It’s that time of year when most of us are feeling pulled in even more directions than usual. Work+family+holidays= overload. Too much to do and not enough time to do it so, in the spirit of giving, I’m going to give you, my favorite readers, the perfect excuse to grab a warm beverage and sit back for a moment. If anyone asks, you’re working on gift ideas (nudge nudge, wink wink) for everyone on your list. Which is not a complete lie, because what makes a better gift than a book and who better to recommend one than a woman whose full-time job is reading? You’re welcome.
While I wish I had Santa’s mad skills at knowing everything about every kind of reader, I don’t, so will stick with a few types I’ve come across in my literary travels. If anything looks interesting the title links to my full review. And, as always, if you do give a book, buy it locally. Independent booksellers are a critical part of our communities. Plus, they have even more recommendations than I do!
The “Please, I’m tired of reality and just need something fun and escapist to read” reader:
Just because the world and life are making you crazy doesn’t mean you want to read any old piece of fluff. Even when desperate to escape, you need something well-written. It’s like champagne, darlings—it all has bubbles, but the cheap stuff is too sweet and will make you sick. These three books are witty, chock full of labels, glam, bling, and plots galore, but they do it with style. The Royal We is about a British prince and his American girlfriend, China Rich Girlfriend is a satire about the lives of Chinese women so wealthy they buy hotels not houses, and The Knockoff is a send-up of what happens to an old-school fashion magazine editor when the social-media-techno-brat who used to be her assistant wants her job.
Don’t be embarrassed. I AM you. I can read a good novel for hours days, but even the best of non-fiction makes me doze. So, I’m a huge fan of historical fiction. There I said it. I don’t run around quoting everything I read in historical novels as fact and if you don’t either, then why not indulge? It’s like every movie that says it is “based on a true story”—that may be the case, but it’s been heavily edited to make it entertaining. Rebel Queen is set in one of the last kingdoms in India to remain free from British rule and Queen Lakshmi fights tradition and the British to keep it that way. Closer to home is The House of Hawthorne, a beautiful novel about Sophia, wife of author Nathaniel Hawthorne. The most traditional of the three women here and yet, just as fiercely determined in her own way. Circling the Sun is the story of Beryl Markham, a woman who accomplished more on her own in the 1920s than most men do now.
The been-there-done-that-read-the-book reader:
This is a very tough category because they’re an elusive breed that reads a lot, but is in an almost constant search for something unique. The upside is that if you are the person to find such a book for them, their gratitude knows almost no bounds (ask for gold or real estate). The downside is if you’re wrong they’ll likely throw the book at you—literally. The good news? If they don’t work, blame me. Say some blogger in (make up a country, please, because I don’t want this type of reader showing up on my doorstep- they can be vicious) told you it was a great book. The Boatmaker is a novel as fable about…a boatmaker. A man without a name who lives on a tiny island until he realizes he must see more of life. The Buried Giant is a tender tale set in what seem to be Arthurian times, but with themes that are timeless. The Library at Mount Char is one of the most unusual, brash, over-the-top tales of fantasy, humor and horror I’ve ever read and I loved it.
for the reader who wants to see things from another perspective:
As events in our country and world feel as if they are spinning further out of control it is easiest to look away or to entrench ourselves more deeply in our own views. Even for those who don’t do either, understanding the other side or the bigger picture can be difficult. Fiction is no replacement for education and knowledge, but it can be a less threatening way to learn. None of these books are propaganda or treatises on any subject, they are simply stories. Beautifully told, emotionally confusing looks at aspects of the world most of us will never experience.
Set somewhere in the Middle East The Ambassador’s Wife is about the kidnapping of a diplomat’s wife while Under the Udala Trees is set in Nigeria where loving the wrong person can result in death. In the Language of Miracles is perhaps the most timely. It is the story of a family in New Jersey whose son shoots his girlfriend at school. Suddenly, the fact that they were from Egypt matters more than the decades they’ve been in America.
The Thrill-Me Reader:
This is a straightforward bunch. Tell me a story so good I can’t put the book down. There are a fair amount of them out there but these three all accomplish the goal in very different ways. The Water Knife is a frightening and dystopic look at the the Southwest when the water starts to run out, Where They Found Her is a murder mystery that involves a group of old friends and a small community, and Slade House is a deeply frightening, paranormal masterpiece.