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A Unified Theory of Gifts

With all the uncertainty this year has brought, the holidays are going to be different for many folks. One thing is for sure, buying gifts from your local indie bookstore, and buying them early, can take a lot of the stress out of the situation. Below, you'll find reviews of 15 of our gift recommendations and, to start things off, I have a few more suggestions.

Lady Lawyers

Ruth Bader Ginsburg's passing marks the end of an era for the first generation of female U.S. Supreme Court justices. It's been a comfort to read about some of the fearless women who paved the way for her career as a lawyer and jurist.

Jordan Scott: I Talk Like a River

When I was a boy, my dad would sometimes pick me up from school on "bad speech days" and take me down to the river. On those days, my mouth would just stop working. Every word was painful, the laughter from classmates unbearable. I just wanted to be quiet.

Sophomore Novels from Authors of Well-Loved Debuts

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I'm always intrigued by sophomore novels by authors whose debuts I loved: Will they live up to my expectations? Will they feel the same or different--and which do I prefer?

One of the Good Ones

"Maika Moulite & Maritza Moulite have done it again, and more, with their sophomore novel, One of the Good Ones. This book kept me up into the early morning hours, furiously flipping pages, needing to know where things would end up for the Smith sisters. The story takes you on a journey, jumping through history and back again, dissecting race relations in America with an unflinching eye; it is beautifully written, heartbreaking, disturbing and yet, ultimately, hopeful. I can't recommend it enough.” - Cristina Russell, Books & Books Kids & YA Book Buyer

Loving Flawed Stories

As readers, we sometimes have the complicated task of loving stories that disappoint us. Early on in the wildly imaginative Lovecraft Country, both the novel by Matt Ruff (Harper Perennial, $16.99) and the HBO adaptation, comes the observation, "Stories are like people.... Loving them doesn't make them perfect. You try to cherish their virtues and overlook their flaws. The flaws are still there, though.... Sometimes, they stab me in the heart."

Marilyn Monroe: A Mood, A Mystery, A Mirror

I was so young when Marilyn Monroe died in 1962 that she was almost like a mirage to me. Marilyn was not just a movie star but a mood, a mystery and a mirror to mid-century America. Though typecast as a blonde bombshell, Marilyn was so much more: a producer, poet, painter, gardener, avid reader and the brains behind her brand. 

Take a Seat at the Writer's Desk

These three books by masters of narrative nonfiction are a godsend to aspiring writers looking for an inexpensive alternative to a costly MFA degree.

Brothers and Sisters

The intricacies of connection, and disconnection, between siblings have been on my reading mind lately.

If You Plant a Seed

Gardening board books generally have a dual purpose: to teach kids about the natural world and to speak to a larger moral theme--be it kindness, sharing or giving thanks.

We're Better Than This: My Fight for the Future of Our Democracy

Elijah Cummings's We're Better Than This is part memoir, part behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of American democracy and part call to action. That last piece is, perhaps, the most crucial concept readers can take from the life Cummings dedicated to public service.

Refreshing Your Space

As a university instructor, I'm used to having students in my office on campus. But this year, like so many other teachers, I've gotten used to having students in my home office: able to see the messy bookshelf behind me, how my houseplants are faring and whether my cat is vying for my attention (thus theirs, too) on my desk. My students are likewise aware that many of us are now peering into a slice of their lives, whether they're Zooming from a dorm room, kitchen table or childhood bedroom. 

Lifting as They Climbed

When the 19th amendment granted women the vote--100 years ago today--the battle didn't end. Historians Kate Clarke Lemay and Martha S. Jones each trace the ripples of the suffrage movement through equality campaigns in the civil rights era, and the current expansion of women in elected offices and calls for voting reform.

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