’Tis the season to be that annoying relative or friend who only gives books as presents! If you’re anything like me, you’re confident that there’s a book out there for every person on your list.
For this piece, we asked the staff at our favorite indie bookstore, Longfellow Books, for their recommendations. From those, we selected 16 titles that we believe cover a wide array of interests and intellects. I think I have most of my bases covered. Do you?
Three very different choices for folks who enjoy literary fiction.
The Circle by Dave Eggers | Knopf | $27.95 | Eggers’s latest book takes place in the dystopian world of The Circle, a corporation that values transparency above all else — at the expense of privacy, anonymity, and personhood as defined as anything other than social media presence. It’s a frightening take on topics that were in the news this year, from one of this country’s literary stars.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt | Little, Brown and Company | $30 | This highly anticipated and sprawling coming-of-age novel is the author’s third in as many decades (it joins The Secret History and The Little Friend). The Washington Post said: “Tartt has created a rare treasure: a long novel that never feels long, a book worthy of our winter hibernation by the fire.”
Traveling Sprinkler by Nicholson Baker | Blue Rider Press | $26.95 | Paul Chowder, Baker’s eccentric protagonist from The Anthologist, is back in this 2013 release; this time around, he’s focused on songwriting instead of poetry. As it does in all his books, Baker’s prose shines with warm humor, sharp insights, and digressive attention to detail.
For the serious-minded readers on your list, covering subjects both heavy and light.
Censored 2014: Fearless Speech in Fateful Times edited by Mickey Huff and Andy Lee Roth | Seven Stories Press | $19.95 | Twenty-five underreported or otherwise censored stories from the past year, including pieces on American whistleblowers, fracking, and peaceful revolution in Iceland, plus thoughtful analysis of this year’s Infotainment offenses, examples of “Media Democracy in Action,” and a detailed examination of an elite transnational “superclass.”
Men We Reaped: A Memoir by Jesamyn Ward | Bloomsbury | $26 | A brave book about racism, poverty, and drug addiction in rural Mississippi that achieves bittersweet beauty.
The Sea and Civilization: A Maritime History of the World by Lincoln Paine| Knopf | $40 | From local author Lincoln Paine comes this hulking tome (784 pages!) that looks at world history through a maritime lens,
A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett | Scribner | $27 | A sobering but inspiring account of one young woman’s 460-day ordeal as a hostage in Somalia. As co-author, Telling Room founder Sara Corbett helped coax a vivid and emotionally honest story from survivor Amanda Lindhout. (Read the Phoenix’s review, by Jeff Inglis, in the September 13 issue.)
Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History Without the Fairy-Tale Endings by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie | Quirk Books | $19.95 | Mini-biographies of real-life princesses who would have fit right in on an episode of The Bad Girls Club, with chapters on history’s regal Warriors, Usurpers, Schemers, Partiers, and Madwomen.