Some books for the holidays

Debbie Jacob
Debbie Jacob

HOLIDAY reading lists abound – if you check the Internet – but I thought I would do something different and create a list of authors to read this holiday. Holiday reading has three main purposes: enjoyment, discovery and education. Reading should always be fun, but it should also help readers to achieve new levels of awareness and understanding.

Here are some authors everyone can enjoy, but students will especially benefit from this list.

Antoine Laurain

I’m a huge fan of Gallic Books, a British publisher that translates best-selling French literature into English, and Laurain is one of this publisher’s most popular authors. Laurain’s books feature plots built on a single physical object. Students struggling to understand literature in school will appreciate the visual imagery and visual structures Laurain uses in his novels.

His main theme is often loss, and each novel explores this theme from a different angle. The President’s Hat is a comical message about greed that takes place when the late French President François Mitterrand forgets his hat in a restaurant, and the person who picks it up loses it. The hat goes through many adventures.

The Red Notebook is a quaint story about infatuation that takes place after a woman disappears leaving behind nothing but a red notebook. French Rhapsody follows the consequences of a lost letter. Each novel has a touch of irony that provides a fascinating twist. Vintage 1954, just released in June, is a time travel based on a bottle of wine.

Judy Raymond

More and more international readers are becoming fans of history written by journalists. This is because journalists offer exciting and concise non-fiction that focuses on the people who define historical events or historical periods. Readers want light, informative books with fresh new angles and Raymond’s books comfortably meet the international standards that currently define this new wave of popular non-fiction.

In The Colour of Shadows, Raymond examines slavery from the slaves’ point of view, casting a whole new light on life in Trinidad just before emancipation. This is a must-read for all history students, and it needs to be on the official CXC/CAPE syllabus.

Raymond’s short biography on Beryl McBurnie, published by UWI Press, demonstrates the craft of non-fiction writing and the art of research. Turning a theme into a compelling thesis statement is the hallmark of excellent non-fiction writing, and Raymond does this by showing how an independence movement depends on a cultural movement as well as a political movement.

This biography is a light read that should serve as a literary text in secondary school history and English classes for its ability to demonstrate the writing and research process in an engaging text.

Lee Child

I have sent a considerable amount of people off for the holidays this year to discover the Jack Reacher series, which I recently discovered from a Master Class with non-fiction writer Malcolm Gladwell. Lee Child is one of Gladwell’s favourite authors and Gladwell says he eagerly awaits the next installment of the series, which has at least 25 books now.

Reacher, a former military policeman, is a quirky, anti-social drifter with a penchant for finding trouble. He’s not your typical protagonist. Some critics have described him as a modern knight; others describe him as a psychopath. These novels offer fast-paced plots with interesting character development and spine-tingling conflicts — the perfect blend of entertainment and intellectual stimulation.

They’re a fun way to help secondary students develop their analytical skills, and they will help students to understand all the elements of literature. Child is equally good at character and plot development, setting, conflicts and dialogue, which is quite rare. Most authors favour one element over another.

David Quammen

Quammen is probably the number one science writer at the moment. His informative books, which read like novels, are written in a surprisingly light tone. His work includes another one of the most popular books in my library – The Chimp and the River, which traces Aids back to its first case.

This was originally a chapter in Quammen’s book Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Pandemic. Quammen is the only person to ever write an entire issue of National Geographic. That issue is now available in a book called Yellowstone – A Journey Through America’s Wild Heart, which explores the environmental impact of re-introducing wolves back to Yellowstone National Park.

There are many authors to discover for your holiday reading so check out Paper Based, which features the best of Caribbean literature, and other local book stores.


"Some books for the holidays"

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