Chances are, you're still on the hunt for the perfect gift for more than one person on your list this year. Let us help you out! The BookPage 2013 Holiday Catalog is filled with more than 150 books that are sure to delight readers of all ages and interests.
Whether you're looking for the latest blockbuster mysteries, award-winning fiction, the hottest YA novels, colorful picture books, scrumptious cookbooks, awesome audio books or utterly intriguing nonfiction, we've got you covered. The hardest part just may end up being having to narrow down all of the choices!
But we won't delay you any further—go ahead and dive right in!
Award-winning author Richard Holmes is well known for his biographies of Romantic poets, as well as his 2009 bestseller, The Age of Wonder. In his latest book, Falling Upwards, Holmes turns his attention to the fascinating history of ballooning, documenting more than two centuries of experiments and explorations in aeronautics, anchored with a dash of autobiography. Our reviewer declares: "Erudite and chatty, this is a book for everyone who has ever dreamed of flying." (Read the full review here.)
We were curious about the books Holmes has been reading lately, so we asked him to recommend three recent favorites, which he graciously agreed to share:
For nearly 40 years I have written biographies of Romantic poets, but in the last decade I have become fascinated by biographies of Romantic scientists. It turns out that they are an equally wild bunch of characters! In fact there are many similarities between them—the idea of the brilliant “creative moment” is common to both groups, and so is a certain kind of inner solitude and daring. I am always on the lookout for unusual imaginative ways of exploring this endlessly intriguing (and relevant) subject. So here are three of my current favorites, each using quite different approaches to the Life Scientific: autobiography, fiction, poetry.
HOW A CHILD BECOMES A SCIENTIST
Edited by John Brockman
I keep diving back into this collection of 27 quirky autobiographical essays, each about 10 pages long, in which distinguished modern scientists do something very unusual for them: They look back at their own childhoods and try to define what first set them ticking. They include Richard Dawkins reading Doctor Doolittle books in South Africa; the cosmologist Paul C.W. Davies seeing the star Sirius glimmering through winter trees; and Mary Bateson learning genetic circuit patterns while putting up Christmas tree lights. Other notable memories come from Freeman Dyson, Lynn Margulis and Steven Pinker—who characteristically doubts the psychological authenticity of the whole project. Uneven in writing quality, but endlessly intriguing and often disarmingly funny.
By Andrea Barrett
I first discovered Andrea Barrett through her haunting novel of 19th century polar exploration, The Voyage of the Narwhal. But then I found she also wrote short stories about scientists, which seemed even more intense and thought-provoking. Barrett has the gift of making science history feel extraordinarily fresh, moody, sexy and strange. Here, you will meet old Carl Linnaeus and his “English Pupil” in wintry Sweden; young Alfred Russell Wallace going mad in the steaming Amazon; or the idealistic Victorian doctor Lauchlin Grant (who is pure fiction among several authentic historical characters) struggling on a remote Canadian quarantine island with a public cholera epidemic (emigrants from the Irish famine) and private heartbreak. Absolutely gripping. I now see that this won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1996, and I’m not surprised. I also hear Barrett has a new collection, Archangel, just out this fall. I can’t wait.
DARWIN: A LIFE IN POEMS
By Ruth Padel
Having clambered through several huge scholarly biographies of Charles Darwin during his recent bicentenary, I was delighted and astonished to come across this wonderful, short, quicksilver book. It is nothing less than an intimate look at the life of the great naturalist in 160 pages—but written entirely as a sequence of poems. Brilliantly inspired by Darwin’s own letters, often in Darwin’s own imagined voice, its emotional center is Darwin’s stoic marriage, shaken by the divisive problem of his wife Emma’s religious beliefs, and torn by the terrible death of their 10-year-old daughter Annie. There is plenty here to give both Evolutionist and Creationist something to think about, and from a new perspective. It turns out that distinguished poet Ruth Padel is not only a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the Zoological Society (London), but also Darwin’s great-great-granddaughter. Well, that’s Inheritance of Acquired Characteristics for you.
Get ready to add to your TBR stack! The LibraryReads December list is out and features 10 books coming out next month that have librarians across the country buzzing and eager to share with their patrons.
Topping the list is romance maven Sarah MacLean's latest addition to her best-selling Rules for Scoundrels series, No Good Duke Goes Unpunished (coming 11/26). Check out our interview with MacLean in which she dishes about her affinity for historic romances and the giant, juicy secret that's revealed in the book. (Don't worry—no spoilers.)
Whether you're craving a well-crafted mystery or a compelling memoir—or just about anything else—the LibraryReads December list offers an eclectic mix of options. Is there one you're especially looking forward to reading?
