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Staff Picks: Novel Knockout

Who knows books better than us? Check out some staff favorites of the Novel Knockout competition, read about our choices, and even get a peek at our brackets!

Alex M, our IT Service Manager's Favorites

These books cover some of the fondest memories I have of book series. Reading Lord of the Rings and then going with groups of friends to see the movies on opening night, the first Harry Potter book and the anxious and impatient wait for another and then another. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and The Cat in the Hat are two books that my parents gave me when I had kids; those were their favorite books to read with us and they wanted to pass that memory along to their grandchildren.

Production Assistant Amanda C's Picks

If it isn't obvious from my book choices, I'm a Millennial with a Gen Z complex. However, I will acknowledge the Boomers and Gen X had some bangers. My personal favorite of the bracket is actually a Boomer, Fahrenheit 451. Bradbury has been a favorite author of mine since high school so I had to betray my gen and let that one in. But books like Twilight (yep, I went to a midnight release party) and Gossip Girl (I binge-read the whole 13 book series in a week) truly grabbed me and I watched them enthrall the world in a way only the crazy obsessive Millennials could make happen. Fandom madness aside, I think Gen Z and Angie Thomas have this competition in the bag with the phenomenal The Hate U Give. It speaks to now, and to Gen Z, in a way I think encapsulates this whole generation thing. #TeamMillenial

Customer Service Manager Amanda T's Top Choices

My picks are spread out across all generations, although I'm technically a Millennial. You may have noticed all of the titles I've highlighted are also movies, with the exception of Handmaid's Tale being a TV show (which comes back in April!!! If you haven't caught up, here's the DVD. You still have time!). While The Handmaid's Tale is by far on of the most intense books I've ever read (and watched), I've got my bets placed on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone taking the 2021 Novel Knockout trophy.

VP of Marketing & Sales Barbara's Picks

I went into this year's Novel Knockout selections with an open mind to try and not let my love for King overshadow my choices. After all, with four generations to consider there were book selections from all parts of my life. As a Gen Xer, my teenage years were peppered with many selections from the Baby Boomers list. Atlas Shrugged, Fahrenheit 451, Dune, Catcher in the Rye all played a role in my early love for reading, or rather for stimulating that intellectual curiosity I so enjoyed when immersing myself in the pages of a new book. The Gen X selections gave me some pause, so many to consider and head-to-head no less! But in the end I went with my all-time favorite Stephen King book, The Stand, to represent there. I have my personal favorites from the other two generations, some I read on my own, others I read along with my kids. But in the end, The Stand, with its complex themes and story extensions, still stands as my favorite book amongst these generation selections. I have it winning it all, but with so many worthy picks throughout the bracket, it may succumb to one of the many other viable contenders. #TeamGenX

Office Administrator Catie's Favorites

An avid fan of novel knockout (and reading), I am looking forward to seeing which books from what generations come out on top in this year's bracket. There are so many great choices from each gen, I find it difficult to root for only my own generation (millennial). Shel Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends from the Boomer's corner was one of my earliest reads, and I still have a few poems from the book memorized from grade school. The Stand and It by Stephen King are wonderful works for Gen X, and anyone who professes a love for horror should absolutely look into those. The characters are fantastic and King's imagination is one of a kind. I picked up Twilight in my late teens and finished the book the day after I started it. There are a lot of haters out there, and they have a right to their opinion, but I appreciated the story, new take on vampires (sparkles!), and the fun teenage romance. It might have also helped that I grew up in the Port Angeles area and spent some time in Forks in my early childhood. The absolute winner for me, if not my bracket, is Gen Z's The Night Circus. Beautiful imagery, magic, and storytelling. It was first introduced to me by a coworker who threw a party based on the book, and I would whole-heartedly recommend this book to anyone who appreciates a little magic in their life.

Garrett, one of our Human Resource Generalists, Suggests

1Q84 and Kafka on the Shore – Murakami allows me to slip out of the mundane and ordinary world into a lucid dream! Maybe stepping out of your car and wandering away during a traffic jam really would be an escape from your current reality… As a dinosaur obsessed kid Jurassic Park made me believe that I may actually see them some day while taking me on a futuristic adventure through the past! With On the Road Jack Kerouac takes me on a tour of a lifestyle I'll never get to experience while learning more about my favorite poet, Gary Snyder. Where the Sidewalk Ends fostered a love of poetry at an early age, as well as being the book I have gifted the most times! And while it doesn't resonate like it once did, thanks to Catcher in the Rye I am still fighting to avoid growing up and turning into a phony!

