What We’re Reading (and Listening to) at Mulberry

Reading and Podcast Recommendations: 2020 Edition

Whether you’re an avid non-fiction reader or someone who likes to dive into the fantasy worlds that talented authors create from scratch, we’ve got recommendations that will have you curling up with a mug of coffee, tea or, let’s be real, wine. After all, we’re heading into the cold, winter months and quarantine shows no signs of slowing down. Grab a blanket, a paperback, e-reader or a pair of headphones and enjoy our book and podcast recommendations below.

Matt Serra: Fantasy Series & a Spy-inspired Podcast

As Mulberry’s chief Sci-Fi enthusiast, I would recommend the following reads for a fun escape from reality: The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin, the Kingfountain series by Jeff Wheeler and The Legends of the First Empire series by Michael J. Sullivan. I also thoroughly enjoyed the eight-part podcast series, Wind of Change, recommended to me by Mulberry’s Thomas Jilk, which investigates the connection between a song, the CIA and the Cold War.


Jess Messenger: A Memoir about the Man Behind the Swoosh

While it’s difficult to top my favorite 2019 reads (Bad Blood and Educated), I recently picked up Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, the inventor of Nike, to learn about the early days of one of today’s most iconic brands. It was incredibly interesting to learn about the company’s many challenges and how their creativity and drive helped grow the brand in the 1960s and 70s. And it was even more interesting to uncover how the name “Nike” came to be and that Knight didn’t even love the iconic swoosh logo at first. If you enjoy stories about business management or sports, this is a book for you. Next up in my reading queue: Billion Dollar Whale.


Christina Alvarez: A Fiery Work of Fiction

Little Fires Everywhere was on my reading list for a long time, and after watching the mini-series on Hulu, I knew I needed to read the book. The thriller begins at the end, which leaves you questioning every piece of dialogue and detail to sort out the domino effect of little fires that lead to a huge explosion. It intertwines two family dynamics – one that follows a transient lifestyle and one that sticks to the status quote – while illuminating heavy issues like race, class, motherhood, family and more. Although it was heavy and heartbreaking at times, it’s well worth the read. And the ending is left open for a potential second novel. If one is published, it’ll be at the top of my list.


Alex Weiss: A (Fun!) Political Piece

I just started reading Casey McQuiston’s debut, Red, White & Royal Blue, which has been an absolute delight. It combines British royals and American politics in a funny, lighthearted and smart way. I’ve found my reading preferences have dramatically changed this year. Rather than reading a lot of nonfiction or heavy genre books, I’ve gravitated toward “light and fluffy” stories, as a way to escape the quarantine blues. Apart from Hallmark-esque books and the occasional graphic novel, I’ve also enjoyed listening to Alie Ward’s podcast, Ologies, which interviews scientists and experts in their field on a different ology, covering everything from lightning to penguins to the science of voter turnout. It’s super fascinating and highly entertaining.


Thomas Jilk: This Book Could Save the Earth

Not to be a downer, but I want to recommend a book that overwhelmed and scared the heck out of me. It’s not a thriller, or a horror story, or a murder mystery (although in some sense it’s all of those). It’s a nonfiction book about humans and the world we are creating. David Wallace-Wells’s The Uninhabitable Earth envisions a future world, transformed by climate change, that our top scientists have already envisioned in academic journals. The difference is the way Wallace-Wells uses language to paint a vivid and horrifying picture of the wide range of possible outcomes resulting from anthropogenic (created by humans) climate change and accelerating global warming. Understanding how bleak the future could be for our grandchildren if we don’t change our behavior on a massive scale jarred me into a greater awareness, and activism, around the topic of climate change than I ever imagined having before reading this book. Readers should brace themselves, but they shouldn’t look away.


Jessie Koerner: A Serial Killer Goes to the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair

I recently finished The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, which is a story of murder, madness and mystery (my three favorite m’s). Larson does an outstanding job of presenting historical information in a novelistic style. The way he intertwines two historically significant stories into one is impeccable, and I was immediately absorbed into the text even though it was, at times, very dense and detailed.

However, quarantine has made it a little difficult for me to focus on reading outside of the workday. I’ve started reading The October Country, which is a collection of Ray Bradbury’s macabre short stories. The stories are short, but enticing.


Theresa Colston: A Book Club Best Seller

My silver lining from quarantine was having more time to read new books. My 2020 favorite is The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet. Since coming out in early June, the novel on identity and race is already one of the bestselling books of the year. I was fortunate to read and discuss it at a reunion of my childhood mother-daughter book club, where we were able to discuss how the book’s messages on the intricacies of racial identity and racism transfer to today’s world. With beautiful writing and intricate storytelling, The Vanishing Half is a must-read!