There was so much spookiness last week that we opted to hold off on an entire newsletter's worth of books until this week. However, that means that THIS week's books may get bumped, and then the week after, and so on and so on. Suddenly, it'll be NEXT Christmas before we get a chance to talk about THIS Christmas's books.
That's bad form, frankly. Let's not do that. In which case, we need to compress things a bit, and that means turning on the Snark-O-Tronic 8000 and launching these books like we're peppering the upper deck with Kraken t-shirts. Are you ready? Here we go.
First up is Silverview, a posthumous novel from John le Carré. Prepared by his son, Nick Harkaway, after his death, Silverview is a short(er) novel that hits all the notes that le Carré has been sounding so eloquently and fervently these past few years. Ostensibly, it's a story about spies, but really, it's a story about human frailty and community. A perfect closing to an illustrious career.
Not to be upstaged by those guys, Louise Penny and Hillary Rodham Clinton have teamed up with State of Terror. It's a cagey thriller about naive political appointees who discover the world is more cynical than an overpriced coffee beverage with a dozen flavor additives. Unlike the other team-up between bestselling author and retired political figure, State of Terror might actually have some bite. This one has been flying off the shelves.
And look! It's Gastro Obscura, the foodie follow-up to Atlas Obscura. It's not just the weird, strange, and curious. It's the weird, strange, and curious WITH take-out. Plan your next adventure!
Susan Orlean is back with On Animals. Much like The Library Book, her book about the Los Angels Public Library fire of 1986, On Animals is a meandering meditation on life, pets, and critters. Marvelous stories about tigers as household pets, champion show dogs, the popularity of rabbits, and carrier pigeons, to name a few. So very marvelous.
And speaking of marvels, Douglas Wolk has taken one for the team and read every single Marvel comic book. Now that he is done, he has some thoughts, which can be found in All of the Marvels: A Journey to the Ends of the Biggest Story Ever Told.
Seriously. Every. Single. Comic. "Excelsior!" as Stan Lee used to say.
And speaking of seeing the forest for the trees, Nick Offerman has a new book. Where the Deer and the Antelope Play: The Pastoral Observations of One Ignorant American Who Loves to Walk Outside is a title that is almost as long as the title of one of these newsletters, and for that, we salute Offerman. We're also fans because Offerman's wry observations are usually on point and hilarious.
Oh, and J. K. Rowling has a new book out. It's not a new Harry Potter book. Your mileage may vary.
Oh, and Jim Kay—who has been doing the illustrated editions of the Harry Potter books—also has a new book out. It's Harry Potter-ish. Again, your mileage may vary.
And speaking of Harry Potter, Evanna Lynch's memoir is out this week. Lynch, as you may recall, played Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter films, and The Opposite of Butterfly Hunting is her story about the harsh disconnect between relentless perfection and the desire to be creative. This is a moving narrative about finding your voice.
And speaking of the creative drive, here is Warren Ellis's Nina Simone's Gum. Once upon a time, Ellis, who has been recording and playing with Nick Cave for a very long time, had the opportunity to see Nina Simone play. It was late in Ms. Simone's life, and when she came out on stage, she sat down at the piano, plucked her gum out of her mouth, stuck it on the piano, and proceeded to bring down the house with a transformative performance. Afterward, Ellis snuck on stage and rescued the gum.
Reader, he carried it with him for years. Eventually, it became part of an exhibit at the Royal Danish Library in Copenhagen. But that wasn't the end of the story, because Ellis realized that part of him—part of his very being—was still connected to that gum. Even though, really, he wasn't. But he was, you know, because creative totems are very powerful things.
Nina Simone's Gum (which, by the way, comes with pictures of said gum during its travels over the years) is a homage, sure, but it's also a meditation and reflection on the creative process. On what drives us to dream. On what sustains us. On how we build hope out of the strangest things because, well, because we can. And because we need to do so. That's what making up stories is all about, after all.
And you know what goes with a good story? A good cocktail. This week's cocktail book—and yes, it seems like there is a new one every week this holiday season, which says something about the cultural mood, doesn't it?—is Lovecraft Cocktails, a selection of elixirs and libations themed around rats in the walls, things on doorsteps, and the colours out of space. Lovecraft Cocktails is crafted by Mike Slater, who was responsible for the Necronomnomnom, an eldritch cookbook from a few years back that was quite the hit.
We don't think anyone actually summoned Fungi from Yuggoth in the course of preparing pasta, but now that we think about it, we don't know that anyone HASN'T. Hmmm . . .
Anyway, speaking of invasions by terrifying monstrosities from outer space, here is David Biedrzycki's Invasion of the Unicorns, which is . . . uh . . . very fluffy and adorable. Here's the trick, though: he's only adorable on the outside. Inside, he wants to take over the world. Will dog slobber, snuggle time, and tea parties save humanity, or will this nefarious invader open up a multi-flex portal and bring forth his unicorn army?
And speaking of whimsy, here is Christine Daniela Huber's The Tree Horoscope. That's right. You were—literally—born under a tree, and knowing that tree will help you achieve your personal destiny! Or, help you be more tree. Basically the same thing, right?
And finally, here is Owen Davey's My First Pop-Up Mythological Monsters, which takes us on a worldwide tour of strange beasties that are brought to life in vibrant colors and clever three-dimensional renderings. Perfect for scaring off the lingering shadows at bedtime.