Director of Customer Service Hugo's Favorites

Funny thing is that I wouldn't say I gravitate to dystopian novels, but I think both Margaret Atwood and Anthony Burgess walk on water. The closer her parable comes to reality the more elevated the book seems to me; and the reinvention of language by Burgess as a futuristic soup is one of my favorite devices ever. A bit of a jump to Irvine Welsh but I was just thrilled to see him on the list – I'd probably pick Filth as the novel that stays with me the most since reading it, but for a debut Trainspotting is pretty incredible. I heard Toni Morrison give a eulogy at a funeral once and that voice of pain, gravity, and that emotional range rings for me throughout Beloved. I remember reading the review in the New York Times when the book was published, putting down the paper and going to the bookstore to buy a copy. I don’t think I've ever done that before or since. That review was written by Margaret Atwood. Small world!

Jennifer K, one of our Collectibles Receivers, Recommends

Although I'm a Millennial I had to give the number one spot to Gen Z. When The Hunger Games first came out, I wanted nothing to do with it. It actually took me years to give the book a chance but once I did the entire series became a staple of my reading list. Me being a millennial of course Twilight and Harry potter have made this list but books like speak and The Crucible still had a really large role in my learning and growing. While these may not be some of the most influential books in history or didn't make it into the competition, they are some of the most influential books in my history. #TeamMillennial

Software Engineer Justin C's Favorites

On a scale of 1-10, how much do you think my decisions were influenced by movie adaptations? :) Some of my favorites: Where the Sidewalk Ends – The first "real" book I ever remember reading. Lord of the Rings – Am I really playing Dungeons and Dragons if my character isn’t based on a Tolkien character??? Jurassic Park – Me and a friend once dug a 6ft hole in his backyard looking for dinosaur bones. Series of Unfortunate Events – I blasted through all of what my school had in 2 weeks! I loved these books. I remember getting so many AR points. Harry Potter – Is generation defining too strong of praise? Maybe, but EVERYONE wanted to go to Hogwarts when these books started coming out. I always love novel knockout!!!

Justin M, one of our Operations Managers, Selects

I chose these books because these are books of my generation. A Series of Unfortunate Events was a very classic series and one of my favorites due to the comedy and drama it draws. It really draws you in and is a book series that is hard to stop reading. Sex and the City is just one of these series that is huge. I believe it's a fan favorite due to the book and the TV series. The Book Thief is a book I read in high school and I think everyone in my generation has been required to read so I think it will go far this novel knockout. Harry Potter – What can I say this book series will be an all-time favorite. World known and the fan base is crazy. The Coldest Winter Ever is a cautionary tale protesting drugs and violence among young African-Americans in the inner city and it's a great book. Fight Club follows the experiences of a person that struggles with insomnia and how he finds relief in support groups. Holes was another book that I read in high school. Just a fun book to read on how the main character was wrongfully sent to a correction camp, to find out its a generational curse! The Giver is great due to the storyline of how everything is chosen for you from parents to partner.

Collectibles Receiver Katy's Favorite

Although there were so many good books to choose from, I decided to pick The Lord of the Rings simply because those three books have been such an important part of my life for so many years. My first experience with The Lord of the Rings - as with The Hobbit before it - was having it read aloud to me by my mom, and though I've reread it many, many times since then, it never fails to make me nostalgic for warm nights in the living room, listening to the epic story as it unfolded for the first time. What I always loved best about The Lord of the Rings wasn't just the vast, epic fantasy world, complete with extensively developed lore, languages, and characters ... it was that it told an emotional story about good and evil, and that the perseverance of love over hate is doomed to fail if not for the friendship of two humble hobbits.

Software Engineer Kristin's Favorites

I love a good mystery/thriller book and Gone Girl and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo are two of the best I've read! I'm somewhere between a Millennial and Gen Z and it definitely shows in my reading. I went through my Twilight, Harry Potter, and Hunger Games obsessions in middle and high school and I credit them to my love of reading today. Looking at these lists I would love to pick up some Boomer and Gen X books…that are a little longer than The Cat in the Hat!

Customer Service Lead Lacie Recommends

As an avid book reader that loves to binge-read I have many books, from all generations, that have reached me in some way. Some reads to enjoy a laugh with my kids like The Cat in the Hat for the silliness it brings, some for the different story lines that hold a deeper message behind the read like Holes or The Giver. My sister and I enjoy reading together like our own little book club. Our first book we read was A Series of Unfortunate Events and we continued on suggesting books that the other had to read. As a mother of three and guardian to my 16-year-old niece I find that I have passed this on to them and enjoy hearing the many reads that they come across as well as something that we can connect with. My niece being Gen Z loves Twilight, which is one of my all-time favorites being a Millennial myself, although she roots for Team Jacob and I am Team Edward all the way!

