Staff Picks

What Emilia Pisani Is Loving Right Now

Gripping literary fiction, moving nonfiction, book club favorites, and more!

Staff Picks: Emilia Pisani
By Emilia Pisani

We asked some of the most bookish people we know to share what they’re enjoying these days, from the latest unputdownable novel to their current movie obsession. We’re excited to hear from Emilia Pisani, VP, Director of Online Marketplace at Penguin Random House! Read on to hear in her own words what she’s reading and recommending right now.

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Full disclosure: I have one of those publishing jobs that doesn’t require me to read the books—which is ideal for me, since reading for pure pleasure is one of my favorite activities. Early in my career, I thought I wanted to be an editor, and I simply missed reading as a hobby too much to stay on that track. I read to challenge my brain, to learn more about the world and discover new perspectives, and to make sense of my own experiences. I’m a mom of two and my biggest obstacle is time (lack thereof), so I’m pretty scrappy about making some for books: listening to audiobooks while doing laundry and after-school drop-off, carting around hardcovers on the subway, and reading before bed even if I basically have to tape my eyelids open.


A Little Devil in America
by Hanif Abdurraqib

Dog-earing is a controversial habit, but I’ll confess I’ve mangled practically every other page in this book, a meditation on race, history, and culture in America through the prism of Black performance. Abdurraqib is a devastatingly beautiful writer—individual sentences kept stopping me in my tracks, hence the dog-earing—and his insights on performers from Josephine Baker to the Wu-Tang Clan are revelatory and moving. I’d also recommend Abdurraqib’s wonderful New York Times Magazine essay on “sad bangers,” his soundtrack for the “emotional contradictions of this era” (and, I realized while reading, 90% of my running playlist).

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books A Million | Bookshop.org | Hudson Booksellers | IndieBound | Powell’s | Target | Walmart


Lost & Found
by Kathryn Schulz

Speaking of contradictory emotions, Lost & Found by Kathryn Schulz is a stunning memoir about joy and sorrow and how the two often coexist. (A “sad banger” of a book, if you will.) Reflecting on the death of her father eighteen months after she met and fell in love with her wife, Schulz sheds light on universal experiences of hardship and happiness in a way that filled me with gratitude for all the complexities of being human.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books A Million | Bookshop.org | Hudson Booksellers | IndieBound | Powell’s | Target | Walmart


Detransition, Baby
by Torrey Peters

Detransition, Baby passed my book club’s ultimate litmus test, which is to say we actually discussed it. We discussed it so loudly and enthusiastically, in fact, sitting outdoors at a busy Brooklyn restaurant, that a woman at the next table over defected from her lackluster date to join the conversation. Peters’s characters are so fully realized I had to keep stopping myself from googling them, and she tackles thorny topics like sex, gender, relationships, and parenthood with insight, empathy, and a wicked sense of humor.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books A Million | Bookshop.org | Hudson Booksellers | IndieBound | Powell’s | Walmart


Dancing at the Pity Party
by Tyler Feder

Therapists and grief experts are great, but sometimes you just want to commiserate with someone who’s experienced the paralyzing awkwardness of being asked if you have a “fun occasion coming up” while dress shopping for your mom’s funeral. I laughed and cried through this graphic memoir in one sitting; I highly recommend it for anyone needing a refreshingly honest and cathartic read about grief.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books A Million | Bookshop.org | Hudson Booksellers | IndieBound | Powell’s | Target | Walmart


The 1619 Project
Created by Nikole Hannah-Jones and The New York Times Magazine

Reading The 1619 Project is like taking an illuminating and sobering history course co-taught by eighteen all-star professors. This sweeping exploration of the legacy of slavery led me to reconsider narratives about America that I’ve learned and subscribed to. It provides vital context for our current moment and a clear-eyed vision for the concrete policy changes needed to meaningfully combat racist power structures.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books A Million | Bookshop.org | Hudson Booksellers | IndieBound | Powell’s | Target | Walmart


Intimacies
by Katie Kitamura

Calling this novel atmospheric would be an understatement; I felt like I was living inside it until I turned the last page. The story of an interpreter at The Hague grappling with moral quandaries in her personal and professional life, Intimacies is a slow-burn, gripping novel that raises questions with no easy answers.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books A Million | Bookshop.org | Hudson Booksellers | IndieBound | Powell’s | Target | Walmart


The Marriage Portrait
by Maggie O’Farrell

Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet broke my heart and then patched it back together, and I could not wait for her next book. Set in Renaissance Italy, The Marriage Portrait is the story of a young duchess navigating the treacherous waters of her new marriage. It’s completely immersive and has a highly satisfying ending (it comes out in September, so no spoilers!).

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books A Million | Bookshop.org | Hudson Booksellers | IndieBound | Powell’s | Target | Walmart


Last Stop on Market Street
by Matt de la Peña

My kids are two and four and both love this book, and it’s one of the few I don’t mind reading forty-five times while everyone is stalling at bedtime. The illustrations are vibrant and expressive, and it conveys a quietly moving message about seeing the beauty in a bustling, diverse urban setting. My older daughter tucked it under her arm on her first subway ride since the start of the pandemic (and I cried. Obviously.).  

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books A Million | Bookshop.org | Hudson Booksellers | IndieBound | Powell’s | Target | Walmart


Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow.
by Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky

I cook by diligently following the instructions provided and not through any sort of intuition or foundational knowledge, and my ideal recipes are easy, yummy, satiating, moderately healthy, and will not be immediately chucked on the ground by my kids. This cookbook checks all the boxes; my copy is completely destroyed (the greatest compliment a cookbook can receive) and it’s the reason my four-year-old thinks I “make the best meatballs” (the greatest compliment a harried home cook can receive).

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books A Million | Bookshop.org | Hudson Booksellers | IndieBound | Powell’s | Target | Walmart


Thank you, Emilia!