Despite the distance this holiday season, books can be a great way to connect with loved ones. If there are readers on your holiday shopping list — or you’re looking to add some titles to your own reading list — Boswell Book Company’s Daniel Goldin has suggestions for readers of all ages.
Here are some of Goldin's favorite books of 2020:
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
“This book just came out at the right time in June and exploded, and it’s the rare book that’s incredibly well written. [Brit Bennett is] from the University of Michigan writing program, but also is a page-turner,” says Goldin.
The story follows Desiree and Stella Vignes, two light-skinned Black twin sisters, from the start of their lives in Lousiana through their falling out of touch and reacquaintance in Washington D.C. It explores and makes commentary on the difference in experiences light-skinned Black people can face in the Unites States.
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
This historical fiction tries to piece together the story of William Shakespeare’s family.
While Shakespeare is present in the book, it mostly follows his wife and two children at the beginning of their marriage and as their son is dying.
Although the Black Plague is never mentioned in any of his plays, his son Hamnet contracted it and died.
“The kind of historical fiction where they’re not just retelling history, they’re trying to fill in the margins,” says Goldin.
Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake
“It’s an early chapter book, so it’s like [for ages] seven to 10, but it’s ridiculous that there’s an upper limit on this cause I could be 90 and still loving this book,” says Goldin.
“Skunk and Badger” is a classic odd couple story. After they’re forced to move in with each other and navigate their difference of opinion on how to live in their new home, they start to appreciate each other. Fans of “Frog and Toad” will love this book.
Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots
“It’s about a young woman [named Anna] who works for a temp agency that supports super villains and she first goes to work for a very bad super villain. But I don’t mean bad like he’s evil, I mean bad like he’s a little incompetent,” Goldin explains.
Anna then comes to learn that superheroes are actually doing more damage to the city than the villains they are fighting against. So, she decides to team up with a more competent villain to fight against a system that claims it's helping but is actually hurting her community.
The Coyotes of Carthage by Steven Wright
“[Dre Ross] is a political operative who’s sent to South Carolina to basically throw an election so they can unlock the mining rights in the town. And he’s a Black man going into a very white town and he has to have some boots on the ground,” says Goldin. “He’s got a lot of like personal problems he’s dealing with, his girlfriend’s left him, and it reads almost like espionage.”
This book also has a Wisconsin connection as author Steven Wright lives in Madison and teaches both creative writing and law at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The Breaker by Nick Petrie
The sixth installment in the Nick Ash series returns to Milwaukee after the first book, “The Drifter” started the journey in the city. These action-thriller novels follow Nick Ash as he operates outside the law to fight his enemies and get what he wants.
“It plays on the old thing about Milwaukee being the machine shop of the world, so some pretty killer machines come out,” notes Goldin.