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We’re halfway through National Novel Writing Month, as well as being that much closer to our National Day of Over-Eating and Televised Sports Bingeing. Let’s stack up some books to read while we’re waiting for the EMTs to wrap Uncle Joe in aloe-slathered bandages—er, while waiting for the turducken to be deep fried. 

We’re sure the science experiment going on out in the garage will end better this year. We promise. 
 

If you need a thick book to help Cousin Jimmie be tall enough to sit at the big people's table, we recommend Saga Press’s complete and illustrated edition of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Books of Earthsea. Saga Press, in the last few years, has been working diligently to put together some really lovely editions of Le Guin’s work, and this illustrated edition is very fine, indeed. Filled with color and black & white illustrations by Charles Vess, this edition also includes early stories from Earthsea, Le Guin’s Oxford lecture about Earthsea, and even an previously unprinted story. 
 

Meanwhile, intrepid sleuth Stephanie Plum is back in Look Alive Twenty-five, the, uh, 25th book in Janet Evanovich’s series. In this one, Plum is drawn into the case of the missing managers. It seems that Trenton’s Red River Deli is famous not only for its world-class pastrami and coleslaw, but also for aliens abducting managers out of the back parking lot. No, wait. That can’t be right. Hang on . . . 

Yep. It’s either alien abduction or something more nefarious. We guess you’ll just have to read it and find out, won’t you? 
 

And speaking of engaging mysteries that are more than they appear, Jonathan Lethem has delivered another sleuther with The Feral Detective, which is about a search for a missing girl, off-the-grid communities, and just what in the world has happened in the last few years. Apparently, Lethem began writing this book the day after the 2016 Presidential election, and his disbelief and wonder and outrage adds rocket fuel to the narrative. Kirkus Reviews calls it “haunting.” Booklist says “Utterly unique.” Publishers Weekly savages it as a “tone-deaf Raymond Chandler pastiche.” So, uh, your mileage may vary. 
 

On safer ground, we have another David Baldacci thriller. Whew. Long Road to Mercy takes places in the American Southwest and stars Atlee Pine, a FBI special agent who is a whizz at profiling serial killers. Though, who isn’t these days in the FBI? Isn’t this a basic requirement for getting hired? 

Anyway, there’s a bunch of missing persons in and around the Grand Canyon, someone makes a mess of a mule, and there’s danger afoot. Naturally, there’s a larger plot to uncover, as well as some traumatic backstory of Atlee’s that needs to be resolved. You know the drill. 
 

Now, something a little more out of the ordinary is James Alan Gardner’s They Promised Me the Gun Wasn’t Loaded, which is a follow-up to All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault. Needless to say, They Promised Me the Gun Wasn’t Loaded is a bit of a tongue-in-cheek caper book, complete with snappy dialogue, gonzo action sequences, and more than a few superpowers gone terribly awry. Plus, there’s the titular gun which probably goes off at a really awkward moment. 
 

And speaking of awkward moments, we’re delighted with Greg Clarke’s and Monte Beauchamp’s A Sidecar Named Desire: Great Writers and the Booze That Stirred Them. Sure, it’s a history of alcohol, but it’s a historical review punctuated with digressions about writers and creativity and how to make a couple gallons of spruce beer like Jane Austen used to do. 
 

And speaking of delightful illustrations, this year’s charming holiday classic is going to be Anna Wright’s The Twelve Days of Christmas. Rendered in pen, ink, watercolor, AND collage, her version of the endless iteration of holiday gifts is a gorgeous gift in waiting. 
 

And speaking of clever holiday gifts, how about the 123s of D & D? Or the ABCs of D & D? That’s right. Start your kids off right, with an educational early number and letter reader that is totally themed around Dungeons & Dragons. Is it a cheap grab for the wallets of gaming nerds or is it genius marketing for the next generation of role-players? Hard to say, but we find these books delightfully clever. 
 

