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12 Days of Holiday Reads

Our Symposium Books outpost at the WaterFire Arts Center Store is teeming with the best new reads. We’re so grateful to the American Booksellers Association for sharing our opening!

From Symposium Books itself, here are this holiday season’s top twelve! Each book is something stunning, unheard of, familiar, eye-opening, and wonderful, and we hope you’ll stop in to check them out. We’re open Monday-Friday, 10AM-5PM, at 475 Valley St.

And don’t forget that Saturday, December 8th, from 10AM-6PM, is our Holiday Pop-Up! We’ll have all these books and more, including works from these amazing artists. We’ll see you there!

 

On the first day…

Killing Commendatore, by Haruki Murakami

In Killing Commendatore, a thirty-something portrait painter in Tokyo is abandoned by his wife and finds himself holed up in the mountain home of a famous artist, Tomohiko Amada. When he discovers a previously unseen painting in the attic, he unintentionally opens a circle of mysterious circumstances. To close it, he must complete a journey that involves a mysterious ringing bell, a two-foot-high physical manifestation of an Idea, a dapper businessman who lives across the valley, a precocious thirteen-year-old girl, a Nazi assassination attempt during World War II in Vienna, a pit in the woods behind the artist’s home, and an underworld haunted by Double Metaphors. A tour de force of love and loneliness, war and art—as well as a loving homage to The Great GatsbyKilling Commendatore is a stunning work of imagination from one of our greatest writers.

 

On the second day…

21 Lessons for the 21st Century, by Yuval Noah Harari

“If there were such a thing as a required instruction manual for politicians and thought leaders, Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari’s 21 Lessons for the 21st Century would deserve serious consideration. In this collection of provocative essays, Harari, author of the critically praised Sapiens and Homo Deus, tackles a daunting array of issues, endeavoring to answer a persistent question: ‘What is happening in the world today, and what is the deep meaning of these events?’ . . . Harari makes a passionate argument for reshaping our educational systems and replacing our current emphasis on quickly outdated substantive knowledge with the ‘four Cs’—critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. . . . Thoughtful readers will find 21 Lessons for the 21st Century to be a mind-expanding experience.”—BookPage

 

On the third day…

How to be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals, by Sy Montgomery

Understanding someone who belongs to another species can be transformative. No one knows this better than author, naturalist, and adventurer Sy Montgomery. To research her books, Sy has traveled the world and encountered some of the planet’s rarest and most beautiful animals. From tarantulas to tigers, Sy’s life continually intersects with and is informed by the creatures she meets.

This restorative memoir reflects on the personalities and quirks of thirteen animals—Sy’s friends—and the truths revealed by their grace. It also explores vast themes: the otherness and sameness of people and animals; the various ways we learn to love and become empathetic; how we find our passion; how we create our families; coping with loss and despair; gratitude; forgiveness; and most of all, how to be a good creature in the world.

National Book Award finalist Sy Montgomery reflects on the 13 animals who have profoundly affected her in this stunning, poetic, and life-affirming memoir, featuring illustrations by Rebecca Green.

 

On the fourth day…

The Day You Begin, by Jacqueline Woodson

There will be times when you walk into a room
and no one there is quite like you.

National Book Award winner and 2018-2019 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Jacqueline Woodson and two-time Pura Belpré Illustrator Award winner Rafael López have teamed up to create a poignant, heartening book about finding courage to connect, even when you feel scared and alone. Woodson’s lyrical text and López’s dazzling art reminds us that we all feel like outsiders sometimes-and how brave it is that we go forth anyway. And that sometimes, when we reach out and begin to share our stories, others will be happy to meet us halfway.

 

On the fifth day…

The Lonesome Body Builder, by Yukiko Motoya

A housewife takes up bodybuilding and sees radical changes to her physique, which her workaholic husband fails to notice. A boy waits at a bus stop, mocking commuters struggling to keep their umbrellas open in a typhoon, until an old man shows him that they hold the secret to flying. A saleswoman in a clothing boutique waits endlessly on a customer who won’t come out of the fitting room, and who may or may not be human. A newlywed notices that her spouse’s features are beginning to slide around his face to match her own.

In these eleven stories, the individuals who lift the curtains of their orderly homes and workplaces are confronted with the bizarre, the grotesque, the fantastic, the alien―and find a doorway to liberation. The English-language debut of one of Japan’s most fearlessly inventive young writers and winner of the Akutagawa Prize and the Kenzaburo Oe Prize.

 

On the sixth day…

Almost Everything, by Anne Lamott

From Anne Lamott, the New York Times-bestselling author of Help, Thanks, Wow, comes the book we need from her now: How to bring hope back into our lives.

“I am stockpiling antibiotics for the Apocalypse, even as I await the blossoming of paperwhites on the windowsill in the kitchen,” Anne Lamott admits at the beginning of Almost Everything. Despair and uncertainty surround us: in the news, in our families, and in ourselves. But even when life is at its bleakest–when we are, as she puts it, “doomed, stunned, exhausted, and over-caffeinated”–the seeds of rejuvenation are at hand. “All truth is paradox,” Lamott writes, “and this turns out to be a reason for hope. If you arrive at a place in life that is miserable, it will change.” That is the time when we must pledge not to give up but “to do what Wendell Berry wrote: ‘Be joyful, though you have considered all the facts.'”

Candid and caring, insightful and sometimes hilarious, Almost Everything is the book we need and that only Anne Lamott can write.

