Edmonds Book Talk: Novel ideas for the holidays

Elaine Mattson
Elaine Mattson

Happy December! ‘Tis the season for lots and lots of little white lights and other festiveness everywhere! That makes the long dark nights, oh, so much better!

We start with book award-related news:

On Nov. 20, the National Book Awards were announced. A few of the winners are:
• Fiction: James McBride, “The Good Lord Bird”
• Nonfiction: George Packer, “The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America”
• Poetry: Mary Szybist, “Incarnadine: Poems”
• Young People’s Literature: Cynthia Kadohata, “The Thing About Luck”

Visit the National Book Foundation website for complete lists of finalists. And see a fascinating article in The Seattle Times with some behind the scenes info about all of the politics involved with book awards – oooh, intrigue!

We live in waterAlso on Nov. 20, The Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association announced the short list for the 2014 Pacific Northwest Book Awards. The winners will be chosen in late December, and announced in January. The short list is a great collection of books, but I get to mention [out loud!] that one of my very favorite books of 2013 made the short list: “We Live in Water” by Jess Walter. This is a phenomenal collection of short stories. His writing and use of language I find just amazing. He includes all kinds of small details in his stories, mostly just in passing, that make the worlds he creates come completely alive in a really short amount of pages. All my fingers are crossed that he wins.

Now for some great gift-giving ideas!

boys on boat“The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics” by Daniel James Brown. If you have not heard about this one, ask the person next to you – they have heard about it and probably know someone directly related to the story! The University of Washington men’s crew team was chosen to represent the USA in the 1936 Olympics. This is the story of the boys and the boats and how it all came together at just the right time! Just about everyone on your list will love this!

For the LEGO fans amongst us, a couple of new ones: “LEGO Minifigure Year by Year,” and “LEGO Star Wars: The Yoda Chronicles.” Can’t really go wrong with either one of those.

New novels from authors we love: “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt, “The Signature of All Things” by Elizabeth Gilbert, “Sweet Thunder” by Ivan Doig. All have gotten great reviews!

Hard to explain, you just have to come see it: “S” by J.J. Abrams. This is a multi-layered literary puzzle of love, mystery and adventure.

For all of us waiting, not very patiently, for the new season of Downton Abbey, this may help: “Making Masterpiece: 25 Years Behind the Scenes at Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery! on PBS” by Rebecca Eaton. She tells all kinds of great stories!

“The Vatican: All the Paintings: The Complete Collection of Old Masters, Plus More than 300 Sculptures, Maps, Tapestries, and Other Artifacts.” Anja Grebe. An ambitious overview of the Vatican’s historic art collection, with over 1,206 artworks represented, including Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel.

“Natural Histories: Extraordinary Birds.” Paul Sweet. An exploration of birds across the globe with in-depth essays and an amazing collection of 40 frameable prints. We also have a lovely selection of blank journals with covers chosen from this collection.

carnivoresFavorite new kids’ book: “Carnivores” by Aaron Reynolds and Dan Santat (Illustrator) It’s lonely at the top of the food chain. It’s difficult to fit in when plant eaters can be so cruel—just because you ate a relative of theirs that one time! Aaron Reynolds’s roaringly funny text is perfectly paired with Dan Santat’s mouthwatering illustrations, creating a toothsome book that’s sure to stand out from the herd.

Some great paperback ideas:

“The Art Forger: A Novel” by B. A. Shapiro. Boston, art, the heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum… fascinating, fun!
“Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel” by Robin Sloan. All of my favorite geeky things in one book! Books, bookstores, secret societies, Google, a mysterious font… just a delightful read! And! The cover glows in the dark! Truly!
“Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power” by Jon Meacham. The Pulitzer Prize–winning author brings vividly to life an extraordinary man and his remarkable times.
“The Dinner” by Herman Koch. The staff-recommended novel now in paperback. Chosen for IndieBound.
‘The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of “Hallelujah” ‘by Alan Light. How did one obscure song become an international anthem for human triumph and tragedy? Celebrated music journalist Alan Light follows the improbable journey of “Hallelujah” straight to the heart of popular culture.

Recent book releases of note:
“The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon: No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency #14” by Alexander McCall Smith.
“The Valley of Amazement” by Amy Tan. Moving between the dazzling world of courtesans in turn of the century Shanghai, a remote Chinese mountain village, and the rough-hewn streets of nineteenth-century San Francisco, Tan’s sweeping new novel maps the lives of three generations of women connected by blood and history. New review in The Seattle Times.
For ages 8 and up “Diary of a Wimpy Kid #8: Hard Luck” by Jeff Kinney.
“Hild” by Nicola Griffith. The Yorkshire-born Seattle resident’s new novel is set in the world of seventh-century Britain, the story of a girl with seer-like qualities who is destined to become Saint Hilda. Staff recommended!
“Takedown Twenty: A Stephanie Plum Novel” by Janet Evanovich. Stephanie Plum has her sights set on catching a notorious mob boss. If she doesn’t take him down, he may take her out. [yes, both Joe and Ranger get wrapped up the goings on! And for some reason, a giraffe named Kevin ends up running wild in the streets of Trenton.]
“Cross My Heart : An Alex Cross Novel” by James Patterson [and! no co-author!]
“The Most of Nora Ephron” by Nora Ephron. A whopping big celebration of the work of the late, great Nora Ephron, America’s funniest—and most acute—writer, famous for her brilliant takes on life as we’ve been living it these last 40 years.
“Johnny Cash: the Life” by Robert Hilburn. The life of one of the 20th century’s most famous and influential musicians — billed as definitive and no-holds-barred.
“The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism” by Doris Kearns Goodwin. The author wields her magic on another larger-than-life president, and another momentous and raucous American time period as she brings Theodore Roosevelt, the muckraking journalists, and the Progressive Era to life. Review in The Seattle Times.
“This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage” by Ann Patchett. Blending literature and memoir, the author examines her deepest commitments: to writing, family, friends, dogs, books, and her husband. Together these essays form a resonant portrait of a life lived with loyalty and with love. Review in The Seattle Times.

As always, check our website for all the latest in book news, and special extended holiday hours, and for all kinds of great ideas for gifting.

Happy reading and giving!


– By Elaine Mattson

Edmonds native Elaine Mattson has worked at The Edmonds Bookshop off and on since she was 12 years old, and has also worked at a book wholesaler, a book publisher, and for the book publishing division of a large local software company (yes, that one). “I was raised a book lover [thanks, Mom!],” Mattson says. “We got book lights by our beds as soon as we were old enough to read. And then I probably got in trouble for reading too late the very next night. And I still read too late!”

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