Friday, December 21, 2007

Seal's 2007 Book Picks

We decided to wrap up the holidays with our favorite books of 2007. These are not our favorite Seal books. And they're not books published only in 2007. These are our staff picks for the books we best loved which we read during or in 2007.

With 80% of our staff participating, here's the books we loved this year:

Krista Lyons-Gould, beloved Publisher and co-blogger extraordinaire, to whom Seal owes its very existence

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
This period novel is so rich with detail, suspense, twists and turns that I literally hated to put it down each time I was pulled away by life. It's long, which I loved, and it was surprising until the very end.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
There was such a fuss about this book, I was against reading it, but holy crap. It was one of those books I felt so grateful to have pored over. I cried. I thought more carefully about my own life and how I live it. It changed me.

When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron
The title speaks for itself. It helped me reframe a scary time, embrace the impermanence of all things, and see the unknown in the future as an opening I could safely step into. Pema Chodron is a remarkable woman who has much to teach us, if we're willing to listen . . . to ourselves.

Brooke Warner, Senior Editor and proud owner of the gayest calendars in the office---at least through the end of this month

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
I've been wanting to read this for the longest time and my trip to Turkey finally gave me the opportunity. Amazing. Epic. You know you love a book when there's no more room in your suitcase to bring it home and you repack to find space.

Undefended Love by Marlena S. Lyons and Jett Psaris
I've pretty much been recommending this to everyone I know who's ever struggled at all with their relationships. Yes, that would be everyone I know. I read this book in one night. It's profound and scary and grounding and magnificent.

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Lame teenage disclaimer: I read this before Oprah picked it! I swear. I loved One Hundred Years of Solitude when I read that five or six years ago, and this one is better. Good job, Oprah. Solid.

Donna Galassi, VP of Sales & Marketing with a passion and loyalty so strong that she's the only one who chose a Seal book (and we love her for that)

Strange As This Weather Has Been by Ann Pancake
This debut novel is a story of a West Virginia mining family and their struggle between making a living and the physical destruction of their community as a result of the mining companies' practice of mountain-top removal. I loved this book because it's about working-class people. It tells the truth about families on the edge and challenges the cliches of "working your way up" or "anybody can do it." We tell ourselves so many lies in this country and Pancake's honest, spare, and unsentimental storytelling woke me up. I am the granddaughter of a coal miner, the daughter of a Teamster, my son is a member of the IBEW, the heros in my house were Eugene V. Debs, Harry Bridges, and Jimmy Hoffa. I read many enjoyable and evocative novels this year, but this book shook me up and reminded me of something I have forgotten---that I stand with labor. The plight of working men and women and the environment do not need to be at odds with one another. It is corporate greed that plays us one against another. If you love a well-told story with characters that are pitch---perfect-true, read this book. If you are ready for a complex but personally rendered story about economic and environmental conflict, read this book. If you have forgotten that America is not all upper middle-class people with lots of credit cards, read this book.

Abortion Under Attack edited by Krista Jacob
Every voter in America should read this anthology. Everyone has taken sides on this issue, it's all become so black and white. This book informed me, surprised me, challenged me, made me uncomfortable, and made me reconsider my views. I walked away from this book realizing it's the polarization of this issue that stops us from creating services and legislation that would truly serve women today. I am pro-choice but after reading this book I wanted new language to talk to the pro-lifers. I'm tired of the labels. There's so much nuance in a woman's life and as we stand in our respective corners, women suffer and their real issues are reduced to rhetoric.

Jane Musser, Senior Director of Production and unsung mastermind of Seal's beautiful covers, designs, and general good looks

Field of Blood and The Dead Hour by Denise Mina. Mina is a Scottish writer who has created my kind of hero: a young reporter for a Glasgow paper, Paddy Meehan struggles with bad love choices, bad food choices, a bad family situation, and a bad temper, as well as blatant sexism at work. Through it all, she maintains her dark humor and bad attitude.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion.
Didion is one of those rare writers who seems capable of absolute honesty, and reading about the year after her husband's death is searing and breathtaking. I couldn't put it down. And a big bonus for me, reading this book prompted me to reread one of her earlier collections of essays, The White Album. Her essays from the 1960s and '70s offer a glimpse backward, but the brilliance of her writing makes them worth reading today.

Sarah Juckniess, Creative Services Manager and our online raison d'etre who orchestrates far more things than we can ever hope to wrap our minds around

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
I've read a lot of books dealing with grief, and Didion's is the only one I feel captures the immediacy, the fluidity, and the insanity of it. Her honesty combined with her elegantly spare writing blows me away.

