By Washington Post book reviewer Ron Charles:
There's no better gift than a book this holiday season. Here are a few titles your friends and family might love:
My favorite novel this year is "Homeland Elegies" (Little, Brown), by the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Ayad Akhtar. Part memoir, part fiction, this remarkable book tells the story of a Pakistani-American and his father who have very different reactions to the rise of Donald Trump.
In the experience of this one family, Akhtar explores the political and economic forces that have brought America to this conflicted and traumatic era.
Pssst, here's a clue: The mystery lover in your life would enjoy "One by One" (Scout Press) by Ruth Ware.
Agatha Christie lives again in this clever story about the board members of a high-tech music firm who arrive in the French Alps for a corporate retreat.
When an avalanche cuts them off from the outside world, they start dying – one by one!
The feel-good novel of the year is "Writers & Lovers" (Grove Press) by Lily King. It's about a young woman in Boston who wants to be a writer and wants to find love, but nothing is working out the way she'd hoped. Should she just give up on her dreams?
This sometimes heartbreaking book is bold and fearless enough to imagine the possibility of unbounded happiness.
You may not think you're particularly interested in eels, but once you start reading "The Book of Eels: Our Enduring Fascination with the Most Mysterious Creature in the Natural World" (Ecco) by Patrik Svensson, you won't be able to stop talking about them.
These slippery fish are about as magical as unicorns. They've confounded people for centuries – from Aristotle to Sigmund Freud.
Svensson's surprisingly personal investigation of eels takes him around the world and right back to his own father.
"The Book of Eels: Our Enduring Fascination with the Most Mysterious Creature in the Natural World" by Patrik Svensson (Ecco), in Hardcover, eBook and Audio formats, available via Amazon and Indiebound
For a fascinating reconsideration of a 20th-century giant, read "The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X" (Liveright). Les Payne worked on this biography of the civil rights leader for decades, and when he died in 2018, his daughter and research assistant Tamara Payne completed it.
Their carefully researched study illuminates the life of Malcolm X in a way that helps explain our own era.
And don't forget the pleasure of listening to a great audiobook.
"The Night Watchman," by Louise Erdrich, is about the Chippewas' efforts to keep the U.S. government from abandoning its treaty and canceling the tribe. The story is based on the experiences of Erdrich's grandfather – and for an added personal note, she narrates this audiobook herself.
If you're still undecided, remember: Your local bookstore may be closed during the pandemic, but the staff is online and eager to help.
More reviews from Ron Charles:
- (September 27)
- (August 30)
- (August 2)
- (July 5)
- (May 31)
- (May 3)
- (March 29)
For more info:
- Ron Charles, The Washington Post
- Ron Charles' Totally Hip Video Book Review
- indiebound.org (for ordering from independent booksellers)
Produced by Robin Sanders, Roman Feeser and Charis Satchell.