The Book Jam Blog
Read our latest reviews
So Hanukkah is almost over. Christmas is days away. Kwanza is pending. You need some gift inspiration and maybe you need a good book for yourself. The Book Jam has a few last minute ideas (and many other great choices in our past reviews). We hope they help. Mostly we hope you find peace and joy amidst all of the chaos. Happy Holidays.
Armchair Travel - Because we could ALL use a change of scenery
Dirt: Adventures in Lyon as a Chef in Training, Father, and Sleuth Looking for the Secret of French Cooking by Bill Buford (2020). If you know someone who has a) lived in France b) would like to live in France c) would like to live abroad with their family d) has lived abroad with their family e) loves to cook f) all of the above, then this would be a great book for them. What I really appreciate about this memoir is that it doesn’t “sugar coat” the experience of living in another country. It actually does an excellent job - with humor - of describing the challenges, fears, and frustrations of moving out of one’s comfort zone, even if it is to a place as lovely as France. The food facts and history are a bonus! And so is the fact that it’s set in Lyon, a city less know to readers than Paris, which adds grit and makes it more relatable somehow. At the time of this writing, there were three copies on the shelves at the Norwich Bookstore so it may still be possible to secure a copy for gifting this holiday season. P.S. This book is on many reviewers Top Books or 2020 lists. ~ Lisa Cadow
Mysteries -- Because this year, perhaps more than any other, we all need something in our lives that is solved in the end
Conviction by Denise Mina (2019). This thriller winds around a true crime podcast with ties to the main character - Anna. It then follows how her life implodes on one very average day when her husband announces he is leaving her for her best friend and her past comes rolling into that void. With help from an anorexic rock star and a bizarre road trip through the beauty of Scotland and Southern France, Anna tries to find the truth about her past and her present, and in the process save her life and the lives of those she cares about. AJ Finn picked this as a New York Times Best Crime Novel of the Year. I say, give it to the "difficult to buy for" on your list, and then add an extra for yourself to just enjoy. If you like this one, or if your favorite bookseller does not currently have Conviction in stock, do not panic, Ms. Mina has many other novels, usually set in Scotland. Thus, like the first book in this set of reviews, her books also offer some armchair travel (for those of us living outside Scotland). Note: two of our favorite booksellers - Carin Pratt and Liza Bernard recommended this to me when I was in desperate need of a page turner. ~ Lisa Christie
Games - Because we all need to play
The New York Times Crosswords for a Long Weekend: 200 Easy to Hard Crossword Puzzles (2020). Some of us can imagine nothing better than receiving such a gift: an open invitation over the holidays to spend blissful, meditative moments (with a pencil or a pen?- that is the question) curled up next to the wood stove word-smithing and clue solving away. And in the hands of editor and puzzle master Will Shortz, solving these puzzles is bound to be a satisfying experience. If this book happens to be out of stock when you go to do your last minute gifting, don’t (clue: be constantly anxious, stress over) “FRET” there are many other New York Times crossword books (clue: readily available) “ON HAND” at the Norwich Bookstore. Happy Holiday Puzzling! ~ Lisa Cadow
Kids -- Because books are a perfect gift for anyone
Resist: 35 Profiles of Ordinary People Who Rose Up Against Tyranny and Injustice by Veronica Chambers (2019). Ms. Chamber has gathered a great collection of short biographies of important people who had the courage to change history. People profiled include Ghandi, Fannie Lou Hamer, Samuel Adams, and Archbishop Oscar Romero. This collection serves as a good reminder to us all that we may only be one person, but we all have power to change unfair and unjust things. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie
If you are still at a loss, browse our recent holiday gift guide. Or call your favorite indie bookstore and see what they can recommend. They often carry puzzles and socks and great stationery -- those fit anyone.