Wednesday, December 18, 2013

2013 Staff Book Picks, Part 1

It is no easy task to pick particular recommendations among the books you work with.

We think all of the books that we have published this year are pretty fantastic. These stood out to us in different ways and for different reasons. We present them here as our first Staff Book Picks of the Year.

When we're not working with books, we're also reading them for fun. As such, our list of 2013 favorites grew lengthy, so we're splitting it up a bit. Today we present books of ours; tomorrow, you'll get a sense of what we read outside the office.

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I've been thinking and talking all year about Timothy Morton's Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World and its revelation that while the world has changed, our perception of it has not—that we still cling to a romantic vision that unspoiled nature exists somewhere, that it can be preserved or even regenerated. To Morton, we live instead in an epoch of "hyperobjects," systems and entities bigger than we can see, at the limits of our comprehension, and beyond our control. Yet, for a book that posits (on page seven!) that "the end of the world has already occurred," it is remarkably engaging and, often, ruefully funny.
—Doug Armato, director


I have the inside advantage here, but the best Press book I read this year is Sigrid Undset's Marta Oulie: A Novel of Betrayal, written in 1907 and available for the first time in English translation in February 2014. No wonder Undset won the Nobel Prize in 1928! Marta Oulie is written as a diary, relating the experiences of a young woman in Oslo at the turn of the century as she falls in love, marries, raises a family—and then slowly unravels as she becomes bored and frustrated with her domestic life. Was this really written one hundred years ago? It’s a haunting and compelling story, so look for the book later this winter and dare to accompany Marta on her tragic and riveting psychological journey.
—Laura Westlund, managing editor and development officer


Minnesota's Bounty: The Farmers Market Cookbook by Beth Dooley. Dooley's latest cookbook gives casual and experienced chefs alike an endless supply of tasty, seasonal ideas. As a new member of a local CSA, I pored over The Farmer's Market Cookbook, looking for ways to prepare everything from brussels sprouts to tomatillos. The book is alphabetically organized by food type, making recipe-hunting even easier. Better yet, it keeps the ingredients simple and includes beautiful photographs, which helped me identify some of my more obscure veggies. It's the perfect gift for family and friends who shop local and love to get creative with their kohlrabi.
—Katie Nickerson, Test Division marketing and training manager 


Ola by Ingri and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire. Everyone loves a good children's book and it's hard to go wrong with any of the timeless works crafted by Ingri and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire. This 1932 book was the spark that ignited their distinguished and award-winning career. It's the kind of book that gets stuck in the back of your mind. I first discovered it when I came across a nearly disintegrated copy among the stacks at the library. Like so many of the d'Aulaires' books, this is a story that has been well-loved. The many adventures of the intrepid young boy have delighted readers for more than 75 years. A classic from the golden age of picture books, Ola is a delightful picture of old Norway and a fitting tribute to the country the couple knew so well.
—Kristian Tvedten, editorial assistant


We'll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down: Memoir of a Gravedigger's Daughter by Rachael Hanel. Hanel's writing is evocative and gently humorous. The book is surprisingly easy to read despite tackling such difficult subject matter.
—Maggie Sattler, direct and electronic marketing coordinator






Vacationland by Sarah Stonich. This book is a wonder to read. In each chapter we get wildly different and interesting stories about various people, yet they are all beautifully woven together by one common thread: each character's connection to Naledi Lodge, a run-down mom-and-pop resort in northern Minnesota. Some of these characters' paths cross; some do not, but each individual story is so good, it makes you eager to move on to the next to see how it all fits together in the end.
—Heather Skinner, publicist and assistant marketing manager

Vacationland by Sarah Stonich. It saved my sanity during a recent exhibit where all attendees completely cleared out of the hall to attend sessions for 2 and 3 hours at a time. Stonich's lovely writing spirited me away from the empty exhibit hall during those down times. Her episodic, character-driven chapters were the perfect escape.
—Matt Smiley, sales manager


Speech Begins after Death by Michel Foucault. Want to know what it would be like to sit down with Foucault and have a nice little chat? Read this. It's short, accessible, and surprisingly autobiographical.
—Danielle Kasprzak, associate editor







The Thoughtbook of F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Secret Boyhood Diary. This is a charming little book that is not only fun to read, but gives readers a rare glimpse into the early life of a local literary legend—who happens to be the author of one of my very favorite books. 
—Anne Wrenn, advertising and promotions coordinator 


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