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Friday, November 29, 2019

Long-Weekend Reading

There are few things more thrilling for a reader than a long weekend, and the Amazon Books editors are leaping into this four-day holiday with very full book bags.

A favorite annual read from Jeanette Winterson, a new novel from William Gibson, thoughtful advice on how to have engaging—not destructive—conversations (perfect for family gatherings!), and new thrillers cover a lot of literary bases this weekend.

We’re thankful for family, friends… and lots of lovely books.

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Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days by Jeanette Winterson

I like to take things one holiday at a time but it’s become tradition to read Christmas Days during the Thanksgiving weekend, and it’s one that never ceases to melt my cynical heart. There are twelve tales, each one infectious with Winterson’s enthusiasm for the season. This is not to say that all of the stories are joyful. She slips a couple delightfully spooky ones into the mix, and there are accompanying holiday recipes as well. In the introduction, Winterson writes: “I know Christmas has become a cynical retail hijack but it is up to us all, individually and collectively, to object to that. Christmas is celebrated across the world by people of all religions and none. It is a joining together, a putting aside of differences.” On the heels of another contentious year, a lot of folks are apprehensive about holing up with family this holiday season. My advice? Leave politics at the door, watch Elf for the tenth time, and begin the tradition of reading Christmas Days. —Erin Kodicek

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Agency by William Gibson

I picked up Agency, William Gibson’s novel set to publish in January 2020, out of curiosity. What could Gibson, famously prescient science-fiction writer and man who coined the word “cyberspace,” be up to? Agency is a book about an “app whisperer” named Verity who is partnered with an Alexa-like AI. I love the idea of an app whisperer, and of course I’m familiar with artificially intelligent devices like Alexa, so I was quickly hooked by the characters. The world Gibson has built in this novel is recognizable and believable, and the book actually takes place in two parallel worlds, or maybe it’s multiple worlds—I’m still trying to figure it out, but the world(s) is/are also drawing me in. I didn’t know this when I started, but it turns out that Agency is the sequel to The Peripheral (2014). I haven’t read that previous novel. Since it’s a long weekend, I’m hoping to finish Agency; then I’m going to go back and read The Peripheral. Hopefully, I’ll be able to report back that you don’t have to have read the first one to enjoy the second. —Chris Schluep

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Apeirogon: A Novel by Colum McCann

I adore Colum McCann’s sweeping and swirling novels, so you can imagine that I am over the moon to dive into his latest, Apeirogon, coming out in February. Publishing lore has it that so far, only two people have known what the title means. I was not one of those people—apeirogon (noun): a polygon having an infinite number of sides and vertices—but maybe you are! I’m banking on this long weekend to immerse myself in McCann’s kaleidoscopic novel that crosses continents and centuries about friendship, love, loss, and belonging.

But I also know that in between cooking a turkey, going for walks in the woods, and laughing in a pile with my family, I might also want to read something a little less 'sided,' so to speak. So I’m also bringing along Isabel Allende’s historical novel about the Spanish Civil War, A Long Petal of the Sea (out in January), Lily King’s new novel, Writers and Lovers, about art and ambition (out in March), and a novel of the rough-and-tumble west, Eden Mine by S.M. Hulse, because I love her sense of place. I can safely say I won’t read all of these books—either because I’ll be too full, or some kind of game will draw me away from the words—but this Thanksgiving I’m thankful to have the opportunity to read with my family nearby. —Al Woodworth

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How to Have Impossible Conversations by Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay

How did Thanksgiving sneak up on us so fast?! It’s one of my favorite holidays because I enjoy baking and making appetizers for lots of people. (I leave the entrees to my expert husband, whom my daughter dubbed “the cooker” when she was much younger.) But whether you’re at Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving, sometimes you realize you’re in the awkward situation in which you and your conversation partner have very different world-views. But I don’t want to simply switch over to talking about the weather. (You can talk about rain in Seattle only so much.) I’m hoping this book will help me at Thanksgiving—and in other situations—to have meaningful and engaging conversations about difficult subjects. And be a nicer person. —Adrian Liang

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How the Dead Speak by Val McDermid

I’m halfway through the latest in one of my favorite long-running series, Val McDermid’s How the Dead Speak (December 3). It’s been worth the wait as it ties up a recent story arc that’s kept the profiler Tony Hill and detective Carol Jordan apart. But I’ll be finished soon, there’s a long weekend coming up, and Ms. McDermid has whetted my appetite for mystery. Luckily, I have a Plan B: Trace of Evil, the first book in a new series set in New England about a cold case detective, Natalie Lockhart, who discovers a fellow cop’s pregnant wife dead. And there may be a connection between the wife, an open cold case, and a tragedy in Natalie’s own past. —Vannessa Cronin

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A Better Man: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel by Louise Penny

There’s something about this time of year that always makes me turn to Louise Penny. For those unfamiliar with Penny, please do yourself a favor and pick up her first book right now. The debut book in her Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series, Still Life, opens right after Thanksgiving in the fictional Quebec village of Three Pines. Penny’s psychological mysteries cycle through the seasons, but I prefer to read them in winter. Her latest and 15th book in the Gamache series, A Better Man, is set in the spring, and Gamache is investigating a missing pregnant woman whose husband has been abusing her. While the topic may not bring to mind the holidays, I point you toward Penny’s beautifully atmospheric writing about Three Pines, Armand Gamache—who always smells vaguely of sandalwood—and sandwich descriptions that always make me hungry. —Sarah Gelman

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