Jody's 2018 Book Recommendations
Since it’s shopping and leisure season, with time by the fire and stockings to stuff, I thought I’d recommend a few favorites of the books I’ve read recently. Find one for yourself or for any-age/reader-type gift.
For the Short Story Lover
The Birds of America, by Lorrie Moore: Moore is a master of the short form, and in Birds of America she also proves to be a clever collection creator. Incorporating birds into every story, either explicitly or thematically, Moore explores the nature of relationships, failure, and flight. Only Moore could pull off starting a story with a two-page “hahahaha…” and I love her for it.
For Book Club:
An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones: Though the premise of this novel is a bit depressing (a new marriage is ripped apart when the groom is wrongly incarcerated), our book club decidedly felt promise at the end of it, knowing, perhaps, that the characters evolved in the ways they must. Jones’s flawed characters provide endless conversation, and the societal challenges they face as though they are inevitable for people of color, has every reader questioning her part in this struggling marriage.
Invitation to a Bonfire, by Adrienne Celt: If you are a fan of thrillers, but looking for one that has more literary and emotional depth, this book is a prize. Taking a thread from Nabakov’s tumultuous life and imagining “what if,” Celt develops an in-depth picture of one of Nabakov’s women. This strong female narrator has profound growth, beginning as the stereotypical naïve and bullied orphan ripe for Nabakov’s taking but becoming, without our realizing it, the sophisticated orchestrator of Nabakov’s fate, pulling us in to a surprising and thrilling end.
For the Classics Lover (and maybe Feminist):
The Silence of the Girls, by Pat Barker: Were you one of those people, like me, annoyed by the movie Troy’s inept and oversimplified depiction of Breseis and Achilles’s relationship? Then you will love this novel and its realistic version, told from Breseis’s point of view.
For the Harry Potter Graduate:
The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman: Has your pre-teen or young adult graduated from Harry Potter and wizarding stories but still likes the fantasy genre? He or she might enjoy this hail to The Jungle Book (though set in a graveyard), by the author of American Gods and Coraline. The protagonist, young orphaned Bod (short for Nobody), is being hunted by Jack, a mysterious man with seemingly magical powers, and the only place Bod finds refuge is in a British Graveyard, where ghosts adopt him and the undead teach him. But Bod can only live among the dead for so long before he must confront Jack and save his—and the world’s—soul.
For the Serious Writer
Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders. Saunders is the master of experimental writing, and this novel reads like a handbook on how to do it well.
For the 3-8 Crowd
Halloween Night, by Marjorie Dennis Murray, illustrations by Brandon Dorman: We checked this book out of the library in September, but my children wouldn’t let me return it until November, by which time they had memorized every line. Set to the rhyme and meter (anapestic tetrameter) of Twas the Night Before Christmas, this book’s lines are fun to read, and its illustrations are mesmerizing.
The Little Boy Or Girl Who Lost Their Name, by Wonderbly Personalized Products: I’m sure you’ve seen an ad for this book somewhere on social media or by your email. Maybe you thought it looked like cute garbage. No! These books are gems! My girls fight over whose we read at night and shout out the lines as we read them. As an added bonus, each of my girls learned to spell her name from the book, too.