Monday, December 21, 2015

Last Minute Christmas Gifts

If you are looking for a last minute Christmas gift, books are always a great idea. Unwrapping a book on Christmas morning and flipping through it during the day is a treasured tradition in our house. If I'm lucky there will be a few to open and that stack is a beguiling sight in the days to come. Which one will I read first? The quiet weeks after Christmas always allow for some good reading time. And settling in with a good book on a cold winter afternoon or night is one of the best things about this time of the year. Here are some books that have caught my eye recently. I hope this list will give you a few suggestions for last minute Christmas gifts. They are guaranteed to while away a cozy winter night in front of the fireplace.

The Bronte Cabinet by Deborah Lutz

The Bronte sisters are endlessly fascinating and now there is a new book to add to the vast scholarship on the topic. "The Bronte Cabinet" is an intimate portrait of the sisters' lives based on the objects they possessed. This is such a good idea. After visiting many of my favorite writer's houses, I feel that I know them better after seeing their possessions. Victorian scholar Deborah Lutz looks at the complex lives of the Brontes through the things they wore, stitched, wrote on, and inscribed. The first chapter is called "Tiny Books." For the passionate Bronte reader, this would be a wonderful addition to a collection.

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

In "The Paris Wife" Paula McClain brought to life not only the tempestuous marriage of Ernest and Hadley Hemingway but also the heady days of Paris in the twenties. Now she is back with another historical novel, "Circling The Sun." It is about Beryl Markham, the record-breaking aviator caught up in a passionate love triangle with safari hunter Denis Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen, who as Isak Dinesen wrote the classic memoir "Out of Africa." I've already started this and love it.

The Dream Lover by Elizabeth Berg

This historical novel is about the life of the nineteenth-century writer George Sand. She started out as Aurore Dupin but changed her name after leaving her husband and starting her career as a writer. She had a passionate love affair with Frederic Chopin and defied the conventions of the day. Her friends and lovers included Gustave Flaubert, Franz Liszt, and Victor Hugo. Paris in the nineteenth century is vividly evoked in this book as it tells the story of the loves, passions, and fierce struggles of this fascinating woman.

It's hard to imagine how Shakespeare at the age of 42 wrote three iconic masterpieces in one year: "King Lear," "Macbeth," and "Antony and Cleopatra." That kind of creativity is awe-inspiring. James Shapiro takes a close look at the political and social turmoil of Britain in the year 1606 that contributed to the creation of these three incredible plays. I can't wait to read this one!

For many people, Nancy Mitford is the ultimate comic novelist. This collected set of her sparkling, astute and hilarious novels would be the perfect gift for a friend who loves British humor. Mitford pokes fun at British aristocrats and their eccentric ways and evokes a long ago vanished time. These books are lough-out-loud funny. What a treasure to have all the novels together in one collected set.

M Train by Patti Smith

After the success of "Just Kids," Patti Smith has written another book. She describes this one as "a road map to my life." She tells the story of the odyssey of her career through the prism of the cafes and haunts she has worked in around the world. This book is a non-linear meditation on topics that have been important to her over the years: books, art, travel, the artist's craft and artistic creation. For your friends who loved her first book, this would be a wonderful gift.

The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante

"The Story of the Lost Child" is the final installment of the four Neapolitan novels by Elena Ferrante. I read the first book in the series, "My Brilliant Friend," and was impressed by this powerful story. It tells of a friendship between two women that seems unbreakable despite the most difficult odds. This fascinating tale of growing up in the working class of Naples in the 1950's amidst poverty, danger and violence also deals with the serious challenges of being a woman in that environment. The essence of these books seems to be the mysterious chemistry that holds these two women together as friends. The latest installment to the series has received great reviews.

Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford

This book is being called a modern day "House of Mirth." A first novel by Stephanie Clifford, it is about the young and wealthy in New York City. The story follows Evelyn Beegan, a middle class millennial from Maryland, whose great aspiration is to work her way into young Manhattan's elite society. It takes its title from the last line of Stephen Sondheim's song "The Ladies Who Lunch." From everything I've read, this book promises to be a funny and sharply observed story about old money in New York.

