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6 Books to Give – or Keep!

By Pam Lamp November 29, 2023 Lifestyle

I love it when a friend or family member gifts me a book. With so many choices in bookshops and online stores, it’s a fun way to discover new authors or subject matter that might not otherwise appear on my radar. Here are a few favorites I’ve read recently, recommend, and plan to wrap up for a recipient or two on my holiday list. I hope you spot one you wish to give – or keep for yourself!

Where the Grass Grows Blue by Hope Gibbs

Debut novelist Hope Gibbs garnered a mound of awards for this charming Southern romance novel. With its references to Nashville, Atlanta, and northwest coastal Florida, readers may recognize friends, family, or themselves among the pages.

Penny has had a year… Her husband cheated on her with a much younger woman. After their quick marriage, her ex and his new wife take an extended vacation with Penny’s three young sons in tow. And then her beloved grandmother dies.

When Penny returns to Kentucky to settle the estate, all sorts of memories – and people – come flooding back to her. A breezy read about the beauty of going home.

Grab a copy and settle in with a glass of sweet tea!

The Spy Coast by Tess Gerritsen

Maggie is 60, a retired spy, and raising chickens on Blackberry Farm in Purity, Maine. Sixteen years ago, a mission went horribly wrong, forcing Maggie to walk away from a career she loved and disappear into the Maine countryside. She adores her new, ordinary life – “quiet and unobtrusive and safe.” Until she discovers a dead woman sprawled on her driveway.

She knows the body is a message from someone connected to her past. Maggie and a handful of former colleagues, who are now neighbors, band together to hunt down the past’s demons and salvage the new life Maggie’s created for herself.

I raced through this fun page-turner and my first book by the author, who boasts quite a loyal following. I was a fan of the Rizzoli and Isles TV series, which is based on books by Gerritsen.

One con of the novel? The story presents the likable and talented CIA operatives in their 60s and 70s as invisible (author’s word, not mine) washed-up senior citizens who crave naps and relief from aching joints. Since I am older than Maggie (!), I grew tired of those reminders scattered throughout the book.

Pickleball Is Life by Erin McHugh

In 1965, three dads in Bainbridge Island, Washington, devised a game to entertain their kids for an afternoon. Thus began the craze now sweeping the world – pickleball.

The game picked up serious steam in the early 2000s, mainly from folks seeking fun and exercise whose knees could no longer handle tennis and downhill skiing. Youngsters don’t pooh-pooh the game anymore and have joined the fray. Today’s median player is 30-something.

For those considering pickleball, McHugh’s introduction to the fast-paced game is a good place to begin. After speaking with her on Episode 24 of my podcast, I cannot imagine anyone more well-versed in the sport. With a dose of humor, Erin presents everything you need to know before you step on a pickleball court – the quirky rules, what sort of paddle to buy, and her trick for keeping score.

All in a quick-paced, accessible format.

The House Is on Fire by Rachel Beanland

Ladies and gentlemen, “The house is on fire.”

Be prepared for short chapters, quick pacing – and a delayed bedtime! In December 1811 – during a packed performance – a three-story Richmond, Virginia theater caught fire and burned to the ground. At the time, it was the most significant loss of life in U.S. history. Today, a church memorializes the tragic event.

Chapters alternated between four characters, Cecily, Gilbert, Jack, and Sally. Although all survived the fire, their lives were forever changed. The novel carefully explores the difficult history of the time and examines human nature’s good – and bad – sides. Well-written and researched, I enjoyed the entertaining, thought-provoking glimpse into an event I knew nothing about.

Two Nights in Lisbon by Chris Pavone

How well do we know our partners? Or anyone in our lives, for that matter?

I planned to read this novel until my plane reached cruising altitude. Then I would tuck the book away and move on to other – more productive – reading and writing. But I couldn’t stop reading.

In their honeymoon hotel, Ariel wakes up to no husband. He didn’t slip out for coffee, he wasn’t reading the newspaper in the cafe downstairs, he hadn’t stepped out for a walk. He was gone, and Ariel suspects something is very wrong. When Portuguese detectives and police officers don’t offer as much help as she’d like to solve the case – and uncover secrets about the couple’s past – Ariel takes matters into her own hands.

Tom Lake by Ann Patchett

Many of our kids have a hard time imagining that we – their parents, of all people – led full and exciting lives before they came along.

In her quiet, absorbing way, international bestselling novelist and bookshop owner Ann Patchett weaves a tale of three grown daughters and the mom they never knew. The mom who existed before the girls were born.

During the pandemic, while picking cherries on their idyllic Michigan farm, Lara tells her daughters about the summer she dated Peter Duke. The girls beg to hear all the juicy details about her acting days, dating a Hollywood superstar, and meeting their dad.

Note: Patchett references Our Town by Thornton Wilder in this novel. Although I am unfamiliar with the play and still enjoyed Tom Lake, my reading experience would have been richer had I known the story by Wilder.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Do you like to receive books as gifts? Do you like to give books? Do you have a favorite book you’ve gifted over and over?

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ellen kelly

I seldom give adults books as everyone has their own unique taste but I love giving childrens books. Right now the Gruffalo is my favourite to give to the little guys. I encourage the use of libraries!

Pamela Lamp

I will have to look that one up – not familiar with it!

Deb

Great suggestion, adding to my gifts to my great-nephew who loves reading time with my nephew.

Thanks for these great recs! Tom Lake is the only one I’d heard of (and enjoyed reading). For holiday gifts I’ve been buying women beautiful books about decor and (gentle, not Kondo-esque!) decluttering like Minimalista, and Organized Living, both by Shira Gill and also Still, and Style, both by Natalie Walton. Also Wabi Sabi Welcome by Julie Pointer Adams. I find that non fiction home related books are universally appreciated, because we’re so often such nesters! For men I’m getting mostly rock biographies like Living The Beatles Legend, Charlie’s Good Tonight (about the Rolling Stones) and Guitars and Heroes. But of course there is such a wide range of interests! Happy Holidays Pam – love your podcasts!

I LOVE receiving home books because I don’t buy them for myself. What a perfect gift! Thanks for listening Gaili, I truly appreciate you. Have a wonderful holiday season. Xo

Deb

Great article. I read some of the books but always looking for new ideas. I never give books as gifts because my friends are such avid readers and like to choose their own. I give gift cards to small independent bookstores though.

That being said, Remarkably Bright Creature by Shelby Van Pek is one of my favorite books this year. I am listening to it on audible because the actor is phenomenal for the octopus character.

Last edited 2 months ago by Deb
Pam Lamp

Thank you and thanks for reading the article! What a wonderful idea to give gift cards to bookshops—I may use that idea this year! Agreed – absolutely loved Remarkably Bright Creatures. I hesitated to read a book narrated by an octopus (!), but it was a great one.

Gmarie

Almost done with Tom Lake. I agree, I wish I had read Our Town first, although I’m sure I did many years ago. Reading now, better late than never. I’ve enjoyed experiencing Tom Lake unfolding and the daughter’s fascination with their mother’s earlier life. This is a different kind of read, one that can be read at a leisurely pace and before going to sleep, i.e. not over stimulating.

Pamela Lamp

Yes, it does have a leisurely pace. A pace I welcomed!

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The Author

It’s never too late to learn something new. At Who I Met Today – a blog and podcast – Pam Lamp interviews people from all walks of life. Through conversations about health, hobbies, books, food, and travel, she invites you to join her, explore new territory, and expand your horizons.

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