It's probably not too much of a stretch to guess that Seattle Review of Books readers are more likely than the rest of the population to receive gift certificates to independent bookstores for the holiday seasons. So say you've got all that money to burn at your neighborhood bookstore and you're trying to figure out what to bring home with you. How can you possibly choose?
Good news: all this month, we asked Seattleites who made a splash this year to share their gift recommendations with our readers. Specifically, we gave them the impossible task of choosing one book to give to everyone in Seattle as a holiday gift. It's such a great little list: books from big publishers and small publishers, bestsellers and indie titles, local and national subject matter. We wanted to put them all in one place to help you find a book that's just right for you. Print this one out and bring it with you next time you go shopping:
I would give everyone in Seattle Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self Delusion by Jia Tolentino. I loved it so much it's practically a prerequisite for having a conversation with me right now haha. I haven't read anyone who can so intelligently untangle and articulate the feelings of NOW—the performative bleakness of social media, how mainstream "feminism" has been commodified and co-opted into a nothing concept, the ultimate scam of late capitalism, and other ways in which existing in the 21st century feels like a stupid trap. Her essays aren't preachy or prescriptive, just incredibly observant, funny, and well structured.
The book that I think everyone in Seattle — or really, America — should read is These Truths: A History of the United States by historian Jill Lepore, a rollicking history of this country, with all of its contradictions. It’s full of surprising information, such as the history of political polling, which of course has crucial ramifications for our current moment.
But for a holiday gift, I’d choose The Dutch House by the always-incredible Ann Patchett. I mean, who doesn’t love an epic family drama for the holidays?
Love Me Back by Merritt Tierce. I was shopping at Elliott Bay for a book that should have lived on the shelf next to this one. It wasn't there, but Tierce fell into my hands. And I won't spoil a perfectly good gift by explaining why I'm giving it to you.
I'd give everyone Tracing the Desire Line by Melissa Matthewson (Split Lip Press). It's an absolutely gorgeous series of linked essays about giving in to the urge to stray in a long-term monogamous relationship. Matthewson lives on a farm on southern Oregon, and in addition to a sharp and honest dissection of her changing marriage, she weaves in observations of the flora and fauna bursting with life around her, glimpses of the small beauties that come with raising children. It's book very rooted in the Pacific Northwest both in its subject and sensibility, the sort of writing I've tried to publish at Cascadia.
Recommending a history book as a holiday gift for every single person in Seattle feels a bit like handing out toothbrushes on Halloween, but I think all Seattleites have something to gain from reading Seattle at 150: Stories of the City through 150 Objects, an approachable, well-curated book that uses documents, photos, and ephemera from the Seattle Municipal Archives to shine a light on decisions that have shaped the city since its incorporation in 1869. Pairing interesting finds from the Archives with short, thoughtful paragraphs about their significance, this book manages to be both an engaging entry point for folks new to exploring Seattle's history and a delightful read for even the most devoted local history nerds. If we want a vibrant "Seattle at 300" in 2169, I believe that having a citizenry with an understanding of where we've been is essential. Give the gift of perspective with this satisfying book!