By: Em Perper
Hanukkah begins this week, and we’re a mere two weeks away from Christmas Eve. Frederick had its first snow of the season, and the new Star Wars movie comes out in mere days. No matter which makes you happiest, buy a book to celebrate, okay? This week’s gift recommendations all celebrate new interpretations of classic books, kickass women writers (and their characters, too), and putting the headlines in context.
Intrepid Takes on the Western Canon:
The Last Man in Europe by Dennis Glover (Overlook Press/W.W. Norton, $26.95)
At 43, Eric Blair, a.k.a. George Orwell, sequestered himself on a remote Scottish island to write Nineteen Eighty-Four and battle tuberculosis.
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss (Saga Press/Simon & Schuster, $24.99)
A fantastical mystery featuring Mary Jekyll, intent on solving her father’s murder, assisted by Sherlock Holmes, his dear Watson, Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherin Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein.
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (Riverhead Books/PRH, $26)
Loosely based on Sophocles’ Antigone, a moving novel spanning several continents about two families wrenched apart by terror and brought together by love.
Mrs. Osmond by John Banville (Knopf/PRH, $27.95)
Irish Man Booker Prize-winning novelist Banville picks up where Portrait of a Lady by Henry James left off.
House of Names by Colm Tóibín (Scribner/Simon & Schuster, $26)
Tóibín breathes new, terrifying life into the myth of the ambitious, scheming Clytemnestra and the adulterous Agamemnon.
Female Friendship Front and Center:
Something Like Happy by Eva Woods (Graydon House, $26.99)
Annie hates her job, her roommate, and, well, her life. Enter Polly, who’s everything Annie isn’t—quirky, extroverted, and spontaneous. Polly wants to jolt Annie to life with an experiment: “One hundred days. One hundred new ways to be happy.”
The Secret Sisterhood: The Literary Friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf by Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney (Houghton Mifflin, $27)
Move over, Hemingway and Fitzgerald. Lovers of letters will delight in this book about the push-and-pull between famous women writers and their cherished friends.
Marlena by Julie Buntin (Henry Holt/Macmillan, $26) Sex, drugs, and skipping school in rural Michigan have never been as scandalous as they are with 15-year-old Cat and her daredevil BFF, Marlena. When tragedy strikes, Cat alone will reckon with the consequences for years to come.
The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck (William Morrow & Company/Macmillan, $26.99) In a departure from the tropes of WWII lit, three widows of the German resistance move in together in 1945 and confront their individual and collective trauma.
The Hot One: A Memoir of Friendship, Sex, and Murder by Carolyn Murnick (Simon & Schuster, $26)
When journalist Murnick learns her childhood best friend, Ashley, has been murdered, she flies to L.A. to attend the trial of her accused killer and reevaluates the dynamics of their relationship.
Beyond those Incessant Push Notifications:
A Moonless, Starless Sky: Ordinary Women and Men Fighting Extremism in Africa by Alexis Okeowo (Hachette, $26)
Superb reporting on the victims and survivors of extremist terror in Uganda, Nigeria, Mauritania, and Nigeria.
The Most Influential People of Our Time ed. Roberto Mottadelli and Gianni Morelli (White Star Publishers/Sterling, $29.95)
Profiles 56 of the personalities who’ve shaped contemporary history, including psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, British suffragist Emmeline Pankhurst, physicist/chemist Marie Curie, Turkish revolutionary Kemal Ataturk, and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg.
Bullets Into Bells: Poets & Citizens Respond to Gun Violence ed. Brian Clements, Alexandra Teague, and Dean Rader (Beacon Press/PRH, $15)
Poets, activists, politicians, and survivors react to police brutality, firearms ownership, gun control legislation (or lack thereof), and tragic mass shootings in this stunning anthology.
A Citizen’s Guide to Impeachment by Barbara Ann Radnofsky (Melville House/PRH)
Non-partisan analysis of the history of impeachment, as well as its application in American politics, written by the first woman in Texas to run as the Democratic nominee for Senate.