Books Worth Reading and Giving

by Barbara Theroux

In the fall as the temperatures change, life tends to seek routines. Visitors are gone, lake houses are closed, classes begin and hopefully your favorite reading chair awaits. This fall there are several fascinating books that could also make great gifts.

Many books celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. Yellowstone is featured in these:

yellowstonecoverYellowstone: A Journey Through America’s Wild Heart by David Quammen
Best-selling author David Quammen takes readers on a breathtaking journey through America’s most inspiring and imperiled ecosystem – Yellowstone National Park – in this lavish expansion of National Geographic magazine’s May 2016 issue. Filled with amazing images captured by eight National Geographicphotographers over an extensive two-year “deployment” in the park, it is unlike any Yellowstone book before it.

yellowstsone-cautionary-coloring-bkYellowstone National Park: A Cautionary Coloring Book
Yellowstone National Park offers its visitors more spectacular natural wonders, and as many ways to die while enjoying those wonders, than anywhere on the planet. If there’s a way to die in Yellowstone, you’ll find it pictured here. This coloring book also offers facts about the park, advice on its many animals and tips to help you stay alive during what hopefully isn’t your last trip to the nation’s first National Park. Recommended for mature colorists only!

Three of my favorites this season (two non-fiction and one fiction) give insights into history:



hero-of-the-empireHero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill
by Candice Millard
At age 24, Winston Churchill was utterly convinced it was his destiny to become prime minister of England one day, despite the fact he had just lost his first election campaign for Parliament. He believed that to achieve his goal he must do something spectacular on the battlefield. Although deliberately putting himself in extreme danger as a British Army officer in colonial wars in India and Sudan, and as a journalist covering a Cuban uprising against the Spanish, glory and fame eluded him.

Churchill arrived in South Africa in 1899, valet and crates of vintage wine in tow, to cover the brutal colonial war the British were fighting with Boer rebels. But just two weeks after his arrival, the soldiers he was accompanying on an armored train were ambushed, and Churchill was taken prisoner. Remarkably, he pulled off a daring escape, but then had to traverse hundreds of miles of enemy territory, alone, with nothing but a crumpled wad of cash, four slabs of chocolate, and his wits to guide him. The story of his escape is incredible enough, but then Churchill enlisted, returned to South Africa, fought in several battles, and ultimately liberated the men with whom he had been imprisoned.

mad-enchantmentMad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies by Ross King
Claude Monet is perhaps the world’s most beloved artist, and among all his creations, the paintings of the water lilies in his garden at Giverny are most famous. Monet himself intended them to provide “an asylum of peaceful meditation.” Mad Enchantment tells the full story behind the creation of theWater Lilies, as the horrors of World War I came ever closer to Paris and Giverny, and a new generation of younger artists, led by Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, were challenging the achievements of Impressionism. By early 1914, French newspapers were reporting that Monet, by then 73, had retired his brushes. He had lost his beloved wife, Alice, and his eldest son, Jean. His famously acute vision was threatened by cataracts. And yet, despite ill health, self-doubt, and advancing age, Monet began painting again on a more ambitious scale than ever before.

gentleman-in-moscowA Gentleman in Moscow: A Novel by Amor Towles
A Gentleman in Moscow immerses us in an elegantly drawn era with the story of Count Alexander Rostov. When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery.

Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.

One book just to laugh and celebrate the humor of Carl Hiaasen’s Florida:

razor-girlRazor Girl: A novel by Carl Hiaasen
When Lane Coolman’s car is bashed from behind on the road to the Florida Keys, what appears to be an ordinary accident is anything but (this is Hiaasen!) Behind the wheel of the other car is Merry Mansfield, the eponymous Razor Girl, and the crash scam is only the beginning of events that spiral crazily out of control while unleashing some of the wildest characters Hiaasen has ever set loose on the page. There’s Trebeaux, the owner of Sedimental Journeys, a company that steals sand from one beach to restore erosion on another…Buck Nance, a Wisconsin accordionist who has rebranded himself as the star of a redneck reality show called Bayou Brethren…Brock Richardson, a Miami product-liability lawyer who’s getting dangerously, and deformingly, hooked on the very E.D. product he’s litigating against…and Andrew Yancy, formerly Detective Yancy, busted down to the Key West roach patrol after accosting his then-lover’s husband with a Dust Buster. Yancy believes that if he can single-handedly solve a high-profile murder, he’ll get his detective badge back. That the Razor Girl may be the key to Yancy’s future will be as surprising as anything else he encounters along the way, including the giant Gambian rats that are livening up his restaurant inspections.

Last but not least, a book to celebrate reading:

a-child-of-booksA Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston
A little girl sails her raft across a sea of words, arriving at the house of a small boy and calling him away on an adventure. Through forests of fairy tales and across mountains of make-believe, the two travel together on a fantastical journey that unlocks the boy’s imagination. Now a lifetime of magic and adventure lies ahead of him…but who will be next?

This beautiful book is creatively filled with excerpts of classic literature. For example, when the children meet a “monster” in the book, the “monster” is made of sentence fragments from Frankenstein and Dracula. At first glance, the forest appears like a traditional forest. On closer examination, the tree trunks are actually old books. The branches are sentences from famous fairy tales. A Child of Books is about the rewards of reading and sharing stories. This will be a gift for any reader, any child raised on books who is now raising the next generation of readers. Simply stunning!

Barbara Theroux is the founder of Fact and Fiction Books in Missoula.

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