Last week, my book club (a.k.a. “The Book Thieves”) met for our annual holiday book exchange. (For a full account of last year’s book exchange, as well as anecdotes about the club, click here!) Although we have a lot of rules regarding the mechanics of the exchange, we are loosey-goosey when it comes to the books we bring. Hardcover, paperback, new, old, fiction, nonfiction . . . all are welcome. This year, for the first time I can remember, there were no duplicates.
The award for the most-stolen book went to Alice Munro’s Family Furnishings, but I’m not sure if that was because our members love short stories or because the book was packaged with an adorable ornament. The ornament was a stack of books — I’ve tried to find it online, without success, but I found a similar one in the Bas Bleu catalog.
We had a wonderful evening at a local wine bar, complete with delicious appetizers and a chocolate cake for the December birthday girls. Of course, the friendship and camaraderie among book lovers was the best part. Here are the books we exchanged . . . or stole:
The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant
The new novel by Diamant (author of The Red Tent) just released this month, which is unusual — very few books are published in December. Maybe it’s because The Red Tent miniseries aired on Lifetime on December 7 and 8? In The Boston Girl, 85-year-old Addie Baum, born in the North End of Boston to immigrant parents, tells the story of her life to her granddaughter.
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
I adored Kidd’s first novel, The Secret Life of Bees, but was disappointed with her second fiction effort, The Mermaid Chair. So I wasn’t sure I wanted to try The Invention of Wings — but everyone I’ve talked to who’s read it has loved it, and it’s received excellent reviews. Kidd has written what she calls a “thickly imagined story” based on the life of Sarah Grimke, a Southern slave owner turned abolitionist.
The Forest Feast by Erin Gleeson
I wasn’t familiar with this cookbook (or Gleeson’s blog) before our get-together, but the book is absolutely lovely, a combination of a cookbook and an art book. The recipes sound terrific, too.
My Paris Kitchen: Recipes and Stories by David Lebovitz
I love reading cookbooks (truth be told, I prefer reading them to cooking from them) and this book is part cookbook, part memoir — perfect! It’s on my wish list.
Family Furnishings: Selected Stories, 1995-2014 by Alice Munro
People say they don’t like short stories, and then they read Alice Munro and they’re converts. I think we all need to have a story collection (or two) on our bedside tables! For more on that topic, please read Five Reasons to Read Short Stories.
What Would Jane Do? Quips and Wisdom from Jane Austen by the editors at Potter Style
“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.” (From Northanger Abbey)
The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs
One of my favorites of 2014, this moving and thought-provoking examination of race, class, and education is the kind of book you want to discuss with someone as soon as you’ve finished it.
100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write: On Umbrellas and Sword Fights, Parades and Dogs, Fire Alarms, Children, and Theater by Sarah Ruhl
I was thrilled to receive a signed copy of this book (which has received much acclaim, including selection as one of the New York Times Book Review’s Notable Books) — I’ve enjoyed Ruhl’s plays, and I love essays. However, I felt a little bad that I had to steal it from a friend.
Make It Ahead: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten
Who doesn’t love Ina Garten? I bought a copy as soon as the book came out, so I was glad I didn’t get it in the exchange. (The herbed pork tenderloin with apple chutney is very good, by the way.)
By the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from the New York Times Book Review by Pamela Paul
I brought this book because I enjoyed it so much. It’s a collection of columns from the “By the Book” column that appears in the Book Review every Sunday. Authors are asked a series of questions, such as “What book is on your nightstand right now?”, “What was the last book that made you cry?”, and “What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?” About 70 authors are included — everyone from David Sedaris to Carl Hiaasen to J.K. Rowling.
Happy Holidays to readers and book clubs everywhere!