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Amanda and Jenn give some holiday gifting recs, immersive historical fiction, thrillers for book club, and more in this week’s episode of Get Booked.

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1. I’m writing for advice for Christmas gifts for two very different readers:    

1)  The first – a book for my husband.   He likes to read, but doesn’t read a lot.   He primarily likes nonfiction, but I’d like to get him fiction this year.

Books he’s loved – all from quite a while ago:   

– The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay – Michael Chabon

– A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius – Dave Eggers

– High Fidelity – Nick Hornby

– Special Topics in Calamity Physics – Marisha Pessl

He recently read Station Eleven and 11/22/63 – and although he said he liked them both, he didn’t rave about them.   

2)  The second – my dad.   He is a voracious reader.   He loves historical fiction and mysteries – especially series.

He loves the Outlander Series, the Poldark Series, The Discovery of Witches trilogy,  Maisie Dobbs series, and the Perveen Mistry novels.   He’s also read everything by Louise Penny.   He adored the Gentleman in Moscow. You’ve probably answered a version of this question before!  

If you can only answer one of these requests, please prioritize #1!


2. I know this is short notice, but I could really use your help in finding a great read for my brother-in-law’s upcoming birthday (December 19, 2021). 

My brother-in-law is a really admirable person. He’s a tutor for a lot of kids and young adults and I really want to get him a book about education, teaching, learning, science (specifically chemistry, even more specifically, biochemistry) or any mix thereof. 

He himself really struggled through elementary and high school and through most of his undergraduate degree. In fact, in high school, after failing grade 11 chemistry once, on his second try, his teacher made a deal with him that she would give him a passing grade only if he promised to never take another chemistry class again! He now has a degree in biochemistry, and teaches math and science to youth from their youngest years through MCAT prep as a tutor. He is both a tutor through a private company, and through a local college. 

In his fourth or fifth year of his undergrad, he was diagnosed with ADHD. This diagnosis – along with appropriate medication and with necessary supports from the school  – completely changed his ability to succeed in university. He went from bouncing on and off of academic probation, to never failing another assignment. 

He has always been such a hard worker and so dedicated, and he brings that to his work as a tutor now. From his own fraught history with the school systems, he has endless empathy for his students and finds ways to make learning fun and applicable to them all – no matter their age, learning style, or ability. As a result, he works with a lot of kids who have learning disabilities. Also, he really wants to go to grad school himself, but (according to my sister) lingering fears of being rejected has prevented him from applying for years now. 

I would really like to get him a book for his upcoming birthday and I’m hoping you can help me find some good options. Right now, he almost exclusively reads academic articles (he loves all kinds of science, especially biochemistry and genetics). As a PhD student myself, I understand the value of reading journal articles, but I have learned SO MUCH from reading fiction, memoirs, poetry, short stories and the like. In the past, I’ve tried to convince him of the value of fiction and our arguments are good-spirited but never-ending. Outside of his working life, he’s a pretty classic nerd (which he would not dispute haha) I think earlier in his life he used to read fantasy novels, but hasn’t for many years. He enjoys superhero and popular, epic movies like Lord of the Rings, and plays tabletop and role playing games like War Machine and Dungeons and Dragons. 

I would love to get him something that might remind him of the value of reading, even when the thing he’s reading isn’t peer reviewed. I was thinking maybe a memoir, perhaps from a tutor like himself or by someone who understands that learning/school shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all approach. I’m open to fiction also, but I just thought a memoir might help with the transition from pure science to more literary genres. 

Any suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated! Thank you so much! 


3. I’m looking for a Christmas book. I don’t typically read romance but it seems like that is the only feel good Christmas book. I have read and enjoyed The Switch and In A Holidaze.  I’m currently reading Krampus after hearing about it on the show. I like it a lot but I’m looking for a feel good Christmas book. 

Thank you!


4. Love the show, hoping you can help me. As I write this, it is early December and I pretty much just cannot with society anymore. The last two years have done a number on me, and facing 2022 is overwhelming to say the least.

My coping mechanism has been to dive into absorbing historical fiction. Last summer I read Hillary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy and it was exactly what I needed: Different place, different time, different problems, heavy on details and characters. I need to read about a place/time where I can literally look up what happens in order to feel like there’s some order to the universe.

Is there anything like the Cromwell trilogy for other countries/cultures (especially Russia)? I have read Shogun and both Matrix and The White Boat are already on my radar.

Thank you so much.


5. HOLIDAY REQUEST – I’m looking for a book to gift my roommate.  She enjoys reading memoirs and contemporary fiction, I know that she’s read and enjoyed books such as When Breath Becomes Air and Crying in H Mart.  I’m looking to give her an adult fiction book (without any fantasy elements) that might give her the same feel as a memoir because it focuses on/has a very highly developed main character.  Bonus points if the MC is part of the LGBTQ+ community.  I’m thinking about giving her The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, but any other recommendations would be greatly appreciated!


6. Hello, I’ve been running my work book club for 10 years now and I’m quite honestly running out of books to recommend. Each 6 months or so I create a list of books for the group to pick from, the ones with the most votes are the ones we read. The group has a penchant for thrillers, and do not like magical realism. We need the books to be available easily in the UK, and in paperback please. Any suggestions?


7. My father’s birthday is at the end of January. Last year I wrapped four books in brown paper and told him to open one at a time when he was ready for a new book. I put a little blurb on the front – genre, topic etc. and he loved it so much he wants me to do it again. 

I could use help with more titles that you think might work for him. He likes thrillers and mysteries, crime novels or true-crime nonfiction and other nonfiction – especially in the sports or business areas. Past titles that have worked for him are Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, The Biggest Bluff by Maria Konnikova,  Strike me Down by Mindy Mejia, The Martian by Andy Weir, Born a Crime by Trevor Noah, Bad Blood by John Carreyrou etc. 

Thanks for your help! 


Books Discussed

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin (cw: antisemitism, harm to children) 

Pushout by Monique W. Morris

The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin (cw: racism)

The Holiday Switch by Tif Marcelo

Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

The Ibis Trilogy by Amitav Ghosh (Sea of Poppies #1)

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi (tw: sexual assault, mental illness, self-harm)

So Lucky by Nicola Griffith

The Lost Man by Jane Harper (tw: domestic violence, sexual assault)

Lady Sherlock (A Study in Scarlet Women #1) by Sherry Thomas

Billion Dollar Loser by Reeves Wiedeman

We Have Always Been Here by Lena Nguyen (cw: ableist language around mental health)