For most people, the New Year is the perfect time to reflect on all the mistakes we made during the past 365 days and resolve not to make them again; instead of sitting on the couch watching Family Guy while mindlessly eating nachos [yes, it’s been known to happen], we resolve to end our evenings with a candlelit yoga practice, we promise we’ll forgo our routine red wine nightcap in favor of chamomile tea, and we swear that we’ll stop procrastinating on social media during work. Ultimately, all of this goes out the window by January 5th.
Because of this, I generally don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, but today, I decided to pull Anna Karenina from my bookshelf in an attempt finish the 8/9th of it I didn’t quite make it through last year, and out fell a pink piece of paper I had forgotten about, complete with a list of 27 books I planned to read in 2015. I perused the list and was disappointed in myself when I discovered that I’d only managed a grand total of five. Now, I’m no mathematician [you can ask my SAT math tutor, who quit because I was essentially a ‘lost cause’], but I doubt I’ll have the time to read twenty-two books in 29 days. However, the list is quite good so I’ve chosen to uncover the remnants of my failed resolution and repurpose them into a holiday gift guide: book edition. Lots of variety ahead, I guarantee you’ll find something that suits you.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: A collection of essays that I discovered via the recommendation of Emma Roberts’ Instagram. I’ve mentioned it before, and I’ll mention it again, she frequently posts amazing book recommendations on social media. Daum describes that essays as “[covering] a range of subjects, but they all circle around the idea of emotional dissonance…Basically, it’s about what it’s like when you just can’t get with the program.”
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: Given that the zeitgeist is characterized by a hyper-PC culture in which you can sneeze and offend someone, I’m intrigued by Daum’s proposed exploration of “off-limits” feelings and topics. I already own this book, and I’m planning on giving it a read this month.
GIVE IT TO: Your friend who’s always putting her foot in her mouth…it’ll serve as consolation that she’s not alone.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: I’m fairly certain everyone and her mother, excepting myself, has read this book. It’s a story about a Nigerian couple that leaves their home country for America, and London, respectively. Their paths diverge, but they reunite fifteen years later in newly democratic Nigeria, and subsequently ‘reignite their passion—for each other, and their homeland.’
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: Because the Queen told you to.
GIVE IT TO: Fans of Little Bee…quite a few reviews I read likened the experiences of the two female protagonists. I loved Little Bee, so I’m excited to pick this one up and compare.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Detective Gabriella Versado begins discovering dead bodies arranged in disturbing ‘tableaus’ in warehouses across Detroit. The story follows Versado’s exploration of the case, freelance journalist Jonno’s attempts to cover it, and the Detective’s teenage daughter, who engages in an online romance with a potential suspect.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: Because Stephen King and George R.R. Martin both gave it glowing recommendations. When they heap praise, you take heed. N.B.: buy the hardcover edition—the cover makes it worth it.
GIVE IT TO: Fans of True Detective Season 1. Fact: listening to Matthew McConnaughey’s voice for over an hour has been proven to kill brain cells.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: In City of Lies, Ramita Navai follows eight Iranians, a group that includes everyone from a porn star to a schoolgirl to an assassin, who, despite their differences, are united by Tehran’s reality, which, Navai asserts, is “in order to live in Iran you have to lie.”
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: The stories, which are all 100% based on the truth [though, for the safety of the subjects, Navai has tweaked certain aspects of their lives], are allegedly “almost unbelievable.” Plus, there’s nothing more appealing to me than a book that explores the political and social tenets of another culture in a creative and accessible way.
GIVE IT TO: Your friend who multitasks by reading Foreign Affairs while watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: The principle behind the book is clearing your mind of excessive thoughts; “in the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: Let’s be honest, mindfulness is hot right now.
GIVE IT TO: Your friend who needs to the calm the F down
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: These two novels are old classics that I’ve been meaning to read for a while now at the recommendation of my friend Kate. The books are timeless novels about ‘falling in love among the privileged and eccentric’
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: Give yourself a break from the contemporary fiction for some good-old fashioned elitist fun.
GIVE IT TO: Anyone you know that’s done a debutante ball
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Count Dracula, a terrifying man who travels to London at the same time a number of horrendous crimes begin to occur on the streets. The story is told in a series of diary entries and reports from witnesses of the crimes, which lends the story a level of credibility that most horror novels lack
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: It’s a classic that won’t take you three months to get through.
GIVE IT TO: Fans of Twilight and The Vampire Diaries.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: The life of a baseball player at a small Liberal Arts College
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: I don’t know much more about it than the above, as most of the reviewers synopses tend to read like movie posters for the latest “feel-good comedy,” but who dislikes a feel-good comedy?
GIVE IT TO: Your sporty friend.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: A collection of essays, memoir, and fiction from the author of The Fortress of Solitude; topics run the gamut from Bob Dylan to 9/11 to Civil War-Era poetry from Confederate bards.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: Because Lethem has marketed the work as “nonfictions, etc., from the endlessly eclectic.” I’m sold.
GIVE IT TO: Fans of David Foster Wallace weary of the fact that liking DFW has become pretentious.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: An exploration of the contemporary art world written by an Artforum and New Yorker contributor. The book features seven sections that go behind the scenes at insider events like Christie’s auctions and Art Basel.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: The contemporary art world is just as glamorous and intriguing [if not more so] than the fashion world; the market for fashion world stories and movies is completely oversaturated. The art world is under-explored.
GIVE IT TO: Your chicest friend, when she gets back from Basel, of course. And give them Steve Martin’s An Object of Beauty, too.