The December Reading List: 10 Book Gift Ideas for the Holidays
While away the holiday break with new releases by David Byrne and Grace Coddington, plus old favourites by Hugo and Tolstoy.
1. Most Fashionable Read
Grace: A Memoir by Grace Coddington
Vogue’s titian-haired creative director recounts her glamorous dealings with the fashion-world elite in her new memoir, which also includes sketches and images of her most glorious spreads for the magazine.
2. Best Book to Read on VIA Rail
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
As part of her apparent bid to play every iconic character in literature, Keira Knightley takes on the title role in a new movie adaptation of Tolstoy’s novel. The film is billed as a star-crossed love story, but the novel is much more nuanced, zooming in on the negative qualities of its morally ambivalent characters-narcissism, hypocrisy and infidelity.
3. Book Most Likely to Incite Rage at the 1%
Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
It’s impossible not to think of the mega-musical when reading Victor Hugo’s sprawling novel about redemption, vengeance and that other French revolution that no one talks about. The movie comes out this month, but we recommend catching up on the soapy source material first.
4. Most Intimate Memoir
Open Heart by Elie Wiesel
The latest offering by one of the 20th century’s top memoirists was written when he thought he was on his deathbed (he’s 84, after all). That it only turned out to be a sickbed is the happy ending, and the book is no less powerful for it.
5. Best Art Smarts
Always Looking by John Updike
In between writing upwards of 60 novels, John Updike was an amateur art critic. This posthumous essay collection includes musings on the works of artists such as Monet, Klimt and Miró.
6. Best Revenge
Heartburn by Nora Ephron
Funny lady Nora Ephron died earlier this year, and while she was best known for her brilliant romantic comedies (there’s a solid argument to be made for putting When Harry Met Sally on the same level as Citizen Kane), she was also an accomplished prose writer. This novel is a barely fictional account of Ephron’s divorce from Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein.
7. Wryest Fairy Tale
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the film adaptation of William Goldman’s fractured fairy tale. The original book may have had less Mandy Patinkin (boo!), but it also had more swashbuckling and rodents of unusual size (yay!). Anybody want a peanut?
8. That Book you Keep Seeing on the Subway
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
The year’s hottest non-50 Shades novel is a deliriously twisted thriller about a woman who disappears on her fifth wedding anniversary. Important detail: the pesky possibility that her husband might have murdered her.
9. Best Gift for the Music Snob
How Music Works by David Byrne
The former Talking Heads front man has written a rapturous paean to the sociology of music. The book argues that the art form is the product of its environment rather than individual genius-a surprisingly humble point of view from someone frequently placed in the second category.
10. Best Fireplace Read
Arctic Labyrinth: The Quest for the Northwest Passage by Glyn Williams
Global warming has progressed to the extent that a boat was recently able to sail right through the Northwest Passage. Williams’ encyclopedic history of the fabled Arctic thoroughfare is equal parts elegiac, hopeful and thrilling as it remembers the many explorers who’ve tried to find the shortcut.