Geiger's Culture Counter: Holiday Gift Guide 2017: Books


‘Tis the season to find a special gift for friends, family members and loved ones. As a young culture connoisseur I am frequently asked for recommendations on the latest and greatest things. Last week I gave you a sampling of the best comics and graphic novels of 2017. To continue the reading trend, I’m recommending some of 2017’s best books this week.

“Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View” by various authors — Forty years ago George Lucas changed the world with the release of “Star Wars.” Now, 40 authors have gathered to collaborate on 40 short stories, each from the perspective of a background character during “Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope.” Read science fiction author Gary Whitta’s story about Raymus Antilles when Darth Vader captures Princess Leia Organa, award-winning translator Ken Liu’s tale about a certain escape pod or actor Wil Wheaton’s piece on a rebel base lookout.

“Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002) by David Sedaris — Humorist David Sedaris entered the public eye with his “SantaLand Diaries” back in 1992 and now he returns with his first work since 2014. While the veracity of his times in Macy’s is debatable, Sedaris’ dry writing style is undoubtedly hysterical. Unlike his essays, however, these are actual diary entries that lack the fleshed-out contextual narrative. There are entries that are simply lists and others are basic observations that allow for a peek behind the curtain.

“Waiting for the Punch: Words to Live by from the WTF Podcast” by Marc Maron and Brendan McDonald — As of this writing, comedian Marc Maron has done 868 episodes of his interview podcast. Unless one is a premium subscriber or has been listening since the beginning in 2009, it’s hard to consume the entire history of WTF. However, Maron’s newest book takes the abundance of content from his conversations with celebrities and organizes it by theme. Read President Barack Obama discuss parenting in a chapter alongside Amy Schumer opening up about her parents’ divorce. Maron knows how to draw frank talks out of his guest and expertly shows that we’re all human.

“Grant” by Ron Chernow — In the age of Wikipedia it’s hard to sell someone on buying a biography. However, that changed when “Hamilton: An American Musical” took over the zeitgeist. I knew Alexander Hamilton was the first Secretary of the Treasury and dueled Aaron Burr, but the musical, based on Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography, also taught me about his immigrant upbringing and affair. With “Grant” Chernow moves past the Founding Fathers to dish out details on the Civil War general and president. Will this, too, get made into a hit musical? Only time will tell, but at least you can say you got in on the ground floor.

“Artemis” by Andy Weir — Speaking of adaptations, Andy Weir’s second novel got a movie deal before the book hit the shelves. You might be familiar with “The Martian,” Weir’s debut, since Ridley Scott brought it to the big screen with Matt Damon so it’s no wonder Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are eager to direct the sophomore work. Taking place in the 2080s, the hard scifi novel tells the tale of a woman planning a heist on the first lunar city. Readers can expect Weir’s sarcastic humor and page-turning pacing.

“La Belle Sauvage” by Philip Pullman — Unfortunately “The Golden Compass” movie was unsuccessful in bringing Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy to life, but that doesn’t mean we have to say goodbye to Lyra Belacqua’s parallel universe for good. Set 10 years before the original novel, it shares a perspective of the fantasy world with a new hero, 11-year-old Malcolm Polstead, while the yet unreleased sequel “The Secret Commonwealth” follows a 20-year-old Belacqua. Like the predecessors, the series tackles philosophical topics like free speech and will by analyzing the book’s cosmic particles, Dust.

“Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches” by John Hodgman — Actor and comedian John Hodgman, known to many by his role as a PC in Apple advertisements and a correspondent on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” is really good at making things up.  His latest book also proves that he is equally skilled, if not more so, at telling it like it is. This poignant and funny memoir details his life growing up in New England while also handling the subject of being middle age. I can’t think of a better way to spend one’s holiday vacation by reading about Hodgman’s vacations.

This holiday guide is part two in a four part series. Check out next week’s column for more gift ideas and pick up last week’s paper or go online if you missed the first in the series.

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