Are you in search of book recommendations for this holiday season? The St. Mary’s English teachers have each recommended a title with a brief description to serve as a gift for a beloved bookworm or an absorbing treat to be devoured by the fire, mug of tea in hand. Please enjoy the following selections during this joyous season!
Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle
Recommended by: Anne Hainley
Turkle’s observations about technology and its impact on daily life — and in particular on relationships — are drawn from multiple interviews and her observations as a clinical psychologist and member of the faculty at M.I.T. Reading Turkle’s book sparked conversations with important people in my life, including a friend in Chicago who read it as part of her book group and faculty members here at St. Mary’s.
A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson
Recommended by: Sara Salvi
On many best books of 2015 lists, this sprawling novel tells the story of Teddy Todd, an R.A.F. bomber during World War II as he navigates the changes of the twentieth century. It is an old-fashioned novel in a sense, with a decent, likable protagonist, and a sweeping saga of four generations. One review called it a “love letter to the men and boys who fought on the British side.”
Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill
Recommended by: Sara Salvi
For an “edgier” read, consider this compact novel about marriage, motherhood (of a colicky child), and fulfillment, told in two narrative voices. Offill is very funny at times, but also searing in her fierce dissection of the overwhelming changes that absorb her narrator after the birth of her first child. One of the New York Times’ Ten Best Books of 2014, this is an experimental novel in form, but, as one critic notes, “intriguing, beautifully written, sly, and often profound.”
In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri
Recommended by: Francesca Cronan
This book is for language lovers, and those who have struggled to unlock and communicate in a different language. Lahiri, author of The Namesake, recounts her obsession with becoming fluent in Italian, and her eventual decision to mover her family to Rome in order to immerse herself in the language. Lahiri presents her musings in a dual page format — Italian on one side, English on the other — and it is, as one critic noted, “a startling act of self-reflection and a provocative exploration of belonging and reinvention.”
The Big Rock Candy Mountain by Wallace Stegner
Recommended by: Ashley Whitty
Stegner’s The Big Rock Candy Mountain tells the story of one family’s struggle to love, live, and find happiness in the first half of the twentieth century in America. This novel is beautifully written, masterfully told, and completely engrossing. You can’t go wrong with Stegner!
Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, by Sebastian Junger
Recommended by: Mary Barrett
This book explores how we can form and maintain stronger ties in our modern world. Junger examines how tribal communities forge bonds and find meaning in their cultures. He shows that even in divisive times in our history, civilians can and have felt purpose and connection to their community.
In the Wilderness: Coming of Age in Unknown Country by Kim Barnes
Recommended by: Kirk Ellis
I couldn’t recommend this book more highly. As an aspiring poet, I have always enjoyed the work of Kim Barnes. This is worth reading just for the mastery of language. Here is succinct praise from Goodreads: “It is a story of how both faith and geography can shape the heart and soul, and of the uncharted territory we all must enter to face our demons. Above all, it is the clear-eyed and moving account of a young woman’s coming of terms with her family, her homeland, her spirituality, and herself.”
Last Days of Night by Graham Moore
Recommended by: Carrie Housley
Set during the Gilded Age when transmitting electricity was new and dangerous, this novel follows the fate of Paul Cravath, a lawyer hired by Westinghouse to combat his powerful opponent in the contest to monopolize the new market, Thomas Edison. Erik Larson opines that Moore creates an exciting “world of invention and skullduggery,” and Scott Turow says that is a powerful “meditation on the price we pay for new technology.”
From Ellie Gilbert:
My book recommendation this holiday season is a personal one – the handwritten history that my Grandmother composed of her life a few years before she passed away. I urge folks to spend time this holiday season gathering the stories of loved ones – and writing them down! You will never regret capturing your family’s narratives.