 

On the seventh day…

So Far, So Good, by Ursula LeGuin

Legendary author Ursula K. Le Guin actually began as a poet and wrote across genres for her entire career. In this clarifying and sublime collection―completed shortly before her death in 2018―Le Guin is unflinching in the face of mortality, and full of wonder for the mysteries beyond. Redolent of the lush natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest, with rich sounds playfully echoing myth and nursery rhyme, Le Guin bookends a long, daring, and prolific career.

Ursula K. Le Guin is the author of over 60 novels, short fiction works, translations, and volumes of poetry. She is known mostly for her works of science fiction and fantasy, including the acclaimed novels The Left Hand of Darkness, and The Dispossessed. Le Guin is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, and her books continue to sell millions of copies worldwide. An author of singular imagination and resolve, Le Guin passed away in 2018.

 

On the eighth day…

Friday Black, by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

From the start of this extraordinary debut, loved by the NYT Book Review, George Saunders, Roxane Gay, and all of us at Symposium Books, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s writing will grab you, haunt you, enrage and invigorate you. With a treacherously surreal, and, at times, heartbreakingly satirical look, Adjei-Brenyah reveals the violence, injustice, and painful absurdities that Black people contend with every day in this country.

These stories tackle urgent instances of racism and cultural unrest and explore the many ways we fight for humanity in an unforgiving world. In “The Finkelstein Five,” Adjei-Brenyah gives us an unforgettable reckoning of the brutal prejudice of our justice system. In “Zimmer Land,” we see a far-too-easy-to-believe imagining of racism as sport. “Friday Black” and “How to Sell a Jacket as Told by Ice King” show the horrors of consumerism and the toll it takes on us all.

Entirely fresh in its style and perspective, and sure to appeal to fans of Colson Whitehead, Marlon James, and George Saunders, Friday Black confronts readers with a complicated, insistent, wrenching chorus of emotions, the final note of which, remarkably, is hope.

 

On the ninth day…

Social Practices, by Chris Kraus

A border isn’t a metaphor. Knowing each other for over a decade makes us witnesses to each other’s lives. My escape is his prison. We meet in a bar and smoke Marlboros.

Mixing biography, autobiography, fiction, criticism, and conversations among friends, with Social Practices Chris Kraus continues the anthropological exploration of artistic lives and the art world begun in 2004 with Video Green: Los Angeles Art and the Triumph of Nothingness.

Social Practices includes writings from and around the legendary “Chance Event―Three Days in the Desert with Jean Baudrillard” (1996), and “Radical Localism,” an exhibition of art and media from Puerto Nuevo’s Mexicali Rose that Kraus co-organized with Marco Vera and Richard Birkett in 2012. Attuned to the odd and the anomalous, Kraus profiles Elias Fontes, an Imperial Valley hay merchant who has become an important collector of contemporary Mexican art and chronicles the demise of a rural convenience store in northern Minnesota. She considers the work of such major contemporary artists as Jason Rhoades, Channa Horowitz, Simon Denny, Yayoi Kusama, Henry Taylor, Julie Becker, Ryan McGinley, and Leigh Ledare. Although Kraus casts a skeptical eye at the genre that’s come to be known as “social practice,” her book is less a critique than a proposition as to how art might be read through desire and circumstance, delirium, gossip, coincidence, and revenge. All art, she implies, is a social practice.

 

On the tenth day…

The Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid, by Dylan Thuras

Created by the team behind the #1 New York Times bestselling Atlas Obscura, The Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid is a thrilling expedition to one hundred of the most surprising, mysterious, and weird-but-true places on earth. 

For curious kids, this is the chance to embark on the journey of a lifetime—and see how faraway countries have more in common than you might expect! Hopscotch from country to country in a chain of connecting attractions: Explore Mexico’s glittering cave of crystals, then visit the world’s largest cave in Vietnam. Peer over a 355-foot waterfall in Zambia, then learn how Antarctica’s Blood Falls got their mysterious color. Or see mysterious mummies in Japan and France, then majestic ice caves in Argentina and Austria! As you climb mountains, zip-line over forests, and dive into oceans, this book is your passport to a world of hidden wonders, illuminated by gorgeous art.

 

On the eleventh day…

The Noma Guide to Fermentation, by René Redzepi and David Zilber

At Noma—four times named the world’s best restaurant—every dish includes some form of fermentation, whether it’s a bright hit of vinegar, a deeply savory miso, an electrifying drop of garum, or the sweet intensity of black garlic. Fermentation is one of the foundations behind Noma’s extraordinary flavor profiles.

Now René Redzepi, chef and co-owner of Noma, and David Zilber, the chef who runs the restaurant’s acclaimed fermentation lab, share never-before-revealed techniques to creating Noma’s extensive pantry of ferments. And they do so with a book conceived specifically to share their knowledge and techniques with home cooks. With more than 500 step-by-step photographs and illustrations, and with every recipe approachably written and meticulously tested, The Noma Guide to Fermentation takes readers far beyond the typical kimchi and sauerkraut to include koji, kombuchas, shoyus, misos, lacto-ferments, vinegars, garums, and black fruits and vegetables. And—perhaps even more important—it shows how to use these game-changing pantry ingredients in more than 100 original recipes.

Fermentation is already building as the most significant new direction in food (and health). With The Noma Guide to Fermentation, it’s about to be taken to a whole new level.

 

On the twelfth day…

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, by Anthony Bourdain.

A sentimental pick, written by one of the most beloved chefs and food writers of all time, this book is the perfect celebration of a wonderful man. A deliciously funny, delectably shocking banquet of wild-but-true tales of life in the culinary trade from Chef Anthony Bourdain, laying out his more than a quarter-century experience of drugs, sex, and haute cuisine—now with all-new, never-before-published material.

 

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