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Making Book on Last-Minute Holiday Gifts
Thursday, December 13, 2018 -- With the approach of the year-end holidays, I've once again compiled a list of suggested books for your last-minute gift-giving convenience.

I could have saved time--and lessened the strain on my brain--by copping some of the Top 100 books selected by viewers of PBS' The Great American Read. But I prefer my unrelated grab bag of choices.

Don't let the literary pedigree of some of the titles fool you. They're all very readable, entertaining and, above all, enjoyable. A friend, business acquaintance or loved one would appreciate receiving any of them. And they'll all help while away a few hours on a flight.

DEAD CERT BY DICK FRANCIS
If you enjoy horse racing and mysteries, consider Dead Cert. Penned by British crime writer Dick Francis, it's the first of more than two dozen entertaining novels that feature the dark world of equine racing that outsiders rarely see. Although racetrack-centric, the thrillers are anything but formulaic.

THE REMAINS OF THE DAY BY KAZUO ISHIGURO
Both sad and witty, The Remains of the Day is an engaging portrait of the perfect butler in class-splintered, postwar England. Brilliantly rendered by Nobel laureate Ishiguro, it's an unforgettable journey into the life of an aging and emotionally starved servant who puts aside his own best interests for duty and absolute propriety. And, of course, the book was made into a well-received film starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson.

RUN BY ANN PATCHETT
Run is compelling for its characters and nuanced treatment of race, career aspirations, politics and family history. This tale of how the arrival of two strangers affects the fate of one family will stay with you, as it has with me. It is also a refreshing counterpoint to the violence-based fiction that's popular these days. Patchett's unique narrative--all but one chapter unfolds over 24 hours against the backdrop of a treacherous snowstorm--makes for a gripping read.

THE VOYAGE BY PHILIP CAPUTO
Set in the early years of the 20th century, Caputo's stirring and provocative novel details the journey of three teenage sons who, at their father's bidding, set sail on an ocean voyage. There's a raft of adventures both on land and at sea in a carefully plotted and brilliantly spun yarn by the author, best-known for the bestseller A Rumor of War.

FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT BY ALLEN FURST
Furst is among my favorite writers and he's well-known for his many low-key and evocative espionage novels set before and during World War II. Darkness is always just around the corner in a Furst novel. Foreign Correspondent takes place mainly in prewar Paris and follows a daring project to expand the distribution of an anti-fascist newspaper in Italy. Like Furst's other stories, it is well-researched, well-written and well worth reading.

HUCKLEBERRY FINN BY MARK TWAIN
What compels me to recommend Mark Twain's classic? The unfolding of an unlikely, but genuine, friendship between a teenage white boy and an older black slave as they travel the Mississippi River. In a time when widespread racism is re-emerging in our society, a story that reveals how individuals can learn to embrace and value each other as fellow human beings is again relevant, moving--and unforgettable.

THE QUEST FOR KARLA BY JOHN LE CARRÉ
Master spies--Britain's George Smiley and his nemesis, Karla, the head of Soviet foreign intelligence--duel in the books included in this compilation. The trilogy (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy; The Honourable Schoolboy; and Smiley's People) represents the most definitive and pragmatic of what I consider the greatest spy novels. The only one possibly better? Le Carré's own The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE BY JANE AUSTEN
A 19th-century romantic comedy of manners, Jane Austen's tale of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy's courtship is the model for modern romance novels and rom-com movies. More than 200 years after its publication, it remains relatable and readable for its timeless elements: the machinations of dysfunctional families; the follies of intimate relationships; and how wealth influences our behavior and choices. As writer Anna Quindlen has noted, Pride and Prejudice involves "that thing that all great novels consider, the search for self."

A THIEF OF TIME BY TONY HILLERMAN
The mystical aspect of Native American life and culture in the Southwest is deftly interwoven into Hillerman's series of crime fiction books that center around the Navajo Tribal Police and the exploits of Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn. The award-winning A Thief of Time is an atmospheric thriller that focuses on the intersection of the quest for ancient artifacts and modern greed. It's an entertaining, and literary, mystery.

THE CORRECTIONS AND FREEDOM BY JONATHAN FRANZEN
Jonathan Franzen has written two novels, among others, that have garnered all manner of literary awards, including 2001's The Corrections and 2010's Freedom. Franzen's writing in both books is contemporary, relaxed and always enjoyable. There is also a good deal of humor. His fascinating yet dysfunctional characters seem real although some of their antics seem like episodes on a reality TV show.

Research by Marlene R. Fedin

This column is Copyright © 2018 by Martin B. Deutsch. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2018 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Martin B. Deutsch. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.