Customer Service Representative Lisa's Faves

Being a mom and a "millennial" has its benefits. I grew up with amazing reads that I now get to pass along to my kids such as Where the Sidewalk Ends, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, and even the Harry Potter books. While I love my childhood books, Gen Z gave us some undeniable hits with The Hunger Games and The Fault in Our Stars. That was the first John Green book I read, and it utterly shattered me, as it did most of the world who read it. I am thankful to come from a generation that gave us Carrie Bradshaw, the wizarding world, pants that magically fit 4 different girls, and a place where digging holes in the desert is supposed to make you a better person.

Collectibles Receiver Lorien's Picks

My favorites are Where the Sidewalk Ends, The Lord of the Rings, Dune, Brave New World, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and The Night Circus. I am a millennial, but my early reading was heavily influenced by science fiction and fantasy from previous generations. Some of the choices were hard because both were books that I love. I would have liked to see Dune and The Lord of the Rings duke it out in the final round!

Michael M, Reno's General Manager, Selects

As you can tell by the selections, I'm from Gen-X. I've always been fascinated with anything from Stephen King. He has such a creative mind, that when you read his books, or watch his movies, it takes into this unescapable reality, which I love. As for my other selections, such as Roots, American Psycho and Flowers in the attic they are just some of my all-time favorite reads.

Patrick, one of our Regional Account Managers, Recommends

Regardless of bracket, there are some killer choices here. My only beef is that The Lord of the Rings and Dune, as did Beloved and Roots, went head-to-head in the first round. LOTR and Roots would have gone deeper otherwise. I'll start with my winner, Dune. This book becomes more relevant and more important as time goes by. It has it all: good vs evil, strong female and male characters, politics, palace intrigue, religion, the universal fight for natural resources, diversity of cultures, and more. Flowers for Algernon vs. Brave New World was another tough battle. I was fortunate enough to take a creative writing class with the author of Flowers and that was the kicker. My honorable mentions are Beloved, The Stand and Fight Club. Recommendations for next time are The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein and 1984 by George Orwell.

QA Analyst Rachel's Favorites

As a former English teacher, I'm not sure how I feel about Twilight being my number one pick, haha! Perhaps I should have gone with something with more depth. However, Twilight holds a special place in my heart. I can't tell you how many times I've read and re-read the Twilight series; it's just a fun and enthralling story that is nice to get lost in. (For the record, I'm #TeamEdward.) Two of the other books on my top 6 were popular YA novels (Hunger Games and Harry Potter). Young adult fiction is my favorite genre, and I'm glad to see it has gained popularity in recent years! The universes created in these books are fascinating and often incredibly complex, and it's cool to see so many people falling in love with reading in an age where books compete with Instagram and Youtube for attention. It's always fun to meet someone who loves the same books as you, and bond over beloved characters, surprising plot twists, or the all-important Harry Potter houses. YA fiction has had unifying effect on many of us, which has been really cool to see and partake in!

Ryan, Collectibles Receiver, Suggests

I'll preface this by saying that my shelves at home host mostly non-fiction. That said, it became apparent rather quickly that I heavily favored the left side of this bracket. I've read, or am otherwise familiar, with all of the titles in those regions (to use the NCAA tournament parlance). Somewhat embarrassingly, the opposite is nearly true for the bracket's right side. The only two titles that I've read (to and with my gen Z kids) are Oh! The Places You'll Go and Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, and so not surprisingly they meet in the final four. The matchup, decided by a consensus of the kids (now teenagers) went to Seuss. The other final four contest came down to LOTR and Jurassic Park. Two books I read in my youth that helped to define my tastes in literature. While I never developed a love of the fantasy genre, the scope of Tolkien's work made it read more like a mythology or history, and I had to give it the nod over a book that has also been beloved by me from a young age because of Crichton's ability to weave his cautionary tale with curious math, genetics, and ethics, plus...dinosaurs! At this point, with the finals set, it doesn't even seem fair. Might as well be a #1 seed vs a #16 seed…Tolkien over Seuss in a blowout to win this year's tournament.

Account Management Assistant Sandi's Favorites

I think the Stand would be my all-time favorite out of these books which makes sense after telling you I have read it probably five or six times. I love the whole good and evil parts of it, and I love the characters (whom I can tell you all of their names). I think King's descriptions in his books makes his characters come to life. "M-o-o-n spells moon"!! Now, a lot of my picks in the bracket were based on the movies I saw for them, but with this full-list I am now going to actually get some of these in book form!

