Commenter Book Recommendations: Gift Guide 2018 #3

Steve’s book gift guide will be here soon. Warning: his list this year is full of Puritan and Native American history books, because after doing lots of genealogy work, he found out his Puritan ancestors’ cousins were abducted by Indians and dragged off to Canada.

In the mean time, why don’t you all share your favorite books for the year? I’ll hyperlink your responses to Amazon. All genres are welcome.

Okay, let’s go.


15 thoughts on “Commenter Book Recommendations: Gift Guide 2018 #3

  1. O, that happened to one of my ancestors. There was a book, “The Unredeemed Captive,” by John Demos, about the event. My ancestress was not the eponymous unredeemed captive of the title, but another victim, who was forced to walk from Deerfield to Quebec in mid-winter while 8 months pregnant,

  2. The books that I read this year that I remember were “Twelve Rules for Life” and “The Three Body Problem.” The former has been discussed by everyone else on the internet, so I won’t say anything except that I usually consider it advisable to read any book that becomes a cultural event at that level. The latter was, among other things, an interesting portrayal of the Cultural Revolution. My big historical questions for the past few years have been “why the English?” (to invent liberal democracy and industrial capitalism) and “why the Americans?” (to have the only major revolution that didn’t turn into a dictatorship). I’m not ready to learn a lot about the Chinese, however, since I don’t fully understand the French.

  3. Wendy’s romance recs:
    The Hollow of Fear, Sherry Thomas
    The Kiss Quotient, Helen Hoang
    Lethal White, Robert Galbraith
    Hate Notes, Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward
    Duke of Shadows, Meredith Duran
    Hard Knocks, Ruby Lang
    Burn For Me, Ilona Andrews
    SEAL Camp, Suzanne Brockmann
    Wanna Bet? Talia Hibbert
    Jane Doe, Victoria Helen Stone

    Wendy’s husband’s recs:
    Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, Steven Pinker
    At Home: A Short History of Private Life, Bill Bryson
    How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence, Michael Pollan

      1. They’re even better when you reread them all again having read the third. Not that I have done that 2 or 3 times. 😀

  4. Some of my faves from this past year (and the year before I think too):

    How to Stop Time – Matt Haig

    – love the time-traveling story

    Beartown + Us Against You – both by Fredrik Backman

    – small-town, hockey, lots of interconnected people and their stories
    – I think growing up in a small town on the prairies drew me to these two books

    The Witch Elm – Tana French

    A stand alone novel (not part of her Dublin series) that is the best one that I’ve read so far to tackle privilege. Great characters, writing and dialogue. A version of one of my fave genres – “getting the band back together” where you read about a group of friends and/or family over a number of years.

    An American Marriage – Tayari Jones

    – from last year but read it if you haven’t yet

    Behold the Dreamers – Imbolo Mbue

    – the Lehman Brothers crash in novel form from the perspective of a number of different people. A good companion novel to Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist (Sunil Yapa) from a few years ago about the WTO protests in Seattle.

    the Dry + Force of Nature – both by Jane Harper

    – I’ll read anything she writes
    – small town Oz detective

    And I’ll add a few recommendations for tv series from the past year or two – tell me a good story, whether it be in print form or on the screen:

    The Split

    – 6 episode BBC series about an intergenerational family law firm in London. Starring Nicola Walker (I’ll see her in anything and will see her on the stage in London in January).
    – written by Abi Morgan who also wrote The Hour and River
    – clever, realistic dialogue
    – fabulously filmed dinner and party scenes


    – 6 episode series starring Nicola Walker and Stellan Skarsgard
    – atypical detective show set in London
    – should have received much more recognition than it did

    Schitt’s Creek

    – might as well plug some dry, witty, Canadian humour!
    – what I originally thought was a Dan Levy vanity project has turned out to be 4 seasons (and soon to be 5 in January) of great fun
    – also has one to THE best written and acted romances ever

  5. I had to look back over my book group list for the year since I’m not reading much fiction outside of that. Recs from that are:

    Lincoln in the Bardo (Saunders) – really interesting and weird. I liked it a lot.

    Born A Crime (Trevor Noah’s autobiography). Some South African history I didn’t know or had forgotten. He’s had quite a life.

    How It All Began (Penelope Lively) – intertwined stories, related people of different ages and backgrounds, well put-together. Not a rave but a pretty good read.

    I tried to push myself through Sing Unburied Sing but couldn’t do it – too depressing at a time when I wasn’t up for being depressed. It seemed like it would be worthwhile if I had. I did not like Beatty’s The Sellout but others did.

    I’ve now reread Anna Karenina twice to teach it for a grad-level humanities class and it holds up. Students, including an African American campus police detective who does not read novels, loved it too. Get the Volkhonsky and Pevear translation.

    For the same class, I poked around and found a good book on early women’s suffrage efforts called Untidy Origins. It’s fun because the author has to poke around in all sorts of obscure records to put together what happened with a small group of women who filed a petition with New York State. This year I’m using another new book, Jennifer Graber’s The Gods of Indian Country: Religion and the Struggle for the American West. I haven’t read it yet but have really liked her other writings.

    I always get the newest Flavia de Luce and First Ladies Detective Agency books. I’m reading the current Flavia now and enjoying it. One of my friends is really into the Louise Penney series and I might start that sometime.

  6. The House of Government by Yuri Slezkine, as good as it is long

    The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes, a novel about Russia that isn’t ginormous

    Words Are My Matter by Ursula K. Le Guin, essays and insights (Interviewer: Would you prefer to win the Hugo or the National Book Award? UKL: The Nobel, of course.)

    Any Day Now by Terry Bisson, is awfully close to being the fourth perfect book

    The Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St Clair, great as an object that illustrates its thesis

    The Gatekeepers by Chris Whipple, how the White House chief of staff position is essentially a solved problem in politics, with an added chapter on how the Trump people managed to screw it up in all of the known ways

    War for the Oaks by Emma Bull, definitely a late-1980s book and still awesome

    I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett, the last great Discworld book (even though Raising Steam works better than it should)

    Soviet Bus Stops (Volumes I and II) by Christopher Herwig, no really

    Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner is in fact one of the perfect books

    The 13 Clocks by James Thurber, fast and loopy and not like anything else

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