2021 Holiday Gift Guide (Books)

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

At Midtown Reader we believe that books make the best presents, and to help you delight everyone on your list, our booksellers put together this guide to help get you started!



The State You're In: Florida Men, Florida Women, and Other Wildlife

by Craig Pittman


Jump into the wacky, wild world of Florida

For more than 30 years, investigative journalist and New York Times bestselling author Craig Pittman has chronicled the wildest stories Florida has to offer. Featuring a selection of columns that have appeared in the Tampa Bay Times and other outlets throughout Pittman's career, this book highlights just how strange and wonderful Florida can be.

With a folksy style, an eye for the absurd, and a passion for the history and environment of his home state, Pittman describes some of Florida's oddest wildlife as well as its quirkiest people. The State You're In includes a love story involving the most tattooed woman in the world, a deep dive into the state's professional mermaid industry, and an investigation of a battle between residents of a nudist resort and the U.S. Postal Service. Pittman introduces readers to a who's who of Florida crime fiction, a what's what of exotic animals, and an array of beloved places he's seen change rapidly in his lifetime.

Many of these stories are funny, some are serious, and several offer rare insights into the heart of the Sunshine State. For Pittman, Florida is both inspiring and dangerous--an "evolutionary test" for those who live in it. Together these pieces paint a complex picture of a fascinating state longing for an identity beyond palm trees and punchlines.


Get Your Book Signed: Craig Pittman is joining us at Midtown Reader on December 3rd, at 7:00 pm if you'd like to get your gift autographed



Matrix

by Lauren Groff


Cast out of the royal court by Eleanor of Aquitaine, deemed too coarse and rough-hewn for marriage or courtly life, seventeen-year-old Marie de France is sent to England to be the new prioress of an impoverished abbey, its nuns on the brink of starvation and beset by disease.


At first taken aback by the severity of her new life, Marie finds focus and love in collective life with her singular and mercurial sisters. In this crucible, Marie steadily supplants her desire for family, for her homeland, for the passions of her youth with something new to her: devotion to her sisters, and a conviction in her own divine visions. Marie, born the last in a long line of women warriors and crusaders, is determined to chart a bold new course for the women she now leads and protects. But in a world that is shifting and corroding in frightening ways, one that can never reconcile itself with her existence, will the sheer force of Marie's vision be bulwark enough?


Equally alive to the sacred and the profane, Matrix gathers currents of violence, sensuality, and religious ecstasy in a mesmerizing portrait of consuming passion, aberrant faith, and a woman that history moves both through and around. Lauren Groff's new novel, her first since Fates and Furies, is a defiant and timely exploration of the raw power of female creativity in a corrupted world.



Beautiful World, Where Are You

By Sally Rooney


Alice, a novelist, meets Felix, who works in a warehouse, and asks him if he'd like to travel to Rome with her. In Dublin, her best friend, Eileen, is getting over a break-up, and slips back into flirting with Simon, a man she has known since childhood.


Alice, Felix, Eileen, and Simon are still young--but life is catching up with them. They desire each other, they delude each other, they get together, they break apart. They have sex, they worry about sex, they worry about their friendships and the world they live in. Are they standing in the last lighted room before the darkness, bearing witness to something? Will they find a way to believe in a beautiful world?









Antoni: Let's Do Dinner

by Antoni Porowski


In the follow-up to his New York Times bestseller Antoni in the Kitchen, Queer Eye star Antoni Porowski shares exuberantly easy dinners for every night of the week


Let’s Do Dinner is an invitation into Antoni’s easy kitchen. Dinner with Antoni means satisfying meals full of clean protein and loads of vegetables, with splurges of carbs and decadence. Simple, yes, but always special. Antoni keeps shopping lists short and steps and pans to a minimum.


Pulled chicken nachos, pasta carbonara with scallions and peas, or pan-seared steak with harissa butter and crispy potatoes—it’s all good for post-work evenings or casual entertaining. Antoni shows how to crank the flavor, make exciting suppers from pantry staples, create new takes on classics by swapping in one surprising ingredient, and build a rousingly flavored vegan grain bowl. Plus, he lets you in on the secret weapons in every kitchen that get great food on the table fast.



