By Account Executive, Mollie Markey
As cold weather settles in, my fellow Hoffmanites and I are cozying up with our favorite books. I know I personally do most of my reading during the colder months, and it’s always nice to have a list of recommended titles in preparation for winter!
Here at Hoffman, we’re always digging out the most compelling stories, so I knew my colleagues would have the best book recommendations for my fall reading list. I blended their suggestions into an official “Hoffman Fall Book List,” in which you’ll find a plethora of titles ranging from classical to modern, fiction to non-fiction. All of the books included are page-turners in their own right, due in no small part to each author’s ability to incorporate and rely upon the universal storytelling elements.
From a journalist’s retelling of an American arson spree, to Greek mythology, to futuristic realities, there’s a little something on here for everyone.
1. American Fire, by Monica Hesse
- Presenting a case that doesn’t seem possible, American Fire discusses the trial and life of Charlie Smith who pled guilty to a five-month-long arson spree in Virginia, authored by the Washington Post reporter who attended the trial.
- Senior Account Executive Sarah Collins highly recommends this title for those interested in true crime, “This story seems like something that could have taken place in the 1950’s maybe, but not 2012! Author Monica Hesse did a great job detailing the circumstances and intricacies that made this arson spree so unusual and strange.”
2. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, by Neil Postman
- An inside look at what happens when politics, journalism, education and religion become subject to the demands of entertainment.
- Account Coordinator Andrew Yen describes his experience diving into Neil’s book: “While one could absolutely consider this novel a historical treatise on the evolution of mass media through a sociopolitical lens, doing so would be doing it a disservice. Postman dives deep into the epistemology of mediums, and what results is at once a breathtaking tour de force through history—oral, typographic, telegraphic, and now televised; a thoughtful rumination on simple, but important, questions such as ‘what is television?’ and finally, a dire Huxleyan warning to future generations. Spanning topics such as misinformation, disinformation, discontinuity, meaning, the political image, tyranny and censorship, among others, Amusing Ourselves to Death is precisely the clarion call needed for today’s political and cultural malaise and a necessary read for the conscientious mind.”
3. Bad Blood, by John Carreyrou
- This book has been a hot topic around our offices in San Jose and Portland since last year! If you’re interested in Elizabeth Holmes and her unusual company, Theranos, well-known journalist, John Carreyrou’s Bad Blood is for you.
- Sarah MacKenzie, Senior Account Manager, recounts how the story of Theranos altered her perception of SV startups, “My jaw was on the floor the whole time while reading this book. Although the crux of the story is about a Silicon Valley startup gone wrong, the other angles were SO interesting—deceit, lies, cover ups, power, etc. It really showed an interesting look into what Elizabeth Holmes was like on a day-to-day basis and made it feel very real how a story can really ‘get away from you.’ In this case, as with many SV startups, the promise of the company wasn’t yet realized when the company was established. It really came to light how critical it is to accept when you’ve made a mistake or done something wrong; in the case of this book, the complete lack of Elizabeth’s ability to do so harmed real people’s lives and put many people at risk. It illuminated how important it is for people to speak up when they see something wrong—the truth about Theranos all came to light because of the bravery and willingness of select employees to speak out.”
4. Circe, by Madeline Miller
- If Greek mythology is your jam, Circe is the collision of ancient storytelling and modern twists.
- Vice President Kelly Stone explains how Circe impacted her, “Circe gave voice and power to a well-known Greek goddess, reminding me that we should all be emboldened to take control of our narrative and decide for ourselves what the ending should be.”
5. The Defining Decade, by Meg Jay
- A revealing take on how twentysomethings tend to get caught in a swirl of hype and misinformation that trivializes what are actually the most defining years of adulthood.
- Account Executive Mollie Markey says, “This book really opened my eyes to how important your twenties are in defining the future person you’ll become. The sections on ‘Work’ and ‘The Brain & The Body’ helped me narrow down a few areas in my personal life that needed to change for the better, and I love how each chapter is tied back to a real-life story.”
6. Educated, by Tara Westover
- A memoir of perseverance, this first-person account shares Tara Westover’s story of leaving her survivalist family and eventually earning a PhD from Cambridge.
- Senior Account Manager Sarah MacKenzie expresses the inspiration she felt after reading Tara’s story, “One of the most incredible things about Educated is that it evokes such a strong emotion that people can do anything they set their mind to. This book was written by someone who had literally no formal education growing up, didn’t even step into a classroom until she was seventeen, and she went on write a book like this one. If you’re looking for a super in-depth story about the amount of change that can happen in one person’s life, this is the book for you! It offers such an interesting and new take on topics that come up in our daily lives: family, education, faith. It was definitely one of my favorite books of 2019 because it made me really think while also keeping me entertained.”
7. Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer
- Written by well-known investigative journalist, Jon Krakauer, Into Thin Air is a suspenseful personal account of the May 1996 Mt. Everest disaster.
- Account Executive Jack Dulzo was inspired by Jon’s experiences climbing Everest, “Throughout the book you’re exposed to the harsh realities of mountaineering above the limit of human endurance, while also learning all kinds of fun facts and interesting details about the process of the climb that managed to get me excited about using crampons and living on bottled oxygen. Jon’s perspective as a hiking/climbing hobbyist turned Everest trekker made his experiences easier to relate to and also amplified the profound emotions Jon (and by extension myself) experienced during his adventure—wonder, excitement and loss among them.”
8. 1984, by George Orwell
- A true classic in terms of storytelling, 1984 details a prophecy about a future left to the hands of a dystopian government.
- Account Coordinator Nicolas Vavuris analyzes how the time period of this book influenced Orwell’s opinion of the future, “A classic novel of the post WWII era, 1984 introduced us to many staples of dystopian storytelling that have made their way into popular culture, including the phrases ‘Big Brother is Watching’ and ‘Newspeak.’ Written at a time in which many in the global west were concerned about the seeming rise of totalitarian governments globally, Orwell paints a perfect picture of a society imaginable today. Big Brother monitors every aspect of the protagonists slide towards challenging the societal norm, and uses psychological manipulation, physical control and the manipulation of information to crack down on dissidents.”
9. Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
- A futuristic novel, named one of the best sellers of 2018 by The New York Times, uses extremely visual storytelling and demonstrates how virtual reality will captivate human attention in the year 2045.
- Vice President Kelly Stone illustrates how Ernest Cline’s view of the future impacted her, “Ready Player One is one of those books that reignites my love for tech PR because it does a beautiful and playful job of showcasing the ever-thinning veil between our virtual persona and our actual selves, which, in my opinion, is the most important philosophical discussion of our time.”
10. The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien
- Teeming with artistic/visionary language, this fictional collection of short stories details experiences before, during, and after the Vietnam War.
- Account Manager Nathan Tolley shares, “There’s an entire chapter on perception and truth that always really resonated with me because it’s true of all stories: ‘In any war story, but especially a true one, it’s difficult to separate what happened from what seemed to happen. What seems to happen becomes its own happening and has to be told that way.’ The chapter is all about exploring how what actually happened in any situation doesn’t matter nearly as much as what seemed to happen. What everyone thinks is happening. What people believed happened. Because belief becomes truth, and then that truth becomes reality.”