Shannon, Benefits Administrator, Picks

I love to read! As a mom, a lot of my reading time has been devoted to reading to my children and I have to say that I absolutely love the books that are being written for kids these days. Whether they are books that really put us in someone else's shoes, like The Hate U Give, or a novel that is simply written so well that it tugs on your heart forever (looking at you, The Book Thief) today’s books have such strong messages for our children. I am grateful that today's writers make it so easy to encourage empathy in children by writing spell binding books that the kids can't put down, and that parents are happy to extend "just 15 more minutes" of reading time for at night!

VP of Operations, Teague, Suggests

I have to be honest, throughout my high school career, I never saw the value in reading. Guess I couldn't reconcile being a jock and a reader…but I digress. The week following graduation I picked up Stephen King's IT. I read it non-stop over a weekend. It scared me so badly that I couldn't really sleep for a week and had terrible nightmares. After that, I was hooked! I binged all things Stephen King and still can't get enough. I say that proudly all while a contemporary of mine swears he just rips off H.P. Lovecraft. I ground my way through The Stand which fed my sense of good versus evil and as you can see, many of my choices have some type of struggle whether internal or external. The other books (beyond King's) were suggested by my wife, Solange. I was only into King at the time and nothing else piqued my interest, but "Trust me" she says, and turned me onto to Wicked and the others. I love immersing myself in books that are a true departure from everyday life. Oh! I would love to see a Stephen King novel win the knockout but alas the deck is stacked against him as all of his books compete with one another through the first two round…a conspiracy for sure!

Collectibles Receiver Theia's Favorites

It goes without saying that my choices veer toward a generation that simply has no compare amongst the four presented in this challenge. As a book person, Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 hold a special place in my heart. It's backed by a serious life-long crush on the novel's protagonist, Guy Montag. Ellison's Invisible Man with its unforgettable form and voice stands out as the images from beginning to end seer in one's mind; the room with lights and the wild adventure of its protagonist lingers and impresses to this day. Hunter S. Thompson, one of my favorite writers, certainly never lets one down and the wild side of me is often put at ease by compare - his humor and acerbic eye, his style and voice are perfected in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Dr. Seuss's The Cat in the Hat stands out, perhaps as an outlier, but the overall action and message is frankly without compare. Though I have a serious admiration for all on the list, I'm going to go with my crush and predict Fahrenheit 451 takes the prize and prevails. A society geared toward the destruction of books, for me, represents the most dangerous and therefore it's the most impactful read of my life to date. Go Guy and thank you Mr. Bradbury.

Vintage Receiver Tracie's Favorites

First of all, I would like to state that for me, picking between a few of these brackets was like trying to pick my favorite child! I am a Gen X through and through. Most of my favorites fall into this category but surprisingly enough my top two were not. I named my first son Holden, if that tells you how special Catcher in the Rye is to me. One of my prized possessions is an early edition that belonged to my grandfather. I have always had a place in my heart for Holden Caulfield, flaws, attitude and all. Reminds me a bit of myself and I feel it was one of the first books to show possible mental illness from a different perspective. My second-place book is The Giver. I used The Giver many times as an educator and, in my opinion, it opened the door for future dystopian novels (You can say thank you now Hunger Games.) Flowers in the Attic was definitely Gen X's Peyton Place. I can remember sneaking a copy around my group of friends after being told it was "too mature" for us to read. Then why was it in our Junior high school library? I would say that Are You There God? was, for most women my age, our go-to coming of age book. The Stand is, in my opinion, King's Opus. I have always enjoyed his books and stories dealing with morality, good vs. evil, coming of age more than his horror novels. American Pyscho I chose because, as a true crime addict, it has always read to me more as a true crime memoir than a novel.

William, Director of Regional Operations, Selects

Even though I am a Gen-X'er, I chose to highlight the Baby Boomer generation because the books in that category define the changes in American culture that took place over thirty years. Beginning with On the Road, which reflects the restlessness of American youth after WWII, and Invisible Man, which exposes the struggles of African Americans to find their place in an age of American prosperity, the books in that category transcend to the uncertainty and upheaval of the late 1960s with works like A Clockwork Orange, and Catcher in the Rye. The end result being a desire for utopian societies, such as A Brave New World, and Frank Herbert's Dune, which tell of what can happen when old societies destroy themselves and then usher in an epoch of enlightenment.

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