The Washington Post
Almost all of the books on this month’s list come out on the same early December date, in plenty of time for you to choose one or more as gifts. Happy holiday reading!
‘ The Hotel,’ by Sophie Calle (Dec. 7)
Calle, a French artist, is known as a “forensic conceptualist,” and her book, published for the first time in English, is a kind of catalogued voyeurism. In 1981, Calle worked as a chambermaid in a Venetian hotel, using not just a broom and a mop, but also a camera and a cassette recorder. The rumpled sheets and discarded items reveal much about humanity.
‘A History of Wild Places,’ by Shea Earnshaw (Dec. 7)
This atmospheric thriller begins with Travis Wrenn, whose search for a missing woman leads him to Pastoral, a secretive Oregon commune. Years after he too disappears, members of Pastoral discover his abandoned truck and begin uncovering long-buried secrets.
‘Garbo,’ by Robert Gottlieb (Dec. 7)
Raised in poverty in Sweden, Greta Garbo has captivated generations of film fans with her sultry on-screen presence. Her retirement, at the height of her fame, made her even more fascinating. Gottlieb, the renowned editor and author, sheds light on this enigmatic actress.
‘Bright Burning Things,’ by Lisa Harding (Dec. 7)
This Irish author’s American debut is drawing comparisons to Douglas Stuart’s Booker Prize winner “Shuggie Bain.” Both are about alcoholic mothers with young children, but “Bright Burning Things” focuses more on the maternal experience, as onetime party girl Sonya fights to keep her son, Tommy, after she falls into the hell of addiction.
‘Beasts of a Little Land,’ by Juhea Kim (Dec. 7)
Beginning in 1917, this historical novel about two people struggling to survive spans decades in Korea’s tumultuous history. Jade, sold as a young girl to a school for courtesans in Pyongyang, forms a bond with Jungho, a Seoul orphan who wants to fight for freedom. Their relationship will be tested as Jade’s circumstances improve.
‘ The Cat Who Saved Books,’ by Sosuke Natsukawa; translated by Louise Heal Kawai (Dec. 7)
Combine “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” with “Mr. Penumbra’s 24Hour Bookstore” and you might get a feel for this delightful novel. A talking bookstore cat persuades a young man named Rintaro to embark on a quest to save books from barbarous fates, including languishing on shelves and being “tortured” by a man whose speed-reading tutorials involve scissors.
‘Fishing the Wild Waters: An Angler’s Search for Peace and Adventure in the Wilderness,’ by Conor Sullivan (Dec. 7)
A former Coast Guard officer and lifelong outdoorsman takes readers to three of the remaining wild fishing destinations in the United States, in Hawaii, Alaska and New England. Yes, he’s concerned with environmental matters and sustainable consumption, but he’s also after the kind of serenity found when humans connect with the natural world.
‘White on White,’ by Aysegül Savas (Dec. 7)
Savas elegantly explores loneliness in her second novel. After a student rents an apartment, its artist owner, Agnes, unexpectedly returns, moving into the upstairs studio. As the two become acquainted, and the student see Agnes’s new works — involving white paint on white canvas — the tenant realizes she’s witnessing a woman crumbling.
‘ The Death of My Father the Pope: A Memoir,’ by Obed Silva (Dec. 7)
Born in Mexico and raised in the United States, where he was drawn in by gang culture, Silva discovered the power of literature after being paralyzed from the waist down by a gunshot wound. Now a college professor, he has written a book that dissects the cruel effects his father’s alcoholism had on their family and himself.
‘52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen,’ by Faith Kramer (Dec. 14)
If you’re Jewish and regularly celebrate Shabbat, Kramer’s new cookbook, with stunning photos by Clara Rice, will give you fresh ideas for family favorites. But faith isn’t a prerequisite to appreciate this gorgeous compendium with mini Bundt cakes that riff on New York black-and-white cookies, a fail-safe challah loaf and even a Moroccan tagine.
Bethanne Patrick is the editor, most recently, of “The Books That Changed My Life: Reflections by 100 Authors, Actors, Musicians and Other Remarkable People.”