Do you have a book lover on your holiday shopping list? Here are a few recommendations from our very talented literary critics that are sure to please even the most discerning reader.

Kelly Sarabyn

Kelly Sarabyn Recommends

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, by John Carreyrou, This thrilling true story details how Elizabeth Holmes was able to raise an incredible amount of money for her startup, Theranos, despite its technology never working. Though this book doesn’t have all the answers as to how such lauded investors and companies were duped, it shines an interesting light on how Silicon Valley operates, and the founder myths and fantasies – as well as trust in people – that can result in incredible progress, but also lead investments badly awry.

Life After Google: The Fall of Big Data and the Rise of the Blockchain Economy, George Gilder, This fascinating, often hilarious, book journeys from Google’s philosophy of the world to blockchain meetups and the future of technology, and hence the world. Refreshingly, Gilder acknowledges the limitations of current blockchain startups and technologies, while still arguing that, if we’re lucky, the future belongs with them. Gilder is not afraid to critique, and lambastes Silicon Valley titans for forgetting what makes humans uniquely human, and points out the limitations of AI and other machines. This book will make you think about society, technology, how cultures learn and evolve, capitalism, and other things we often take for granted.

An American Marriage: A Novel, Tayari Jones, This fundamentally heartbreaking novel is told from the point of view of three different people, all revolving around one marriage. Roy and Celestial are barely married when he is wrongfully sent to prison, and their relationship is put under intense strain. This book illustrates the devastating effects of racial injustice in America, as well as a prison system ill-suited to rehabilitation, but also the all too human notions of responsibility butting against loneliness, how the capriciousness of time can drive humans apart, and the deeply unforgiving nature of society and its judgments.

Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back): A Memoir of Recording and Discording with Wilco, Etc., Jeff Tweedy, The frontman of Wilco shares his thoughts and experiences on music, friendships, drugs, and loneliness. This somewhat meandering book is wholly authentic, and showcases Tweedy’s endearing approach to life, which is simultaneously vulnerable and passionate, with a sense of humor that recognizes the absurdity of it all. Tweedy concludes artists make art in spite of suffering, not because of it, but his tale suggests the two might be more intertwined: maybe artists are open and honest to the world in a way that risks suffering, but also empowers an understanding of humans that, when laid into art or music, can resonate with us all.     

Amy M. Hawes

Amy M. Hawes Recommends

The Paris Seamstress by Natasha Lester. This captivating novel intersects the present of Fabienne Bissette a New Yorker with the past of her grandmother Estella Bissette, a famous fashion designer. Part historical-fiction– it’s set in Paris during the Nazi invasion – and part mystery, this story beguiles until the very last page. 

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate. Based on real events, Wingate’s riveting novel clashes the Foss family’s history of sorrow and poverty with the Stafford family’s wealth and success. At the heart of the tragedy, is the Memphis-based Orphanage that became notorious for selling stolen children.

Book of the Just by Dana Chamblee Carpenter. If you’re a fan of mystery and magic packed into scenes dense with action, Carpenter’s story is a perfect fit. The last book of the Bohemian Trilogy, it’s a great gift for adults and young adults alike. 

Mary Sullivan

Mary Sullivan Recommends

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee checked every box on my wish list: formidable female lead, swashbuckling, adventure, and international travel. That the story is set in the 1700s is even better. Felicity is sixteen and estranged from her family. Her dream is to become a doctor, but such a notion is nearly impossible at the time, since women weren’t permitted to be students at hospitals. Desperate to get her medical license, she tries a last-ditch effort to land an apprenticeship under a surgeon about to embark on a discovery voyage. Felicity isn’t the warm and fuzzy type of heroine, but given her ambitions and the time in which she lives, smiling more wouldn’t have helped.

Conscience by Alice Mattison is my other 2018 favorite. It’s about how friendships from youth, forged during the turbulent times of the Vietnam War and the protests against it, still haunt the lives of now middle-aged people. Mattison shows that in deep, long-lasting relationships, what happened in the past never totally stays there. Although the novel is about people who came of age during the Vietnam Era, our contemporary raucous politics and protestations are analogous. Every line of this story felt like a revelation. If I had been reading with a highlighter in hand, the whole book would be neon yellow. Conscience is a great book club choice.

Maribel Garcia

Maribel Garcia Recommends

 Lucky Broken Girl is the story of Ruthie Mizrahi and her family.  They have recently emigrated from Castro’s Cuba to New York City. In this story, we encounter a young child who is finally beginning to gain confidence in her mastery of English in a new country.  Based on the author’s childhood in the 1960s, Lucky Broken Girl (2017) is a multicultural coming-of-age novel for young adults. Ms. Behar’s work is an inspiring and moving story about loss, perseverance and hope.

 Before I Let You Go: Stories for My Grown Son, by Kirsten Wreggitt is a series of short stories in letter form written from mother to son.  Her vignette’s deal with the difficulty of marriage, the pain that comes from loving your child too much and regrets.  As a mother, I appreciated it for the way that the author structures essential life lessons, but as a woman, I enjoyed reading about her journey through motherhood and marriage, and her self-discovery along the way

The Hope & Anchor is what you get when you combine beautiful and mesmerizing prose with an affecting portrait of a someone who wakes up everyday fluctuating between these two emotions, trying desperately to hold onto the memory of someone whose return becomes increasingly unlikely.  What would you do if a loved one disappeared? How would you get on? Minute to minute, day to day?  Julia Kite’s debut novel plunges you into the depths of winter in West London, where Neely Sharpe’s life is turned upside down when her girlfriend Angela vanishes. 

Maria Riegger Recommends

All the Ever Afters: The Untold Story of Cinderella’s Stepmother by Danielle Teller. At a time of year when we celebrate with family, or consider that we do not have the relationships we want with family, it is an excellent time to reflect. All the Ever Afters is told from the point of view of Cinderella’s stepmother. Both entertaining and enlightening, it leads the reader to reevaluate family relationships. Read my review here.

The Big Sheep by Rob Kroese. This is a gripping, hilarious page turner reminiscent of Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, complete with genetically modified sheep and a missing movie star. Can private investigator Erasmus Keane and his long-suffering sidekick figure it all out? Read my review here.

Shopgirl by Steve Martin. Steve Martin’s writing is refreshing and true in this novella about a naive young woman who is finding herself in Los Angeles. I identified with the main character, as a shy woman in a new city where she doesn’t know anyone.

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