And speaking of swords and sorcery, Bernard Cornwell is still deep in the thickets of 10th century England with his Saxon Tales series. War of the Wolf is out this week, and we’re going to admit defeat in our attempts to summarize this book, and instead we’re just going to lean on Kirkus Reviews here: “Although the plot is complicated, it boils down to this: Uhtred wants to kill the Norseman who wants to kill him and conquer Northumbria.” So, there you go. Swords and Saxons in old timey Englandy land. 
 

And while we’re wandering around the henges of old, how about we do so with the Big Book of Runes and Rune Magic? Our guide is Edred Thorsson (who sounds like a character from a Bernard Cornwall novel), and he introduces us to the twenty-four runes of the Elder Futhark. This isn’t some sort of casual meet-up at the stoney henges sort of introduction, either. Thorsson teaches us not only the history of runes and runish lore, but also how runes are used for divination, numerology, and other arcane systems of symbolic interpretation. 
 

Oh, and speaking of arcane systems of symbolic interpretation, the screenplay for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald comes out on Friday, which is the same day the movie hits theaters, so you should plan accordingly. 
 

And finally, we’ll end on a more measured and laconic note, yet one that still resonates with long-lasting echoes and insights. That’s right. We’re talking about a new John McPhee book. The Patch is a bit more scattershot in its approach than some of his more concentrated books, but it’s still McPhee, and you know you’re in for learning more about a given topic than you ever thought possible and yet be left yearning for more. 

Which is how any time spent with a book should be, really, right? 


Meanwhile, At Bob's House »»

BOB: What are you guys doing in my house? 

PODGE: We’re here for the holidays. 

GLOM-GLOM: Glom.

BOB: Uh . . . I don’t recall inviting you. 

PODGE: Oh, we didn’t think you’d mind. 

BOB: Well, I don’t mind the occasional visit, but this feels like you’re staying awhile. 

PODGE: Just a few days. 

BOB: I don’t have enough beer. 

PODGE: Oh, we noticed. That’s okay. Leonard brought some. 

BOB: Leonard? 

PODGE: You know Leonard. He delivers the mail. 

LEONARD: Mail call. 

BOB: Oh, right. Leonard. 

GLOM-GLOM: Glom-glom. Glom. 

BOB: No, I don’t need—actually, yes, a beer would be great. 

PODGE: I’ll get it. 

BOB: So . . . moose, otter, and duck. Anyone else going to drop by “for the holidays”? 

GLOM-GLOM: glom Glom glom glom glom. 

BOB: You’re kidding. 

GLOM: Glom. 

BOB: Smart ass. 

PODGE: Here you go, Bob. 

BOB: Thanks, Podge. Hey, this is pretty good. 

PODGE: Leonard picked it out. 

LEONARD: Spicy bock. 

BOB: Yeah, it does have a nice bite to it. 

GLOM-GLOM: Glom glom? 

BOB: Sure. Wait. What? 

PODGE: He’s working his way through Mustich’s 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die. 

GLOM-GLOM: Glom glom glom-glom-glom.

BOB: All the way through ‘C’ already? Wow. 

GLOM-GLOM: Glom-glom glom. 

BOB: Oh, those are upstairs. Please don’t—Uh. Why does he do that? 

PODGE: He likes reading. 

BOB: I don’t like him upstairs. 

LEONARD: Panic attack. 

BOB: I’m not—I’m not having a panic attack. 

PODGE: No, I think Leonard is. 

BOB: Why is he having a panic attack? 

PODGE: Turkducken.

LEONARD: Panic attack! Panic attack! Panic attack!

PODGE: No! No! Stop! It’s okay. Bob isn’t going to cook you. 

BOB: What? Why would I—what is going on?

PODGE: Leonard—being a duck—thought he was safe during Thanksgiving because he’s not, you know, a turkey, but then he heard about this hot oil torture where a turkey, a duck, and a chicken are all . . . I can’t go on . . . 

BOB: I see. 

PODGE: So, yeah, we’re in hiding until this crisis passes. 

BOB: All of you? 

PODGE: Solidarity, o bearded one. That’s what friends do. 

 


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