IT’S THE HOLIDAY SEASON! Hanukkah begins the evening of December 7th, the Winter Solstice is celebrated on December 21st, Christmas arrives on the 25th, and Kwanzaa begins on December 26th. In celebration of the upcoming holidays, many readers choose books for holiday gifts this season—including everything from classic Christmas tales to romance novels. Even if the plot doesn’t center around a holiday, reading a book during December usually evokes a cozy feeling, and it doesn’t hurt to play some holiday music to set the mood! Celebrate with books!
The Worlds I See by Fei-Fei Li | Biography
The Worlds I See: Curiosity, Exploration, and Discovery at the Dawn of AI is a personal journey from a Chinese immigrant childhood to an Artificial Intelligence scientist working at the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence. The memoir weaves her personal narrative with the history and development of AI. The Stanford Institute is developing technology for using AI to enhance human capabilities rather than replace them and consider the potential impact on humans when developing new technology.
The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store* by James McBride | Historical Fiction
The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store is set in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, and explores how a sense of community and humanity can overcome bigotry, hypocrisy, and deceit. The grocery store served the neighborhood’s quirky collection of African Americans and European Jewish immigrants as they lived side by side, sharing ambitions and sorrows. The story was inspired by the Jewish teachings of “tikkun olam,” which translates to the actions one takes to “repair” or improve the world.
*Selected as “The Barnes & Noble Book of the Year” (The book of the year is based on a variety of factors, including the book’s quality of writing, originality, and its ability to resonate with readers. )
The Professor by Lauren Nossett | Murder Mystery
The Professor is a mystery about power, ambition, and the lengths we will go to to succeed. A student is discovered in his apartment, dead, apparently by his own hand, but the media has caught the whiff of a scandal. His professor has been taken in for questioning, and there are rumors his death is the result of a bad romance. This campus crime plunges a driven young detective into the shadowy depths of Greek life. A Title IX investigation is opened, the professor is suspended, and social media crusaders and trolls alike are out for blood.
The Fiction Writer by Jillian Cantor | Mystery
The Fiction Writer is inspired by the true story of Daphne du Maurier and her battle with the plagiarism of her novel, Rebecca. The story follows a writer who published a re-telling of Rebecca, titled Becky, that led her to be hired by a handsome billionaire as a ghostwriter about his family history that he believes is the original Rebecca story. She is drawn into a tangled web of obsession, marital secrets, and stolen manuscripts. This page-turner explores the boundaries of creative writing freedom and whose stories we have the right to tell.
The Berry Pickers by Amanda Peters | Literary Fiction
The Berry Pickers is a stunning debut novel about love, race, brutality, and the balm of forgiveness. A four-year-old girl goes missing from the blueberry fields of Maine, sparking a tragic mystery that haunts the survivors, unravels a community, and remains unsolved for nearly fifty years. There are no surprises or shocks, but The Berry Pickers is a steady-paced page-turner. It is a riveting story about the search for truth, the shadow of trauma, and the persistence of love across time.
The Last Caretaker by Jessica Strawser | Thriller
The Last Caretaker is a timely, engaging tale about battered women seeking to start over with new identities. Although it’s fiction, it is inspired by true stories of women everywhere. The Last Caretaker** is the story of a young woman fleeing a difficult past who stumbles upon a network of safe houses for domestic violence victims. The book is that rare combination of a page-turning thriller and an issue-driven book with deep resonance.
**The caretaker is a resident in the wilderness at a remote nature reserve managed by a college friend who is in desperate need to fill the caretaker position immediately. The manager’s friend accepts the job.
Roman Stories by Jhumpa Lahiri | Short Stories Fiction
Roman Stories comprises of nine narratives featuring characters ranging from affluent expatriates and native Romans to recent refugees and immigrants who struggle to assimilate into Rome’s often unwelcoming society. The author deliberately uses the term “foreigner” to encompass a range of perspectives on newness and the challenge of straddling worlds and cultures.
In Case You Missed It: Here’s Sandy’s reading list from December 2022!
The Queen: Her Life by Andrew Morton | Biography
The Queen: Her Life is a well-researched, insightful, nostalgic read by the royal biographer Andrew Morton. It is a candid look into the private side of Elizabeth, who delights in her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, horses, and dogs. She also has a fantastic sense of humor. The book ends with England planning for Elizabeth to be the first monarch to celebrate her platinum anniversary.
