Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Year End Reading (and Giving) Recommendations

The fall Long Term is almost ended, and on tomorrow afternoon (at precisely 3:10 pm) we begin December break, oh blessed break!  Some folks will have a giving and getting holiday, some folks will have birthdays, and some folks will simply rejoice in the extra time to hit the library, home bookshelf or bookstore for some winter reading.  So, for your consideration, I offer this second annual list of "Books You Might Like to Give or Read," with teen and teen parent readers in mind.

All titles are in print and available at your local independent bookstore (Little Shop of Stories is ours) or online.  Title links go to more info in our Surpass Safari library catalog. If you'd like to borrow one or more for December break reading, come on in!


If your reader likes
contemporary fiction, the Internet, books, or ancient and mysterious societies:

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Book Shop  by Robin Sloan
(also in audiobook on CD and downloadable audiobook)

A favorite of the high school reading club (and New York Times readers), Mr. Penumbra is just plain old fun reading that also raises some big questions.  When an unemployed 20-something graphic designer (of the Google generation) takes a job in a old-fashioned bookstore with some decidedly odd customers and a whole off-limits section, curiosity trumps the rules and the power of the microchip solves centuries-old puzzles.  Will men or machines decipher the key to everything?

Mystery for book lovers: The Shadow of the Wind  by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.  A boy becomes the protector and patron of The Shadow of the Wind, a book from the Cemetery of Lost Books. As an adult he searches for the truth about the book's author and the mysterious man who is destroying all existing copies.  Zafon has written more novels about the Cemetery of Lost Books, but I haven't read any of them (yet).

For obsessive book lovers: Fangirl  by Rainbow Rowell.  Cath's entire world revolves around loving the Simon Snow series, but now that they are in college, twin sister Wren has moved on.  Can Cath grow up and move on too, if it means leaving safety and Simon Snow behind? 

Fun for book lovers: The Eyre Affair  by Jasper Fforde.  In the first Thursday Next novel, an evildoer has kidnapped Jane Eyre from her novel, and without a narrator, there's not much of a story.   Thursday's division of Literary Crimes is on the case, and about to change literary history.

~ ~

If your reader likes
romance, historical-ish fiction, or magical realism, religious mythology:

The Golem and the Jinni  by Helene Wecker
(also available in the ebook collection)

Two mythological beings, a masterless golem, made of European earth and an enchained jinni, a creature of desert and fire, become unlikely friends in exile. Struggling to make their way in 1899 New York, Chava and Ahmad try to fit in with their immigrant neighbors while masking their true selves.

More romance: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.  A sweet, painful and funny exploration of two "star-crossed misfits" finding first love. 

Magical realism: Snow in August by Pete Hamill.  A golem protects an Irish Catholic boy and a solitary rabbi from anti-Semitic toughs in 1947 Brooklyn; ebook also available.


If your reader likes
police/detective novels, stories of redemption, or stories about dogs (who don't die at the end!)

Suspect  by Robert Crais.

Maggie is an traumatized ex-Marine on the verge of washing out of her K9 training. Scott James is a wounded cop for whom the K9 unit is a last chance to stay with the force.  Both struggle with PTSD and physical damage, the German Shepherd from a sniper attack in Afghanistan, the cop from an unexpected midnight shootout that left his partner dead.  Scott chooses Maggie to be his partner, and everything, including their futures, hinges on their ability to heal while digging into the mystery of that fatal shootout.  Also available in the ebook collection

Historical mystery: Leaving Everything Most Loved  by Jacqueline Winspear.  In 1933 London, WWI nurse, psychologist and investigator Maisie Dobbs looks into the murder of a beautiful Indian immigrant.  Rich in the history of Europe between the Wars, this is the 10th in the compassionate and well-crafted Maisie Dobbs series.  Also available in the ebook collection

Murder mystery/thriller: I Hunt Killers  by Barry Lyga.  Small-town Jazz helps the police solve a series of murders that echo the style of his imprisoned father, the country's most notorious serial killer.  Also in the ebook collection.


