$n$ BOOK NOTES - Books that would make great Christmas gifts


Why not treat yourself or a friend to a book by a favorite author for Christmas. Several best- selling authors have published new books this year just in time for holiday giving.

I love Ivan Doig's historical novels describing life in Montana in earlier times. His 13th book, "Work Song," was released earlier this year.Work SongIf you read "The Whistling Season" (2006) you might remember Morrie Morgan, the well-educated school teacher who arrived in Marias Coulee with his sister Rose. Morrie is the main character in this sequel set in Butte, Mont., in 1919 just after World War I. Doig incorporates local Butte history into his mix of romance and human drama. The Anaconda Mine was the main industry in town, and the owners were constantly at odds with the union. The story revolves around the growing tensions between the miners and the mine owners, and how Morgan reluctantly becomes part of the labor movement.

Nemesis by Philip RothPhilip Roth published his first novel "Goodbye Columbus" in 1959 and has been turning out provocative and award winning books exploring his Jewish and American identity ever since. His latest endeavor has been to write a series of short novels - "Everyman" (2006), "Indignation" (2008), and "The Humbling" (2009). The fourth book in the series, "Nemesis," is a compact tragic story, almost a fable, involving a fictional polio outbreak in Newark, N.J., in 1944. The novel is a visit to a time and place when a monumental health crisis dominated the way people led their day-to-day lives. The city is in a panic, with residents so suspicious of other individuals and ethnic groups that emotions quickly escalate into hostility and even rage. The hero of the book is Bucky Canter, a playground director in Newark's Jewish neighborhood who takes the epidemic personally as one young boy after another at the playground succumbs to the disease.

Ken Follett's historical epics "The Pillars of the Earth" (1989) and "World Without End" (2008) were set in the middleFall Giants by Ken Follettages. His latest novel, "Fall of Giants," is the first in a planned Century trilogy that follows the fates of five interrelated families from America, Germany, Russia, England and Wales. Beginning in 1911 and ending in 1925, The book showcases the lives of these families and how they become involved with the issues of the day from the outbreak of World War I, the Russian Revolution and the struggle for women's suffrage. A cast of characters is provided at the beginning of the book to help the reader keep track of the lords and ladies, dukes and duchesses, kings, queens, earls, dukes and even the servants, miners, and other assorted people who populate the novel. At over 1,000 pages it should be a good companion on long winter nights. Let's hope we don't have to wait 20 years for the sequel.

Fly Away Home by Jennifer WeinerOne of my favorite "chick lit" authors is Jennifer Weiner. I discovered Weiner after our book club read "In Her Shoes" (2003). In her most recent novel, "Fly Away Home," a politician gets caught up in a sex scandal and his wife leaves him. Does this sound like a familiar situation? Sylvie Woodruff is stunned when her husband, Senator Richard Woodruff, is exposed by the press for having an affair with a member of his staff. Sylvie heads to her family home in Connecticut to decide whether she wants to end her marriage or not. Realizing she has always put her husband first before her children, Sylvie asks her two daughters join her at the Connecticut retreat and is surprised to find that their lives are as tumultuous as hers.

Bill Bryson is known for his travel stories and personal insight into the places he visits. I have enjoyed reading "A Walk inAt Home: A Short History of Private Lifethe Woods" (1998). The book recounts his adventures hiking the Appalachian trail while overweight and out of shape. I also enjoyed his observations of Australia "In A Sunburned Country" (2001). In his latest book, "At Home: A Short History of Private Life," he explores the domestic world. Bryson writes from his home in England, a former rectory built in 1851, reconstructing the fascinating history of the household. He formed the idea of journeying about his house from room to room to "write a history of the world without leaving home." The bathroom provides the occasion for a history of hygiene; the bedroom for a discourse on sex, death and sleep; and the kitchen for an account of nutrition and the spice trade. He examines how everyday items, such as ice, cookbooks, glass windows and salt and pepper, transformed ways of life. If you like history and trivia, you will probably enjoy this book.

And for mystery/crime fans John Grisham's newest legal thriller, "The Confession," features an innocent man destined for the gallows and a guilty man who may be able to save him. Michael Connelly's latest novel, "The Reversal," features attorney Mickey Haller who is recruited to prosecute the high-profile retrial of a brutal child murderer with LAPD Detective Harry Bosch as his chief investigator. In his most recent novel, "Edge," Jeffery Deaver introduces a new character, Corte, an agent in the Strategic Protection Department, who is assigned to protect a Washington, D.C. detective and his family from an adversary tasked to "extract" information from them.

I hope these recommendations help with your gift selections. Happy Holidays! Here's to good reading in 2011!


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