QABC Holiday and Winter Recommendations

QABC Loves to Recommend

Below is our list of suggestion for this holiday and winter season. You'll find books that are Literary Delights, On the Lighter Side, For Nonfiction Fans, Page-Turners, For the Reader Who has it All, For Foodies, and For Kids & Teens.

LITERARY DELIGHTS:

 

Simon the Fiddler by Paulette Jiles. At the end of the Civil War, Simon, a 23 year-old musician conscripted into the Confederate army, escapes from his regiment and, with his rag-tag band of friends, struggles to make a home and a living in the worst of circumstances. Simon dreams of a place of his own with the woman he loves by his side. Fans of Jiles' News of the World will enjoy the characters, romance, and rich texture of this story. -- Erin

 

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi. Gyasi’s first book, Homegoing, was a favorite of 2016 and I eagerly awaited her second. It was worth the wait. Transcendent Kingdom brings us Gifty, a Ghanian immigrant who is at Stanford in her 6th year of neuroscience doctoral research. Gifty’s work is motivated by issues she and her family have faced in America: addiction, grief and depression stemming from immigration and racism. Gifty finds her foundation of science reassuring and when elements of her childhood faith start to reappear, she ponders if it’s possible to hold both at the same time. Brilliant and beautiful—Gyasi has done it again. -- Janis

 

The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline. What a book this is! Taking place in the 1840s, it follows the journey of three women, told through alternating points of view: an English governess abandoned by the man who promises a future, a young Aboriginal girl from Australia, taken from her family, and a young woman accused of stealing to help sustain her mother a midwife. The story is based on the lives of  women who were transported and sent on ships to Australia. It is brutal and you will love these characters at the same time. It shows the courage of the women who have struggled to survive and thrive so that we, and all women can have a brighter future. -- Judy

 

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke. From the author of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell comes a truly unusual, otherworldly mystery. Readers are tossed into an unfamiliar and unsettling world with a strange fellow named Piranesi as their only guide. Piranesi’s journal entries provide tantalizing clues about the labyrinthine house that he shares with a collection of ornamental statues, a ragtag assortment of skeletons, and a human called “the Other”. This is a revelatory book that will leave readers pondering its layered complexity long after they have turned the final page. -- Rachel

 

Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar. Akhtar calls this a work of fiction, but admits it's largely autobiographical. It's the story of a father (a Pakistani immigrant) and a son (American-born) and the complicated relationship they have with each other and with America. Wonderfully complex and eye-opening. I was unable to put it down, or let it go once I had finished. With incisive writing and heartfelt storytelling, Akhtar provides a searing glimpse into what it means to be a Muslim in America. A perfect holiday gift for the thoughtful lover of contemporary literature. -- Wendee

 

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. I’ve liked everything I’ve read by Maggie O’Farrell, and her newest doesn’t disappoint. Set in the 1500s, this is a love story between a young playwright and his unconventional bride. When their son dies suddenly, their marriage faces the hardest test of all. Based loosely on Shakespeare’s life and work, the novel isn’t so much about him (in fact, his character is never named) as it is about the challenges and endurance of love. -- Erin

 

Apeirogon by Colum McCann. Apeirogon - a shape with a countably infinite number of sides. In this is extraordinary hybrid novel McCann craftfully weaves together the stories of an Israeli father and a Palestinian father, joined in grief after they both lost a daughter in the enduring conflict. He shapes their loss into a breathtaking narrative, splendidly interspersed with incidental details. It is moving and almost impossible to put down. -- Krijn

 

ON THE LIGHTER SIDE:

 

The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett by Annie Lyons. Don’t be fooled by the whimsical cover.  Eudora Honeysett, a Brit in the winding down years, decides that the only way to bring life to a suitable close is by managing the process. But life tosses a few unexpected yet charming surprises . Lyons skillfully balances somber with light-hearted, touching on deep feelings and topics while staying away from sappy or overly-sentimental. Pick this up if you’re looking for a light read, but with a little heft. -- Wendee

 

His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie. This debut novel by Ghanian author, Peace Adzo Medie is terrific. Afi is a seamstress in a small village in Ghana. She enters into an arranged marriage, arranged by the groom’s mother, as she dislikes his current wife. The groom has a relative stand-in for him as he is too busy with work to attend! This is a very funny book with a wonderful strong woman protagonist. I had a big smile on my face when I finished reading the book! It’s a “feel good”, read me! -- Judy

 

FOR NONFICTION FANS:

 

Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe. This is the story of “the Troubles," the bitter conflict in Northern Ireland. The book begins in 1972 with the abduction  of Jean McConville, mother of 10 children, who is never seen again. I found this true crime story to be a page turner. It was the winner of the National Book Critics for good reason! Keefe's writing brings each character to life with sensitivity and harsh reality. The book serves as a history lesson and perhaps a warning. -- Judy

 

A Mind Spread Out on the Ground byAlicia Elliott. Memoir at its finest. Elliot writes with fierce clarity, keenly addressing love, family, mental health, and how these are affected by intergenerational trauma. An invaluable contribution to North American Indigenous literature, particularly for Elliott's breakdown of how ahistorical nostalgia impacts present-day First Nations and Native American communities and individuals. -- Ellen

 

Always a Guest by Barbara Brown Taylor. From the always excellent Barbara Brown Taylor, we have a new anthology of previously unpublished stories and sermons.  Bright with insight and illumination, BBT shines, throughout the pages of these wise and frequently witty homilies.  This is inspiration without fluffy sentimentalism.  These “talks” (originally given as the author was the guest speaker in various occasions) are good for both the heart and the head. And hospitality is very much at the forefront throughout.  This book is—pun intended—a very welcome addition to the Barbara Brown Taylor canon. -- James

 

