At last, the holiday frenzy is nearly done, the leaves are down and raked, and weeks of cold, short days lie ahead. I, for one, look forward to the season of curling up on the couch, wrapping myself in a fleecy blanket, and losing myself in a book. Here are my book picks for the whole family. Remember, when you purchase a book new, the author gets some money! When you buy used, the author does not see one red cent. So support the makers of literary art, spend the extra couple bucks and buy new!
Thanksgiving weekend I cracked open Braiding Sweetgrass; Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer. She is a Native American, a mother, a poet, and a botanist, in that order. This book is my Number One Pick of the year. It is a memoir-in-essays, and each chapter is a complete read, and a complete delight. Mmmmmm, Every essay is suffused with gratitude, nature, sense-of-place, wisdom, and the subtle magnificence of this land now known as North America. Overall the book is itself a prayer of Thanksgiving, an invitation to slow down and feel the generosity inherent in all natural systems, and a call for hope and action. What could be more appropriate for this moment, these times?
My second pick is also a celebration of nature; the ancient oaks of California’s coastal range. In Tree, author Melina Watts takes us on a two hundred year journey across the tree’s lifespan beginning as an acorn. But get this – The tree is the protagonist; the story is told through the tree’s eyes ( and soul) . The book is not non-fiction; it is a work of magical realism. Watts imagines the relationship between a tree and her surroundings, and the communication between species of plants. The gentle unfolding of a friendship between a young tree and the surrounding grasses is beautiful. The book is a meditation on the nature of sentience, and the sentience of nature. Melina Watts is a botanist and ecologist with a degree in history, and I found both Watt’s imagination and her sun-drenched prose captivating.
Let’s face it – this generation of kids would much rather binge-watch Stranger Things again than pick up a novel. That is why I found this thin, colorful tome the perfect Hanukah gift for my High School Senior. The ABCs of Adulthood is written like a love letter in 26 parts, from a wise, insightful auntie to a fledging human about to leave the nest (*sob!*) The accompanying photos are gorgeous enough to grab the attention of Generation Instagram. My kiddo flipped through it and laughed to see that I is for Intoxication. I was pleased to see that D is for Disappointment and V is for Vulnerability. D could also be for DMV and Dentists Appointments, but we will leave that for the sequel.
Middle Grades/Middle School.
True confession – I haven’t read One Mixed Up Night yet, because I just bought it for my Middle Schooler’s Hanukah. But I know I will love it! You know why? Because I love everything written by Catherine Newman. Catherine was an early Mom Blogger, back when there were about three on the whole Internet. Her blog the Dalai Mama was hilarious and precious, in a laugh/cry way. So are her books for grown-ups, Waiting for Birdy and Catastrophic Happiness. And her current essays on menopause literally bring me to my knees. SO, when she announced that she was writing her first kid book – based on From the Mixed Up Files of Basil E Frankweiller, about spending the night in an Ikea store, I mean really! Just buy it for your kid.
Okay, full disclosure. Not only am I a fan, but I know Catherine Newman. Our eldest children were born days apart, and we spent two years together in a mother/baby group in Santa Cruz. She had the group in stiches even back then, with stories of her new-mama struggles. This fall those babies turned 18 and applied to college (*sob!*) even though its only been about five minutes since we were nursing them while stuffing ourselves with brie on Tuesday afternoons in Santa Cruz…
Anyway, where was I?
Oh yes, for the final member of your family….
Cats just love to read cozy fires. They will sit for hours staring at the fire, no doubt discerning incredible prophetic visions and past life memories. So give your cat the gift of a nice fire to read. She won’t thank you, but you’ll know she liked it.
Thank you for your attention, and have a blessed, book-filled holiday.