By Barbara Bellesi
Sure, it’s easy to buy a slew of gift cards to hand out to friends and family this holiday season. But there’s a lot to be said for taking some extra time to pick something a little more personal. A thoughtfully chosen book is a great way to show someone that he or she ended up on your “nice” list this holiday season. Here are five suggestions that could make friends and family happy and merry this holiday season.
“Bream Gives Me Hiccups” • Jesse Eisenberg (Grove Press)
Yes, it’s that Jesse Eisenberg. The Academy Award-nominee has written his first book, a selection of short fiction that shows a wit comparable to the likes of Woody Allen and David Sedaris. The titular story takes the reader on a journey through time from a modern-day L.A. to ancient Pompeii, while another story features a college co-ed traumatized by her roommate’s unruly behavior – which includes snatching one of her ramen noodle packages. Each story opens with an illustration by cartoonist Jean Jullien, adding another layer of humor to Eisenberg’s tales.
“Girl Waits with Gun” • Amy Stewart (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
The year is 1914, but Constance Kopp seems to be way ahead of her time. She’s not really interested in marriage – she’s taller than most men, anyway – and doesn’t really get out much, thanks to a family secret that has her and her sisters keeping a low profile for years. When an unfortunate buggy accident pits the sisters at the mercy of a gangster and his men, Constance steps up to help the sheriff, all while having to confront the secret that consumed her family. This page-turner of a tale is a fictional account of the real-life Constance Kopp, one of the first female deputy sheriffs in American history.
“Manolo Blahnik: Fleeting Gestures and Obsessions” • Manolo Blahnik et al. (Rizzoli)
Here’s a gift for shoe lovers that will fit perfectly: a sumptuous coffee table book featuring a detailed pictorial of over four decades of haute heels and swanky stilettos from shoemaker extraordinaire, Manolo Blahnik. It features previously unpublished photos, as well as chapters dedicated to Blahnik’s inspirations (from Marie Antoinette to Goya and Velazquez) and fashion partnerships throughout his career. With a forward written by the master himself, this book is so gorgeous it might require an upgrade to a coffee table worth of its pages.
“Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway” • Michael Riedel (Simon & Schuster)
Broadway shines bright, but is all that glitters really gold? Famed New York Post theatre columnist Michael Riedel takes readers through the turbulent past of Broadway, detailing the journey from the seediness and grime of Times Square in the mid-70s to the family-friendly theatre district of today. Riedel focuses on the rise of the Shubert Organization, which was revived by Bernard Jacobs and Jerry Schoenfeld to become one of the largest and most successful theatre empires in the world. The theatre is nothing without all the gossip, hijinks, and catfights that go on backstage, and there’s plenty of it all in this book, perfect for any arts lover on your list.
“The Best Advice in Six Words: Writers Famous and Obscure on Love, Sex, Money, Friendship, Family, Work, and Much More” • Larry Smith (St. Martin’s)
Is six words really all it takes to impart wisdom? Larry Smith thinks it is. In his newest book to feature the six-word format, Smith has collected wisps of wisdom from both celebrities and non-celebrities to create a pint-sized book of advice that ranges from poignant to downright hilarious. Here’s a gem from Lemony Snicket: “Never, ever refuse a breath mint.” Fun fact: Larry Smith is married to Piper Kerman, author of the book “Orange Is the New Black” that inspired the hit Netflix series of the same name.
Everyone Has a Story to Tell
Words can sometimes get in the way of a good story, which is why Larry Smith prefers his to be just six words in length. Back in 2006, the creator of Smith Magazine followed in Ernest Hemingway’s six-word story vein (“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”) and began soliciting equally succinct stories from his readers. The result was his first book, “Not Quite What I Was Planning,” which compiled the shortest of short stories from all around the world.
While the stories Smith receives are short on length, they were full of sincerity and candor that even a novel couldn’t evoke. “We’re all storytellers,” Smith says. “We’re not all plumbers, or doctors, or carpenters. But everyone is a storyteller one way or another. [Storytelling is] just a very easy way to connect to people.”
Hollywood Actors Star as Writers
Jesse Eisenberg is not the first actor to have tried his hand at fiction, nor will he be the last. In fact, he joins a growing list of actors who shine both on the screen and on the page. Here are a few noteworthy actors who have taken on the role of fiction writer, along with their books:
Steve Martin – “An Object of Beauty,” “Shopgirl,” and “The Pleasure of My Company”
Ethan Hawke – “Ash Wednesday,” “The Hottest State,” and “Rules for a Knight” (coming out this November)
Carrie Fisher – “Postcards from the Edge,” “Delusions of Grandma,” and “The Best Awful”
Molly Ringwald – “When It Happens to You: A Novel in Stories”
James Franco – “Palo Alto: Stories”
Stephen Fry – “The Hippopotamus”
Meg Tilly – “Singing Songs”
Books are one of our favorite choices for stocking stuffers. Here are a few more recommendations for gifts this holiday season:
“Wake Up Happy: The Dream Big, Win Big Guide to Accomplishing Your Goals” by Michael Strahan
Is there anything that Strahan can’t do? From NFL start to talk show host extraordinaire, Strahan gives tips on to stay motivated when it comes to reaching your goals.
“You First: Journal Your Way to Your Best Life” by Lea Michele
In this follow-up to her first book, “Brunette Ambition,” the star of stage and screen offers a guided journal that will inspire readers to find their best selves in all aspects of their personal and professional lives.
“The Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg” by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has an ever-growing fan base, thanks to the wildly popular Notorious RBG Tumblr account, created by Knizhnik. In this book, Knizhnik teams with journalist Carmon to explain to the rest of the world what RBG fans already know and love about the feisty octogenarian.
“Bliss” by Shay Mitchell and Michaela Blaney
Mitchell, the star of “Pretty Little Liars,” has teamed up with her real-life bestie Blaney to craft their debut novel that features the lives of three friends in their 20s struggling and their quest for fame, fortune, and love.