Tuesday, October 27, 2009
A few literary gifts to give and get this November and December
Even with things going completely haywire in the world(or just appearing to be at the moment),there are still reliable comfort zones to be found,especially between the pages of a book. Those needs for reading replenishment are most keenly felt during this time of year,when winter is fast approaching and certain holiday obligations start knocking at your door.
It may be tempting to ignore the simple pleasures of a good book with so much going on,but at times like these,that retreat into worlds both real and imagined is one of the best methods of coping with the craziness. Think of it as chicken soup for the spirit(if you want it for the soul,there's a ton of those books already out there)which can not only keep you mentally healthy this season but solve some of those gift giving dilemmas that are just around the corner:
CUTTING CLOSE TO THE BONE
Julie Powell's memoir about her Julia Child blog experiment,Julie & Julia, was an inspiring read and the film version of that book was one of the big hits of the summer movie season. The movie was so popular than it even peaked enough interest to bring Mastering the Art of French Cooking back on the bestseller lists again.
All of that heaps quite a bit of high expectations onto Powell's new culinary memoir,Cleaving. The focus is still on food,only in a more hands on way.
Julie recounts her foray into the art of butchering meat,which occurred during a rift in her marriage and lead her to not only expanding her food knowledge but figuring out her emotional struggles as well. It may not sound as sweet as J&J,but Cleaving seems to be a rather savory dish worth sampling(December):
FAMILY AFFAIRS OF THE HEART
In Lauren Grodstein's A Friend of the Family,we are introduced to Pete Dizinoff,a suburbanite whose carefully built life of comfort and control is edging close toward disaster. His medical practice is facing a nasty lawsuit but what worries Pete the most is what direction his wayward son Alec is headed.
Pete has a lot of hopes and dreams pinned on him and is quick to patch up any scraps Alec might get into,including getting accepted into a good college. The unexpected wrench in the works is Laura,his best friend's daughter who has a troubled past and is a decade older than Alec,whom she sets her romantic sights on.
Pete feels that it's his duty to meddle in this affair and save his son,but his actions take a turn for the tragic. While this story is set in the modern day suburbs of New Jersey,the tone of this novel seems to have a lot in common with the social standards that shut in the emotions of those well off New Yorkers who filled the pages of many an Edith Wharton book. I hope the comparison is pleasing as well as accurate to both the author and readers alike(November):
SUPER SIZED SCARE FEST
One of the expected big magillas of the fall book season is Stephen King's new novel,Under The Dome,which has unfortunately been a target in the book pricing wars happening online recently.
Other controversies stirring up around this massive novel include comparisons to the Simpsons movie(which shares a similar concept)and the delayed release of the e-book edition in order to help independent book stores get a fair shot at selling their physical copies.
All of this hoopla is a shame,since none of it is focused on what matters to longtime readers of King's work the most;is Under The Dome a good book or not? The plot has a small town in America trapped beneath a mysterious force field,a phenomenon that not only tests the characters of those inside but starts to become a major media event. Under The Dome is over a thousand pages long,so with any luck,this may be the best sinister saga King's given us since The Stand. Only time will tell,folks and with a book this long, you're going to need it!(November)
NOT JUST KID'S STUFF
James Patterson has not only been thrilling adults with his mystery books,he's also dreamed up some amusing books for young people as well. Teaming up again with Gabrielle Charbonnet(who co-wrote Sundays at Tiffany's with Patterson),Witch and Wizard brings a new dynamic duo of magic makers on to the YA scene.
Wisty and Whit are typical teenagers who are living in a world that is swiftly becoming a totalitarian regime that hits close to home one night when government officials storm in and take them away from their parents .
As they await their fate in a secret prison,the siblings start to develop strange new powers that may help them find their way to freedom. Sounds like a combo of Escape to Witch Mountain and 1984,which should be interesting to readers of all ages(December):
Wally Lamb tries his hand at holiday themed fiction this season with Wishin' and Hopin'.Set in the small town of Three Rivers,Connecticut in 1964,fifth grader Felix Funicello(a distant cousin of famed Mouseketeer Annette)is coping with the usual problems a kid his age has to deal with when a couple of new arrivals to his parochial school amp up the volume in more ways than one.
Unlike his adult novels,this Lamb book is intended to be a lighthearted and humorous look back at a time of idyllic childhood in America in the same vein as Jean Shepard's contemporary classic A Christmas Story. Since both authors have a great flair for bringing offbeat yet all too real characters to life,we may be in for a true literary treat,if not a major award at the very least(December):
EPIC ADVENTURES THROUGH TIME
Another highly anticipated novel,The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver takes her leading man on a quest for a sense of purpose in life that carries him between two countries and towards the brink of war. Harrison Shepard grew up with a hand to mouth existence in Mexico that connected him to no one and nothing until a routine job opportunity brings him to the attention of renowned muralist Diego Rivera.
That leads Harrison to befriending rising artist Frida Kahlo and taking up political causes that will sweep him into the United States and it's growing involvement with World War II. Kingsolver's take on how art can be influenced by politics and public opinion and the ultimate effect on those who pursue it seem to be as timely as Frida Kahlo's paintings are still to this day(November):
Edward Rutherfurd is known for his mega novels about the history of certain pivotal places around the world and his upcoming book takes quite a big bite from the cultural pie. New York follows several generations of families who seek their fortunes in the city that doesn't sleep for four centuries and mixes in a variety of historical figures such as Boss Tweed,Mrs. Astor and Mayor Koch.
Rutherford has been called "the modern Michener" due to his epic fictional takes on historical subjects but I don't think even James Michener dared to take Manhattan. If Rutherfurd can pull this off,he'll make his own unique mark with readers and pay tribute to one of the greatest cities on earth,quite the hat trick(November):
A SPLASH OF SATIRICAL COLOR
Eddie Russet lives in a world ruled by color,where people are ranked according to whatever singular shade they can see. Even tho he's in the low ranked House of Red,Eddie hopes to get a better position in life in order to marry Constance Oxblood. All of that changes when he meets Jane,a Grey Nightseer,who opens his eyes to the real truth behind the collective color blindness surrounding them.
Jasper Fforde mixes whimsy with romance and conspiracies in Shades of Grey with his smartly stylish and suspenseful tone that many fans have come to know and love about his work. His stories may be set in an England both real and imagined,but their sharp take on society has universal appeal(December):
Whatever holiday you do or don't celebrate in the next couple of months ahead,I hope you have a good time with family and friends with some of these great books by your side. While it may be lovely weather for a sleigh ride together,it's also a wonderful excuse to curl up by the fire with something wonderful to read as well:
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