People We Meet on Vacation

by Emily Henry



Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She's a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year they live far apart--she's in New York City, and he's in their small hometown--but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together.


Until two years ago, when they ruined everything. They haven't spoken since.


Poppy has everything she should want, but she's stuck in a rut. When someone asks when she was last truly happy, she knows, without a doubt, it was on that ill-fated, final trip with Alex. And so, she decides to convince her best friend to take one more vacation together--lay everything on the table, make it all right. Miraculously, he agrees.


Now she has a week to fix everything. If only she can get around the one big truth that has always stood quietly in the middle of their seemingly perfect relationship. What could possibly go wrong?



The Madness of Crowds

by Louise Penny


While the residents of the Québec village of Three Pines take advantage of the deep snow to ski and toboggan, to drink hot chocolate in the bistro and share meals together, the Chief Inspector finds his holiday with his family interrupted by a simple request.


He’s asked to provide security for what promises to be a non-event. A visiting Professor of Statistics will be giving a lecture at the nearby university.


While he is perplexed as to why the head of homicide for the Sûreté du Québec would be assigned this task, it sounds easy enough. That is until Gamache starts looking into Professor Abigail Robinson and discovers an agenda so repulsive he begs the university to cancel the lecture.


They refuse, citing academic freedom, and accuse Gamache of censorship and intellectual cowardice. Before long, Professor Robinson’s views start seeping into conversations. Spreading and infecting. So that truth and fact, reality and delusion are so confused it’s near impossible to tell them apart. Discussions become debates, debates become arguments, which turn into fights. As sides are declared, a madness takes hold.




The Midnight Library

by Matt Haig


Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?


In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig's enchanting new novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.



Trisha's Kitchen: Easy Comfort Food for Friends and Family

by Trisha Yearwood



Trisha Yearwood's fans know that she can cook up a comforting, delicious meal that will feed a family! Like her earlier bestsellers, Trisha's Kitchen will include new family favorites and easy-to-make comfort foods, with stories about her family and what's really important in life.


The 125 recipes include dishes her beloved mother used to make, plus new recipes like Pasta Pizza Snack Mix and Garth's Teriyaki Bowl. Every recipe tells a story, whether it's her grandma's Million Dollar Cupcakes, or her Camo Cake that she made for her nephew's birthday.



Never

by Ken Follett


“Every catastrophe begins with a little problem that doesn’t get fixed.” So says Pauline Green, president of the United States, in Follett’s nerve-racking drama of international tension.


A shrinking oasis in the Sahara Desert; a stolen US Army drone; an uninhabited Japanese island; and one country’s secret stash of deadly chemical poisons: all these play roles in a relentlessly escalating crisis.


Struggling to prevent the outbreak of world war are a young woman intelligence officer; a spy working undercover with jihadists; a brilliant Chinese spymaster; and Pauline herself, beleaguered by a populist rival for the next presidential election.


Never is an extraordinary novel, full of heroines and villains, false prophets and elite warriors, jaded politicians and opportunistic revolutionaries. It brims with cautionary wisdom for our times, and delivers a visceral, heart-pounding read that transports readers to the brink of the unimaginable.



Rebel Homemaker

by Drew Barrymore


Drew Barrymore has always done things in her own unique way--including how she cooks, lives, and finds happiness at home.


In her first lifestyle book, she'll take you inside her kitchen and her life, featuring thirty-six amazing recipes, from Yuzu Eggs to Brie and Apple Sandwiches to Harissa Spaghetti, which she developed along with chef Pilar Valdes, a personal friend and a regular guest on Drew's CBS talk show. The book will also feature beautiful photos taken by Drew herself, spotlighting the very personal connection she has to food, wellness, and mental health. She'll also share personal essays and stories about female friendship, single parenting, the importance of self-care and alone time, and how to slow down and share the joy of family and food, both during special occasions and as part of everyday life.



Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters

by Steven Pinker

In the 21st century, humanity is reaching new heights of scientific understanding--and at the same time appears to be losing its mind. How can a species that developed vaccines for Covid-19 in less than a year produce so much fake news, medical quackery, and conspiracy theorizing?


Pinker rejects the cynical cliché that humans are an irrational species--cavemen out of time saddled with biases, fallacies, and illusions. After all, we discovered the laws of nature, lengthened and enriched our lives, and discovered the benchmarks for rationality itself. Instead, he explains that we think in ways that are sensible in the low-tech contexts in which we spend most of our lives, but fail to take advantage of the powerful tools of reasoning our best thinkers have discovered over the millennia: logic, critical thinking, probability, correlation and causation, and optimal ways to update beliefs and commit to choices individually and with others. These tools are not a standard part of our educational curricula, and have never been presented clearly and entertainingly in a single book--until now.




Harlem Shuffle

by Colson Whitehead


Ray Carney was only slightly bent when it came to being crooked...


To his customers and neighbors on 125th street, Carney is an upstanding salesman of reasonably priced furniture, making a decent life for himself and his family. He and his wife Elizabeth are expecting their second child, and if her parents on Striver's Row don't approve of him or their cramped apartment across from the subway tracks, it's still home.


Few people know he descends from a line of uptown hoods and crooks, and that his façade of normalcy has more than a few cracks in it. Cracks that are getting bigger all the time.


Cash is tight, especially with all those installment-plan sofas, so if his cousin Freddie occasionally drops off the odd ring or necklace, Ray doesn't ask where it comes from. He knows a discreet jeweler downtown who doesn't ask

questions, either.


Then Freddie falls in with a crew who plan to rob the Hotel Theresa -- the Waldorf of Harlem -- and volunteers Ray's services as the fence. The heist doesn't go as planned; they rarely do. Now Ray has a new clientele,

one made up of shady cops, vicious local gangsters, two-bit pornographers,

and other assorted Harlem lowlifes.



Baking for the Holidays: 50+ Treats for a Festive Season

by Sarah Kieffer


Here's a festive holiday baking book to celebrate this very special time of year. Sarah Kieffer, author of 100 Cookies, beloved baker behind The Vanilla Bean Blog, and creator of the "bang-the-pan" method offers more than 50 delicious recipes for seasonal brunches, cookie swaps, and all those Christmas, Hanukah, and New Year's Eve parties.


Delight family and friends with edible gifts and whip up some delicious baked goods to treat yourself through the long winter months after the holidays have ended. Recipes include: Triple Chocolate Peppermint Bark, Meyer Lemon-White Chocolate Scones, Pear-Almond Danish Bread, Hot Chocolate Cake, and Pumpkin Pie with Candied Pepita Streusel.


With cozy holiday imagery, a lovely, clean aesthetic, and easy yet innovative recipes, this is a go-to cookbook for baking enthusiasts, anyone who loves the holiday season, and, of course, fans of Sarah Kieffer and her hugely popular cookie book, 100 Cookies.



A Carnival of Snackery

by David Sedaris


If it's navel-gazing you're after, you've come to the wrong place; ditto treacly self-examination. Rather, his observations turn outward: a fight between two men on a bus, a fight between two men on the street, pedestrians being whacked over the head or gathering to watch as a man considers leap­ing to his death. There's a dirty joke shared at a book signing, then a dirtier one told at a dinner party--lots of jokes here. Plenty of laughs.


These diaries remind you that you once really hated George W. Bush, and that not too long ago, Donald Trump was just a harm­less laughingstock, at least on French TV. Time marches on, and Sedaris, at his desk or on planes, in hotel dining rooms and odd Japanese inns, records it. The entries here reflect an ever-changing background--new administrations, new restrictions on speech and conduct. What you can say at the start of the book, you can't by the end. At its best, A Carnival of Snackery is a sort of sampler: the bitter and the sweet. Some entries are just what you wanted. Others you might want to spit discreetly into a napkin.



 

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