On the Nightstand: What Books Did You Get For Christmas?

One of the things I like best about Christmas is that I always get new books to read that I did not have to pay for myself. While I do have an e-Reader, there is still something about the heft, touch, and smell of a book that I especially prefer for a bit of pre-sleepytime reading. This year, I must’ve been very good as I got several titles, among them two I am trying to savor slowly, like the last few Godiva chocolates left in the sampler (Oh, okay…who am I kidding? Those were consumed before the day was over).

This Christmas, I got two books that I have been pawing over:  Arguably Essays by (the late, great,  much-missed) Christopher Hitchens and  Smoke and Mirrors by (the incomparable) Neil Gaiman.  (You can hear Gaiman read his short story, “Troll Bridge” on PRI’s “Selected Shorts” here.)

Here are a five of the most popular titles, likely given as gifts, culled from the New York Times Best Sellers list for the week of 12-11 to 12-25, about the time your own elves were out shopping and wrapping for you. Did you receive any of these books? If so, have you read them yet? What do you think? Or, what did works did you receive that you love (or hate)? We’re interested to hear what everyone is reading!

The Drop by Michael Connelly

Description from Amazon.com:  Harry Bosch has been given three years before he must retire from the LAPD, and he wants cases more fiercely than ever. In one morning, he gets two.

DNA from a 1989 rape and murder matches a 29-year-old convicted rapist. Was he an eight-year-old killer or has something gone terribly wrong in the new Regional Crime Lab? The latter possibility could compromise all of the lab’s DNA cases currently in court.

Then Bosch and his partner are called to a death scene fraught with internal politics. Councilman Irvin Irving’s son jumped or was pushed from a window at the Chateau Marmont. Irving, Bosch’s longtime nemesis, has demanded that Harry handle the investigation.

Relentlessly pursuing both cases, Bosch makes two chilling discoveries: a killer operating unknown in the city for as many as three decades, and a political conspiracy that goes back into the dark history of the police department.

11/22/63: A Novel  by Stephen King

Description from Amazon.com: On November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas, President Kennedy died, and the world changed. What if you could change it back? Stephen King’s heart-stoppingly dramatic new novel is about a man who travels back in time to prevent the JFK assassination—a thousand page tour de force.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Description/Review from Sybil Steinberg of  The Washington Post:  “Southern whites’ guilt for not expressing gratitude to the black maids who raised them threatens to become a familiar refrain. But don’t tell Kathryn Stockett because her first novel is a nuanced variation on the theme that strikes every note with authenticity. In a page-turner that brings new resonance to the moral issues involved, she spins a story of social awakening as seen from both sides of the American racial divide.”

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Description from Publisher’s Weekly:  This first of a trilogy introduces a provocatively odd couple: disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist, freshly sentenced to jail for libeling a shady businessman, and the multipierced and tattooed Lisbeth Salander, a feral but vulnerable superhacker. Hired by octogenarian industrialist Henrik Vanger, who wants to find out what happened to his beloved great-niece before he dies, the duo gradually uncover a festering morass of familial corruption—at the same time, Larsson skillfully bares some of the similar horrors that have left Salander such a marked woman. Larsson died in 2004, shortly after handing in the manuscripts for what will be his legacy.

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Description/Review from Janet Maslin, The New York Times:

”Skeptic after skeptic made the mistake of underrating Steve Jobs, and Mr. Isaacson records the howlers who misjudged an unrivaled career. “Sorry Steve, Here’s Why Apple Stores Won’t Work,” Business Week wrote in a 2001 headline. “The iPod will likely become a niche product,” a Harvard Business School professor said. “High tech could not be designed and sold as a consumer product,” Mr. Sculley said in 1987. Mr. Jobs got the last laugh every time. “Steve Jobs” makes it all the sadder that his last laugh is over.”