12 Days of Christmas: Holiday Book Recommendations
For the 6th day of Christmas, I'm offering a list of book recommendations. Hopefully everyone will get a little bit of time to relax and curl up with a good book during the holidays, and for anyone who isn't quite sure what that book should be, here are a handful of my personal favorites. These will not be Christmas themed.
Wool by Hugh Howey
For those of you who are interested dystopian settings, this is the best that I've read in a really long time. (Since I read the Handmaid's Tale, in fact.) The setting is great. The characters are well done and multidimensional. I was on the edge of my seat by the time I hit page 20. It's one of the rare books in recent memory that has entirely surpassed my expectations. However, if you're looking for something warm and cheerful, this is probably not the book for you. It is a dystopian novel after all.
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
If you are looking for something a little warmer and sweeter, this is a good recommendation. My Brilliant Friends follows two young girls growing up in Naples in the 1950's, complete with themes of friendship and sisterhood. Ferrante handles the setting expertly. This is the first of a several books following the close friendship between the two girls throughout their lives. Much like with Wool, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. It's a gem.
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
Murakami is a perennial favorite of mine. I always look forward to his new releases, and this was no exception. It follows the tale of an unfortunate man, Tsukuru Tazaki. Rather than grandiose action, the focus of the book is much more tight and intimate, closely following the thoughts and feelings of the main character. One of the more pleasurable aspects of Murakami's work, for me, is their tendency to be thought provoking, and if that's the sort of literary experience you're looking for, you should definitely check this book out. It's difficult to describe the plot without spoiling it, so this vague description is all I'll offer.
Royal Romances by Leslie Carroll
For any of you looking for intrigue, romance or history, this is a great choice. (I actually reviewed another of Carroll's books here if you're interested in a more in depth analysis of her work.) This book is full of tales of royal romance gone wrong, or right in a few cases. It includes a good deal of historical details mixed pleasantly with more scandalous and romantic narrative content. Carroll began her life as an author writing romance novels, and her nonfiction works most certainly benefit from this experience. Royal Romances is an enjoyable and fast paced book, which is just as enjoyable as it is educational.
Hieroglyph Edited by Ed Finn and Kathryn Cramer
This one is cheating a little bit, as it's not entirely nonfiction, but it's just too good to pass up. The premise of Hieroglyph is that it collects stories and visions which outline a better future. It boasts an impressive list of contributors who come from a number of perspectives. It includes short fiction, essays, artwork and articles. The only thing they all have in common is that they are hopeful and suggestive of how we can make our future a better place. Aside from being incredibly fascinating, it's also quite uplifting. I love the mixed format, and on top of that, it was a pleasure to read.
Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon
I recommend this book without reservation. With that being said, it's a hard read. Solomon slowly and methodically examines the relationship between parents and children who are born into circumstances which make them different from one another. Solomon looks at deafness, autism, and a variety of other scenarios, giving each a careful and detailed analysis. How does this difference effect the relationship? How did the parents react when they found out? What is life like for both the parents and the child? What options are there for care, be it physical, mental or emotional? His message is always one of hope and love, and his questions seek to share stories of identity and acceptance. It is enlightening, though often quite heavy. I found myself stopping often to think and there were times that I had to set it aside because I was so effected by what I was reading. It is highly educational, both in a factual and a cultural sense. Solomon does a great job of synthesizing scientific data and personal anecdotes, sharing stories that are both happy and sad, uplifting and controversial. It's a great choice for those who want a more serious read.
And that's it for this year! What's been your favorite book of 2014?