You’re Bingeing Holiday RomComs
Want to acknowledge World AIDS day or need a book that can be read in spurts
I hope you had a great Thanksgiving! And Happy Hanukkah!
We are now officially in the sprint to the end of the year. Despite the constant reminders about buying holiday gifts early because of supply chain issues, I am woefully behind on shopping. If you need help picking out bookish gifts, my friends at Books on GIF and Read Something Queer have gift guides (and I’m still responding to questions on the book concierge thread).
It’s also time for “best of the year” book lists, which I eagerly devour each December. It seems that no matter how many books or articles about books I read during the year, I still find new titles to add to my TBR when perusing the end-of-year lists.
Friendly reminder: Tomorrow (Tuesday, November 30) is the last day to support the book drive for D.C. families in need. You can buy books here. I’ll match donations to this (or other book drives) up to $100. Submit your receipt by replying to this email or emailing email@example.com. As a bonus, if you spend $15 at an independent bookstore before Thursday, you can get a free audiobook from Libro.fm.
And now what to read if…
You’re Mainlining Hallmark Movies (Part 2)
Last year, the Monday after Thanksgiving, I recommended a few holiday romances in the same vein as Hallmark’s famous made-for-TV movies. A year later, it’s still one of the most popular posts on What To Read If, so I thought I’d recommend another. This season I’m going with The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Jenny Bayliss.
The Twelve Dates of Christmas follows Kate (who has the perfect holiday rom-com jobs of fabric designer AND baker) as she goes on … twelve blind dates, organized by a dating agency, in the 23 days leading up to Christmas. While her best friend Laura is vicariously living through Kate’s romantic adventure, the owner of the small town’s café, Matt, grouches at Kate’s participation.
I’m sure those two sentences have already given you enough to know how the book ends, but the joy of a holiday romance is the cozy winter feel, the banter between the main leads and the quirky side characters. Bayliss delivers on all these requirements while also writing some truly hilarious bad dates for Kate. It will give you the dopamine hit you require from a holiday romance.
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You Want to Acknowledge World AIDS Day
Wednesday, December 1 is World AIDS Day, a day established by the World Health Organization in 1988 to spread awareness of AIDS and mourn those who died of the disease. 2021 marks 40 years since the first five cases of what would become known as AIDS were officially reported.
In The Great Believers, Rebecca Makkai transports readers to Chicago in 1985, where Yale Tishman is developing a once-in-a-generation art exhibit. Yet as he achieves this professional accomplishment, he watches as the virus takes more and more of his friends. Thirty years later, his friend Fiona is in Paris attempting to save her daughter from a cult and finally starting to understand how the AIDs crisis devastated her family, friends and life.
Told in alternating perspectives, The Great Believers, Makkai is book that helps us all understand what it was like to be at the epicenter of the AIDS virus. Before I go any further, I’ll say it is one of the saddest books I’ve ever read. It took me months to finish it because I kept putting it aside to take a break. That’s a testament to Makkai’s skill. She is a brilliant writer who crafts characters and scenes that I still find myself thinking about — years after I finally completed the book.
You Need a Book You Can Pick Up and Put Down
It can be hard to find time to read this time of year, as we prepare for the holidays and everything that comes with them. Short story collections are perfect for periods like that — they’re designed to be enjoyed in spurts. Jocelyn Nicole Johnson’s My Monticello is a short story collection that you can technically pick up and put down, but you won’t want to.
The collection, Johnson’s first, includes five short stories and one novella, My Monticello, that each explore racism in America’s past and present. While the short stories are strong, the book’s real star is the novella.
My Monticello focuses on Da’Naisha Love, a Black student at the University of Virginia. When white supremacists take over her hometown of Charlottesville, she flees with her grandmother and a diverse group of neighbors to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello estate. Da’Naisha has a secret: she is a descendent of Jefferson and his slave, Sally Hemmings. (For non-fiction on this history, read The Hemingses of Monticello by Annette Gordon-Reed.) During her time in the mansion, Da’Naisha confronts her own past and the country’s.
It’s hard to believe My Monticello is Johnson’s first published work — it has the hallmarks of a more seasoned writer. The writing is cinematic and vivid and it’s easy to see why Netflix snapped up the rights for a film adaptation. I found myself in awe of just how much Johnson was able to fit in just a few pages. I’m eager to see what she does next.
That’s it for me today. On Thursday, I’ll be back in your inboxes with an Q&A featuring writer Leigh Stein.
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