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The best books to read - and give - in December
BOOKS make the best gifts. There, I said it. If you haven't already purchased several for your friends and family, perhaps you'll be tempted by these end-of-year titles, which include wild science fiction, road-tripping memoirs, a theme-park history and perfectly timed inspiration from the late Toni Morrison.
One Long River of Song: Notes on Wonder, by Brian Doyle (Dec 3)
The award-winning novelist, poet and essayist died in 2017, but this year brings a final collection of his lyrical, sometimes mystical pieces about life and its gifts. Doyle often used his Catholicism to explore the human and natural worlds, but this is perhaps the most generous, universal "religious writing" you'll ever read.
Genius & Anxiety: How Jews Changed the World, 1847-1947, by Norman Lebrecht (Dec 3)
Chemotherapy, the theory of relativity, great literature, blood transfusions, political theory, even Google are among the accomplishments of Jewish men and women, and they're all celebrated in this lively, enlightening history.
The Measure of Our Lives: A Gathering of Wisdom, by Toni Morrison et al (Dec 3)
With just one quotation from Morrison's work on each page, this beautiful volume still manages to contain not just a survey of the Nobel winner's life and development as a genius but also the kind of moral compass so many of us need right now. With a foreword by Zadie Smith, it's a mighty and perfect gift for just about anyone.
Oppo: A Novel, by Tom Rosenstiel (Dec 3)
It's presidential primary season - and two political parties are at war with each other. Sound familiar? Into this modern maelstrom steps a centrist senator and vice-presidential pick who hires Rosenstiel's recurring characters, Peter Rena and Randi Brooks, to investigate a frightening threat.
Disney's Land: Walt Disney and the Invention of the Amusement Park That Changed the World, by Richard Snow (Dec 3)
Eight hundred million visitors have trekked to the so-called happiest place on earth since its 1955 opening, seeking its carefully scripted brand of excitement and cheer. How and why Walt Disney envisioned a place where people "could live among Mickey Mouse and Snow White" is carefully detailed in this new book.
Anyone: A Novel, by Charles Soule (Dec 3)
In his 2018 The Oracle Year, best-selling comic book artist Soule (Daredevil, She-Hulk) demonstrated that he's as clever with prose as he is with visual arts, and Anyone lives up to that first novel's prowess. The fast-paced plot alternates between the present and the near future, as a scientist grapples with the fallout from the consciousness-swapping technology she created.
Dead Astronauts: A Novel, by Jeff VanderMeer (Dec 3)
Sci-fi master VanderMeer (Borne) returns with a novel about three astronauts on a dangerous time-travelling mission in a sort-of future Earth where the environment has been destroyed and animals read minds.
Once More to the Rodeo: A Memoir, by Calvin Hennick (Dec 10)
Hennick, a journalist, turns a road trip out West with his son into a meditation on fatherhood, racial difference (Hennick is white, and his wife is Haitian), addiction and, yes, having fun. If you're someone's parent - or someone's child - this is a must-read.
All That's Bright and Gone: A Novel, by Eliza Nellums (Dec 10)
It seems fitting to close out the year with a book titled All That's Bright and Gone. Aoife Scott, the winning six-year-old protagonist in this debut novel, worries about her late brother, her hospitalised mother and a few other people. With her imaginary friend Teddy and her real-life friend Hannah, Aoife will make some important discoveries and win every reader's heart. WP
- Bethanne Patrick is the editor, most recently, of The Books That Changed My Life: Reflections by 100 Authors, Actors, Musicians and Other Remarkable People.