Six-Day War of 1967 touches on themes of displacement and what “home” means, and how family members respond differently to frequent moves.
The History of Bees by Maja Lunde – (Fiction) Past, present, and future are woven together through three family stories in this book. The family in the past is led by a father trying to redeem himself in the eyes of his family by designing an improved beehive; the family in the present is struggling to make a living as bee colonies collapse, and the family in the future is living in a world defined by food scarcity.
Himself by Jess Kidd – (Fiction) A fun and quick read, this is a murder story with a touch of magic, set in Ireland. There is no one quite like the Irish to weave a darkly comedic element into a story about an abandoned orphan who returns to the small Irish village he was born in to learn the truth about his mother. Hauntings, ghosts, a retired diva actress, a salty pub owner, and dodgy village priest are all included.
Code Girls: The untold story of the American women code breakers of World War II by Liza Mundy – (Nonfiction) Following in the footsteps of Hidden Figures (another good book, much better than the movie!), this fascinating story details how the Army and Navy competed with one another to recruit smart, talented women to assist in breaking enemy codes in WWII. The work was top-secret, and once the war ended these women all retreated back to their normal lives, without any recognition of the work they had done.
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond – (Nonfiction) A frustrating and depressing look at evictions and the cycles that perpetuate poverty. The book looks at the eviction process from both the perspective of renters and landlords, and the ancillary industries (such as removal companies and storage facilities) that also play a role. The book explains how market factors can actually cause rents in poorer neighborhoods to be much higher than surrounding communities that have higher incomes. Certainly an eye-opening but not a cheery read.
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou – (Nonfiction) I’ve written before about Theranos on Media Bullseye, specifically on the role uncritical earned media played in contributing to the rapid rise of the company and its founder, Elizabeth Holmes. So, I was very interested to read this account written by the Wall Street Journal reporter whose reporting dismantled the façade Holmes created. While the parts of the book that touch on marketing and public relations are small, they are important and worthwhile for a communicator to seek out this book and read it. PR is often accused of spinning stories—this book shows how even PR pros can be “spun” by a charismatic and unscrupulous leader.
Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman – (Fiction) I try my best to see as many of the Best Picture Oscar nominees as possible each year. At best, I usually only see about half, but Call Me By Your Name made the cut this year. Following watching (and loving) the movie, I picked up the book. It follows Elio, a precocious 17-year old boy spending another summer with his parents on the Italian Riviera. Oliver, a 20-something graduate student, joins Elio’s family for the summer, working as a fellow with Elio’s father and staying in their seaside home. The book’s beautiful, honest narration from Elio explores the two men’s relationship over their initial summer together and over the course of their lives.
What the Dog Saw: and Other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell – (Nonfiction) There’s a good chance that at some point over his decades-long career, you’ve read something by Malcolm Gladwell. What the Dog Saw compiles some of his best articles published with the New Yorker during a 10-year period. From a profile on why there are various flavors of mustard but only one type of ketchup to a story on the complexities of criminal profiling, this book finds a way to make just about anything interesting.
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult – (Fiction) Even though this is the first Jodi Picoult book I’ve read, I can absolutely understand why The Washington Post said it was the most important book she’s ever written. The book’s narration switches between Ruth, an African-American woman working as a labor and delivery nurse; Turk, a white supremacist whose wife delivers a baby on Ruth’s unit; and Kennedy, the lawyer who ultimately represents Ruth when she is charged for the death of Turk’s baby.
In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware – (Fiction) I love a book that can totally pull me in and compel me to read 50 pages in one sitting without even looking up. I haven’t felt that way since reading Gone Girl a few years ago, but this one got pretty close. Leonora, an introverted writer, reluctantly accepts an invitation to attend a bachelorette party for a friend she hasn’t spoken to in years. The weekend takes a turn and Leonora spends the following days in the hospital, trying to figure out what happened and whether the police outside her door are protecting her or watching her.
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion – (Fiction) When Don Tillman, an intelligent professor who struggles with social skills, decides it’s time to settle down and get married, he does what any single man would do; he organizes a detailed questionnaire to administer to women. He creates his 16-page test with the intention of weeding out women who he would not feel compatible with or who have traits he deems undesirable. As he works through the Wife Project to find his perfect match, Don crosses path with Rosie, a fiery graduate student who fails several key questions on his questionnaire. Rosie recruits Don to work with her on another project, finding her biological father.