Strange as This Weather Has Been by Ann Pancake
Gorgeous landscapes, gorgeous prose. Mountaintop removal, environmental tragedy in a gut-wrenching narrative form. Made me feel nostalgic for somewhere I've never been.

The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
Okay, so I'm still in the middle of reading this one, but it already gets my Best in 2007 vote. On top of Lessing's captivating storytelling, the novel thoughtfully surfaces all kinds of issues relating to women that are amazingly (and frighteningly) resonant today.

Andie East, Associate Publicist and holder of powers that make her authors and colleagues alike fall madly in love with her quirky charms

The Keep by Jennifer Egan
Egan captures a fabulous sense of mystical realism that kept me guessing what was real and what was a fabrication till the end of the book. I loved the emotional intensity of the secrets that the characters keep and though the ending was a bit of a letdown, overall it kept me interested.

Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres
I unexpectedly gave this author a ride when she had a meeting in our office and soon thereafter acquired the book. I think this was the only book that made me cry. Scheeres is an amazing writer with a frankly amazing childhood and since I'm glad I hadn't read her book when I met her, otherwise I would have been struck into silence by her amazing writer and incredible bravery.

Domini Dragoone, Production Coordinator and executor of some of Seal's most creative and cutting edge cover and interior designs

Nabakov's Butterflies by Vladamir Nabakov
I really enjoyed it because it centers around old books, my favorite things, and then adds to that the book dealer/author's stories about handling the dozen or so books he singles out. Stories about how he got them, who from (sometimes the authors themselves), etc., are topped off with pertinent historical information and anecdotes about the writing of the book and the production of the physical volumes. Conversational, academic and insider information about beautiful objects and creative process---good deal.

Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse
I really love Herman Hesse's prose; he manages to wade around in philosophical ramblings and still be completely engaging and lucid. Every time I think I have the character psychoanalyzed, more is brought to the table. . . . I enjoyed the use of an intimate autobiography-of-sorts to work through universal ideas in an organic and personal way.

Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut
What can I say? I just adore him always. He's quirky and serious and historical and sarcastic and self-effacing and witty and so many other things, but all at the same time. I never know what I'll get when I read him, but I'm never disappointed.

Jen Rios, Online Marketing Manager and major pinch-hitter and ass-kicker without whom we would be falling into a very scary end-of-the-year abyss

The Nasty Bits by Anthony Bourdain
I always enjoy his writing. He's brutally honest, down to earth, and someone I'd love to sit down and share a good meal and a bottle of wine with.

Women & Money by Suze Orman
I chose this one because I grew up in a house where I learned absolutely nothing about money. Suzie has been my teacher. In a very honest and non-condescending style, she teaches women to be in control of their own financial destiny. And I'm all for that.

Dylan Wooters, Marketing Assistant and Seal's leading man whose optimism and good energy occasionally seeps over to the editorial department when we're lucky

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
This was an incredible book. It was frightening, uplifting, and (I'll admit it) the ending made me cry. And (I believe) it is the only post-apocalyptic novel picked for Oprah's Book Club.

City of Glass by Paul Auster
I found this one late. A postmodern detective novel that challenges the idea of identity and the role of a narrator. It's a quick read, but covers a lot of ground, from the streets of Manhattan to the Tower of Babel.

Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace
Wallace's nonfiction is amazing---it makes me think and laugh at the same time. He covers the John McCain campaign trail, Dostoevsky, and the AVN awards all in one anthology.

And, drum roll please, our magnificent interns:

Tina Sogliuzzo, Editorial intern and most upbeat, enthusiastic Seal-lovin' woman ever

Wide Open Town by Nan Boyd
One of the most engaging history texts I've ever read. Boyd is a great historian and a fantastic writer. This book makes me long for a time when there was more then just two dyke bars in the entire bay area, and jealous of everyone who got to experience this era firsthand.

Veronica Chung, Publicity intern who's stepped into the role of official publicist and to whom we are eternally grateful

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
I enjoyed how she carried me through the three different countries on her journey to self-discovery. It was motivational, entertaining, and inspiring. Since I love to travel, it was the perfect book to relate to.

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
It was creatively written and had great encouraging life lessons. I loved it because it helped change my whole outlook on life and made me appreciate the time I have been given to the fullest.

Wallace Stewart, Publicity intern and newest addition to the team of interns that's keeping this place on its feet

Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
An autobiography about a boy who grows up in South Africa during Apartheid, It was definitely a page-turner and very inspirational. After reading it I felt compelled to write to the author to tell him how remarkable I thought his childhood was.

1 comment:

Andie East said...

wow, now I feel bad I never finished Year of magical thinking....