“Eclectic” might be the best one-word description for Tegan’s picks. From layered literary fiction to spy stories, food writing, and US history, her tastes run the gamut. As our buyer for teens and kids, Tegan has a particular fondness for those genres. Below are links for kids' recommendations from her and the rest of the staff, split by age group.
Aristocrats, acrobatics, and amateur dramatics all play a part in this exciting WWII account of the POWs and guards of Germany’s notorious Colditz prison. Fans of "The Escape Artists" will love this. It has heroic dentists, a lifesaving bureaucrat, and escape attempts that sound like something from Monty Python sketches plus thoughtful analysis of how socioeconomics, privilege, and national identity influenced the experiences of people behind the walls of the fortress intended to hold the Nazis’ most significant and recalcitrant prisoners. Macintyre ("Operation Mincemeat") is a reliably entertaining scholar, and this might be his richest cast of characters yet.
Cookies are one of my love languages. If anyone on your list takes part in cookie exchanges, sends care packages, or enjoys filling the cookie jar with delicious variety, here's the perfect present. Really, it’s the gift that gives back! I'm ready to expand my cookie repertoire, so I’ll treat myself this season, too.
Some other suggestions if you like this:
Cannelle et Vanille (old and new), Dorie’s Cookies, Snacking Cakes, Dessert Person. Also, the kids’ picture book The Cookie Maker of Mavin Road for an all-ages read about the joys of building community through baking.
"One Two Three" is one of the most unique and compelling books I've read. In some ways, I don't want to tell you too much about it because I want you to have your own pleasures getting to know the narrators and unwinding the mysteries of their hometown of Bourne. (I'm the type of person who tells readers not to look at any blurbs or recommendations of "Never Let Me Go," for instance.) This novel that feels like a combination of a modern-day "Little Women" mixed with "A Civil Action," with hints of "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" and "Romeo and Juliet" was stunning to savor chapter by chapter, and I already can't wait to reread it so I can spend time with these characters again. So I won't tell you much. I will leave it to you to discover Mab, Monday, and Mirabel, in your time and on your terms. But please promise me you'll do so.
This is not the type of book I usually pick up, but this gothic, Southern horror exploration of intimacy and masculinity was impossible to put down. It felt like "The Outsiders" meets "Flatliners" with hauntings with awesome queer characters. There are blood curses, fist fights, masters program seminars, car races, and so many ghosts... Fascinating and spooky!
Ephron is a lovable narrator who has filled her life with people who adore her and sustain her through some of the hardest things. By reading this book, filled with emails and correspondence, the reader feels admitted into this treasured circle. You will laugh and cry, you will cheer, you will celebrate science and friendship and romantic love, and you just might sign up to be a bone marrow donor (bethematch.org) to give someone else this remarkable miracle of life.
This is not an easy book, but it is an easy-to-digest examination of mortality, with a lingering sense of love and well-being.
This richly-researched and deeply-imagined historical novel was a fast but meaningful read. The main character, Mila Pavlichenko, was one of the deadliest snipers of WWII-- a Ukrainian-born single mother and library student who joined the war effort. I read this in one weekend but still keep thinking about it. Kate Quinn fans will not be disappointed, and hopefully this book will help new readers discover her.
Fast-paced, madcap, flirty fun! Imagine the zany family dynamics, physical humor, and body-hiding of "Arsenic and Old Lace" combined with the OTT wealth, romance, and cultural immersion of "Crazy Rich Asians." A perfect diversion! (One of Tegan's top books of 2021)
Read it before you see the movie!!! Assasins! A high-speed train! It's like Alfred Hitchcock meets Jason Bourne on amphetamines-- in Japan. Slick and fun.
This debut is beautiful and moving. Catherine's relationship to Fox, the natural world, and civilization will give every reader so much to think about. I love that she tells part of the story from Fox's perspective; her writing sings in every chapter, but the sheer imagination and empathy of those sections blew me away. I also loved how Raven's descriptions resonates so perfectly with her writing about favorite books ("The Little Prince," "Moby-Dick," and "Horton Hears a Who").
Although this book is unlike anything else I've read before, it gave me some of the frissons of recognition and awe that I got from reading the works of Farley Mowat and Azar Nafisi-- Mowat for his personal observations and love of wild things and Nafisi for her interpretations of literature.
This is one of my favorite books in a long time-- one I will treasure for myself and give to others.
(One of Tegan's top 2021 books!)
No one puts heart into history quite like Brown. Fans of The Boys in the Boat will appreciate how he again focuses on a few young men to tell a riveting tale of determination. From the shores of Hawai’i to the front lines in Europe, in incarceration camps and courtrooms on the homefront, these Japanese Americans demonstrated heroism and patriotism that will enlighten and inspire.
Saucy! Salty! Sexy! SCARY!!!
I always love Rachel Hawkins' narrative voice: funny, zesty, easy to get sucked into. This has a clever before/ now/ after structure to the plot and fascinating characters in a beautiful but unsettling setting.
