The holiday season is officially upon us. It’s the time of year to bring back the cozy socks, revisit your favorite hot drink and begin doing some holiday gift shopping. If you have the socks, know the drink but have yet to solidify the gifts, Emma Straub, author of “This Time Tomorrow" and owner of the Brooklyn bookstore Books Are Magic, has book recommendations that will help fill some stockings.
Straub visited the 3rd Hour of TODAY to share some holiday spirit and literary wisdom with eight book picks you’ll want to give to the hopeless romantic or adventure seeking person in your life. Straub’s recommendations include thriller and history titles, as well as a glimpse of what she will be gifting this year.
For the thriller fan
Deanna Raybourn is back with yet another action-packed story, this time accompanied by four female assassins with a secret weapon: Their age.
“This one is super fun. It's about a group of female assassins in their 60s who have to get back in the saddle one last time,” Straub told TODAY. “The writing is quick, the characters are great and there's murder on the high seas. Absolute fun for anyone who knows not to count out aging women.”
For the romance fan
If all the hopeless romantic in your life wants this holiday season is a Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, Straub recommends Nikki Payne’s “smart and sharp” debut novel, “Pride and Protest.”
“I will read any adaptation of 'Pride and Prejudice', truly. They are all good,” Straub said. “This one tackles gentrification and race in Washington D.C., and it will appeal to anyone who loves Jane Austen and also contemporary rom-coms.”
This modern take on "Pride and Prejudice" follows Liza Bennett, a DJ, who goes head-to-head with CEO Dorsey Fitzgerald whose corporation is threatening to destroy her neighborhood. After a series of encounters and despite their turbulent relationship, Liza and Dorsey soon realize the spark they have can fuel something more if they are able to combat their obstacles and put all pride aside.
For the entertainment lover
Mary Rodgers (1931-2014), composer of “Once Upon a Mattress” and author of “Freaky Friday,” returns to tell her story on paper with the help of annotations from co-author and New York Times theater critic, Jesse Green.
“You don't have to be a musical theater geek to love it, but if you are, you will positively swoon,” Straub said. “What is truly wonderful about it, though, is Mary's voice, sometimes filtered through her co-author Jesse Green. She is an absolute character and it's laugh out loud funny.”
From growing up under the cold and overwhelming shadow of her father, composer Richard Rodgers, to forging her own path in the musical writing business, “Shy” tells the unspoken and witty story of how Rodgers came to find and define art on her own terms.
For the traveler
If an adventure is what you are trying to give this season, Straub recommends “The Hero of This Book” by Elizabeth McCracken. “This is one of my favorite novels of the year, by one of my all time favorite writers,” Straub told TODAY.
McCracken’s slightly fictionalized memoir takes us to London, where the narrator spends the day thinking of her strong-willed late mother and keeping her alive by doing so.
“It is funny and moving and makes you feel like you are right there with her, walking the streets of London,” Straub said.
For the book lover
You can also give the book lover in your life the world, or at least the one created by N.K. Jemisin in the series “The City We Became” and “The World We Make.” According to Straub, Jemisin’s books are "just phenomenal.”
The New York Times bestselling author’s fantasy series transports the reader to a New York City threatened by evils stirring underneath the earth. The books follow five human avatars, meant to represent the city’s five boroughs, who come to the city’s defense by working together to combat their common enemy.
“As a bookseller, I can tell you that some of the most devoted readers in the world are fantasy readers,” Straub told TODAY. “I think it goes back to childhood, when most people read fantasy in one way or another. If you haven't read any fantasy lately, you should start with NK Jemisin duology.”
For the history buff
“The Grimkes” is a generational biography of a family that is known for its white abolitionist sisters. "Greenidge tells the story of the Black side of the family for generations, watching how racial myths and trauma unfold through the complex women of the Grimke family,” Straub told TODAY.
In “The Grimkes,” award-winning historian Kerri Greenidge presents a re-examination and new focus of the Grimke family, deepening the reader’s understanding of racial and gender inequality.
For the occasional reader
Alexander Chee, a multiple award-winning writer, introduces readers a great group of writers through “The Best American Essays of 2022.” The book is a collection of essays by authors like Melissa Febos, Andrea Long Chu and Justin Torres, focused on different life experiences and set to have something for everyone to connect with.
“I trust Alex implicitly, and the voices who appear in this collection let you know that this is going to be a stunner,” Straub said.
What Emma's gifting
Straub is gifting paintings and words all in one this holiday season through Maira Kalman’s book, a collection of images and prose. The American artist and writer reflects upon the theme of women and what they hold, whether it’s objects, people, life or love.
“I love Maira Kalman. I love her painting, I love her perspective, I love her handwriting, and I love her books, which somehow contain all of those things and so much more,” Straub said. “Maira is a gift to the world, and her gifts should also be your gifts. They will certainly be my gifts.”