For he who refuses to read women writers
How to Live by Sarah Bakewell
He read Mrs. Dalloway once, maybe back in high school, but ever since he’s stuck to Cormac McCarthy and any book that has the word “road” in the title. He makes a face whenever he comes across the phrase “mid-century misogynist.” He’s not a misogynist, of course, but he knows what he likes and he’s sticking to it. For this reader in your life we suggest Sarah Bakewell’s modern classic How to Live, the National Book Critics Circle Award winning biography of Michel de Montaigne. Charming and serious, probing and brimming with Bakewell’s characteristic wit, this is the book he’ll keep right next to On the Road for No Men.
For she who loves crime
The Secret in Their Eyes by Eduardo Sacheri
This complex novel by Eduardo Sacheri, now a major motion picture starring Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman, and Chiwetel Ejiofor, has as its backdrop the Dirty War of 1970s Argentina. It features all the hallmarks of great crime fiction–a mystery at its core, psychological insight into its characters, a thrilling plot full of twists and turns–and Sacheri’s deft prose.
For the one who’s had an unopened copy of À la recherche du temps perdu on their bookshelf for 5 years
Monsieur Proust’s Library by Anka Muhlstein
At 160 pages Monsieur Proust’s Library is a tiny book, but its rich with a history of literature and a love and fascination with the man whose name it bears. Anka Mulhstein doesn’t just give us a list of the books Proust read, but provides us with a sort of biography of the man through what he read–and how what he read shaped his thoughts and writing. Delightful in its insight, Monsier Proust’s Library is an excellent introduction to Proust and his oeuvre.
For she who loves the Brontës
A True Novel by Minae Mizumura
Does she re-read Wuthering Heights each year? Has she watched all the adaptations, including the 2011 version directed by Andrea Arnold? Does she own the Folio Society’s illustrated edition? Then next for her is Minae Mizumura’s A True Novel, at once an homage to and a reworking of Charlotte Brontë’s classic, set in postwar Japan. Mizumura recalls Brontë’s frame narrative as well as the passionate love affair at the center of the novel, while detailing the effects of modernization on her native country.
For the hipster with the broken shoes who only reads foreign fiction
Memory Theater by Simon Critchley
He might have even had the author as a professor–Critchley is the Hans Jonas Professor of Philosophy at the New School for Social Research, and his interests range from Hegel and Heidegger to Terrence Malick and David Bowie. In Memory Theater, his debut novel, he tackles another one of his obsessions, memory and how we store it, and how it’s changing in the age of the internet.
For the movie lover
Lay Down Your Weary Tune by W.B. Belcher
This debut novel about a ghostwriter who forges a relationship with a famed folk music recluse recalls everything from Todd Haynes’s I’m Not There. and the Cohen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis to Crazy Heart and Almost Famous. At the heart of Lay Down Your Weary Tune is a true love of music, but W.B. Belcher’s kaleidoscopic, fully fleshed characters and measured prose probe the same themes of myth-making and identity that make movies about music so great.
For the newly (or not so newly) engaged
The Cold Song by Linn Ullmann
One of the New York Times Book Review’s 100 Notable Books of 2014, The Cold Song may at first seem like a mystery about a young woman’s disappearance, but it’s really about the marriage between Siri Brodal, a chef and restaurant owner, and Jon Dreyer, a famous novelist plagued by writer’s block. Ullmann uses sympathy and sharp wit in equal measure to render the fine details of and intimate relationship grown strained.
For the history lover
The Butcher’s Trail
It’s been over two decades since the break up of the former Yugoslavia, and in this gripping account, Julian Borger, who covered the Bosnian War for the BBC and The Guardian, follows the manhunt for the perpetrators of the infamous crimes committed during the war. Borger recounts how Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić—both now on trial in The Hague—were finally tracked down, and describes the intrigue behind the arrest of Slobodan Milosevic, the Yugoslav president who became the first head of state to stand before an international tribunal for crimes perpetrated in a time of war.
For the person who answers “Anything” when you ask them what they want
Blood Brothers by Ernst Haffner
This is the book everyone loves, including each person detailed above. Blood Brothers delves into the relationships forged between a group of paperless, itinerant young men during the brutal days of the Weimar republic, right before the rise of the Third Reich. It’s rich in period detail, with a publishing history that’s as fascinating as the narrative itself–it is the author’s only novel, and he was disappeared during World War II.