6 Novels to Give as Holiday Gifts
And the independent bookstores and publishers where you can buy them
Hope you all had a safe and restful Thanksgiving weekend! I am so thankful that you’ve subscribed to and stuck with Books on GIF. Your support and feedback keeps us going, and Donna and I really appreciate it:
Here are some of BoG’s favorite novels this year that would make great gifts. They are listed in alphabetical order by author, and I’ve included an independent bookstore or publisher where you can purchase them. Enjoy!
Sarah Rose Etter’s novel is one of the most surreal books I’ve ever read and is a welcome respite from the bonkers reality of 2020. There are quarries where meat (blood and all) is mined from the ground like limestone, thighs swim in rivers (yes, you read that right), throats grow in fields like corn and dresses fall from the sky like rain. If someone you know loves avant-garde literature, give them this book. It’s:
Buy it on sale from ‘Two Dollar Radio’ for $12.99.
This novel is a beautifully constructed and powerful collection of women’s stories, and it’s the best book I’ve read this year. ‘Girl, Woman, Other’ inspired my inner armchair philosopher and stoked my love of how authors play with narrative structure. My rating:
Buy it from The Schomburg Shop for $17.
‘Family Lexicon’ tells the story of Ginzburg’s parents, siblings and the various people in their orbit—friends, spouses, co-workers, maids and political exiles—living in Italy before, during and after World War II. There’s not much plot, but the novel/memoir advances through Ginzburg’s recollections of scenes that highlight the words and phrases used by family and friends over and over. I’ve never read a novel like this, and it is perfect for the holiday season. It had me like:
Buy it from the New York Review of Books for $16.95.
Nella Larsen is a wonderful author from the Harlem Renaissance who deserves to be more widely read. Though her book was published more than 90 years ago, it remains a relevant and provocative exploration of race in America—and it has a riveting story. ‘Passing’ also has some of the most beautiful writing I’ve read this year, and my rating was:
Buy it from the Strand Book Store for $6.
This is the perfect book to read while stuck inside during a pandemic. It’s long, gripping, and tells a beautiful and heartbreaking story. It’s set in an unnamed city in India in 1975, and follows two tailors from a rural village and a college student who move into a widow’s apartment. Their interactions explore the bonds of love and humanity, as well as the pain of memory. If you previously took my recommendation to read Min Jin Lee’s ‘Pachinko,’ I think you would enjoy this book. My rating was:
Buy it from Powell’s City of Books for $18.
Olga Tokarczuk’s novel has one of the best titles in literary history, hands-down. If you know someone looking for a fresh take on a murder mystery that’s dark, funny and surprising, but also an intricately constructed quick read, then I suggest you buy them this book. It’s:
Buy it from Books Are Magic for $17.
Looking for more? Here are some ideas from past BoG gift guides:
If you’re looking for some nonfiction, I’d recommend ‘Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations’ by Mira Jacob, ‘They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us’ and ‘Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest’ by Hanif Abdurraqib, and ‘Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City’ by Matthew Desmond.
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Review #148: ‘Three Summers’ by Margarita Liberaki
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Before you go:
Read this: ‘Elena Ferrante names her 40 favourite books by female authors’ in The Guardian is a terrific list to consult as you’re making your upcoming purchases. You’ve seen many of her recommendations in Books on GIF, including ‘Family Lexicon,’ ‘Disoriental’ by Négar Djavadi, ‘The Door’ by Magda Szabó and ‘The God of Small Things’ by Arundhati Roy. (Thanks to Danielle for flagging this!)
Click this: David Bowie songs reimagined as pulp novel covers is the tweet you need to see today. These are great!
Do this: Cafe Con Libros, a feminist bookstore in Brooklyn, is hosting a virtual discussion of ‘Celestial Bodies’ by Jokha Alharthi as part of its Feminist Book Club series. The event is Sun., Dec. 13, from 1-2:30 p.m. Click here to RSVP and for details. Alharthi’s novel is the first by a woman from Oman to be translated into English and the first Arabic novel to win a Man Booker International Prize. Here is my review.
Read this, too: ‘Why Everyone’s Suddenly Hoarding Mason Jars’ by author and writer Jen Doll on Medium is a fascinating deep dive into the history of these jars, their current scarcity in the market, and how all that relates to 2020 and the economy. (Here is my review of Doll’s terrific YA novel ‘Unclaimed Baggage.’)
Click this, too: Bernardine Evaristo recently retweeted this shoutout to Mona Chalabi, a data journalist at The Guardian, for mapping out all the characters in ‘Girl, Woman, Other.’ I love how Evaristo says, ‘I could never have mapped this out myself (way too technical).’ Amazing, considering she created all these characters!
Do this, too: Jennifer Billock, BoG friend and writer of the KitchenWitch newsletter, has a book coming out called ‘Classic Restaurants of Milwaukee.’ She will discuss it at a virtual event on Tues., Dec. 1, from 6-7 p.m. (Central Time). The event is free. Click here to RSVP and for details.
Thanks for reading, and thanks especially to Donna for editing this newsletter!
Until next time,
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