Tag: Reading List

We are excited to present our February reading list! Inadvertently, we came up with a list that has a bright set of common threads running through it, encompassing ideas about immortality, family, and legacy. We begin with The Immortalists, which was a long-anticipated novel (and rewardingly so!) before delving into Brass, The Lightkeepers, The Girl on the Velvet Swing, and Eternal. We end with a highly-satisfying cookbook (Munchies), because the stories fantastic and the recipes were so delicious that we couldn’t resist!

Happy Reading!


The Immortalists – Chloe Benjamin

I waited for this book. I preordered this book and anxiously awaited its arrival, gleefully ran to the bookstore to pick it up, and careened through it within 24 hours. In 1969 four children sneak out to visit a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day that they will die. Her answers inform the next five decades of their lives, as each respond to his or her date with death in different ways. The Immortalists is, at its core, a novel about destiny and choice, nature, and love of family. Chloe Benjamin is a must-read author – I also highly recommend her novel, The Anatomy of Dreams.

Brass – Xhenet Aliu

Brass is a novel written in two parallel narratives. The first is from the perspective of Elsie, a waitress who has high hopes and falls in love just a little too quickly. When she meets Bashkim, a married man who also has big dreams, the connection is instantaneous. The second narrative begins 17 years later, when Lulijeta receives a rejection letter from NYU and soon finds herself stuck at home with her mother, Elsie. Determined, Lulijeta takes this opportunity to move forward by looking to her past and the father she never knew. Xhenet Aliu has a sensitivity for characters, particularly their sense of identity and place, that truly elevates the story she creates. Brass is fierce and headstrong, subtle and heartbreaking, and Aliu balances the narratives effortlessly.

The Lightkeepers – Abby Geni

Miranda, a nature photographer, travels to the Farallons Islands – also known as “The Islands of the Dead” off the coast of California and soon finds herself in a hostile landscape, surrounded by violent animals end equally (if not more so) violent people. Part thriller, part murder mystery, part geographical and topographical landscape, The Lightkeepers is unexpected, gripping, and difficult to summarize without including spoilers – it is really a novel that must be experienced alongside the characters to appreciate its full weight.

The Girl on the Velvet Swing: Sex, Murder, and Madness at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century

– Simon Baatz

In a strange turn, I actually first heard about this case in the musical Ragtime – the song is “Crime of the Century” and it’s actually fairly accurate. The case itself centers around Evelyn Nesbit, a chorus girl who caught the eye of Harry Thaw, a millionaire who later became her husband. She confided in him that she had been assaulted years before by another man (Stanford White) and, in 1906, Harry shot and killed Stanford in front of many, many witnesses in Madison Square Garden. The resulting trial was a sensation that left much of the country divided as to whether Harry was justified in killing White. While I cannot endorse calling it the “crime of the century” – 1906 was far too early to call – it’s a riveting case and one with far-reaching implications. Baatz gives an incredibly engaging and informative account of the case, as well as his own final assessment of the outcome – definitely a must-read for American history lovers and crime-buffs (or murderinos!). 

Eternal – Dara Horn

‘What would it really mean to live forever?’ is the question that frames the story of Eternal. While many books, movies, and TV shows have played around with the same concept (with Ashildr/Me from Doctor Who being a notable favorite), Dara Horn brings a familial sensitivity to the idea. Rachel’s immortality is not as a result of a deep love of self or from a personal desire to be immortal; it is due to an intense love of family: she made a bargain to save the life of her first son, back in Roman-occupied Jerusalem. Now, many years and children later, Rachel’s living children and grandchildren are obsessed with immortality in their own ways (such as genetic engineering!) and Rachel’s own life has lost meaning – even religion feels grim outside of the constraints of a normal human lifespan – but new breakthroughs might just make it possible for Rachel to finally find a way out. If you’ve never read Dara Horn before, she’s a remarkable author to pick up – not only has she written 5 novels so far, she is also a visiting professor in Jewish Studies at Harvard and her academic work always finds its way into her novels in intellectually stunning ways.

Munchies: Late-night Meals from the World’s Best Chefs – JJ Goode & Helen Hollyman

Perhaps it seems strange for me to have a cookbook on here, but I promise I have a good reason. Not only does each recipe feature anecdotes about the chef or restaurant that recommended it, the recipes are absolutely mouthwatering. Did you know that you can put bacon-gravy into mac and cheese? I do now! Or fried shrimp and bacon grilled cheese sandwiches were the stuff of reality instead of merely a fantastic dream-sandwich intersection point? Not all of the recipes feature bacon (although they are some of the more eye-catching ones!) – there are also inventive twists on cocktails, desserts, and breakfast foods (none of which have bacon for some reason, but I’m sure you can add it). It helps that the chefs guiding us through this culinary spread are fantastically skilled; Munchies features chefs like David Chang, Dale Talde, Anthony Bourdain, and my personal favorite – Isaac Toups. In short, there’s no way to go wrong with this book – the anecdotes are fun and informative, the recipes are incredible, and even the pictures are enough to make you want to run to the kitchen and give them a try.


