People ask me all the time what I like most about working in publishing, and I always have the same answer: it’s like being in school, but you actually want to read your textbooks! You’re always learning something new from the wide range of titles you have the chance to work with—and the books that your friends recommend—whether they’re fiction, memoir, history, or pop-culture criticism. Here at Off the Shelf, we’re in the business of sharing the titles we love, so here’s a list of the ones that stood out on my shelf this month.
The 5(ish) Best Books I Read Last Month
Over the past year, I’ve become increasingly fascinated in the relationship between gender and the media—can’t imagine why—and devoured Sady Doyle’s investigation into the reasons why our culture has always loved to see our female celebrities—from Mary Wollstonecraft to Miley Cyrus and Charlotte Bronte to Britney Spears—fail. It’s an incredibly smart and incisive look at where these women come from, why they’re targeted, and how they’re treated.
I’m a big biography reader, and as much as I love reading about names I already know, I love learning about an entirely new one. I wasn’t familiar with Mary McGrory, a trailblazing political reporter in the twentieth century, until I picked up a copy of this paperback at my local bookstore, but I’m convinced now that everyone should be. She was a force, writing columns about JFK, Watergate, Vietnam, and more. This readable, wonderfully researched biography perfectly captures her legacy.
This book is one of my favorites, and I reread it every year. H. G. Bissinger’s deep dive into a small Texas town and their football team is a contemporary classic, capturing a dramatic season with both compassion and brutal honesty. If you’re not a football fan, though, don’t discount it. This book is about more than just a game—it’s about community relations, class, race, determination, and devotion.
This sports literature classic follows a champion high school football team in a sleepy Texas town divided by class and race.
As I proclaimed on my Reading Nora list, I am a huge Nora Ephron fan. Though it’s her writing I love most of all, I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a soft (okay, fine, maybe obsessive is the better word) spot for her iconic rom-com trilogy: When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, and You’ve Got Mail. Erin Carlson’s backstage look at the making of these films is a love letter not only to Nora, but to the hope and optimism she inspired in a generation of women. It’s the perfect weekend read—followed by a movie marathon, of course!
The holidays are for spending time with family. The time just after the holidays is for recovering. What better companion than the eternally brilliant and hilarious Carrie Fisher, whose fantastic novel centers around Suzanne Vale, a young actress in the midst of a personal crisis who is just trying to figure out how she got there. This novel is a quick read, but a great one.
In her first novel, Carrie Fisher drew on her own experiences in Hollywood and with addiction to tell the story of Suzanne Vale, a young actress in the harrowing and hilarious throes of drug rehabilitation. A semi-autobiographical novel, POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE chronicles Suzanne’s vivid, and often funny, experiences inside a drug rehab clinic and takes a revealing look at addiction.
I’m cheating a bit by listing a sixth book, but it’s a long-term read, so it counts! Tyler Anbinder’s history of immigration in New York City spans nearly 400 years, starting with the Dutch settlement of the island and ending around 2015, highlighting everyday and eventually famous immigrants who helped shape our country’s culture, politics, and history in a super readable and exciting way. It’s organized chronologically, but also focuses group-by-group, which makes it perfect for picking up and putting down.