The Women of Rothschild by Natalie Livingstone | History
The Women of Rothschild gives a strong voice to the women who played a huge role in the financial growth of this iconic family and yet whose significant contributions have been seriously overlooked for generations. Drawing on archives, memoirs, and published sources, the book focuses on the British branch of the family, examining eight generations whose influence reached into politics, literature, and social reform.
The Light We Carry by Michelle Obama | Self-Help
The Light We Carry is part self-help and part memoir. Obama shares her personal life stories with readers to advise others who might be facing similar challenges in these uncertain times. This book would make a great holiday gift for yourself or others – timely as it might help the reader set New Year’s goals/intentions. There are great reviews for the audiobook, which is read by Obama.
Faith Still Moves Mountains by Harris Faulkner | Christian Living
Faith Still Moves Mountains focuses on the power of prayer and spotlights inspirational stories illustrating the miracles of faith. Faulkner details how faith influenced her own life and offers moving examples of devotion from others. The book includes an exclusive packet of newly written prayers that will provide a road map for putting the lessons of these stories into action.
Smitten Kitchen Keepers by Deb Perelman | Cookbook
Smitten Kitchen Keepers presents 100 recipes that aim to make shopping easier, with preparation more practical and enjoyable and food more reliably delicious for the home cook. These recipes are obsessively tested to ensure no bowls are wasted, and the results are always worth the effort. These are the fail-safe, satisfying recipes you’ll rely on for years to come!
**A “BON APPETIT” BEST COOKBOOK OF THE YEAR**
No Filter by Paulina Porizkova | Memoir
No Filter: The Good, The Bad and the Beautiful is a heartfelt memoir by former Czechoslovakian model Paulina Porizkova. The book is a wise and compelling exploration of heartbreak, grief, beauty, aging, relationships, re-invention, and finding your purpose. Porizkova bares her soul and shares the lessons she’s learned—often the hard way. After a lifetime of being looked at, she is ready to be heard.
CLASSIC: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte | Historical Fiction
Since its publication in 1847, Jane Eyre has fascinated every kind of reader, from the most critical and cultivated to the youngest and most unabashedly romantic. It lives as one of the great triumphs of storytelling and as a moving and unforgettable portrayal of a woman’s quest for self-respect. Adapted on film in 1947 with Orson Wells and Joan Fontaine; 1996, Directed by Franco Zeffirelli; and a 2006 BBC four-part mini-series.
In Case You Missed It: Here’s Sandy’s reading list from December 2021!
The Power of Women by Dr. Denis Mukwege – Nonfiction
The Power of Women confronts sexual violence used as a weapon of war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The book illuminates the enduring strength of women in the face of violence and trauma, giving hope for the potential to make the world a safer place for women.
These Precious Days by Ann Patchett – Collection of Essays
These Precious Days is a personal collection of essays that reflect on the unexpected turns in life that we do not see coming. The title essay is about a surprising and unexpected friendship that explores finding someone with whom you can be your best and most complete self.
The Chancellor by Kati Marton – Biography
The Chancellor details the remarkable rise and political brilliance of Angela Merkel, the most powerful and elusive woman in the world. Merkel was a complete outsider, a research chemist and pastor’s daughter raised in East Germany, who became the unofficial leader of the West.
The Christmas Pig by J.K. Rowling – Fantasy
The Christmas Pig is a holiday fantasy about a boy who loses his beloved stuffed pig the day before Christmas and goes to “The Land of the Lost” to get it back. Through his adventures, the boy learns that loss is part of life and that what was lost can always live on in our hearts.
Never by Ken Follett – Fiction/Thriller
Never is the story of how World War III could happen with Africa, France, America, Korea, and China all playing out what they “believe” to be true. The book is full of heroines and villains, false prophets and elite warriors, jaded politicians, and opportunistic revolutionaries. In the United States, the first woman President does everything she can to avoid war.
Going There by Katie Couric – Memoir
Going There is a candid biography of Katie Couric’s humble beginnings to the historic anchor chair at the CBS Evening News. In a world rife with sexism and misogyny, Couric reveals what was going on behind the scenes of her sometimes tumultuous personal and professional life.
The Judge’s List by John Grisham – Fiction /Mystery
The Judge’s List builds on characters introduced in Grisham’s 2016 novel, The Whistler. A sitting judge is suspected of being a serial killer, and he has a list with the names of his victims and targets, all unsuspecting people unlucky enough to have crossed his path and wronged him.