Finally, it’s time to read.

I have always loved books and escaping into one during the holidays (or any other type of family gathering) became my MO as a kid. There are pictures of me reading during family picnics, on camping trips, during Christmas parties, and at many a wedding. I read at the dinner table, in cars, and deep under my covers with my lamp at night so my parents wouldn’t notice I was up past my bedtime.

Sometimes we all need a little escape. I guess I needed more than a little, but maybe all that escaping was a primer for my work as a writer. I still love reading, and stories. My go-to gift to give is a book, every time.

 

My gift to you this season are these four books that are worth your ahhhhh time:

 

Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen

This book made me laugh so hard, and so often, that my stomach muscles cramped and I had to keep a box of tissues handy because I couldn’t stop crying. If you are not already a fan of Carl Haaissen’s zany characters and his twisty, entertaining plots, then you are in for a treat. Lose yourself in this tale set in South Florida during your holiday gathering and you won’t care that the lefse is dry or that Aunt Margaret is giving you the hard sell on her new line of skin care products.

 

The Painter by Peter Heller

My literature favorites tend to be dark, and this book’s theme of grief and longing has a permanent place in my heart. It’s about a fly-fishing artist/recluse who uses his anguish over the death of his daughter to take down a local poacher. Not only is Heller, who studied poetry at Dartmouth, a master of prose, he’s also an avid fly fisher. The main character’s run-in with the law during the aftermath reads like any thriller, only better, because it’s so beautifully written.

 

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

This book about family, and about the consequences of our actions, mesmerized me from the start. Patchett’s writing is clear and purposeful, with complex characters who do things to each other and to themselves that I both understood yet knew would undo them in the end. I felt a sort of slow, sinking dread as the story progressed, knowing something big was going to happen but never sure what it would be until it did, and even then I was shocked. I love that about any story–the ability to be surprised and enchanted at the same time. The way the story plays out in the aftermath of the tragedy left me feeling both aching with sorrow and hopeful. A true literary gem.

 

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Eagan

An interview with Eagan in the New Yorker sparked my interest in this book. I was curious because the main character is a young woman during pre-WWII who, among other interesting twists, becomes a diver for the Naval Yard in NYC. Eagan writes beautifully, and her characters are rich and interesting. I felt like I was getting an inside look at both what it was like to be a woman during the 30s, and what America was like during that time–especially the gangsters and unions and their interactions. The only disappointment was the ending, where Eagan’s character seems to veer emotionally off-course. But it’s a small transgression compared to the intricately woven story and delightful writing.

 

Book News!

My first draft of Love in the Time of Surfing, my next novel, will be complete by February 14th. The story is set in Costa Rica, and features a volcanologist who is forced into a dangerous mission to rescue a missing stepbrother. Yep, there’ll be surfing, danger, love, and loss. Stay tuned.