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Cover Image of The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini published by Riverhead Books
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BookBuffet Holiday Pick List 2003

abstract:Here's our highly subjective list of the best books for gift-giving this holiday season. Don't forget to wrap one up for yourself!


December 11, 2003
— These are the books we are recommending—and buying ourselves—this holiday season. They reflect our personal interests as well as the interests of BookBuffet members. There's bound to be a title for each book lover on your gift list!


Happy Holidays!

Paula, Sue, and Frances



The Best of Good

By Sara Lewis

If you're looking for a story about transformation and "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" kind of charm, this is the one. Tom Good has been living in a funk for years. Everyone around him seems to have given up hope that he will change, reconciled to his apparent arrested development. With the sudden realization that he is father to a partially grown boy of ten, Tom achieves what has eluded him all along. It is not unreasonable that people become what they have to be, not for themselves, but in spite of themselves. (PS)


The Missing

By Thomas Eidson 

Originally entitled The Last Ride, this novel was made into the current movie The Missing. It can by no means be categorized as a Louis Lamour-type Western; it is a compelling story about people and relationships—with a good adventure thrown in. Maggie is a fiercely independent homesteader in the West during the 1880s with two daughters, Lilly and Dot. One day an old man rides up to the house and wants to see her. At first it's not clear whether he is white or Indian. He turns out to be her father who abandoned her family when she was a child and "went native." Maggie refuses to see him. But then Lilly is captured by a bunch of renegades and the only person who can track her down is Maggie's father. They ride off together, separated by so much—by history, by philosophy—and they join forces to make the journey to rescue the girl. It's also worth checking out Eidson's first book, St. Agnes' Stand, a gem of a book about a man who rescues a besieged group of nuns and children. (SB)



By John Dos Passos 

How about a book that could possibly take most of 2004 to read? At around 1,500 pages, Dos Passos' epic U.S.A. is actually three books in one volume: The 42nd Parallel, 1919, and Big Money. It may be daunting in size, but it is a thoroughly engrossing read. U.S.A. is a social history of America in the first 30 years of the 20th century that is a mixture of both fact and fiction. Throughout all three volumes Dos Passos traces the fortunes of many different characters from different walks of life as they weather the social and political changes of the modern century. As in real life, some characters intersect, some just stand alone. The stories are interspersed with 'Newsreel' and 'Camera Shot' vignettes that obliquely comment on the action. Despite the title, the geographic scope of the book ranges from North America to Mexico to Europe, following the path of the Great War and the aftermath of the Paris Peace Conference. (SB)  




Living to Tell the Tale

By Gabriel García Márquez

You won't want to miss the first installment of the planned autobiographical triology by the master of magic realism. Those familiar with Márquez's works will recognize on each page the inspirations for his novels. Those not familiar, will themselves be inspired—to read his stories! (PS)

Click here for BookBuffet's Author Profile of Gabriel García Márquez. 


Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy

By Carlos Eire

Carlos Eire has unlocked the recesses of his childhood memories to retell the story of his forced flight from Havana to America. In these times of world conflict, it is important to feel what children experience, and to understand what it means to lose a sense of home. Eire's moving story of love and longing for his home country is the non-fiction winner of the 2003 National Book Prize. (PS)




The Devil's Playground

By Nan Goldin

Nan Goldin's photography has always been intensely personal. Her best-known work, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, was a visual diary (in photographs and video), chronicling her life and that of her extended family in cities around the world. In her first new work since her retrospective at the Whitney museum in 1996, Goldin has put together a new visual narrative. Reproducing over 350 color images, The Devil's Playground features her familiar repertory cast of the international demimonde, but its heart is a series of images devoted to Goldin's two hospital statys—for detox treatments. Arguably less gritty and less sexual than her previous work, these new photographs are nonetheless powerful and perhaps more reflective in feeling. (FB)


Symphony: Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall

Essays by Richard Koshalek, et. al.

Photographs by Grant Mudford

Critics and admirers alike wondered how Frank Gehry could match the marvel that is Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. The newly unveiled (this past October) concert hall in Los Angeles is his triumphant answer. A poetic abstraction of swirling, shimmering stainless steel, the hall is already a landmark. Grant Mudford's excellent photographs of the construction process and the finished building alone make this a worthy book. However the story behind the making of the hall—a sixteen-year saga—is a fasinating read too. Included are essays by Frank Gehry as well as by Esa-Pekka Salonen, the Los Angeles Philaharmonic's music director. (FB)



Song Book

By Nick Hornby

Hornby (author of High Fidelity) is a part time music critic for the New Yorker magazine and this is a collection of his personal essays on music including the latest emerging talents. This reads like an artfully arranged mix-tape—perfect for the literary-music lover on your list. (CL)* 




The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey from Samarkand to New York

By Claudia Roden

This is more than a cookery book; it has history, explanations, anecdotes, commentary, and archival photographs from all over the world. Roden is a celebrated cookery writer and this book is a masterwork: it won the James Beard Foundation Cookbook of the Year Award. It is organized not only by food type (soups, pastries, vegetables, etc.), but also by location, covering the world from Morocco to Turkey to Italy to China to India. The recipes are tried and tested (every one I've made has been successful). Whatever your ethnicity, it makes a compelling and personal reading experience. This is a great gift as well as an addition to your own cookbook shelf. (SB)




Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages

By Mark Abley

Fascinated by language, Mark Abley traveled around the world to experience first-hand the disappearance of certain languages. Along the way, he met with the men and women who are struggling to keep their tongues—and identities—alive. From Aboriginal and Amerindian speech to Max, Provencal, Yiddish, and Welsh, Abley examines the construction of languages and how they influence thinking and, indeed, shape culture. (FB)




The Polar Express Deluxe Gift Package

By Chris Van Allsburg

Winner of the Caldecott Medal and a New York Times bestseller when it was first published in 1988, the 15th anniversary edition of Chris Van Allsburg's now beloved Christmas story is the perfect holiday gift for the entire family to enjoy. The story of a magical train ride on Christmas Eve to the North Pole is packaged with a compact disc and an audiocassette recording of Liam Neeson's dramatic reading as well as an bronze ornament designed by Allsburg himself. (FB)


The Seventh Tower series

By Garth Nix

For older readers, consider Australian fantasy writer Garth Nix. 13-year-old Tal lives secure in a mountaintop castle high above the Dark World, a realm where light is the ultimate commodity and the spirit world is the only escape. When his father disappears with the family's cherished Sunstone, Tal tries to steal another Sunstone only to be caught in the act and thrown off the Castle of the Seven Towers—and into the unknown! (FB) 

Book 1: The Fall

Book 2: Castle

Book 3: Aenir

Book 4: Above the Veil

Book 5: Into the Battle

Book 6: The Violet Keystone



  *Candace Lombardi, BookBufet Moderator & Freelance Writer



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