At Home in the Garden by Carolyne Roehm

This gorgeous coffee table book by Carolyne Roehm is about the gardens at her historic Connecticut home, Weatherstone. I have seen this one and it is impressive, in size and beauty! All of Roehm's books are filled with inspiration for home decor, entertaining and lifestyle. This would be a great gift for the garden lover in your life.

Garden Inspirations by Charlotte Moss                         

Another book about gardens, this one is by celebrated interior designer Charlotte Moss. She writes about the garden as her inspiration for interiors, entertaining and good living. The garden is her muse and this book shows the many ways it has influenced her life. Another beautiful book for your gardening friends.

Did you know that "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" turned 150 this year? On the occasion of this milestone birthday, Anna Bond of Rifle Paper Company has illustrated a beautiful new edition for Puffin Books. This charming book would be a treasure in anybody's library as well as a wonderful gift for the young person in your life.

A Book a Month from Persephone Books

The endpapers for the Persephone Books edition of "London War Notes" by Mollie Panter-Downes
Image via here

And finally if you really want to give a bountiful gift to a book lover, send them a year's worth of books from Persephone Books. Have you visited their charming bookshop in London? It is filled with lovely gray books whose gorgeous endpapers are derived from the pattern of a textile tied to the year the book was originally published. Persephone Books publishes out-of-print titles mostly by mid-twentieth century women writers. Authors include Katherine Mansfield, Monica Dickens, Julia Strachey, Enid Bagnold, Winifred Holtby, and E.M. Delafield. One of my favorite Persephone books is "Diary of a Provinical Lady" by E.M. Delafield. For your Anglophile friend who can't get enough of British novels set in the early 20th-century, give a year of books from Persephone Books. Go here to learn more.

Wishing you the happiest of holidays and a great year of reading in 2016!


  1. Absolutely adore book reviews and recommendations. I can never choose the right ones. I just finished JUST KIDS and it blew me away. Have M TRAIN too. Reading TEA WITH ROSIE right now and can't remember who recommended it. Love the writing so far. Couldn't finish THE PARIS WIFE so not sure if I'll read the other one but it does sound interesting. I think books are the perfect Christmas gift and so nice to while away winter.

    1. I didn't finish The Paris Wife either, but loved Circling the Sun.

  2. Wonderful recommendations! I just finished "The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman which I liked very much. Wishing you & your family a wonderful holiday❤️

  3. I alway love your book suggestions Sunday! I have gifted the one year of Persephone books in the past and it was much appreciated. The extra bonus was all the books coming to me to read. Paying it forward worked out perfectly on that occasion! Best wishes for a Happy Holiday! xx

  4. I alway love your book suggestions Sunday! I have gifted the one year of Persephone books in the past and it was much appreciated. The extra bonus was all the books coming to me to read. Paying it forward worked out perfectly on that occasion! Best wishes for a Happy Holiday! xx

  5. 1606 looks incredibly fascinating - I'd love for someone to give that to me for Christmas! And I can vouch for Everybody Rise. I read it when it was released in the summer and it is quite good. Merry Christmas to you, Sunday!

  6. Bookshops at Christmas are my idea of heaven and you're so right about spending some time on Christmas day flipping through beautiful books. Merry Christmas, Sunday!

  7. Wonderful recommendations. I love giving books as gifts and also love receiving them. I thought Circling the Sun was so good, much better than The Paris Wife. Both garden books look so beautiful too. Might get myself one for Christmas! Thanks, and hope you and your family have a very Merry Christmas.

  8. What a wonderful list. I am sure that I would love to read some of those books. Winter is the perfect time to do that.

  9. Sunday, My favorite gifts to give and to receive are books; and, I would be very happy to find any and your suggestions under the tree. Sending you and your family wishes for a Joyous Christmas. Hugs!

  10. You always make the very best book recommendations Sunday! I love this list and am adding so many to my 'wish list.' It was you I had to thank for recommending Vanessa and Her Sister - one of my favourite books of 2015 :) Miranda xxx

  11. I want to read the Mitford novels, her books sound clever and funny. I read the Paris Wife which was great and now want to read this next one which is on your list.