Archive for Sunday, December 18, 2011

Cozy tales: Books perfect for winter break

Great reads can make your holidays extra merry — especially if you're traveling.

Great reads can make your holidays extra merry — especially if you're traveling.

December 18, 2011


Whether you’re staying home or hitting the road this holiday season, chances are you’ll have the time (and need) to curl up with a good book. Really, the situations rife with holiday book need are endless:

Huddled in the car or coach for long distances? Book.

Curling up on the couch after you finally get the house back to yourself? Book.

Whiling away the time during a snowstorm? Book.

This goes for adults and kids alike, and thus we talked with Susan Brown of the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt., and Carmela Feigenbaum and Timothy Dodd from Half Price Books, 1519 W. 23rd, to get their picks for the best books (and audiobooks) to cozy up to.


If you’re fortunate enough to be the copilot on the holiday road trip, happen to be flying or aren’t going any farther than your couch, pick up one or more of these must-reads.

“Bossypants” — Tina Fey

Be forewarned — you may snort eggnog through your nose on this one. Fey’s account of her childhood, working life and motherhood will have you howling. Plus, the way the book is divided into essays makes it for perfect periodic reading — you won’t get lost in a cast of characters.

Bill Bryson’s catalog

Educational, witty, charming and extremely observant, Bryson is one who can perfectly capture a reader’s imagination and won’t let go. His most recent title is “At Home: A Short History of Private Life.”

“Trackers” — Deon Meyer

The South African thriller writer jokes that “Twilight” scribe Stephenie Meyer is his cousin, not that he needs the street cred. His books, while translated from his native Afrikaans, are high-octane social commentaries set in his home country.

David Sedaris’ catalog

The humorist is famous for his essays on National Public Radio, and his books showcase his wit with the perfect subject matter: his screwball family and current life as an ex-pat.

“The Areas of My Expertise” — John Hodgman

The “Daily Show” contributor put on his thinking cap for this extensive and hilarious take on all the knowledge you’ll ever need to know.

The “John Rain” thrillers — Barry Eisler

Eisler’s popular series follows a Japanese-American professional killer with a talent for making his victims look like they died naturally.

The “Silence” Amish crime thrillers — Linda Castillo

Castillo’s novels about murder in Pennsylvania’s Amish country center on Chief of Police Kate Burkholder, who survived a serial killer as a young Amish girl. The “Silence” series has been described as a cross between the works of Karin Slaughter and Julia Spencer-Fleming.

Nordic noir (for those who love Stieg Larsson)

l Jo Nesbø — newest book, “The Leopard”

l Arnaldur Indridason — newest book, “Operation Napoleon”

Kids (and their parents)

What’s the easiest way to keep your kids entertained on a long car ride? Well, if the iPad’s dead and the TV screens in your headrests are on the fritz, hand them these popular tales (Warning: You may want to steal an old favorite for yourself).

“The Hobbit” — J.R.R. Tolkien

This classic is something tweens and teens can enjoy along with their parents.

“A Series of Unfortunate Events” — Lemony Snicket

A series of novellas narrated by Lemony and revolving around Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire.

The “Little House on the Prairie” series — Laura Ingalls Wilder

Another classic, in which children can both learn about and be immersed in the lives of children on the American prairie — perfect for holiday trips that take your family across Kansas.

“Anne of Green Gables” — Lucy Maud Montgomery

More than 100 years old, this is the fabled tale of a plucky (and unexpected) orphan who is taken in by a couple in rural Canada.

The “Harry Potter” series — J.K. Rowling

If your kids haven’t read these books, there’s no time like the present to get them hooked. Though they might be so engrossed they won’t be prepared at present-opening time.

“Clan of the Cave Bear” — Jean M. Auel

With themes of “them” and “us,” this famed historical novel is intriguing and otherworldly, though set on this planet during the time of the Neanderthals and Cro-magnons.


The best audiobooks actually enhance the overall literary experience — especially when enjoyed during a trek across monotonous stretches of open road. Reading about Keith Richards’ exploits is one thing, but to hear the man himself describe the inner workings of the Rolling Stones or his struggles with addiction is almost surreal in its candidness. Likewise, Tina Fey’s “Bossypants” or David Sedaris’ “Holidays on Ice” are made even funnier when read by their respective authors.

“Life” — Keith Richards

The Rolling Stones musician’s memoir was among those honored with an “Audie” award for 2011 by the Audio Publishers Association.

“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” — Rebecca Skloot

The best-seller’s audio version, read by Cassandra Campbell and Bahni Turpin, perfectly captures both the story of a cancer patient whose cells changed medical research and that of the breakthroughs she (unknowingly) helped produce. “The Immortal Life” also won a 2011 “Audie.”

“Bossypants” — Tina Fey

For all the reasons above, plus the fact that the funnywoman reads it herself.

David Sedaris’ catalog

For all the reasons above, plus the fact that Sedaris, like Fey, adds something extra by reading his books himself.


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