Happy (almost) holidays! It’s become a yearly tradition here at Options to share our holiday book recommendations with our clients. This year, we bring you ten books ranging from travel stories to historical fiction, mystery to sci-fi. There’s something for everyone, so if you still need a book to keep you company this holiday season, see our recommendations below.
Mel, Office Manager
I signed out On Foot to Canterbury, a travel book by Ken Haigh, from the local library. Haigh is a Canadian who goes on a pilgrimage to Canterbury after his dad dies. I’m really enjoying it. Filled with humour and history, it is an engaging book for all who love British literary figures, architecture, and antiquity.
Monika, Educational Consultant
I highly recommend Amor Towles’ The Lincoln Highway. It tells the story of Emmett, who has done time in prison, and his younger brother as they drive across the country while having their plans thwarted by two of Emmett’s prison friends. What I liked about the book is that it is a rare combination – both very writerly and concerned with the beautiful expression of ideas AND an excellent road story. It also made me learn about the real Lincoln Highway in the US, which runs from San Fransisco all the way to Times Square in NYC. What a fun road trip that would be!
Amelia, Office Manager
One of my recent favorite books is Without You, There Is No Us by Suki Kim. Suki is a key figure in North Korean journalism, and the book follows her trip to North Korea undercover as a teacher, hiding her real reason for traveling there from both the Christian missionary boys’ school she is working at and the North Korean government. Her book gives a rare glimpse into the North Korean education system. Without giving too much away, I admire how she shows the human, although restricted, emotional side of her students, the sons of North Korea’s elite. The book also provides insight into how the impact of Kim Jong-Il’s death changed international relations and the course of history on the Korean peninsula.
Kate Williamson, Writing Coach
Over the past few weeks, I have been staying up late and reading The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn. Set during WW2, this novel details the life of the renowned sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko. I’ve found it fascinating to learn more about the active role women played in the Soviet Armed Forces. Mila, as she was known by her comrades, visited the United States in 1942 as a Russian representative. Despite the uneasy relations between the two countries, while there, she developed a friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt. I would highly recommend this book!
Jenny, Writing Coach
I always associate December with messy kitchens, lots of bustle, and tantalizing smells. Miss Eliza’s English Kitchen: A Novel of Victorian Cookery and Friendship by Annabel Abbs is perfect for the season. The fast-moving romp of a book is loosely based on the story of Eliza Acton, the first modern cookbook author. It tells the story of Miss Eliza — who, as a lady, really shouldn’t be messing around in a kitchen — and Ann, her 17-year-old kitchen maid. Lots of fun.
Ali, Writing Coach
I recently read The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell and was immediately captivated by the story of sixteen-year-old Lucrezia de Medici as she is reluctantly married off to the (much older, potentially dangerous) Duke of Ferrara. I found this book to be equal parts beautiful and suspenseful. I especially enjoyed Lucrezia’s perceptive inner voice as she narrates her life at court and navigates her impossible circumstances. I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys reading historical fiction. (Fun fact: the story of Lucrezia and the Duke also inspired the 18th-century poem “My Last Duchess” by Robert Browning!)
Gabrielle, Educational Consultant
My recommendation is The Music of Bees by Eileen Garvin. This feel-good fiction is about three strangers who become unlikely friends through beekeeping. Each character is working through their own personal challenges, but the three of them come together to achieve a common goal of saving the local bee population in small town Oregon. The story is warm and uplifting, and I actually learned a lot about bees and how a hive functions. 10/10!!
Jacqueline, Educational Consultant
I was on my way to the airport to visit my daughter in Germany and realized I had forgotten my book. Serendipitously, The Lighthouse by P.D. James was sitting on a table when I stopped for a snack at the airport. I guess the reader had completed it, and it was too heavy to carry. I was so excited to see a book by such a classic writer and something I hadn’t read. It’s your traditional mystery novel but with amazing use of vocabulary and vivid imagery. The author manages to create memorable characters, each with a unique persona. The imagery and description of the island make you believe you’re actually there while the characters become real people who you instantly like or distrust. P.D James’s talent in creating mystery keeps you in suspense throughout with a final twist at the end. This is a must-read for all literary enthusiasts.
Alyssa, Public Relations Coordinator
Recently, I’ve been reading Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (of Never Let Me Go fame). This novel, set in the too-near future, is narrated by Klara, a robot whose purpose is to be an artificial friend to Josie. I’ve been enjoying Klara’s musings about the world she inhabits, one where A.I. has replaced many traditional jobs, but where the A.I. itself is replaceable. Moreover, there’s a sense of mystery and child-like fantasy that hangs over the plot as readers soon learn that Josie is sick with an unspecified illness, and Klara sets out on a quest to cure her. A thoughtful read for science-fiction fans!
I’m reading The Newcomer by Mary Kay Andrews, and I love it. The story follows Letty Carnahan as she works to uncover the truth about her sister’s death. It makes me want to read her first book The Plot.
Happy holidays and happy reading from Team Options!