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Art and Culture

Likely Stories: Holiday Gift Ideas for Readers

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Jim McKeown
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Gift ideas for readers this holiday season.

I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.

As I am sure you are aware, I like nothing better for the holidays than a nice stack of books.  I hope your holiday is not so busy you won’t have time for reading.  Here are some suggestions for yourself, or the reader in your life.

If you are looking for a good biography, I have one for you.  A couple of years ago, I reviewed Stacy Schiff’s magnificent biography of Cleopatra.  She has taken a new tack in Witches, a history of the Salem Witch trials.  Her ability to tell a story of the lives of these unfortunate individuals, murdered because of superstition, is unsurpassed.

Margaret Atwood’s latest novel, The Heart Goes Last is another jewel in her crown.  I would also recommend A Handmaid’s Tale and Cat’s Eye as must reads by this talented, award winning Canadian writer.

Lauren Groff’s latest work makes my list of suggestions. Fates and Furies is the story of a young couple married right out of college, who struggle to hold their marriage together.  An absorbing and interesting insight into strong relationships.

After reading The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, I could not resist her 2015 novel, Circling the Sun.  Paris is about the women in Hemingway’s life, and Circling the Sun, is a fictional account of the life of Beryl Markham.  For the real scoop on Beryl Markham, I cannot recommend any book higher than her own autobiography, West with the Night. She was an amazing woman who took on roles of aviator and horse trainer, occupations almost exclusively that of men at the time.

The Booker Prize winning author, John Banvile also has a new novel, The Blue Guitar.  I am really looking forward to this one.  He is one of my favorites, and I am nearly half through all of his novels.  Banville is a literary master who is sure to please.

While not for everyone, Jonathan Franzen is a writer’s writer, and working your way through his novels will not be a wasted effort.  His newest, Purity, has been getting great reviews, and you will hear about  it on Likely Stories soon.

The third and final volume of Autobiography of Mark Twain has finally been published.  Along with volumes one and two, we have a whopping 2,100+ pages of detailed information on one of the most fascinating and well-known figures in American literary history.

Finally, as we approach the last season of Downton Abbey, two books about this magnificent series have been published.  Downton Abbey: A Celebration by Jessica Fellows is a beautiful, detailed, and marvelous companion to the series loved by hundreds of millions around the world.  Her uncle, Lord Julian Fellowes, the author of Downton Abbey, has added a foreword.  Caution: the companion contains spoiler alerts for season six.  Jessica also wrote a slim volume, The Wit and Wisdom of Downton Abbey, which has all the funny sayings of the characters.  Both are published by St. Martin’s Press.

All these books are easily available in time for wrapping and holiday cheer.  All merit 5 stars

Likely Stories is a production of KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  You can read my book blog at RabbitReader.blogspot.com.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and happy holidays and happy reading!