At AMACOM, we talk about books pretty much all day, every day, it’s true. But they aren’t all business books. Here are some of the books we enjoyed reading this year in our spare time.
John Carter and Gods of Hollywood by Michael D. Sellers (Universal Media). The author is no prose stylist, but what a great story nonetheless: how Edgar Rice Burroughs’s first Barsoom book was finally brought to the screen, suffering all along the way from incompetence, corporate machinations, media trolling and the overuse of every great element of the book in previous movies. A classic Hollywood tale, which means all the good people lose. —Stephen S. Power, Senior Editor
Mary Roach, myself, and third-graders everywhere share a love for scatological humor so it’s no wonder that Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal (W.W. Norton & Company) is my favorite book of 2013. The chapters offer a progression through the body from olfaction to salivation, then down into the stomach and intestines, and out the other end—with lots of tangents that are great dinner party topics such as: Could Jonah have really been swallowed whole by a whale? Was Elvis Presley’s untimely demise due in part to his megacolon? And, can a person really eat herself to death? Our bodies are both disgusting and extraordinary, and Roach showcases these dual aspects with humor, curiosity, and depth of knowledge. —Lynsey Major, Rights & International Sales Associate
The World’s Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette’s, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family by Josh Hanagarne (Gotham Books)
Because I’m studying for a Masters in Library Science, a number of people recommended this book to me. I enjoyed it even more than I thought I would. Librarian inside jokes, like references to Dewey Decimal numbers in chapter headings, made me smile. The best part about the book was that his style of storytelling struck a perfect balance of candor and wry humor, instead of being either too clinical or emotionally overwrought. —Elizabeth Willse, Publicist
Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other (Basic Books) by Sherry Turkle
This was a fascinating book I read on my Kindle app on the iPad. The author, a professor at MIT, discusses our relationships to the different gadgets most of us seem to be tethered to these days. There are the usual stories of how people are spending more and more time interacting with each other through machines rather than with each other. But the author goes much further than that. She also describes how social robots are being tested in various ways as substitutes for human interaction and how some people get desperately attached to them. From Roxxy the sex robot to robot pets, these machines raise troubling, fascinating questions: is it better to give someone in an institution minimal care or give them a robot in the shape of a puppy that they can love and nurture? What about the small child who doesn’t understand the difference between a human being and a robot because this child has been playing with a robot who seems as real – and the same – as her human friends? And what about the short-phrased banalities of texting and online interaction? It goes on and on. A fascinating book on a subject pertinent to all of us. —Andy Ambraziejus, Managing Editor
Our Kind of Traitor by John LeCarré (Viking)
John LeCarré has long been one of my favorite authors. Although published in in 2010, Our Kind of Traitor is easily the best book I’ve read in 2013. It tells the story of a young English couple who bond with a millionaire Russian businessman after a chance encounter on vacation. What they don’t know is that their mysterious new friend is a money launderer seeking to defect to British intelligence before his rivals have a chance to murder him. He has chosen the couple as his lifeline. The book is part vintage LeCarré cold-war thriller (although it is set in the present) and part Alfred Hitchcock (another of my all-time favorites) movie plot as two unsuspecting civilians get caught up in a dangerous espionage game reminiscent of those classic films starring the likes of Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart. LeCarré is never an easy read, but he is a most rewarding one. He has a sharply cynical view of international politics and finance, unmasking the ambiguous morality of the “good guys” (us) as well as “the bad guys” (them), which today rings more true than ever. However, his impeccable writing style and sly humor truly set him apart from other spy novelists. —Barry Richardson, Senior Development Editor
What books did you adore this year?
Best Books of 2012: Staff Picks
Best Books of 2011: Staff Picks