The Bible With And Without Jesus; How Jews and Christians Read the Same Stories Differently by Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler. From the co-editors of The Jewish Annotated New Testament, comes this brilliant and timely book—perhaps the most fun you will have reading and studying these ancient texts!  Reading this book is less like reading a Bible commentary, and more like sitting in on the back and forth of an interesting and informed conversation.  Both of the authors are well-known professors, and highly sought after speakers.  So the conversation in these pages is intelligent, sometimes challenging, often humorous, and always thoroughly engaging.  The process that unfolds opens up a fresh approach to dialogue and listening across traditions and generations.  This is a marvelous book. -- James


PAGE TURNERS:

 

The Silence of the White City by Eva García Sáenz. Do you know somebody who loves thrills and chills all year round? Are you that somebody? Then this book should definitely be on your holiday wish list. Eva García Sáenz has hit it out of the park with the first volume of her new murder mystery trilogy set in the beautiful Basque region of Spain. It contains an intriguing blend of local lore, archaeology, and criminal psychology. I cannot wait for the second installment, which is currently being translated and expected to hit shelves in March 2021! -- Rachel

 

Cold Millions by Jess Walter. Walter is one of our most gifted storytellers, able to effortlessly blend details of history with his own riveting characters. It is the 1920’s and orphaned brothers Rye and Gig hitch their way to Spokane seeking work. They find themselves swept up with the unions, involved with a flamboyant vaudeville singer, and fighting the mining tyrants alongside a fiery young activist. A wildly entertaining and immersive read! -- Janis

 

 

Plain Bad Heroines byEmily M. Danforth. Who knew metafiction could be such a romp! This book is buzzing with celeb gossip and trumpet flower-fueled drug trips—oh, and vicious swarms of yellow jackets. You’ll be on the edge of your seat as our plain bad heroines many mess around with curses, subversive literature, and each other. Clever, creepy, and a whole bunch of fun. “Kind Devil, deliver me,” indeed! -- Ellen

 

The Holdout by Graham Moore. This is a nail-biter! If you enjoy reading about courtroom tensions, jury deliberations, quests for justice, and determined characters, this murder mystery is definitely worth your time. It follows an L.A. jury back and forth between the original trial and ten years later, when they reunite for a major revelation. It's an emotional roller coaster, thrilling on many levels. -- Tegan

 

FOR THE READER WHO HAS IT ALL:

 

The Lost Spells byRobert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris. It feels a bit trite to call “The Lost Spells” magical, but I was—and am still—genuinely spellbound by this book. Enchantment of this sort is Macfarlane and Morris’s specialty (see, “The Lost Words”). Their nature poems and illustrations are so alive they breathe. They also flutter, caw, and root. Everyone—and this is a book for everyone, no matter your age or opinions on poetry—who reads these spells will find themselves doing the same. This is a good thing. If we learn the spells now, maybe they won’t be lost. -- Ellen

 

Becoming Duchess Goldblatt by Duchess Goldblatt. A great gift and a lovely read. The author works in publishing and created the charming, quirky twitter persona of "Duchess Goldblatt." This is her sweet, sometimes sad, beautiful, always hopeful story. It's reflective without being selfish-- a book to help folks find light in themselves and the world. Long live Duchess Goldblatt! -- Tegan

 

FOR FOODIES:

 

Pieometry by Lauren Ko. Just in time for the holiday season, local Instagram sensation, artist, and baker Lauren Ko shows how to rise to the next level with pie baking. Ko provides easy to follow recipes for creating impressive and unique pies and tarts, both savory and sweet. Whether you’re a novice or know your way around a scratch crust you will love this cookbook! -- Janis

 

Milk Street: Cookish by Christopher Kimball. I am a sucker for simple recipes that deliver flavor and satisfaction, so this cookbook is a winner for me! Enticing photos and six-ingredient recipes encourage spontaneity and creativity. For a low-stress way to spice up your homemade meals, try this. It’s for omnivores, but some dishes are vegetarian and others can be adapted. --Tegan

 

Modern Comfort Food by Ina Garten. If you read cookbooks like you read fiction--cover to cover--then Ina’s timely 2020 edition “Modern Comfort Food” is for you. These recipes provide an updated take on some favorite classics. Cheesy Enchiladas and Peach Almond Torte anyone? --Wendee

 

 

FOR KIDS & TEENS:

 

Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake, illustrated by Jon Klassen. This charming illustrated chapter book just begs to be read aloud. Listeners of all ages will delight in this story about two unlikely roommates. Witty dialogue, absurd situations, and a general sense of goodheartedness make this a book I would come back to again and again. Ages 4 and up, a great all-family read. --Tegan

 

Everything Sad Is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri. This wonderful new novel is something of a hybrid-- autobiographical fiction. Nayeri’s work is compelling and compassionate, written with great heart and humor. It weaves Daniel’s literal and figurative journeys, with an eye to the universal questions we all face:  what is “home”?  Where and how do we find that?  And who are our family? Through it all, there is the indomitable spirit of Daniel—with his great sense of irony and his human kindness. This is a truly remarkable debut novel! Ages 10-14. -- James

 

The Cat I Never Named: A True Story of Love, War, and Survival by Amra Sabic-El-Rayess. Amra, a Bosnian Muslim, was preparing to celebrate her sixteenth birthday in 1992 when war descended upon her hometown of Bihać. Amidst the chaos, a stray calico cat appeared and entrenched itself in Amra’s life. The teen’s relationship with this cat, and the fierce love she has for her family, help readers grapple with the horrors of genocide and ethnic cleansing. An enlightening, heart-wrenching, and triumphant story of survival that will inspire teens and adults alike. -- Rachel

 

NEED MORE RECOMMENDATIONS?

For more suggestions check our Staff Picks at the menu bar on top of our website. You may also email or call us for personal picks.