Buying books for people is our favorite. It's a way to show how well we know/how much we love them, and it is a point of great pride for us to find THE MOST PERFECT BOOK for a person we adore (except for Le R. père, whom we are continually tormenting with leftist economic treatises we know he will never read BUT OUGHT TO, POPS). Please find below our completely unscientific list of suggested titles for various persons in your life, which has absolutely no relation to books published recently, books that are currently popular, or really anything other than the dark workings of our little brain. Please feel free to suggest further potential giftees (Pretentious Friend, Physics-Nerd Cousin, etc.) for whom you would like to see book recommendations this week and we shall do our best. Moonrat also has a fab holiday list of Author-friends whose books came out this year, the sharp-witted Laura "Waffle Iron" Combreviations has compiled a list of famous authors' holiday recommendations, and our new best friends at WORD Bookstore will act as PERSONAL SHOPPERS and also ship online orders of over $50 for free! SO WHY ARE YOU STILL BUYING PEOPLE WEIRD PLASTIC CRAP THEY DON'T NEED, HMM? Onward!
Books For Your Mom
1. The Angel's Game, by Carlos Luis Zafon
A gleeful, no-holds-barred nod to Charles Dickens, peppered liberally with doses of Gothic and swashbuckle. It's all here: villainous publishers who may or not be the devil, improbable body counts, vertiginous plot twists, tormented artists, underground labyrinths, haunted castles, impossible loves, and pretty ladies. Zafon's shamelessness is matched only by the magnificence of his prose, which lovingly captures the dark-and-stormy-night campiness with reckless abandon, and occasionally ventures into surprisingly insightful territory. Sheer joy. For moms who liked The Historian or The Da Vinci Code.
2. The Love Letter, by Cathleen Schine
A snappy and independent lady bookstore owner of a Certain Age discovers a love letter whose sender and intended recipient are unknown, and embarks on a delicious quest to discover its origins. Immensely funny, romantic, silly, and smart. For moms who like romance.
3. Someone Knows My Name, by Lawrence Hill
The life of feisty and sharp-witted Aminata Diallo, a woman born in Bayo, West Africa in 1745 and sold into slavery. Aminata's journey takes her from the American South, through the Revolutionary War, and to the free black settlements in Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone. Aminata's ferocious courage and strength make her an unforgettable heroine, and Hill has a virtuosic command of his material. For moms who like historical fiction or Say You're One of Them.
4. The Book of Salt, by Monique Truong
This gorgeous novel tells the story of Binh, the Vietnamese cook employed by Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas in 1930s Paris. Delicious, wildly original, and full of vivid descriptions of the city as well as wryly funny meditations on food, race, class, and the meaning of genius. The Book of Salt is a fascinating and brilliantly imagined portrait of three complex and remarkable people. For moms who liked The Guernsey Literary and Sweet Potato Peel Society.
5. The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson
The Devil in the White City is one of those rare nonfiction books that reads like the most un-put-downable of novels. Telling the simultaneous (and startlingly parallel) stories ofthe legendary architect of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and one of the nineteenth century's most nefarious serial killers, this thrilling and meticulously researched book is as suspenseful as any fictive whodunit. For moms who like mystery and true crime.
Books for Your Pa
1. The Long Fall, by Walter Mosley
The latest from Devil in a Blue Dress author Mosley is set in New York and introduces the character Leonid McGill, ex-boxer and hardboiled-but-repentant PI. Mosley is as on his game as ever, and writes about New York with masterful flair. For dads who liked The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
2. Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet, by Jeffrey D. Sachs
A thoughtful and lucid exploration of the handbasket we're headed to hell in, and strategies for getting out. Extremely readable and beautifully argued case for an economics of international cooperation and sustainable development. For dads who like economics or are unrepentant Republicans AHEM, POPS.
3. A Time of Gifts, by Patrick Leigh Fermor
In 1933 Patrick Leigh Fermor was expelled from school for flirting with a young lady. Rather than get respectable, he decided to walk across Europe by himself. A Time of Gifts is the story of his journey, full of hope, intelligence and gorgeous prose. An elegant and personable history of pre-war Europe as well as an account of an unorthodox voyage by a truly extraordinary person. For dads who like history and travel.
