Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Few Book Giving Ideas for Teens and Adults

Our elementary librarian creates annual gift-giving guides for elementary-aged readers, but I get stumped.  There are so many terrific books every year, and reading is so personal.  How to create a single list that's manageable and that can actually be written in a day??  Personal roadblocks aside, this year I'm going to throw out a few book-giving ideas -- recently published titles that I liked a lot (reading is personal, remember :-) and that might hit the spot with different readers.   An online reader's consultation of sorts.  Here goes . . .     (links go to Paideia Library catalog records)

If your reader likes
video games, puzzles, science fiction, or action conspiracies 
(or was young in the 1980s):

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.

The year is 2044, the real world is a mess and the safest place to be is in the OASIS, a vast virtual universe (or "shared synthetic environment") created by the late visionary geek genius James Halliday. Halliday's last message revealed an "Easter egg," a secret message deeply hidden in the OASIS.  The first person to find the Easter egg will inherit Halliday's entire massive fortune, including the OASIS itself.  Overweight, lone teenager Wade Watts by chance finds the first key, and suddenly the world, including a murderous mercenary corporation, races to solve Halliday's puzzle.  May the best player (well versed in classic arcade games, lines from John Hughes movies, and Dungeons & Dragons trivia) survive.

Readalikes: Little Brother (2010) by Cory Doctorow; Circuit of Heaven (1999) by Dennis Danvers
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If your reader likes
complex graphic novels, mermaids, or brooding fantasy:
Sailor Twain, or, The Mermaid in the Hudson
by Mark Siegel.

 A lonely, middle-aged riverboat captain rescues, then falls in love with a mermaid, while remaining faithful to a wife back home.  The well-liked French riverboat owner suddenly disappears, while his reprobate brother embarks on a manic mission to court seven lovers at once.  And a reclusive best-selling author decides to make a public debut, shattering all assumptions about his true identity.  Love, humanity, identity and wholeness collide with mythology and an ancient curse as the Mermaid of the Hudson's plan ensnares them all.

More complex graphic novels: Homeland Directive by Robert Venditti, or  Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan (2008)
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If your reader likes
high fantasy, dragons, medieval settings, mysteries, or romance:

Seraphina  by Rachel Hartman

Forty years ago, dragons and humankind signed a peace treaty.  Dragons, in human form, now live among men in Goredd, but as second-class citizens; peace has not brought them equality.  Seraphina, outwardly the gifted new assistant court composer, hides her secret self from the world, for half-dragons, though believed to be impossible,  are also illegal and outlawed as an abomination.  As the anniversary of the treaty approaches, anti-dragon factions are agitating, the heir to the throne is found murdered ( dragon-style -- his head was bitten off), and Seraphina becomes involved in royal intrigue through her student Princess Glisselda, and Selda's bethrothed, the compassionate, intelligent and very attractive Prince Kiggs.  If dragons do rise up and return to war, where does that leave Seraphina?

Other unexpected fantasy novels:  The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson; Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor.
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If your reader likes
psychology, business, self-improvement or is an introvert (or in a relationship with one):

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking
by Susan Cain.

Oh, how I loved this book, because it's about me (and approximately a third to half of the Western world).  Do you often look forward to staying in on Friday and Saturday nights to re-energize after a week at work or school?  Would you rather say nothing than fight (or talk over folks) to get a word in edgewise?  Do you have a horror of collaborative group work, preferring to work on projects on your own?  You might just be an introvert.  Cain's argument is that by idealizing the Extrovert (energetic, quick decision-making, talk-then-think) personality, American culture misses out on the leadership and creative potential of the non-talking, thoughtful and deliberate Introverts in school, business and government.  Introverts can become outgoing and assertive when involved in an area in which they are passionately interested, and as leaders are likely to foster and nurture talent rather than insist on the limelight for themselves.  Are you an Introvert married to an Extrovert, or an outgoing parent with a quiet child?  She also has much to say about negotiating successful relationships with a person of the opposite personality type (be it parental, romantic or business).

Related non-fiction: Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney, and Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative  by Austin Kleon.
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For lovers of straight-up narrative non-fiction (truth that reads like a story):

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: 
Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity  by Katherine Boo.

A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist documents the struggle for survival in a Bombay slum.  I have not yet gotten to this book -- it's been checked out by one of the library's most dedicated and voracious customers, who reports back that it's fabulous (but very sad).  It's also on any number of "Best Books of 2012" lists including the New York Times', so I'm confident in recommending it.

Right now I am reading  The Black Count, a biography of the original Alex Dumas, the mixed-race son of a white French aristocrat and a black Carribbean slave.  Dumas received a gentleman's education in France, and rose through the military ranks to become a successful Revolutionary general, only to fall afoul of Napoleon, be imprisoned and die young. What's fascinating, aside from the amazing success of a black man in white aristocratic France, is that this Alex Dumas was the father of Alexandre Dumas, author of such swashbuckling tales as The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo.
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And if your reader likes contemporary, modern fiction:

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk  by Ben Fountain

An Iraq War novel that's not about the war at all.  Enduring their 15 minutes of fame after being broadcast on CNN during a firefight with the enemy, the 8 surviving members of Bravo Squad are stateside starring in a government-sponsored dog-and-pony show, otherwise known as a "Victory Tour."  The absurdity culminates on Thanksgiving Day, with the squad's participation (behind a booty-shaking Beyonc√© and Destiny's Child) in the Dallas Cowboys halftime show.  In real time, the entire book happens in one day, following the actions and thoughts of 19-year-old Billy, older and wiser in one year as a soldier than the kid who chose the army over jail.  Nina leven, wore on terrRr, eye-Rack, currj, acks of sack-rih-fice, dih-mock-cruh-see, ire way of life --  congratulatory gushing of wealthy football patrons and jingoistic fans who celebrate and encourage Billy, Bravo and the war from their comfortable distance.  Famous or not, Bravo's victory is shorty and tomorrow (the true meaning of Black Friday??) their 15 minutes is over and it's back to war.

And if you are a reader fascinated by recommended and "best of the year" lists, check out these  compiled 'best books' lists from the EarlyWord blog.  Separated into Adult fiction, Adult non-fiction and Children's best books, the Excel spreadsheets list books included on 16 influential consumer and library lists, including National Book Award and New York Times lists, and which books appear on which lists (and the overlap).

What was your favorite book of 2012?  Any 2013 releases you're anxiously awaiting??

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