NYS WRITERS INSTITUTE
Writers Institute Holiday Gift Book List
If you are looking for the perfect gift for that bibliophile on your holiday gift list, here are some suggestions. This is not exactly one of those “best of” lists that are released at the end of the year on everything from films, to music CDs, to wines, professional athletes, and even YouTube videos. It is simply a list of our recommendations of recent books by several writers who visited the Writers Institute in 2012. While we encourage you to read work by all of our visiting writers this list represents a number of different genres and subjects that should appeal to a wide range of tastes. So if you are looking for a last minute gift for that hard to please person on your list, or you just want a book that you can curl up with over this holiday season, here are some to consider.
The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson —Johnson takes on the impossible narrative task of rendering a portrait of North Korea , a society that for the outside world is shrouded in mystery. He juxtaposes a stifling society of prisons, orphanages, oppression, economic misery, political corruption and cruelty with a moving exploration of loyalty, compassion, hope and love.
The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey — Set in Scotland in the early 1960s, the book is both an homage to and a modern variation on Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Livesey described it as “…writing back to Charlotte Brontë, recasting Jane’s journey to fit my own courageous heroine and the possibilities of her time and place. And like Brontë I am, of course, stealing from my own life.”
Arcadia by Lauren Groff — Groff, who was born in Cooperstown, NY, takes readers back to the 1970s as she tells the story of the struggles, successes, and failures of a utopian community formed in the fields and forests of upstate New York. Kirkus Review described it as “An astonishing novel, both in ambition and achievement, filled with revelation amid the cycle of life and death.”
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien — Tim O’Brien’s collection of interrelated stories, published twenty years ago, about the Vietnam War has become a popular selection for community and university reading programs. A work of fiction that borrows from O’Brien’s own experiences, the book is still considered one of the finest books about American soldiers in the Vietnam War. Its universal themes of war and survival make it as relevant today as it was two decades ago.
Foreign Affairs by Alison Lurie and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz — While both of these book were awarded the Pulitzer Prize—Foreign Affairs in 1985 and Oscar Wao in 2008—their authors use very different writing styles and subject matter to explore universal themes. Alison Lurie, who was named New York State Author for 2012-2014, is praised for work that is witty, with a nuanced understanding of the social customs and relationships between the sexes of the American middle class. Diaz, who received a MacArthur Foundation fellowship two days before his visit to the Institute on October 4, captures the machismo, passion, and vulnerability of the Dominican-American immigrant experience in work that vibrates with ghetto hip-hop and street slang.
The Kingdom of Ordinary Time by Marie Howe — New York State Poet for 2012-2014, Howe is known for poetry that explores the transcendent qualities of ordinary moments and day-to-day experience. This collection, which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, looks for meaning in the mundane—grocery shopping, going to the movies, parenting.
Blood of the Sun by Salgado Maranhão, translated by Alexis Levitin — A leading contemporary Afro-Brazilian poet, Maranhão is celebrated for work that is deeply rooted in the rhythms and imagery of his people and land. Alexis Levitin, one of the most accomplished English translators of Portuguese, brings Maranhão’s passion to life in this first book to be translated into English.
Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100 by Michio Kaku — Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku takes readers on a wild ride into the future with his exhilarating vision of how advancing technologies will impact our lives in the coming century. He envisions such innovations as nanocars that will circulate in the bloodstream to treat cancer, magnetic cars that use almost no fuel, and robot surgeons, chefs, and musicians. Unfortunately, many of us won’t be alive in the year 2100 to see if Kaku’s predications are correct. Or will we?
The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin by Masha Gessen — Moscow-based journalist Masha Gessen took on the courageous task of researching and writing a revealing portrait of the totalitarian leader of the new “democratic” Russia. Newsweek selected it as one of the “Top 12 books not to miss in 2012.” You can follow Gessen’s firsthand reporting of current affairs in Russia on her blog at: http://latitude.blogs.nytimes.com/author/masha-gessen/
Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic by David Quammen — The emergence of strange new diseases is a frightening problem that seems to be getting worse. In Spillover, David Quammen investigates this phenomenon around the world, recounting his adventures in the field with the world’s leading disease scientists, netting bats in China, trapping monkeys in Bangladesh, and stalking gorillas in the Congo. The book poses the terrifying question: What might the next “big one” be?
In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives by Steven Levy — Few companies in history have ever been as successful and as admired as Google, the company that has transformed the Internet and become an indispensable part of our lives. How has Google done it? Veteran technology reporter Steven Levy was granted unprecedented access to the company, and in this revelatory book he takes readers inside Google headquarters—the Googleplex—to show how Google works.
Film After Film by J Hoberman — In this sly and thought-provoking volume, J. Hoberman turns an erudite eye to the study of twenty-first century cinema and finds that, only a dozen years into the new millennium, the world of movies has already experienced a revolutionary transformation. The advent of new digital technology has displaced the medium of photographic film—and, perhaps, the reality on which it once depended.
Kinyarwanda (United States, Rwanda, France, 2011, 100 minutes, color) —If you missed our screening of this film about the Rwandan genocide, and the Q&A with Rwandan actress Hadidja Zaninka and producer Darren Dean, you may want to catch it on DVD. During the Rwandan genocide in 1994, as the country became a slaughterhouse, mosques became places of refuge where Muslims and Christians, Hutus and Tutsis came together to protect each other. Kinyarwanda interweaves six different tales that provide the most complex and real depiction yet presented of human resilience during the genocide.
Lonesome (United States, 1928, 69 minutes, b/w and hand-tinted color) — This magnificent, rediscovered silent film, available on Blu-ray, is the creation of a little-known but audacious and one-of-a-kind filmmaker who bridged the gap between the silent and sound eras. Director Paul Fejos pulled out all the stops for this antic tale set in Coney Island during the Fourth of July weekend—employing color tinting, superimposition effects, experimental editing, a roving camera, and three short dialogue scenes using the brand new technology of sound recording.