I was one of the lucky ones: I got a lot of books for Christmas. Like usual, there wasn’t many gifts I wanted this year, so I instead tasked my relatives with buying me some books. There was a catch, however; I didn’t specify what types or genres of books I wanted. Exhausted by college reading, I forgot the feeling of just sitting down with a good book, no deadlines, no looming essays, no need to do anything but immerse myself in a fictional world and lose myself for a while. I wanted to try something new and read some books I may not have picked out for myself, and so I allowed my family to buy me whatever they wanted with no direction or input from me. Risky, I know, but I am glad I did it because I am very excited to read the books they gifted me! And if you’re also bored with the same old reading material and desire something new, perhaps you’d like to select your next read from this assortment, get outside your comfort zone, and read a book you may not have otherwise considered.
Understandably, buying books for someone with no idea what they like is a bit daunting. In turn, many of the books I received came from the bestseller table at the bookstore. But that’s okay, because if enough people enjoyed them that they became bestsellers, then I’m sure I—and perhaps even you—will enjoy them just as much, if not more. I tend to go for older books myself, and so I probably wouldn’t have turned to this year’s bestsellers to select my next read. Still, some of the books truly intrigued me, and I cannot wait to get started on them.
Crossings by Alex Landragin struck me the most. This novel has stunning cover art, and, of all the books I received for Christmas, I would have been most likely to select this for myself. Self-described as “genre-bending,” Crossings has a unique format, and I am always on the look out for a book that breaks conventions and revolutionizes storytelling. It begins as a mystery novel when a bookbinder learns of the death of one of his clients. In an attempt to discover the cause of the murder, the bookbinder reads his client’s manuscript. From there, the novel delves into the contents of that manuscript, which contains a ghost story, a Romance story, and a “fantastical memoir,” essentially giving readers four stories for the price of one.
I haven’t read Crossings yet (or most of the books I got for Christmas), but I definitely plan to soon. I’m curious to see how the author manages to fit four stories into one novel, and, of course, I want to uncover the murder mystery! This is the first book I’ve picked up in a while that I’m genuinely excited to read. If it sounds at all interesting to you, I highly recommend getting a copy, and we can read it together.
However, if Crossings turns out to not be my cup of tea (or if it doesn’t sound like something you’d want to read), I thankfully have plenty of books to choose from. What Could Be Saved by Leise O’Halloran Schwarz is different in terms of content, but also follows an unconventional structure. What Could Be Saved tells the stories of a married couple and their children, except one part of the story (about the married couple) takes place in Bankok in 1972, and the story about their children occurs when they are all grown up in the United States in 2019. The novel alternates between the two stores, intertwining distant places, past and present, and revealing the family’s secrets along the way.
One review refers to What Could Be Saved as a nexus of “mystery, drama, and elegance,”1 which sounds like a good book to me! Despite the different topics, this novel speaks to me for the same reasons Crossings speaks to me: it’s mysterious, uniquely formatted, and is not cliché; I can’t say I’ve ever read anything resembling these two stories before. This is another one I plan on reading, and if you’re tastes are like mine, you might enjoy trying this book as well.
The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow is another one that caught my eye right away. The cover art is bold, with flowers, a black bird, even a red serpent on it; it caused me to immediately wonder what this book is all about. As it turns out, this book is about the witches and the women’s movement. Or, more specifically, it’s a fictional account of three suffragist sisters whose feminist endeavors cause them to turn to “words and ways” that might “turn the woman’s movement into the witch’s movement.”2 Setting her story in New Salem, Alix E. Harrow seems to be trying to evoke the Salem Witch Trials, though reimagined through the women’s movement of 1893. Just reading the back cover of this novel, I can’t lie, I’m a bit confused as to what it’s about exactly, but I am intrigued nonetheless. As someone who studied feminism briefly in college, the topic of this book speaks to me, and I think I might enjoy it. I’m certainly going to give it a try, and if you like feminism, historical fiction, or the Salem Witch Trials, you might want to give The Once and Future Witches a try as well.
Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy is the final book I got for Christmas. And I must say, I am very excited for this one was well. Once There Were Wolves revolves around a biologist tasked with reintroducing wolves into the wilds of Scotland. Inti, the biologist, tries to heal the landscape as well as her troubled sister and herself during her mission, leading her on an adventure filled with self-discovery, romance, and even death. I read the first page of this book out of curiosity, and it has one of the most attention-grabbing hooks I’ve ever read; the first sentence lurches for your heart. Anyone who likes books about animals and complicated female protagonists should give this book a try, because I like those two things, and I am very much looking forward to reading Once There Were Wolves for those reasons.
Whether you are interested in the books I got for Christmas or not, I share this as a reminder to be playful with your reading and try new things. I wouldn’t have picked these books out for myself, but I am so happy to have them, and I look forward to reading them. It adds a little bit of excitement in my day…I have some new books to read, and I can’t wait to see what they’re all about. Also, if you have needed book recommendations lately, I recommend picking one of the titles I mentioned here. You’ll never know what you like if you never try something new, and I’ll be reading them alongside you. The most important thing is to just get reading.
- O’Halloran Schwarz, Leise. What Could Be Saved. Washington Square Press, 2021.
- Harrow, Alix E. The Once and Future Witches. Hatchette Book Group, 2021.