What a delightful nonfiction romp! I thought I would be drawn to the luxury and adventure of truffles and truffle hunting; I was. But even more so, I was struck by wonder and delight at the idea of traveling to so much-- from VT to Brooklyn to meet with a former truffle dealer, to tiny towns in Italy, to forests in Croatia, and beyond. It's the perfect indulgence.
Weird and lovely. This is the perfect, darker companion to Ross Gay's "Book of Delights." It is poetic, tender, and thought-provoking, and a few made me laugh out loud. Among the shorter definitions are some longer essays about emotions and words that might describe them. I'd choose this for stocking stuffers, gifts for hosts, or book exchanges because it will be fun to pass around and share in groups.
This is the story of how an up-and-coming American chef found his passion and his path. Onwauchi had to fight systemic racism, the temptations of dealing drugs, and his own demons to pursue his dream of owning a restaurant. Readers who appreciate great food and strong determination will love it like I did. Bonus: There are recipes at the end of each chapter! This is available in paperback now, so it could be a great book club choice. We also have a YA adaptation, so it works for intergenerational discussion.
This mystery with Queen Elizabeth II as the nonagenarian, royal sleuth was everything I hoped it would be! Together with her clever and capable Assistant Private Secretary, Rozie, the Queen investigates a mysterious death following a "dine and sleep" at Windsor Castle while continuing her marathon of public appearances, thoughtful visits, and horse- and dog-loving moments of joy.
There are a few salacious details about the murder scene, but I imagine for most readers, as it is for the QEII character, it won't be too much to handle, even if they come to this novel in the mood for a castle, a palace, and a charming take a beloved public figure.
Looking for a fun, fast, pageturning mystery that will make you laugh? This feels like a Netflix show I would binge watch... Finn is an author with writer's block, a jerk of an ex-husband, and two young kids who are a handful +. So when a discussion with her agent gets misinterpreted by an eavesdropper in a suburban Panera, the unthinkable becomes a possibility, and Finn starts considering whether her "big hit" might not be a next book after all.
This is a great gift and a lovely read. Like Ross Gay's "Book of Delights," it's an endearing book that really resonated with me.
At one point, the author-- an anonymous person who works in publishing and created the charming and quirky twitter persona of "Duchess Goldblatt"-- writes that the Duchess Goldblatt community is like "being vetted; if you're drawn to join in... others make a fair assumption that you have a certain sense of good-hearted humor."
To me, this was a sweet, sometimes sad, lovely, always hopeful book. It's reflective without being selfish-- a book to help folks find light in themselves and the world.
Long live Duchess Goldblatt!
Magic! Books! Maybe romance?!?! And DEMONS! Yes, please. This was everything I hoped for and more. If you want dark, mysterious libraries, a powerful and loveable main character, and a bit of a mystery, too, this is a great pick.
This dark Scandinavian mystery isn't too dark-- a police prodecural that gives a taste of Copenhagen with some fascinating relationships. I I am so excited there's more from the author! (And I want to go to Denmark!)
This nonfiction adventure is written by Douglas Preston, who is also the author of thrillers about artifacts and archaeology (with Lincoln Child) but also does lots of nonfiction journalism. This is the true story of his journeys in the remote jungle on an expedition to find an ancient city. New technology, drug dealers, deadly critters, and a mysterious curse (?) made this one I couldn't put down. It's full of cool facts but also very exciting.
This delightful, romantic novel was an absolute joy. Enough tension to keep me turning the pages, but food, Paris, and love to keep it light and lovely. A highly recommended distraction!
I am a sucker for simple recipes that deliver flavor and satisfaction, so this cookbook is a winner for me! The enticing photos and six-ingredient recipes encourage spontaneity and creativity in the kitchen. If you need a low-stress way to spice up your homemade meals, try this. For omnivores, but some of the recipes are vegetarian and others can be adapted.
This is a nail-biter! If you enjoy reading about courtroom tensions, jury deliberations, quests for justice, and determined, passionate characters, this murder mystery is definitely worth your time. It follows an L.A. jury that delivered a not guilty verdict, going back and forth between the original trial to ten years later, when they reunite for a major revelation. It's an emotional roller coaster, thrilling on many levels.
I loved this smart, funny peek inside the high stakes world of San Francsico private schools. It has everything: social satire, family drama, friendship, a lot of laughs, a touch of romance, and lots to think about after. Bonus: authors live in Seattle!
I was struck by the depth of this gripping story. Seol’s quest for answers about her own past are a fascinating counterpoint to her investigation into a grisly murder. The meditative quality of the narration of this historical mystery felt perfectly suited to the Korean setting and the backdrop of political and religious struggles. Seol’s courage, curiosity, and dedication make her a character I can’t get enough of. Let’s hope this is the start of a series.
Despite the fact that this is marketed as a YA book, I think adults who love a mystery with atmosphere should read it, too.