As always, happy reading!

  • The Crystal Clear Resources Team

As we enter 2018, some arrive armed with new resolutions, some endeavor to revivify old ones, and some deftly side-step the whole process. For those of us that love reading, a resolution about books invariably ends up on the list somewhere, whether it encompasses reading more books, reading new types of books, or actually writing a book of our own! In the interest of inspiring each of you to explore new opportunities, our reading list this month offers more books than usual, as well as some diverse selections, ranging from dystopian fiction to Victorian geology and everything in between!

Meddling Kids – Edgar Cantero

And I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids! Fans of Scooby Doo will immediately recognize those words, uttered in disdain by nearly every unmasked villain at the end of every episode. But the villains – at least for the Scooby gang – are always real people masquerading as supernatural forces; the characters in Meddling Kids should be so lucky. Edgar Cantero’s novel features a Scooby-esque band of young detectives – all grown up and battling through their own dysfunctional lives (and afterlives) – until the time arises when they have to get the band back together to face their own demons, once again.


Ice Ghosts: The Epic Hunt for the Lost Franklin Expedition – Paul Watson

For those unfamiliar with the Franklin Expedition – I was one of those until hearing about the topic on the podcast Stuff You Missed in History Class – the expedition, led by Captain John Franklin, set out in 1845 to find the fabled northwest passage. By the “end” of the arduous journey, all 129 of the crew members of the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror would be lost. Paul Watson’s book, Ice Ghosts, brings the reader up to the modern day, after the discovery of the Erebus in 2014 and the Terror in 2016. He also draws upon Inuit sources to reconstruct the (oral) narrative about what actually happened to the Franklin crew members back in the 19th century.


Future Home of the Living God – Louise Erdrich

“Maybe God has decided that we are an idea not worth thinking anymore,” Future Home of the Living God’s narrator expresses. In this dystopian – but hauntingly conceivable – novel, Louise Erdrich paints a vivid picture of a world in which the internet is unreliable, the government takes over cable companies, the banks run out of money, and all pregnant women are ordered to turn themselves into the government in order to give birth in controlled conditions. At the heart of the novel beats Cedar Hawk Songmaker, a woman struggling with her identity and genetic history, while navigating a world that is increasingly dangerous for humanity, let alone a woman that is four-months pregnant.


Where the Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir – Amy Tan

Amy Tan, author of The Joy Luck Club and The Valley of Amazement, offers up an incredibly sensitive and self-reflective memoir, delving into childhood trauma, family, her emotionally troubled mother, and the inevitability of her becoming a writer. Pieced together in chapters, ‘interludes’, and ‘quirks’, Where the Past Begins provides insight into the life of a professional writer, as well as the memories that provided fodder for some of her most striking works.


War & Turpentine – Stefan Hertmans

War & Turpentine is a remarkable blending of fact and fiction, of history and creativity. Upon his grandfather’s death, a young writer is given two notebooks that contain the story of his grandfather’s life as a soldier and artist. Armed with those written words, the young writer sets out to tell his grandfather’s story, creating narrative from his memories, revisiting the places found in the notebooks, and endeavoring to find a sense of meaning – for himself and his grandfather.


Originally written in Dutch, David McKay does a masterful job of rendering such a thematically complex novel into English.


The Language of Dying – Sarah Pinborough

The Language of Dying encapsulates the tensions present in a family as they prepare for the impending death of one of their own, as well as the uncomfortably mundane nature of waiting. At its core, The Language of Dying is a novella about family and loss, with flashbacks that explore the family’s history and serve to create a sense of universality as it pertains to the experience of death.


Reading the Rocks: How Victorian Geologists Discovered the Secret of Life – Brenda Maddox

During the Victorian Era interest in geology spread beyond the wealthy men that could practice the science at their leisure and grew to include clergymen, academics, and women. Reading the Rocks explores the life of Darwin, as well as Mary Anning (a fossil hunter), and several others, charting their successes, failures, and the philosophical and intellectual debates that geological exploration inspired. As Maddox points out, “it is no coincidence that Charles Darwin was a keen geologist.”


Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts: Twelve Journeys into the Medieval World – Christopher De Hamel

Not only is Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts a triumph of manuscript collection and illumination (pun intended), De Hamel’s book is filled with photographs, illustrations, drawings, and anything else that might prove useful in the successful ‘reading’ of manuscripts. The inclusion of such brilliant pictures, interspersed with thoughtful and thought-provoking text, is a testament to the impact that a well-organized book can have. Ranging from the Book of Kells to the oldest manuscript of the Canterbury Tales, Meetings explores the culture, art, and innovation over the course of a millennium.


Pachinko – Min Jin Lee

Following four generations of a Korean immigrant family living in Japan, Pachinko wrestles with issues of identity, belonging, and place, and does it so deftly that shifts from story to story, character to character, and mindset to mindset become cumulative, making the novel more substantial and profound than any one story. Pachinko is powerful, rolling real and imagined history into one captivating story that has to be experienced as much as read.


