My Holiday Reading List
Not that I need a reason to buy a new book (just ask my husband), but the holidays are my favorite time to stock up. I absolutely LOVE snuggling up with my favorite blanket, a cup of coffee and a good book. Seriously, that is my idea of bliss. Friday night, Monday afternoon, Saturday morning, whatever day or time of the week--that is my sanctuary.
When we lived in Dallas, you could often find me Barnes and Noble and Half Price Books. In San Francisco, I have loved exploring the charming indie bookshops (Alexander Book Company and City Lights Bookstore are my favorites). Whether you peruse the shelves of a chain or lose yourself in the stacks of an indie bookstore, and whether you're a printer lover for life (like I am) or an e-book advocate, reading is reading and I love to see people with books in hand.
I decided I'd share what I plan on diving into with you all. Hopefully you find something that sounds interesting and motivates you to add a new book (or two, or three) to your bookshelves.
Without further adieu, here is my 2015 holiday reading list! (All photos and descriptions are from Goodreads.)
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France...but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another. Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can...completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real--and deadly--consequences. With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah takes her talented pen to the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France--a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
First published in 1952 and immediately hailed as a masterpiece, Invisible Man is one of those rare novels that have changed the shape of American literature. For not only does Ralph Ellison's nightmare journey across the racial divide tell unparalleled truths about the nature of bigotry and its effects on the minds of both victims and perpetrators, it gives us an entirely new model of what a novel can be. As he journeys from the Deep South to the streets and basements of Harlem, from a horrifying "battle royal" where black men are reduced to fighting animals, to a Communist rally where they are elevated to the status of trophies, Ralph Ellison's nameless protagonist ushers readers into a parallel universe that throws our own into harsh and even hilarious relief. Suspenseful and sardonic, narrated in a voice that takes in the symphonic range of the American language, black and white, Invisible Man is one of the most audacious and dazzling novels of our century.
The Children Act by Ian McEwan
Fiona Maye is a High Court judge in London presiding over cases in family court. She is fiercely intelligent, well respected, and deeply immersed in the nuances of her particular field of law. Often the outcome of a case seems simple from the outside, the course of action to ensure a child's welfare obvious. But the law requires more rigor than mere pragmatism, and Fiona is expert in considering the sensitivities of culture and religion when handing down her verdicts. But Fiona's professional success belies domestic strife. Her husband, Jack, asks her to consider an open marriage and, after an argument, moves out of their house. His departure leaves her adrift, wondering whether it was not love she had lost so much as a modern form of respectability; whether it was not contempt and ostracism she really fears. She decides to throw herself into her work, especially a complex case involving a seventeen-year-old boy whose parents will not permit a lifesaving blood transfusion because it conflicts with their beliefs as Jehovah's Witnesses. But Jack doesn't leave her thoughts, and the pressure to resolve the case—as well as her crumbling marriage—tests Fiona in ways that will keep readers thoroughly enthralled until the last stunning page.
Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty
Lyn, Cat, and Gemma Kettle, beautiful thirty-three-year-old triplets, seem to attract attention everywhere they go. Together, laughter, drama, and mayhem seem to follow them. But apart, each is dealing with her own share of ups and downs. Lyn has organized her life into one big checklist, Cat has just learned a startling secret about her marriage, and Gemma, who bolts every time a relationship hits the six-month mark, holds out hope for lasting love. In this wise, witty, and hilarious novel, we follow the Kettle sisters through their tumultuous thirty-third year as they deal with sibling rivalry and secrets, revelations and relationships, unfaithful husbands and unthinkable decisions, and the fabulous, frustrating life of forever being part of a trio.
It all begins with a fantasy: the caseworker in her "signing paperwork" charcoal suit standing alongside beaming parents cradling their adopted newborn, set against a fluorescent-lit delivery-room backdrop. It's this blissful picture that keeps Chloe Pinter, director of the Chosen Child's domestic-adoption program, happy while juggling the high demands of her boss and the incessant needs of both adoptive and biological parents. But the very job that offers her refuge from her turbulent personal life and Portland's winter rains soon becomes a battleground involving three very different couples: the Novas, well-off college sweethearts who suffered fertility problems but are now expecting their own baby; the McAdoos, a wealthy husband and desperate wife for whom adoption is a last chance; and Jason and Penny, an impoverished couple who have nothing—except the baby everyone wants. When a child goes missing, dreams dissolve into nightmares, and everyone is forced to examine what he or she really wants and where it all went wrong. Told from alternating points of view, Chosen reveals the desperate nature of desire across social backgrounds and how far people will go to get the one thing they think will be the answer.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." So begins Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen's witty comedy of manners--one of the most popular novels of all time--that features splendidly civilized sparring between the proud Mr. Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet as they play out their spirited courtship in a series of eighteenth-century drawing-room intrigues.
Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick. What Lou doesn't know is she's about to lose her job or that knowing what's coming is what keeps her sane. Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he's going to put a stop to that. What Will doesn't know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they're going to change the other for all time.
Not on Fire, but Burning by Greg Hrbek
Twenty-year-old Skyler saw the incident out her window: Some sort of metalic object hovering over the Golden Gate Bridge just before it collapsed and a mushroom cloud lifted above the city. Like everyone, she ran, but she couldn't outrun the radiation, with her last thoughts being of her beloved baby brother, Dorian, safe in her distant family home. Flash forward to a post-incident America, where the country has been broken up into territories and Muslims have been herded onto the old Indian reservations in the west, even though no one has determined who set off the explosion that destroyed San Francisco. Twelve-year old Dorian dreams about killing Muslims and about his sister—even though Dorian's parents insist Skyler never existed. Are they still shell-shocked, trying to put the past behind them . . . or is something more sinister going on? Meanwhile, across the street, Dorian's neighbor adopts a Muslim orphan from the territories. It will set off a series of increasingly terrifying incidents that will lead to either tragedy or redemption for Dorian, as he struggles to prove that his sister existed—and was killed by a terrorist attack. Not on Fire, but Burning is unlike anything you're read before—not exactly a thriller, not exactly sci-fi, not exactly speculative fiction, but rather a brilliant and absorbing adventure into the dark heart of an America that seems ripped from the headlines. But just as powerfully, it presents a captivating hero: A young boy driven by love to seek the truth, even if it means his deepest beliefs are wrong.
All That Followed by Gabriel Urza
It's 2004 in Muriga, a quiet town in Spain's northern Basque Country, a place with more secrets than inhabitants. Five years have passed since the kidnapping and murder of a young local politician--a family man and father--and the town's rhythms have almost returned to normal. But in the aftermath of the Atocha train bombings in Madrid, an act of terrorism that rocked a nation and a world, the townspeople want a reckoning of Muriga's own troubled past: Everyone knows who pulled the trigger five years ago, but is the young man now behind bars the only one to blame?All That Followed peels away the layers of a crime complicated by history, love, and betrayal. The accounts of three townspeople in particular--the councilman's beautiful young widow, the teenage radical now in jail for the crime, and an aging American teacher hiding a traumatic past of his own--hold the key to what really happened. And for these three, it's finally time to confront what they can find of the truth. Inspired by a true story, All That Followed is a powerful, multifaceted novel about a nefarious kind of violence that can take hold when we least expect. Urgent, elegant, and gorgeously atmospheric, Urza's debut is a book for the world we live in now, and it marks the arrival of a brilliant new writer to watch.
On the grubby outskirts of Paris, Grace restores bric-a-brac, mends teapots, re-sets gems. She calls herself Julie, says she’s from California, and slips back to a rented room at night. Regularly, furtively, she checks the hometown paper on the Internet. Home is Garland, Tennessee, and there, two young men have just been paroled. One, she married; the other, she’s in love with. Both were jailed for a crime that Grace herself planned in exacting detail. The heist went bad—but not before she was on a plane to Prague with a stolen canvas rolled in her bag. And so, in Paris, begins a cat-and-mouse waiting game as Grace’s web of deception and lies unravels—and she becomes another young woman entirely. Unbecoming is an intricately plotted and psychologically nuanced heist novel that turns on suspense and slippery identity. With echoes of Alfred Hitchcock and Patricia Highsmith, Rebecca Scherm’s mesmerizing debut is sure to entrance fans of Gillian Flynn, Marisha Pessl, and Donna Tartt.
There you have it! Have you read any of these books? What would you add to my list?
Happy holiday reading!