The best books to read – and gift – in December

Bethanne Patrick

THE WASHINGTON POST – Books make the best gifts. There, I said it. If you haven’t already purchased several for your friends and family, perhaps you’ll be tempted by these end-of-year titles, which include wild science fiction, road-tripping memoirs, a theme-park history and perfectly timed inspiration from the late Toni Morrison.

One Long River of Song: Notes on Wonder by Brian Doyle

The award-winning novelist, poet and essayist died in 2017, but this year brings a final collection of his lyrical, sometimes mystical pieces about life and its gifts.

Doyle often used his Catholicism to explore the human and natural worlds, but this is perhaps the most generous, universal “religious writing” you’ll ever read.

Genius & Anxiety: How Jews Changed the World, 1847-1947 by Norman Lebrecht

Chemotherapy, the theory of relativity, great literature, blood transfusions, political theory, even Google are among the accomplishments of Jewish men and women, and they’re all celebrated in this lively, enlightening history.

The Measure of Our Lives: A Gathering of Wisdom by Toni Morrison et al

With just one quotation from Morrison’s work on each page, this beautiful volume still manages to contain not just a survey of the Nobel winner’s life and development as a genius but also the kind of moral compass so many of us need right now. With a foreword by Zadie Smith, it’s a mighty and perfect gift for just about anyone.

Oppo: A Novel by Tom Rosenstiel

It’s presidential primary season – and two political parties are at war with each other.

Sound familiar? Into this modern maelstrom steps a centrist senator and VP pick who hires Rosenstiel’s recurring characters, Peter Rena and Randi Brooks, to investigate a frightening threat.

Disney’s Land: Walt Disney and the Invention of the Amusement Park That Changed the World by Richard Snow

Eight hundred million visitors have trekked to the so-called happiest place on earth since its 1955 opening, seeking its carefully scripted brand of excitement and cheer.

How and why Walt Disney envisioned a place where people “could live among Mickey Mouse and Snow White” is carefully detailed in this new book.

Anyone: A Novel by Charles Soule

In his 2018 The Oracle Year, best-selling comic book artist Soule (Daredevil, She-Hulk) demonstrated that he’s as clever with prose as he is with visual arts, and Anyone lives up to that first novel’s prowess.

The fast-paced plot alternates between the present and the near future, as a scientist grapples with the fallout from the consciousness-swapping technology she created.

Dead Astronauts: A Novel by Jeff VanderMeer

Sci-fi master VanderMeer (Borne) returns with a novel about three astronauts on a dangerous time-travelling mission in a sort-of future Earth where the environment has been destroyed and animals read minds.

Once More to the Rodeo: A Memoir by Calvin Hennick

Hennick, a journalist, turns a road trip out West with his son into a meditation on fatherhood, racial difference (Hennick is white, and his wife is Haitian), addiction and, yes, having fun.

If you’re someone’s parent – or someone’s child – this is a must-read.

All That’s Bright and Gone: A Novel by Eliza Nellums

It seems fitting to close out the year with a book titled All That’s Bright and Gone.

Aoife Scott, the winning 6-year-old protagonist in this debut novel, worries about her late brother, her hospitalised mother and quite a few other people. With her imaginary friend Teddy and her real-life friend Hannah, Aoife will make some important discoveries and win every reader’s heart.