Off the Shelf – Just in time for Christmas

Listen here.

Books are an excellent gift to give someone, but it’s actually pretty hard to pick books for other people. I have often had people give me books as gifts and while I certainly appreciate the gesture – I am, after all, addicted to books – those gifts have often languished on my tbr shelf for eons. My brother Mark gave me a book literally five years ago and I still haven’t read it. Sorry, Mark. I am sure it’s a very good book.

So, now it seems ridiculous that I am going to offer some books suggestions for the bibliophile on your list – but there you have it.

i think i love youSo, David Cassidy just died. My poor heart could barely stand it…but the last few years have not been kind to him. If you loved him, though, or you know someone who loved him – I highly recommend Allison Pearson’s novel I Think I Love You. It’s the story of 13-year-old Petra, a Welsh girl in love with David Cassidy during the time when he was the biggest star on the planet. And yes – there was a time when he was just that. It’s also the story of Bill, a young writer who has been hired to work for The Essential David Cassidy Magazine, not just write for it but to be David himself. It’s just a lovely story about being young, being in love…and it will be total nostalgia for women of a certain age. It’s a great little book.

And, hey, while we’re talking about death…Emma Cline’s novel These Girls is a gripping read for anyone interested in Charles Manson. This is a fictional account of a young girl, Edie, who meets a group of older girls and falls under their spell. They take her out to the desert where they have this commune led by the charismatic Russell. And the story unravels and we pretty much know how it turns out. It’s a page-turner, though, and the writing is terrific.

If you’re looking for a meaningful book to give to mature teenagers, I highly recommend hate Angie Thomas’ debut novel The Hate U Give. This title might be familiar because it’s been on everyone’s radar and for very good reason. It’s the story of Starr, a 16 year old African American girl who loves with her siblings (one older half-brother and a younger brother) and her parents in Garden Heights, an inner city neighbourhood. Starr and her siblings attend a predominantly white school in a better part of town and so Starr straddles two very different worlds. Then tragedy strikes and Starr must face up to the prejudice that she always knew existed. It’s so important that teens be exposed to diverse books and this book was just eye-opening, heartbreaking and  it’s important. I actually think it should be read by everybody…and there’s a movie in the works so I definitely encourage people to read it before that happens.

thornhillFor middle grade readers, I recommend Thornhill by Pam Smy. It’s a hybrid novel – so it’s both pictures and text – and it tells the story of two pre-teen girls separated by 25 years. In text we read Mary’s diary about her time at Thornhill, a sort of half-way house for girls waiting for adoption or fostering. Mary’s an odd, silent child, who spends her time mostly alone making puppets and avoiding one of her housemates who is doing her best to make Mary miserable. In pictures only we meet Ella, who moves into a new house with her dad, and her bedroom happens to look out on the shell of Thornhill. She becomes curious about what happened there and the mysterious girl she sees in the garden. It’s a mystery, it’s sort of spooky and it’s also sort of sad, but very accessible for middle-grade readers…say 11-13.

As for me, there’s a few books I hope Santa puts under the tree.

I am looking forward to reading Celest Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere. You may remember me gushing about Everything I Never Told You a few months ago. I loved that book sooo much – if you haven’t read that, definitely put that on your wish list. Little Fires Everywhere is “Both an intricate and captivating portrait of an eerily perfect suburban town with its dark undertones not-quite-hidden from view and a powerful and suspenseful novel about motherhood… Ng explores the complexities of adoption, surrogacy, abortion, privacy, and class, questioning all the while who earns, who claims, and who loses the right to be called a mother.”  – Publishers Weekly

I am also hoping to read Gabriel Tallent’s novel My Absolute Darling which has earned rave reviews and also cautions about its difficult subject matter. There are also a few books about books that I would love to get my hands on: My Life With Bob by Pamela Paul, a memoir from a woman who kept a record of every book she’s ever read…so Bob is not a person, but a book of books. I’d also like to get my hands on Reading with Patrick by Michelle Kuo, which is about the relationship between the author and a former student who is in jail for murder. As an English teacher, I am fascinated by any books that deal with the notion that reading can change lives…and this one sounds like a winner.

I am hoping for a few quiet hours over the holidays to catch up on some reading.

 

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