It’s that time of year again. Well actually it’s a bit late (again) but what’s new. This year at least I have the cast iron excuse of the Washington trip to explain my tardiness. Anyway, here’s my annual look at which books I’d like to find under the Christmas tree this year.
I mentioned Nick Offerman and Megan Mullaly’s book in yesterday’s gift suggestion post – but another Parks and Rec alum has a book out that I want to read too. I tried to get Retta’s So Close To Being The Sh*t, Y’all Don’t Even Know from the library while I was in the US without any joy at all and I still *really* want to read it. It’s her autobiography, and a lot of the reviews that I’ve seen are variations of “I chose it because I loved her in Parks and Rec but didn’t know much more about her than that, and it turns out she’s just as smart and funny as you’d hope.
Another book that I didn’t have any luck getting hold of while I was in America is Beck Dorey-Stine’s From the Corner of the Oval, which his her memoir of how she ended up as a stenographer in the Obama White House after answering an ad on Craigslist. As you may remember, I read a lot of books on US politics before I went to DC, but my favourite ones – that left me wanting more – were the more personal memoirs rather than the more serious “proper” analysis, so this looks right up my street.
On the history front, there have been a lot of great new books out this year. Fern Riddell’s Death in Ten Minutes, about the suffragette Kitty Marion has been sitting in my online shopping cart since it came out waiting for me to get the to-read list down a bit, as has Agnès Poirier’s Left Bank: Art, Passion and the Rebirth of Paris, 1940-1950. I also love reading about Old Hollywood, and one of my podcast discoveries of this year has been You Must Remember This (which has been going for ages, I’m just late to the party) and Karina Longworth, who writes and presents it, has a new book, Seduction: Sex Lies and Stardom in Howard Hughes’s Hollywood, out this Christmas which I also really want to read.
Regular readers here know that I love a good group biography and often use them as jumping off points to find new topics and people to find out more about. There are two that I’ve got my eye on this Christmas: firstly there’s Michelle Dean’s Sharp, which is about women writers with opinions, from Dorothy Parker through Nora Ephron. Slightly older is Outsiders: Five Women Writers Who Changed The World by Lydall Gordon, which came out last autumn and so is now in out in paperback.
Even older still is Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff, which has been on my radar for ages as a classic about the space race that I should really read but which jumped up my list earlier this year after he died and then again after I did the Air and Space Museum and the Air and Space Museum annexe while I was in Washington. It still boggles my mind that that we explored space back when we had so much less technology than we do now and the people who were prepared to strap themselves to a giant rocket absolutely fascinate me.
The non-fiction part of this list is always the easier one for me to write – because there are so many hardback books that I really want to read, but can’t justify buying, whereas so much of my fiction reading starts off in paperback or is available from the library. And most of my kindle purchases tend to be fiction (they seem to get better discounts than non-fiction) as well so things just don’t hang around on my to-buy list as long. That said, there are a few novels that I’ve got my eye on.
I’ve been quite lucky with reading new romances as they came out this year, but the the lists of best of the year are out now, and Alexa Martin’s Intercepted is the one that keeps popping up on all the lists that I haven’t read. I didn’t get a chance to buy it while I was in the US (and had no suitcase room for it anyway) so maybe if I’m really good Santa will bring it for me on the 25th.
On the crime front, I quite fancy reading A Talent For Murder, by Andrew Wilson, which is a mystery with Agatha Christie as the detective. I have a somewhat mixed record with books like this – including a slightly love-hate relationship with the Josephine Tey series – hence why I haven’t bought it for myself yet (because it’s in hardback and expensive for something I don’t know if I’m going to like) but if someone were to buy it for me that would be different…
Curtis Sittenfeld had a collection of short stories out this year – You Think It, I’ll Say it – which I would love to read. I’ve really enjoyed her novels (Eligible was one of my top picks of the year a couple of years ago) I’ve also had Lucia Berlin’s short story collection A Manuel for Cleaning Women in the shopping basket for ages . I don’t often buy short story collections for myself so either of these would be a real treat.
I’ve been hearing about Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’ for years now and haven’t got around to reading it, but the movie version is out on Netflix now so perhaps there might be a tie-in edition that someone could buy me for Christmas? Also not new is Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan, the last of the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy. I’ve read the first two books and I still haven’t seen the film (it came out in the UK after I went to the US and had already left cinemas in the US when I arrived) and a dose of the insanity of the superrich is exactly what I’m usually in the mood for in the lull between Christmas and New Year!
Also sitting in the shopping cart, hoping that one day I’ll be able to justify buying them is Nicole Kornher-Stace’s Archivist Wasp and a selection of my favourite Terry Pratchett novels in the beautiful cloth-bound hardback editions. I don’t currently have copies of many (any?) Pratchetts – as my dad has the family set – but I would love Going Postal, Making Money, Mort and Monstrous Regiment. The trouble is that I know as soon as I get one, I’ll want the whole set…
Let me know which books you’re hoping to get for Christmas in the comments, and Happy Reading.