Holiday Odd Shelf

It’s been almost a month since my last post. Anyone who does NaNoWriMo is probably not too surprised not to have seen me. I also had a substantive editing deadline to meet with Jolly Fish, working around full-time projects with a children’s magazine.

All in all, it’s been a crazy, crazy month.

But not so busy that I don’t have a list of books to share with you. For two reasons. A week or so ago, my mom remarked that she didn’t know how I had time to read with everything else I was doing. I answered (and this is reason number one), “I find time to read for the same reason you would still go to the gym even if you lost your job.” (My mother is half-bionic fitness instructor and manager in one of the world’s largest gym chains). My mom knew immediately what I meant. She smiled. “Because you love it,” she said.

Yeah, I love it. I try not to force my love for reading on anyone else, but I, in complete honesty, don’t understand people who don’t. My brain works in a different, foundational way than someone who hates books.

The second reason is because I have an hour-long commute by train to get to the magazine office I work at. Both ways. I will not complain if for some reason I have a public transportation commute for the rest of my life. It’s guilt-free reading time, that’s what it is. I have to get to work, and I don’t have to concentrate on driving, so it’s perfect.

So if you’re wondering if there are any good books out to get your friends for Christmas, or if you need a nice novel yourself to curl up with during the holidays, I’m here to recommend some of the better ones I’ve read recently. I also read a few stinkers that you should absolutely avoid, but I won’t mention those.


Me Before You

This one’s for the romantics (as I hopelessly am). Louisa (Lou) Clark, a 26-year-old working-class girl, lands a position as a “care assistant” to an intelligent, wealthy and very angry 35-year-old man named Will Traynor, who has spent the past two years as a quadriplegic after being hit by a motorbike. It’s a real “weepy,” as one British reviewer called it, but in an utterly, heartbreaking sweet way. Books like this don’t make me cry (I never cry for the obvious reasons). But some things, as the author forces you to recognize, are worth crying over.


Rules of Civility

This one was unintentionally recommended to me by a literary agent I spoke with, who was interested in books set in the 1920s partly because of reading this book. And that is this book’s great strength: a snappy, detailed, sure-handed reproduction of Manhattan in the late ‘30s, with lots of social alchemy and quirky characters. Mostly, I loved it for the witty, elegant, growing-into-her-own narrator.


The Rosie Project

Another one for the romantics, this one for the happy-ending-lovers. I love good love stories but they are invariably difficult to unearth, so I always share the ones I like. Don Tillman doesn’t know he has Asperger’s syndrome, although his symptoms are obvious to friends and colleagues. He flinches from physical contact and his approach to courtship consists of handing women a detailed questionnaire to test their suitability. Then along comes Rosie, who is (perhaps predictably) disorganized, irrational, and sassy.

reality boy

Reality Boy

This is the latest from A.S. King. First of all, I love everything by A.S. King, I think she is brilliant; raw, honest, funny sentences. You can read any of her novels if you like and all will be good. This one I especially loved for it’s “I demand a better life” theme. Gerald Faust spent his rage-filled childhood on a reality TV show, and now is suffering the consequences of a life he didn’t choose. Not surprisingly, I also liked the romance in it. The relationship felt very real to me, these two dysfunctional teens helping each other.


The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

This one was actually a Christmas present given to me by a very good friend with very good literary taste. I’m sad I took so long to read it. This one is for book lovers. Not just because it’s a book, but because the characters love books too (obviously, if it’s a literary society). An epistolary (told through letters) story about London emerging from WWII. Juliet Ashton is in search of a new subject to write about, and stumbles, through letters, upon a group of people on Guernsey, one of the Channel islands. This book is charming and delightful, but steady on a foundation of truth and poise.


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone–may it be filled with lots of reading!

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