Welcome to part IV (& final) of a special series of posts in the run up to the holiday season! I asked some of the lovely authors that have previously appeared on the site about their Christmas book recommendations for this year. They graciously replied with some fantastic book picks! (Read Part I here & Part II here & Part III here)
Hopefully these book recommendations might help you with your own Christmas shopping gift ideas too! :-)
Q. Is there a smart thinking book that you are looking forward to reading this Christmas, or one you would like to give or receive as a gift?
I haven't read a lot this year as I've been writing another book, but I would recommend The Jungle by Upton Sinclair – it's from the early twentieth century, and explores the labour conditions in the factories and abattoirs of Chicago's infamous stockyards. It's fictional, but based on real reporting by the author – and there are echoes of some of the current questionable working practices that have arisen since the advent of the gig economy.
My holiday recommendation is Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer. Don’t be fooled by the title! I am science-challenged and I loved, loved, loved this book. It’s a beautiful combination of personal story, Indigenous culture, dominant white culture, and how all three interact.
The Dawn of Everything by David Graeber and David Wengrow.
This book blew my mind. An intellectual feast which will turn your view of world history upside down.
The Dark Interval, the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke's 'Letters for the Grieving Heart', is a short disquisition on death and attitudes to it that promises to offer treasures on every page. Like this on page 1: "We must learn to die."
What I particularly resist in so many self-improving books is the promise (or should that be threat?) of perfectibility: how to overcome all your flaws and doubts and travel to the uplands of positive thinking. I like the very (different) title of Tara Brach's Radical Acceptance, which proposes Buddhist practice as a way of modifying fear and shame: instead of focusing on the new improved you, she advocates acceptance of this old, imperfect one.
I can't wait to read Hail Mary: The Rise and Fall of the National Women's Football League by Britni de la Cretaz and Lyndsey D’Arcangelo. Women have always been present in history, even when they weren't welcome, and Hail Mary will shed light on the women who played football and broke barriers in sports.
A pair of books I recently gave a family of three kids under ten are Alom Shaha's science activities for kids, Mr Shaha's Recipes for Wonder and it's recent follow up on engineering, Mr Shaha's Marvellous Machines. I've read a lot of kids science activity books over the years, and these are some of the most delightful, finding fresh joy in some classic activities and games and lovely illustrations from Emily Robertson. Alom's science lessons are always a lot more than just science, or just for those kids who already love science, and with Marvellous Machines in particular he's keen readers don't just play around with engineering ideas, but learn to make toys for themselves and their siblings and friends too. A perfect Christmas gift.
I would warmly recommend Dennis Duncan’s Index, A History of The – this is one of those books that makes you look anew at the world. Anyone who has read a non-fiction book has encountered an index, but few people consider that they have their own fascinating history. Duncan is such a sensitive guide, taking us from the minutiae of manuscripts and book publishing to the biggest questions of what knowledge means. I found something to marvel at and ponder on every page, and frequently laughed out loud.
Huge thanks & míle buíochas to Amit, Debby, Michael, Anne, Rae, Alice & Seb for their great Christmas book picks!
Merry Christmas everyone, and happy reading! :-)
Image Copyrights: Ishi Press (The Jungle), Cornerstone (Quantum Computing WIRED GUIDES), Penguin Books Ltd (Braiding Sweetgrass, The Dawn of Everything, How To Get Crazy Rich In Rising Asia, The Light Ages, Index, A History of the), Elephant Room Press (Waking Up White), Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (The Musical Human, The Dark Interval, Our Biggest Experiment), Random House USA Inc (Radical Acceptance), C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd (Women Can Save The Planet), Bold Type Books (Hail Mary), Beacon Press (All Made Up), Scribe Publications (Mr Shaha's Recipes for Wonder & Marvellous Machines).