Books to Give or Keep

I am reprising my blog from 2014 with new suggestions for books to give or to keep this season. I have a few I’ve loved and can’t wait to share, and I get unparalleled joy from matching a book to a recipient. My personal choice in reading is usually new fiction, but I also have some tried-and-true nonfiction titles for your TBR (to be read) list. Each book connects to midlife and beyond. 

If you are an armchair traveler or know someone rethinking living arrangements for the second half of life, Rita Goldman Gelman’s Tales of a Female Nomad (2001) might be just the ticket (pun intended). An abrupt change in the author’s marital status sent her packing. Her first solo expedition to a somewhat primitive Mexican village sold her on the idea of living as a nomad, off the beaten path, and immersing herself in different cultures, unburdened by possessions and schedules. Though Tales was written in 2001, I still see it on the gift table at the bookstore—it’s that kind of book.

Looking for a crime novel with a credible older hero? I like feisty Brigid Quinn, who’s doing more in retirement than she did while working at the FBI. Rage Against the Dying (2014) and Fear the Darkness (2015) are the first two titles in Becky Masterman’s smart, page-turner series; I’ll look forward to more.

In the meantime, I can settle in with Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. This collection is now 13 strong. Still Life debuted in 2008 and this year’s addition is The Nature of the Beast (2015). The setting is a small Canadian town where Gamache is a beloved crime fighter, neighbor, husband and father. Each novel introduces new characters but familiar ones weave throughout. Award-winning Penny is often compared to Agatha Christie; it’s easy to see why.

A perfect choice for just about anyone is—don’t laugh—a coloring book.  Research shows how coloring ignites creativity and reduces stress. When I bought Coloring for Adults for Dummies (2015) for a type-A friend, I was amazed to see a full shelf of coloring books. I grabbed Follow Your Bliss (2015) for my teen. You’ll find mandalas, paisleys, retro designs, stained glass—too many to name, but something for everyone. Grab a fresh box of crayons to go with your choice. Like me, you may end up with several.

If “no time to read” is the sad refrain you’re hearing, or feeling, 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories (2015) offers commitment-free literary vignettes to return to again and again. This volume holds 40 impressive works written between 1915 and 2015. You may find you have more time to read than you thought.

A novel that really captures a time, place and voice is The Turner House (2015). As the family home in a crumbling Detroit sees widowed Viola Turner’s 13 children come and go (and come back), we’re privy to genuine dialogue between generations, unfolding the hopes and heartbreaks of this African American neighborhood. Viola can stay no longer, she will live with her son, but what will become of the house? Very moving.

Up for a laugh and a light-hearted look at getting older? I spied a terrific book while waiting online at the bookstore: You’re Not Old, You’re Vintage (2015). It’s a book of quotations and observations on aging from the famous to the obscure. I’ll be ordering a few copies from my independent bookseller; it’s the kind of book I like to have on hand for impromptu mood lifting.

The pile of new books on my nightstand keeps me from rereading old favorites with one exception. Author Kent Haruf died days after finishing Our Souls at Night (2015), a novel about finding later-life love after grief. As they say, “it’s complicated.” I found Souls to be so very rewarding that I hated to see it end and was compelled to reread several of Haruf’s previous works—all set in the same small town in Colorado—and loved them the second time around just as much, or more. You can’t go wrong.

I hope you find something on this list to curl up with; it could be a long winter. Books and tea get me through.