Every sentence has a truth waiting at the end of it and the writer learns how to know it when he finally gets there.
• Don DeLillo •
Do you have a favorite Don DeLillo book?
In an imaginative prelude to Charles Dickens' acclaimed classic, Great Expectations, Scottish novelist Ronald Frame allows readers a glimpse into the life of Catherine Havisham, a character who has chilled readers with her dour and ghostly literary presence for well over a century.
With Havisham, Frame nimbly explores what some could call hallowed literary ground—we first meet Catherine as the precocious child of a wealthy brewer and follow her through her years of growth and social refinement. Yet it is Frame's detailed account of her (infamous) relationship with the roguish Charles Compeyson that makes us truly sorry for saying such ugly things about her in our high school English classes.
Our reviewer Elizabeth Atwood gave high praise: "An excellent example of a present-day writer taking on a classic, Havisham gives the reader food for thought while reviving one of the great characters of Victorian literature."
Sounds like a true book nerd's story to us! Watch the stylish trailer below:
What do you think, readers? Have you picked up a copy of Havisham yet?
It was an exceptional year for mysteries and thrillers! Plenty of murder, tortured heroes and globe-hopping from here to Venice—and beyond. Read on for the 10 best mysteries and thrillers of the year, as chosen by Whodunit columnist Bruce Tierney and the editors of BookPage.
Starring an antihero detective with no fixed identity, Hobbs' debut thriller is “what the mystery novel would look like if Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had decided that Moriarty was his central character." Noted editor Gary Fisketjon handled the project, and film rights have already been sold.
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Read our full review of The Golden Egg.
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Read our review of A Delicate Truth.
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Read our review of The Abomination.
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Read our full review of How the Light Gets In.
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Read our review of Tatiana.
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Read our review of Death of a Nightingale.
Readers, share in the comments below: What are your favorite 2013 mysteries ad thrillers?
Diane Setterfield's debut, The Thirteenth Tale, was a smashing success with both critics and readers when it was published in 2006. It may have been seven long years since then, but it looks like her follow-up, Bellman & Black, was well worth the wait. Our reviewer describes the book as, "a slow-burning, creepily realistic tale, woven together with practical but often magically transformative prose," and concludes with: "Quite simply, Setterfield has done it again." (Read the full review here.)
We were curious about the books Setterfield has been reading lately, so we asked her to recommend three recent favorites, which she graciously agreed to share:
By Andrew Miller
My love of France and my fascination with graveyards are what drew me to this book—and the fact that my sister, whose opinion I value above all others, was raving about it. It turned out to be my read of the year. The material is dark, the characters vividly alive and the history as fresh and present as my own life. But what really enamored me was the prose: so delicious I wanted to lick the pages.
By Mark Cocker
This book was meant to be research for me, but it quickly turned into one of those reads you remember for decades. Mark Cocker writes like a poet, and we're used to novels that sound poetic, but this is not a novel. When nonfiction is crafted as beautifully as this, it reaches a whole new level. Rooks and crows reveal their magic and their mystery, and Cocker knows how to share his fascination in a way that transforms our sense of our own humanity.
GIVING UP THE GHOST
By Hilary Mantel
Everyone is reading Hilary Mantel's Cromwell series, and so they should: it's magnificent. But don't let that prevent you from looking elsewhere in her work. There is no one like Mantel for understanding the many ways in which human beings can be haunted, and her memoir is packed with ghostly moments, where the border between what is and what is not becomes transparent thanks to the precision and thoughtfulness of her prose. It is genius, and she makes it look like simplicity itself.
Patchett's latest book, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage, is a collection of essays that spans her 20-year career and covers a wide range of topics, including her attempt to get into the L.A. Police Academy and her love of opera. According to our reviewer, each chapter is "told in simple, appealing prose that feels like a phone conversation with a good friend." (Read the full review.)
We were curious about the books Patchett has been reading lately, so we asked her to recommend three recent favorites, which she graciously agreed to share:
My husband is a doctor, and so a lot of his friends are doctors. They work together in a hospital; they have their own lunchroom. When they get stuck trying to figure out what's wrong with a patient, they call each other to talk through the possibilities and get advice. It's not so different for writers. While we don't all work in the same place (unless we live in Brooklyn), we bounce ideas off one another. We seek solace and advice through letters, emails, phone calls and through reading one another's books. Three of my best friends have novels out now, and they've all been to my bookstore, Parnassus Books in Nashville, while on tour. It's no surprise my favorite books of late were written by my favorite people (listed in order of pub dates).