Happy Reading!

  • The Crystal Clear Resources Team

December Reading List!

It’s snowing today outside the Crystal Clear Resources office, which always makes us want to stay inside and curl up with a good book (and tea or coffee, although we have debates within the company as to which is a better cold-weather beverage). So, naturally, we thought that today would be a perfect day to unveil our December reading list, packed full of fantastic books to read in any weather!



Our first pick is Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie, which masterfully retells, deconstructs, and revivifies the Ancient Greek story of Antigone, capturing the intensity of Sophocles’ tragedy with a language and trajectory all Shamsie’s own.


Next is A Lovely Way to Burn by Louise Welsh. We promise that there isn’t a prevailing “heat” theme since it’s such a cold day outside – the book is simply too good to pass up adding to the list. As millions of people are dying from a pandemic called “the Sweats”, it might just be possible that one of those deaths was no accident. If you enjoy dystopian literature, with a hefty dose of mystery and thriller elements thrown in, A Lovely Way to Burn is a lovely way to spend an evening.


Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann (who also wrote The Lost City of Z!) is a nonfiction tour de force about the murder of dozens of Osage people in Oklahoma. When those who attempted to investigate the crimes started turning up dead, the FBI, a relatively new agency at the time, took over to investigate the bloodshed and unveiled a disturbing conspiracy. For lovers of American history, true crime, or mysteries, this book is a fantastically chilling read.


Our fourth pick is Love & Math by Edward Frenkel. Written by a skilled mathematician, Love & Math unveils the beauty in mathematics and explores how mathematics creates beauty and magic in the universe around us. If you aren’t already a lover of math, this book might just convert you.


Then we bring our list back to Wisconsin with Janesville: An American Story by Amy Goldstein. Centered around the closing of the oldest operating General Motors assembly plant during the Great Recession in 2008, Goldstein explores the profound human impact, as well as the political and cultural ramifications, that the removal of a vital factory has on an industrial town.


Lastly, we revisit A Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman. Grossman’s book is about the life of a stand-up comic – a little past his prime – examined through the lens of his performance as it unfolds through the course of one evening, oscillating between hilarity and memory and back again.

We explored this book a few months ago during a discussion about the difficulties involved in expressing humor within a translated text. Jessica Cohen is a masterful translator who acutely recognizes and compensates for some of those difficulties and she helps make A Horse Walks into a Bar as impactful in English as it was in Hebrew.

Here is a link to the New York Times article that we initially presented in June 2017.


Join us next year for our January 2018 book picks! As always, please send us any new books – we love adding them to our ever-growing collections!


Happy reading,

The Crystal Clear Resources Team

All of our followers on Facebook already know that Crystal Clear Resources typically posts a reading list for each month. These books are curated from ones that the team and I are currently reading, some that we are revisiting, and some that we love too much to ever let linger far away from our fingertips.

In the future, updated reading lists will be posted here, so in the interest of completeness (something our team appreciates), we are posting the previous three reading lists here for your – and our – enjoyment.


September 2017 – “Our team’s current reading list includes some fantastic new books (with a notable shout-out to Benjamin Percy and UntitledTown) and some amazing classics!”

  1. Harnessing Our Digital Future: Machine Platform Crowd – Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson
  2. Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio – Pu Songling
  3. Sour Heart – Jenny Zhang
  4. The Dark Net – Benjamin Percy
  5. The Secret Place – Tana French
  6. Ready Player One – Ernest Cline



October 2017 – “The books we are reading this month are wonderfully diverse – from Neil Gaiman (can you tell one of us has been talking up the American Gods tv show?) to The Daemon Knows, which pairs authors (like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Emily Dickinson) and puts them in conversation with one another in order to get at the ideas of inspiration and the sublime.

Of particular note is Vicky Reed’s memoir, a thoughtful exploration of hope and healing. We had the pleasure of meeting her at UntitledTown and her work is truly inspirational.”

  1. The Daemon Knows – Harold Bloom
  2. American Gods – Neil Gaiman
  3. Path of the Turquoise Warrior – Vicky Meawasige Reed
  4. Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World – Jack Weatherford
  5. Euphoria – Lily King
  6. His Bloody Project – Graeme Macrae Burnet




November 2017 – “Our team’s November reading list is fairly non-fiction heavy this month, with the notable exceptions of Dear Cyborgs and Girl in Snow.

Also noteworthy is A Crime in the Family, a fantastic memoir in which the author discovers and confronts his own family’s entanglement with the Nazis during WWII.”

  1. A Crime in the Family – Sacha Batthyány
  2. Girl in Snow – Danya Kukafka
  3. The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts – Laura Tillman
  4. Ethics in the Real World – Peter Singer
  5. Dear Cyborgs – Eugene Lim
  6. The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World – Andrea Wulf


Until next month – Happy Reading!

  • The Crystal Clear Resources Team