If your reader likes
medieval-ish fantasy & romance, no-nonsense heroines, or assassin nuns (!)

A Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

The convent of Saint Mortain isn't your ordinary medieval Breton nunnery. After teenaged Ismae, a child of the God of Death, becomes a novice as escape from a brutal arranged marriage, the nuns train her in the arts of lethal poison and feminine wiles.  As a skilled assassin, Ismae is sent as a spy to the high court of Brittany, to protect and kill anyone who threatens the young Duchess, even if it's the gallant Duval, who has stolen Ismae's heart.  Dark Triumph is next. Both also available in the ebook collection.

More romantic fantasy: Days of Blood and Starlight  by Laini Taylor.  The battle between chimera and seraphim continues. Monster-apprentice Kairu, who loved and was betrayed by the angel Akiva, creates an army of revenants to combat Jael, the cruel emperor of the angels, before he succeeds in invading the human world.

Absurdly funny alternate history fantasy: The Woman Who Died A Lot  by Jasper Fforde.  In the continuing adventures of literary detective Thursday Next, an angry god threatens to smite all of downtown Swindon before young Tuesday perfects the Anti-Smite Shield, and the evil Jack Schitt has something up his sleeve besides a series of worthless stolen medieval manuscripts.


If your reader likes
psychology, neurology, marketing, the mysteries of human behaviour :

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business  by Charles Duhigg

Why are habits so hard to break?  How do marketers create and exploit habits to sell products?  NY Times business reporter Duhigg's book explores the neurological pathways created by repetitions of a cue--> routine--> reward loop that creates a craving for the reward, and how keeping same cue & reward, but changing the routine in between, can transform bad habits into good ones.  Using examples from Febreeze to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and gold medalist Michael Phelps, The Power of Habit makes ingrained behaviours really easy to understand, and a bit easier to change.

Natural history/meditation:  The Forest Unseen  by David George Haskell (also in the ebook collection).  Each journal entry in this year-long observation of a small patch of mountain forest (to be specific, Shakerag Hollow in my hometown of Sewanee, Tennessee) is part observation, part natural history lesson, and part meditation on the meaning of life.   The Forest Unseen has won numerous accolades, including nonfiction finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and 2013 Best Book Award from the National Academies of Science. Haskell is biology and environment professor at the University of the South in Sewanee.


If your reader likes
graphic novels, bizarre superpowers, continuing series, or oddball mysteries:

Chew  by John Layman and Rob Guillory

Special detective Tony Chu's superpower is cibopathy -- he gets psychic impressions from whatever he eats, which makes him stick to vegetables most of the time.  In the Special Crimes division of the FDA, the job requires a nibble of a murder victim every now and then, which is pretty gross but also solves the crime. The individual comics have been collected and published in 7 paperback volumes (to date). Volume 1 is  Taster's Choice.

Graphic novel with a paranormal twist: Mind the Gap by Jim McCann.  Young, rich, beautiful, and lying in a coma after being attacked in a Tube station, Elle Peterssen's spirit detaches from her body. Trapped between life and death, Elle tries to find out who was behind her attack, and why.  The first story arc is collected in paperback Volumes 1-3, and the series continues.

Humor:  Tina's Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary  by Keshni Kashyap.  Sophomore Tina Malhotra captures the cliques and ironies of her tony private school, and the foibles of her upper class intellectual Indian American family, through a year-long "existential diary" addressed to one J.P. Sartre.

Historical Fiction:  Boxers and Saints  by Gene Luen Yang.  In separate volumes, Yang shows the intersecting lives of Little Bao, who joins the violent uprising against interfering Christian missionaries, and of Vibiana, an unwanted fourth child, who has found a home with the Christians and inspiration in Saint Joan.

What books would you like to give or receive this winter?  Enjoy your December break to the fullest, and leave your recommendations in the comments.

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