This is the sequel to the very successful The Apothecary. Maile wrote two novels and two collections of short stories for adults (all fantastic) before turning her considerable talents to middle school children. I have almost no ability to read fiction for young people, a shortcoming, I know, but I found these books riveting. Maile brings the full force of her extraordinary intelligence and imagination to bear on magical, scientific and geo-political themes. Plus the boy gets the girl.
People have a tendency to believe that the first book of yours they read was also the first book you wrote, so many readers who were introduced to Liz through Eat, Pray, Love (there were more than 8 million of them) neglected to notice that she had already written three other books before that, two of them fiction. So while it may come as a surprise to some that her new book is a complicated and brilliant novel about a 19th-century botanist who is devoted to moss, those of us who have read all her books always knew she had it in her. (Read our interview with Gilbert about The Signature of All Things.)
by Donna Tartt
Donna once told me the reason her books take so long to write (her last one, The Little Friend, was published 12 years ago) is that they are about as long as three regular novels. They are certainly three times as complex as a regular novel, and about 10 times as ambitious (and maybe 20 times as beautiful). David Copperfield as nothing on her hero, Theo, who is spun out into the world by a terrorist attack with nothing but one perfect painting to hold himself together. It's a classic.
What do you think, readers? Will you be checking out This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage or any of Patchett’s recommended books?
Was it the universal audience for Harry Potter that struck the final blow between the boundary between children's and adult literature? If any part of it remains, it's pretty porous these days. Although writing for both audiences is hardly new (Judy Blume's Wifey, anyone?) it's become increasingly common in the last decade, as authors from Harlan Coben and James Patterson to Joyce Carol Oates have started dipping their toes into middle-grade and YA. Children's authors have been equally willing to cross that line in the other direction—think Ann Brashares or Melissa Marr.
Next February, two more will make the leap. Patrick Ness, an American author living in London who has won the Carnegie Medal twice for his work for teens. In his first adult novel, The Crane Wife (Penguin Press), which was published in April in the UK to rave reviews, Crane draws inspiration from a Japanese myth to inject a little bit of magic into the prosaic life of George, a middle-aged shop owner. Favorite character: Amanda, George's opinionated 20-something daughter, whose conversations with her bitchy Queen Bee friend Rachel are a delight. (You can read an excerpt from The Crane Wife here.)
Matthew Olshan's Marshlands (FSG) also has a hint of parable to it. Part allegory, part fable, it's the story of Gus, a man released from captivity in a foreign land to return home disoriented and alone. The novel then goes back to the beginning, before Gus' captivity—and to his first meeting with the woman who will become his savior. Olshan purposely blurs the boundaries between "us" and "them" to show that in conflict, there are no real winners. He also ably captures the appeal of the tribal culture. It's a big switch from his previous project, The Mighty LaLouche, a picture book that he collaborated on with illustrator Sophie Blackall—and would certainly be a stretch even for the readers of his works for teens, Finn and The Flown Sky.
While the more commercial authors seem to see branching out into YA or adult literature as a way of expanding their brand, the more literary ones seem to view it as a way to expand their writing muscles. Are you intrigued when an author changes genres?
Earlier this year, author L. Marie Adeline wrote a guest blog post for The Book Case about S.E.C.R.E.T., the first book in her new series that takes erotic romance in a whole different direction while still packing plenty of heat. Unlike the wildly popular Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, in S.E.C.R.E.T., the women are in charge.
At the center of the series is a secret society that helps women struggling with self-esteem issues gain confidence through sexual reawakening. The first book details the sexual journey of Cassie Robichaud as she transforms from shy and lonely to possessing a true passion for life.
With its fresh approach, S.E.C.R.E.T. flew off the shelves, becoming an international bestseller. And now it's time for round two: S.E.C.R.E.T. Shared, which picks up where the first book leaves off. It's Cassie's turn to guide the newest recruit, Dauphine, through her own journey.
Our reviewer says of S.E.C.R.E.T. Shared:
At its heart, S.E.C.R.E.T. is about women helping women. Yes, it’s about women learning to fully embrace their sex lives, but, almost more importantly, it’s about these women realizing their self-worth and figuring out—and going after—what they really want in life. Though self-discovery is not a new theme for erotica, a female lead relying on a supportive community of women to achieve it is unique.
What do you say, readers? Did you read the first book? Will you be reading this second one? Does the female-centric angle sway you one way or the other? We have two copies of S.E.C.R.E.T. Shared to give away. All you have to do to enter is answer any (or all) of these questions in a comment below by the end of the day on Friday. We'll randomly select two winners from among the comments. Official rules are here.