Travel to Madrid of 1957, Franco's Spain, a place of romance and fear, opportunity and oppression, art and intrigue... Sepetys is a master of telling details, striking revelations, and historical atmosphere. This is marketed as YA but works wonderfully for adult readers open to an emotional and powerful coming-of-age story.
A gift idea for the Foodie: "We Fed an Island" by Jose Andres. The inspiring nonfiction is now in paperback. Andres, James Beard Award-winning chef, founded the nonprofit World Central Kitchen to bring food to disaster-affected areas of the world. Every purchase of the book benefits the nonprofit, but you can also dedicate a donation on the WCK website and put the acknowledgement into a copy of the book for a very meaningful and heartwarming gift.
This atmospheric new novel captures desire, artistry, and absession. Claude Ballard, a genius and pioneer of silent filmmaking, opens up his life - and film archives - to a grad student in 1962 Los Angeles, touching on the invention of moving pictures and the rise of the film industry. From Paris to New York, Belgium , L.A., and beyond, the story sweeps through grand love and a passionate career. It reminds me of the Shadow of the Wind, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, and The Invention of Huga Cabret all in one well-written, captivating book. Breathtaking!
I can guarantee this is unlike anything you've read before! The main characer is an Inuit shaman, whose people are in danger... There is magical realism, arctic survivalism, lots of majestic nature, some Vikings, and much, much more! I loved it.
Sherlock has Watson, and Mycroft has Douglas, a trusty friend from Trinidad. Mystery, atmosphere, and adventure satisfy Sherlockian cravings, plus this has fascinating looks at race and colonialism. YES, it really is that Kareen Abdul-Jabbar, and he tells a great story! This is the first in a series.
Filled with with and emotion-- like a modern Jane Austen in the Pacific Northwest! This tells of the life on the treadmill of academia: lots of work, little traditional payoff, yet all worthwhile. No wonder these characters give so much-- and the rewards of their unusual family are so hard-earned and so extraordinary. Pure of heart, voice, and message. Plus the author lives right in the neighborhood, so we often have autographed copies!
Hollywood star Evelyn Hugo decides to tell her whole, passionate, glamorous life story to a young journalist. She had seven husbands, but only one true love... You'll hang on Evelyn's every word in this glitzy, suspenseful novel with heart.
This true story page-turner has it all: daring escapes, zany teamwork, inspiring grit, and even evil twins! For folks who enjoy WWI history, British eccentricity, or pulse-racing survival stories, this is a great next read.
Whether or not you've read (or seen) "Doctor Zhivago," if you like Cold War intrigue, love stories, and literary passion, you'll get swept up in this historical fiction! Wonderful writing, complex characters I cared deeply about, and two suspenseful interwoven plots make this a recent favorite.
John le Carre + Mihkail Bulgakov= THIS
A clever contemporary Sherlock Holmes-ish investigator stars in this mystery with a compelling backstory, loveable but troubled characters, astute observations about race, class, and fame, and wonderfully satisfying deductions and action scenes! It's everything I wanted and more. Good thing it's a series!
This mystery is a fantastic mash-up of an old-fashioned Agatha Christie-esque book within a book and a modern, meta publishing world who-dunnit. The story starts with a contemporary London editor, Susan Ryeland, explaining how the latest manuscript from a best-selling author changed her life—and not for the better. We get to read the manuscript, a very classic-feeling British village mystery set in the 1950s, as Susan reads it. Then we return to Susan’s life as mysteries unfold around the manuscript and the author behind it. I think Horowitz (who created “Foyle’s War,” adapted “Midsomer Murders” for TV, and wrote the Alex Rider spy series for kids, too) is brilliant. For twists and turns aplenty, pick this up! This is available in paperback, so it’s perfect for travel and book clubs. It’s also a great audiobook.
A sassy, compulsive series set in Singapore. The "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" elements combine with social commentary plus sweet romance and friendships to make this perfect for the plane, the beach, or anytime you need a diversion.
[If you saw the movie, please note that the book ends VERY differently!]
This hilarious travelogue/memoir by Seattle author DeRuiter is about finding her being geographically and navigationally challenged all over the world, and even more importantly finding even more strength, satisfaction, and joy as she falls even deeper in love with her husband. Fans of Jenny Lawson, take note! If you could use a sassily sweet snapshot of modern love-- and you, too, enjoy a good poop joke as well as lyrical descriptions of exotic locales-- treat yourself to this.
The true story of young Japanese-American swimmers from Maui's sugar plantations, from the 1930s through WWII, on a quest to the Olympics. Uplifting! Eye-opening! GREAT! I recommend it for fans of "The Boys in the Boat."
Pure bliss*! It's a bookish combination of "Amelie" and "Fried Green Tomatoes" set in a magical house in Cambridge, England. Quirky, charming, and delightful! [*Dark things happened to characters in the past, but this narrative is all about their healing.]