Whether you want a lazy story to read by the fire, a laugh or some vicarious adventure, here are eight hot holiday reads. That’s 1.5 books for each day of Christmas or a novel for each Chanukah light. Happy holidays!
1. By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham. This stunning book is courtesy of the author of ‘The Hours’ and is set amongst the gallery world of New York. Art dealer Peter Harris lives a comfortable life that is disrupted by the arrival of Ethan, nicknamed Mizzy to denote his status as ‘mistake’. He’s the much-younger brother of Peter’s wife, Rebecca and forces Peter to question what he thought about marriage, love and desire. The gorgeous writing quietly captures the Soho scene and like the art it describes, ‘By Nightfall’ is beautiful, a perfect fireside read.
2. The Sherlockian by Graham Moore. This new release skips between two mysteries. In modern London a top Arthur Conan Doyle scholar claims to have found the Sherlock Holmes author’s missing diary, the one which would explain why he killed off the beloved detective to the outcry of Sherlock fans everywhere, and then mysteriously reincarnated him after a seven year absence. Meanwhile, in Victorian England, Mr. Doyle and Bram Stoker are on a dangerous hunt themselves. Based on real events, the novel is a thrilling double mystery of Sherlockian proportions.
3. The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie. Reading a heavy-weight like Rushdie can be intimidating and many of his novels are fairly dense. Here he’s at his most accessible. ‘Enchantress’ spins the tale of Vespucci, a blonde visitor at the court of Akbar, emperor of the Mughal Kingdom who is claiming to be a relative of the emperor’s. The story unfolds with magic and mystery between the Harems of India and Medieval Italy when Florence was at its most vibrant and powerful. This is an engrossing fairytale for grownups, full of wit and excitement.
4. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. I’d call this novel as integral to a girl’s coming of age as a training bra but this classic ain’t ‘Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret’. Amazon describes it thusly: “Cassandra Mortmain wants to become a writer… Her family–beautiful sister Rose, brooding father James, ethereal stepmother Topaz–is barely scraping by in a crumbling English castle they leased when times were good.” A castle. Sigh. A romance. Sigh. Period English fashion. Sigh. Indulge your inner romantic adolescent with a read or reread of this fabulous, quirky story.
5. I Heart Paris by Lindsey Kelk. For a more modern romance, check this one out. For Kelk’s heroine Angela (from I Heart London) things couldn’t be going better. At the same time as boyfriend Alex suggests a Parisian getaway, editor Belle sends her on assignment to the city of love. Her joie-de-vivre risks unraveling when Angela spies Alex with his ex. Just nominated for the Romance Novel of the Year Prize, ‘I Heart Paris’ is like a holiday glass of champagne; bubbly and intoxicating.
6. Skippy Dies by Paul Murray. Poor Skippy. He’s always the odd man out at his Irish Catholic prep school full of fusty old priests and texting boys whose testosterone is practically dripping down the walls. The book recounts the hilarious events that lead up to the untimely passing of Daniel ‘Skippy’ Juster in a doughnut eating contest.
7. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Forget the Twilight Series. The Mockingjay trilogy is what’s up in cool YA fiction. In a Dystopic future, the thirteen regions that make up North America are kept in check by the Capitol with the brutal Hunger Games. Each district sends one girl and one boy between the ages of 12 and 18 to fight to the death in an ever changing arena, televised for the Capitol’s amusement and nation’s control. Only Katniss, District 12’s Tribute, doesn’t go down without a fight. Only occasionally preteen cheesy, Collins writes circles around Stephanie Meyers. Surrender your membership to Team Edward or Jacob; this will be your guilty pleasure next year when the movie gets released.
8. One Day by David Nicholls. I couldn’t say enough good things about this book when I read it a few months back and now it’s made several of the Best Books of the Year lists. So I’m going to say it again because this novel is that fantastic. So many books based on a quirky premise fall apart trying to live up to it but this one doesn’t disappoint. One Day follows best mates Emma and Dexter, Em and Dex. Each chapter is the same calendar date in their lives told over twenty years. Fraught with sexual tension, tense loyalties and the lively banter that old friendships have, the story follows these vivid characters through graduating university, the fright of being twentysomethings with no plans, success, relationships and everything in between. The easy storytelling makes their lives exciting and their relationship is always honest and totally believable. It’s a one-sitting book that had me surprisingly emotionally invested when the ending arrived. It’s a MUST read and you’ll have no trouble polishing it off before the holiday is over; you won’t be able to put it down.
~ Zoe Shapiro