4. Netherland, by Joseph O'Neill
Hans, a banker in post-9/11 New York, living in the Chelsea Hotel and trying to deal with a marriage in shambles, strikes up an unlikely friendship with the charismatic Trinidadian Chuck Ramkissoon. Neither Hans nor Chuck are quite what they seem, and the result is this near-perfect novel, which earned comparisons to The Great Gatsby. Riveting and thoughtful. For dads who liked Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
5. The Man Who Smiled, by Henning Mankell
Intricately plotted, character-driven noir mystery from Swedish genius Mankell, whose Kurt Wallander series is pretty much flawless. For dads who liked The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
Books For Difficult Young People
1. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, by Joan Aiken
Dastardly villains, plucky orphans, plots to overthrow the government, and a cast of characters worthy of Dickens, with the irrepressible and cheeky Dido Twite at its heart. Aiken's Wolves Chronicles, of which Willoughby Chase is the first, are some of the most underappreciated books in the history of children's literature, populated with lively, sharp-witted children; bumbling, inefficient adults; and more kidnappings, skullduggery, and absurd plot twists than you can shake a stick at. For pre-teenagerish young persons who like fantasy.
2. Thirsty, by M.T. Anderson
The vampire book to end all vampire books. Like anything else M.T. Anderson does, Thirsty is relentlessly smart and darkly funny, a genre novel that breaks every convention and turns genre on its head. Proof that the only thing funnier than vampires is teenage vampires. For preteen to teenagerish young persons who like fantasy and paranormal.
3. Fledgling, by Octavia Butler
Shori Mathews is a 53-year-old vampire who looks like a ten-year-old girl, who awakens at the beginning of the novel badly burned, starving, and amnesiac. She must discover who she is--and who's after her--using only the clues she unearths on her perilous journey. In the hands of MacArthur-grant-winning science-fiction master Butler, the vampire story gets a mind-blowing new life (har har). For teenagerish young persons who like fantasy and paranormal.
4. Caucasia, by Danzy Senna
Birdie, a biracial girl in 1970s Boston, is the child of a liberal white mother and an intellectual father whose marriage disintegrates when her mom throws in her lot with gun-running activists. Birdie's mom takes her underground and demands she pass as white, while her darker-skinned sister and her father disappear in Brazil. Senna's bestselling first novel is an incisive look at adolescence and identity. For teenagerish young persons who liked Liar.
5. The Neddiad, by Daniel Pinkwater
Or really, anything by Daniel Pinkwater, the master of total lunacy. Constantly goofy and totally original, his books are peopled with weird jungle-exploring uncles, giant avocados, girls named Rat, and boys from Mars. Somehow he makes it work. For pre-teenagerish young persons who are slightly dorky.
Books For Someone You Are Courting
1. The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov
Hilarious, sexy, and maybe the most awesome love story in the history of the universe. You can read it as a viciously funny satire of 1930s Soviet Russia, and you would obviously be correct, but you can also read it as the story of Margarita, a feisty young lady passionately in love with the hapless genius-writer the Master, who literally goes to hell for him. Oh yeah, and has a great time while she's there. Also: features Satan and giant talking cats. Best if: Obscure Object of Desire is real sharp cookie.
2. The Old Man and Me, by Elaine Dundy
Witty and full of surprises, this totally endearing love story does that most difficult of things: takes two utterly unsympathetic lovers and turns them into completely likable protagonists. The story of young, foxy, and duplicitous Honey Flood and her unorthodox courtship of literary great C.D. McKee is a delight from start to finish. Best if: OOD is much older or younger than you.
3. The Electric Michelangelo, by Sarah Hall
The gorgeous and melancholy story of a Coney Island tattooist in the 1920s and the enigmatic circus beauty he falls in love with. Vividly imagined and lovely. Best if: OOD is an artiste .
4. Written on the Body, by Jeanette Winterson
The story of a married woman named Louise and her super-hot love affair, narrated by the lover, whose name and gender are never specified. Parts of this book will make you go and take a cold shower. Best if: You are in early stages of passionate affair with OOD/OOD is married to someone who isn't you.
5. The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery
The story of a cantankerous concierge, an unlikely romance, and a precocious twelve-year-old who has decided suicide is the only answer to the futility of the modern condition. Bittersweet and joyful, a delightful meditation on class, love, and reasons to stay alive in a world that is often reluctant to offer them. Heartbreaking and very, very funny. Best if: OOD is someone you want around for a long time.