Christmas Book Bag
What to get dad? What to get mom? What to get the kids? What to get my wife and friends? Clearly there is no one answer to these questions. Personalities, needs, wants, and desires are totally eclectic and ephemeral. Years ago I gave up the elusive quest for the perfect gift and started buying everyone a book that I hoped they would like or at least find interesting and intriguing. Of course, this too is a tricky equation to figure out, but my formula is a simple one. If I read it and liked it maybe they’ll like it too! So here’s my list of pre-certified books that may fit your gift needs, or could simply wind up being a gift you buy for yourself!
- Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl
Ms. Flynn’s book simply surprised me and the publishing world as well. It’s been on the NYTimes Best Seller list for over 26 weeks. And the reason for it is simple, its plot driven, character rich, and suspense laden. It’s a murder mystery without a murder. It’s about a missing wife, a troubled marriage, and a totally self-centered woman who feels she has the right to play fast with the lives of everyone she knows. Its complex, compelling, and addictive. Enjoy!
- Carol Anshaw, Carry The One
In 1992 Carol Anshaw published Aquamarine and I immediately become her biggest fan. Her latest work Carry The One proves that her power as a writer has clearly grown with the years. This is about a group of friends who are involved in an auto accident that takes the life of a young girl. This is a story of collective guilt and how time cannot heal all wounds. This is a story of an accident that kills one little girl and ruins the individual lives of all those involved. This is a stunning read.
- Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins
This is my guilty pleasure for the year. I couldn’t go to Italy this summer, so I read this romantic story of Italy, love, family, and memories. The story starts with Richard Burton and Liz Taylor and the making of Cleopatra in Rome. Somewhere along the line Richard has an affair with a minor actress in the film. The actress flees to a seaside hotel and the owner falls in love with her. She leaves for California and points west. A child is born. Years later, the hotel owner sets out to find his lost first love. And then the story gets to be too rich and too much fun to tell you about it now and ruin it for you. This book is not a sleazy melodrama. It is a charming story told by a master story teller who loves all things Italian.
- J.R. Moehringer, Sutton
This is the story of famous bank robber Willie “The Actor” Sutton. The author has made Sutton into a romantic modern day Robin Hood. Sutton is painted as tough, intelligent Irish kid who turned to crime because he had no other alternatives. Sutton is depicted as a “Gentleman Thief” who reads poetry and literature and plans his bank stick ups with the precision of a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. In the end the author made me both learn a great deal about Willie Sutton, and he made me learn to like him as well. The book may stray from the facts, but it’s a great read.
- Philip Kerr, Prague Fatale
This is the latest installment of Phillip Kerr’s saga of Bernie Gunther, the Berlin detective in Nazi Germany who hates Hitler more than he hates bad guys. Nevertheless, Bernie is drafted into the SS as a detective and forced to serve a cause he hates. This is a story of top members of the Nazi Regime as they fight to grasp and maintain power. But, this is really story of a moral man (Bernie) in an immoral society and his struggle to maintain his personal dignity, sense of honor, and his life.
- Kevin Power, The Yellow Birds
From the time of Homer, wars produce death and destitution as well as great literature. For example: World War I, Eric Remarque –All Quiet on the Western Front; WWII, Irwin Shaw The Young Lions; Vietnam Philip Caputo, A Rumor of War and Tim O’Brian, Going After Cacciato. The war in Iraq is no exception to the rule. Kevin Powers’ The Yellow Birds is a riveting account of what can happen to young men when they enter the “field of Mars.”
- David J. Walker, Company Orders
David Walker is the author of two detective series set in Chicago: The Mal Foley Series about a disbarred lawyer and The Wild Onion series, about a former female cop and her husband lawyer who very much resemble the New York based – Nick and Nora Charles. Walker makes Chicago and Chicago characters come alive in all of his novels. Company Orders is set both in Chicago and Guyana, but it’s filled with all kind of interesting types: Priests, Cardinals, Detectives, lawyers, the CIA and your occasional hitman. While the story line is a little thin, the scenery and the characters are interesting and compelling.
- Nelson Mandela (Richard Stengel) Long Walk to Freedom
I spent a big part of last summer in South Africa. One of the main topics of conversation was the health of the first president of the new South Africa- Nelson Mandela. So, I picked up a copy of his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom, all 768 pages of it. This is not a hard read or one that requires a deep knowledge of African politics. This is simply the story of a man — who believed that injustice to any man or woman no matter what their color ethnicity is wrong. This is a story of a man of character, soul, and mind. This is the story of a man who spent 27 years in prison and refused to hate those who put him there. This is the story of a man who is Africa’s Abraham Lincoln.
Al Gini is a Professor of Business Ethics and Chairman of the Management Department in the Quinlan School of Business at Loyola University Chicago.