Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Books to Love, Books to Share

A while ago a bookseller friend of mine asked on his Facebook page the question "what book or books do you buy multiple copies of, to have on hand to pass out to friends?"

I offered a title but in truth I don't do this although I think it's a great idea. I definitely have my short list of go-to's of favorite titles to suggest when asked. But favorites are so personal, and just because I loved it doesn't mean someone else will, so I guess I hesitate to think of any book as a one-size-fits-all.

Nonetheless I am now going to tell you about some books I should carry around in multiples and pass out all the time. You might keep these in mind for holiday gifts as well.

The Wedding of Zein, by Tayeb Salih. This short comic novel about a misfit and his nuptials is pure delight. It's small enough that you could carry it around.

Dinner, by C├ęsar Aira. Zombies and single men in a small town in Argentina. Funny, crazy, ridiculous.
It's great.

Prophets of Eternal Fjord, by Kim Leine. An immersive
historical novel set in Greenland in the 19th century, this tale of a preacher going to convert indigenous people is fascinating, raw and unforgettable.

The Missing Year of Juan Salvatierra, by Pedro Mairal. Juan Salvatierra was a mute and an artist; his sole work was a huge painting that he worked on for his entire adult life. When he dies, his son tries to find a single scroll of the painting representing a year of his father's life. What he finds, what he loses and what he finds out roll out in a simple and beautiful story. It turns out sometimes the trees must be gone in order to find the forest.

Hild, by Nicola Griffith. Another long and immersive historical novel, this time
set in England, about a little girl who grows into a saint- but has to get through girlhood first. I've seldom read such a gripping and detailed account either of early Britain or what it's like to grow up female.

The Son, by Phillip Meyer. A multigenerational tale set in Texas from the beginning to the end of the 20th century, this book deserves to be a classic. It's violent and charged-up as well as heartbreaking and full of insight into what makes us human.

Double Cross, by Ben Macintyre. I love Ben Macintyre's books about espionage and intrigue- all of them- but this is the best, in terms of scope and detail and range. This is nonfiction about some of the spies who helped the Allies plan and execute the D-Day invasion of Normandy- and the stuff is stranger than fiction, from the guy who invented non-existent Welsh nationalists to the carrier pigeons who sent information back and forth over enemy lines. And Macintyre's writing sparkles, as usual, and brings it all to life like it's happening right now.

And if you love reading about espionage you have to read Code Girls, by Liza Mundy, about the American women who were a crucial part of the war effort, decoding Axis messages right here in this country. What a fascinating and gripping story.

Last but by no means least, The Moonflower Vine, by Jetta
Carleton, is a rediscovered classic that deserves to be discovered again and again. It's the story of a 1930s Missouri family told from the point of view of each character and the narratives wrap around each other and laying bare their secrets, their shames and the love that pulses through their veins. This was a staff pick of mine in my bookselling days and did very, very well with my customers- it's the kind of book you want to share with a friend, and people did come back to buy multiple copies for friends after reading it. You might too.

So I picked these by going through my LibraryThing books for five-star ratings and then saying "yeah, that one." Very scientific. Nonetheless there you go.

1 comment:

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

These are exactly the sort of books that I love best.

I've often thought about periodically sharing books from the past that I still think about on my blog.