Today, I’m playing matchmaker. Are you looking for a great read for someone on your gift list? Here are some of the books that were most-loved by your helpful mil-spouse contributors over the past year. I’ve listed them by type and theme so you can match ’em up with that gentle soul who’s just waiting for the right book to come along.
1. A Redemptive Human Interest Story Set in Las Vegas
‘We Are Called to Rise’ by Laura McBride
reviewed by Amy Bermudez
“All I want to do is rave [about this book],” said Army wife Amy Bermudez in what was possibly our most glowing review of the year:
We Are Called to Rise shines the light on the tiny particles that swirl around one moment. McBride gets how good it feels when your mom scratches your head, how important an inside joke is between friends, how sweet a teacher’s words are on the first day of school.
Avis sums up the beauty of the book when she remarks toward the end, “It all matters…What is most beautiful is least acknowledged. What is worth dying for is barely noticed.”
2. A Well-Spun Story with Colorful Characters, Set in an Independent Bookstore
(a.k.a., What’s Not to Like?)
‘The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry’ by Gabrielle Zevin
reviewed by Jenny Fiore
“It’s clear Zevin loves and knows literature, and damn, can she tell a sweet story. Not saccharine but heartwarming and colorful and quirky in all the right ways. Little revelations. Great dialogue. Solid pacing. Plausible yet magical.”
3. Fans of Westerns, Big Vistas, Action, and Horses and/or Plants:
I read four novels set in the American West this year and for anyone on your list who likes such things, I can wholeheartedly recommend Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams, Amanda Coplin’s The Orchardist, Aaron Gwyn’s Wynne’s War and Philipp Meyer’s The Son.
Handily, I wrote those out for you in an ascending order of violence without even realizing it. Just a little public service I like to provide, because you know the person you’re giving a book to — think twice before giving those last two to your grandma. Then again, your grandma might be hip as all hell. I don’t know her! In any case, these were all such innovative, exciting books, Wynne’s War being perhaps the most intriguing of them all as a modern Western set in Afghanistan. Brilliant.
4. Travel Writing, Memoir, Disaffected Professor Leaves Italy for a Job in Kurdistan
‘Picnic in a Minefield’ by Francesca Recchia
Suzanne Schroeder said: “I can’t stress enough how quickly Recchia is able to create a place for the reader to enter, and to engage with her experiences in Erbil, the city where the university was located. The author’s academic discipline is urban sociology, so she’s well-equipped to notice the small details of social interaction.
One of the strongest and most memorable scenes for me was the chapter “Of Women, Men, and Love.” Recchia writes about her encounters with Kurdish women (and men), capturing the intense suffering their society has experienced but also their immense resilience.”
5. For the Fact-Loving Geek
‘The Tipping Point’ by Malcolm Gladwell
reviewed by Pastaveia St. John
Throughout the book, Gladwell effortlessly shares a wide variety of stories – from how infectious agents such as syphilis increased due to the heavy use of crack cocaine, to an uptick suicides in Micronesia due to trivial or embarrassing reasons (such as seeing a boyfriend with another girl, or getting caught in an extra-marital affair). Social epidemics, he claims, have the same effect as health epidemics.
Gladwell explains things in a simplistic way, which makes you wonder, “Why hadn’t I thought of that before?” If you’re in the mood to learn new tidbits about life and gain a new perspective on social phenomena, this is your book.