I don’t know how “Black Friday,” which seems to have started two or three weeks ago this year, turned out for the major retailers who were open late into the night on Thursday and well before sunrise on Friday. Those of us who don’t particularly want our doors busted or blown out were sleeping and then preparing for OUR day, Small Business Saturday. And in our town, at least, it was a success. The municipal lots and streets were full. The warm weather didn’t hurt. And books were flying off the shelves in the town’s only bookshop.
I’m a bit tired, but I thought I could keep up the momentum to write this if I continued to do what I’ve done all day: make some recommendations for the special reader in your life. Here are some of the questions I was asked, and my answers.
What book did you read recently and really love?
All the Light You Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and forever on the New York Times bestseller list, but that wasn’t why I read it. It was the constant praise from my most trusted critics, my customers, that convinced me that I should leave the confines of crime fiction temporarily. There is plenty of suspense, but it will appeal to lovers of history, lovers of compelling characters, lovers of exquisite writing, and lovers of complex plotting. It pretty much has it all. The story takes place in France in the years leading up to World War II and during the occupation, when Marie-Laure, a blind Parisian child and her father must flee to the coastal town of Saint-Malo. A parallel tale unfolds in Germany, where Werner Pfennig, a young orphan, is forced to work in the mines until he is old enough to join the army. Their paths ultimately cross shortly after the Normandy invasion. Hands down the best book I’ve read all year.
What would you recommend for a fan of Game of Thrones / Outlander / Harry Potter who has read all of the books and craves more?
Game of Thrones: For someone you really, really love, a companion volume, The World of Ice and Fire. This book was available in late 2014, but is still a wonderful gift for this year. It is a fully illustrated history of Westeros, with newly written material, family trees, maps and artwork. It is also $50. For those on your list budgeted for a bit less, the Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss is a good way to fill the time waiting for George R. R. Martin’s next tome. The first two volumes of the trilogy are available; as with Martin, the next book will be out….sometime.
Outlander: The Outlandish Companion to the early books in the series has been around for several years; there is now a second volume to complement the later books. Again, these companion books are for the larger budget. Diana Gabaldon’s fans usually enjoy her other series about Lord John Grey, The Private Matter, The Brotherhood of the Blade, The Scottish Prisoner, and The Hand of Devils.
Harry Potter: The children who grew up with these books are now twenty-somethings. Or more. But for many of them, the magic is still alive. This fall , a gorgeous illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was released. It is definitely for the adult to whom the series has become a classic and a touchstone of his or her childhood. Don’t forget that there is a whole new generation of children for whom the original series would be a wonderful gift.
Is there some serious fiction about relationships that hasn’t fallen into the self-reflecting “insider” trap or the metafiction sinkhole? Something one can just read for itself?
Some days it seems we need to look beyond the American “literary” authors for a fresh take on life. My current recommendation is a series, The Neapolitan Novels by an Italian author, Elena Ferrante. They tell the story of two intelligent girls from Naples and their struggles to create their own lives in a smothering culture. (My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name , Those Who Leave And Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child). These translations are from Europa Editions, which is bringing a great deal of European fiction, including mysteries, to American readers. I recommend many of their books to my customers.
I’m losing the momentum, and have written too much, without having even gotten to the crime fiction I’m promoting this holiday season. Next time, all crime novels, I promise.
Two more promotions before I close:
The next Haunted Guesthouse mystery from a dear friend of our fellow Dead Guy Jeff Cohen, will be available on Tuesday, December 1. Ghost in the Wind by E. J. Copperman.
Remember your local independent bookstores this holiday season. With knowledgeable booksellers ready to help you choose the best gift book for every reader on your list, the ability to order almost any book, and a love of the merchandise they sell, they should be your first shopping stop. The pleasant experience will make the other shopping more bearable.