Monday, November 22, 2021

10 Books That Make Great Gifts!

This year I read a number of wonderful books that were published independently or by small presses. Since you might not hear about these books, I decided to feature ten of them. They are all recently released and make great gifts!


WILD LIFE by Lisa Alpine

What a life Lisa Alpine has lived! This book covers her adventurous travels over the span of 40 years. I loved reading these short, often funny, often poignant pieces about her adventures from exploring the Galapagos with a crazy group of people in the early days before there were tours there; to spending several years volunteering at Jazz Fest in New Orleans and meeting so many of the great musicians; to going on a wild tour of Israel with a young, fiery lover.


This book weaves together two women's lives: Joy Wiebe, the nation's only woman ice road trucker, and Amy Butcher, a writer and professor who is suffering an abusive relationship. Even though they have different views on religion and politics, they grow close as they share a road adventure in the dazzling, dangerous Alaskan wilderness. This book builds to two crescendos that are empowering and heartbreaking. The portrait of Joy will stay with me a long time, as will Amy's ruminations on domestic abuse (which resonate strongly with the book/Netflix series Maid).


This book hit home on so many levels. I was often moved to tears and teary laughter at Davis' portrayal of her embattled relationship with her difficult, dynamic mother, Temme. When Temme develops dementia, Laura anxiously steps up to fulfill her promise to care for her--even though she feels her mother has betrayed her in the past. How mother and daughter find their way back to each other is a journey portrayed with all its thorns and blossoms.

RABBIT IN THE MOON by Heather Diamond

There is so much about Heather Diamond​ 's memoir that resonates with me, especially the propensity to reinvent oneself many times. Her writing is gorgeous, and the story kept me wanting to turn the page. I loved the way her introduction to her new husband's Hong Kong family makes it clear how much family means to them. An introverted white woman born in the U.S., she is both repelled by and drawn into a world so different from her own. This leads to her examination of the emotional and physical distance between her and her own family.

BEST BREAKUP EVER! by April Hirschman

I wish I'd had this book when I was going through my bad breakups. But I still got a lot out of it in terms of self-care. The book is jam-packed with great advice for loving on yourself. It's also freaking hilarious and smart AF. That's April's personality shining through. When I finished reading it, I felt like I was wrapped in love.

SWING by Ashleigh Renard

The light touch at the beginning of this book segues into powerful soul-searching around sexuality, marriage, and her issues with perfection--mirroring her own journey from surface-to-deep-dive. And yet, while serious, she maintains that sense of humor. I'm sure this book will resonate with those who, as she puts it, want to rehab a shabby marriage.

ANIMAL BODIES by Suzanne Roberts

It felt like I'd fallen under a spell as I read this book. Roberts weaves stories into powerful insights that honor the complexities of life. She's also darkly funny. The subtitle "Death, Desire and Other Difficulties" covers a wide swath of issues. The ones that most resonated with me were her relationship to her mother (and her mother's past and death), her observations of the way we treat "Animal Bodies" and women's bodies, and how political divides can affect longtime friendships. NOTE: This book doesn't come out until next year, but you can pre-order now. 

BONUS MEMOIR: Mine! CALL IT WONDER, which won the Bisexual Book Award. Reviewers have called it "insightful" and "inspiring."


LIFE, ORANGE TO PEAR by John Brantingham

A bittersweet, quirky, equal parts dark-and-delightful novel. Each chapter reads as a standalone piece, but read the whole thing through to get the most of the relationship between the father and daughter--and to understand the poignant title. I loved this book and want to read more of Brantingham's work.

BEET FIELDS by Robin Somers

Santa Cruz is not only the setting but, in a way, a character in this book. I enjoyed reading about my former town as the backdrop in a "murder mystery." Yes, it's that--but it's also a book about organic farming. Her lush descriptions of that life kept me enthralled. The characters are lively and multidimensional, and the suspense kept me turning the did the masterful examination of environmental issues.


Mary Janelle Melvin and I co-wrote the novel we wanted to read! Reviewers have said it's in the vein of Dr. Zhivago and Gone with the Wind. Another wrote that it's "passionate, intelligent and thoroughly engrossing." If you enjoy losing yourself in a page-turner, check it out! 


april said...

I've read Call It Wonder, Revolutionary Kiss, and Swing and they are all excellent!!!!

Kate Evans said...

Thank you, Aprl! xoxo