Agate Staff Reads: Summer Reading 2022

It’s the season to relax in the sun with a good book! Here’s what our staff is enjoying, from history to thrillers to fantasy and beyond.

Eva Lopez, Content Development Coordinator

I’m currently reading the first book of the Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson. The Final Empire is an epic fantasy novel with a strong female protagonist that joins a thieving crew looking to liberate a medieval-like world oppressed by a dark Lord Ruler. The character development and the complex world-building and magic system make the story very fun and captivating to read—in many aspects it reminds me of Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind, which I loved. I’ve heard the ending is fantastic so it’s not likely this opinion will change, but so far I would really recommend this book if you’re into the fantasy genre.

For another story of a strong female protagonist in a different kind of hostile medieval-esque world, we recommend Ilana Regan’s kitchen memoir Burn the Place.

Meghann Caldwell, Business Development Manager

I’m reading To Hell and Back: The Last Train from Hiroshima by Charles Pellegrino. It’s a haunting mixture of science and personal stories of Hiroshima survivors. It was recommended to me, oddly, because I read and LOVED Pachinko. I’m always searching for more books like Pachinko.

For another view of World War II, check out The Last Thing you Surrender by Leonard Pitts, Jr.

Amanda Gibson, Editorial Manager

I’m a sucker for Lucy Foley’s formula: slow-build suspense, multiple perspectives (each of them with secrets to hide), and truly surprising endings. It’s hard to match my love for The Guest List, but The Paris Apartment has not disappointed so far. The resourceful protagonist, Jess, is searching for her missing brother, and the suspects include all of the wealthy inhabitants of his Paris apartment building. Their memories of him, as well as their mounting anxieties about what Jess will uncover, reveal interesting, fully human characters that you can’t help but sympathize with, even as you wonder if any of them could be killers.

Can’t get enough of whodunits? Check out He Had It Coming by Kori Rumore and Marianne Mather.

David Schlesinger, Publishing Director

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past months close-reading The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton. It’s the kind of text I’ll probably spend the rest of the summer with as I continue to share it with my daughter. As with the classics like Paradise Lost and the Inferno, I usually read it aloud to experience the full effect. Sure, it looks and sounds like a playful story told in cute, rhyming couplets. But how many books can fill you with equal measures of hope and dread? How many books can elicit a cold sweat as you wait to see whether you will alight on the gentle waters of Lethe’s course, where wakefulness ebbs into sacred repose, or whether you will slam headlong into a maniacal swell of howling that batters even the stoutest of vessels into a pitiful, foundering raft? Compact storytelling, relatable characters, charming illustrations, but not for the meek.

For a less harrowing children’s book experience, we recommend our Newbery Medal-nominated Crown by Derrick Barnes.

Suzanne Sonnier, VP of Content Development

I’m midway through Jessi Klein’s book You’ll Grow Out of It, and recommend it if you’re in the market for something amusing. Klein is an Emmy award-winning comedian, actor, and television writer and producer (credits include SNL, Inside Amy Schumer, and I Love That for You). In this collection of autobiographical essays, she discusses her life as a late-blooming tomboy with humor and poignancy. I’m already looking forward to reading her latest release, I’ll Show Myself Out: Essays on Midlife and Motherhood

For another memoir of teenage girlhood, check out State by Melissa Isaacson.

Kelsey Dame, Associate Manager of Content Development

I just finished re-reading Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton, which is both an incredibly entertaining romp through a fantasy I’m sure many of us had when we were younger (I want to meet a dinosaur) and a compelling study on the danger of going too far (I don’t want to meet a dinosaur). Of course, if we had the science to do it, we would re-create dinosaurs. Of course, someone would attempt to market that to consumers by creating a dinosaur theme park/nature preserve. And of course, everything would go wrong. Crichton’s language is easy to read, the science is understandable, and the climax/payoff of the book is well-earned. Plus, there’s something about the sweltering mid-summer months that screams “the prehistoric jungles of 100 million years ago.” I’d definitely recommend this quick read to anyone who’s looking to develop a healthy fear of velociraptors. 

Want to get in touch with your prehistoric side? Try Jess Pryles’ cookbook Hardcore Carnivore.

Paige Gilberg, Content Development Coordinator

I’ve been reading V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic series. It’s a fantasy trilogy that takes place across four parallel Londons—each with their own cultures and beliefs about magic. Our protagonist, Kell, is one of the few magicians who is able to travel between the Londons, and he serves as an official ambassador for Red London’s royal family. Unofficially, he smuggles objects between the Londons—a business that is both highly dangerous and illegal. In the first book, A Darker Shade of Magic, this habit gets him into quite a bit of trouble. I just started reading book two, A Gathering of Shadows, and I haven’t been able to put it down. I highly recommend these books if you’re looking for a series with great worldbuilding, a unique magic system, and tough yet lovable characters!

For more strange and fantastical fiction, try Six Plays, our just-released collection of plays by Mickle Maher.

Henry Begler, Digital Media Coordinator

My big summer project is 2666, the final and longest novel by Chilean cult writer Roberto Bolaño. He’s one of my very favorite authors but I put off reading his magnum opus until the time felt right. It starts as a fairly normal novel involving a love triangle among academics and slowly becomes overtaken by dread and creeping horror as they find themselves in a shadow state of murder and exploitation. What really gets me in this one is his control of tone – it goes from romantic and funny to incredibly unsettling and back very quickly. He’s also one of the only writers that does dream sequences well. The closest thing I can think of in tone is David Lynch’s films but Bolaño is a very unique writer, you really have to read him to understand why he inspires cultish devotion among a certain set of literary weirdos (though maybe start with a lighter book like The Savage Detectives).

For another exploration of crime and class in a sprawling fictional city, check out Only the Strong by Jabari Isim.

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