7 books perfect for the season of giving
These books will stir up lively debates around your holiday table, says Homerun book columnist Richard King
Every Wednesday, CBC Montreal's Homerun welcomes one of its five book columnists in studio.
From what's new to hit the shelves, to the latest page-turner he's just put down, author and former bookseller Richard King shares his top picks.
With the holidays approaching, here are Richard's reading recommendations.
It's the season for giving and these books make gifts so good that the giver will want to read them first!
The Witch Elm
Tana French is an Irish mystery writer best known for her Dublin Murder Squad series.
Her new novel, The Witch Elm, is a stand-alone novel that is part suspense, part mystery, part family saga and all engrossing.
The book is on the New York Times list of 100 notable books of 2018. Toby Hennessy is a late 20s PR professional working in an art gallery in Dublin. One night, while at home, he is savagely beaten by unknown assailants. As a result of the beating he suffers memory lapses. His family insists that he take the time to recover at the family estate, Ivy House, occupied by his sick uncle.
While there a mystery comes to light, and what appeared to be a straight forward story becomes a delightfully complicated one.
John Grisham's newest novel, The Reckoning, is like its predecessors: a legal thriller. But this one also makes a strong case against capital punishment and the Jim Crow culture of the post-WW II south.
Set in Clanton, Mississippi in 1946, the novel opens with its protagonist, war hero Peter Banning, setting out to murder the town's popular Methodist minister, Dexter Bell. Banning is arrested, tried, convicted and put to death without breathing a word about his motive.
The middle part of the novel tells the reader of Banning's heroism fighting in Indonesia and surviving the Bataan Death March. Plot twists abound in the third part of the book until the reader finally gets all the pieces to the puzzle of what appeared to be a motiveless crime.
J.K. Rowling writes thrillers under the pen name Robert Galbraith. Her fourth novel in this series is, Lethal White.
The action picks up following the end of the previous novel in the series, Career of Evil. Principal characters Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott have had a falling out. They reconcile at the time of Robin's marriage to Matthew Cunliffe and a year after the nuptials begin working on a case that involves politics, politicians, a cult and the death of a child that occurred years earlier.
The background to the story is the 2012 London Olympics. At 650 pages, this is a door stopper of a novel and there is plenty of back story about Strike and a great deal about Robin's ambivalent feelings toward her husband and about married life.
Typical of a Rowling/Galbraith novel, the secondary characters are wonderfully conceived.
Watch Your Tongue
Watch Your Tongue by Mark Abley is a delightful look at the origins of common idioms of the English language. For years Abley wrote a popular column on language for the Montreal newspaper, The Gazette, and his many fans will delight in this book.
Abley writes with a lively wit and an engaging style. He adds a number of side bars to his history of our language's common expressions. It will be great fun to have this book around at family gatherings over the holidays as it will engender an animated discussion about the origins and uses of common idioms — conversations more interesting and less abrasive that politics.
1,000 Books To Read Before You Die
Another book that will generate a lot of talk and good-natured debate is James Mustich's 1,000 Books To Read Before You Die.
The author is a former bookseller, a critic and an editor. Mustich's choices include the obvious selections from the English literature canon but that does not mean that everyone will agree with all his choices.
I would have culled the list to make room for more books by Margaret Atwood, and the lack of any titles by Mordecai Richler while including A Tree Grows in Brooklyn strikes me as a serious oversight.
On the other hand, the reader will discover books he or she may be unaware of such as, The Collected Ghost Stories of M. R. James.
What is Real?
What better way to fill the time over the holidays than to try to understand quantum physics?
Adam Becker has written a readable and accessible book on the subject entitled, What is Real?
Becker explores the subject from Einstein's first proof of the existence of the atom on 1905 and a little later of the light quantum or photon to the modern theories and theorists in the field of quantum physics. He touches on the complexity of the subject when he talks about the fact that even Richard Feynman did not believe that he fully understood Quantum Theory.
Finally, for those who want a simpler book on the subject there is Walter Isaacson's Einstein — not his 700-page biography but a much shorter illustrated book on the great man that gives brief explanations of his theories.
This book makes a great gift for those interested in beginning to explore the world of physics.