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Penguin authors share holiday give/get lists

November 26, 2008 |  4:14 pm

Oscarwaos

Penguin got 37 of its authors to share the books that they plan to give -- and hope to receive -- this holiday season. Geraldine Brooks, Stuart O'Nan, Henry Winkler, Elizabeth Gilbert, Leonard Maltin and Karen Joy Fowler are among those who've revealed the books they like to read. Who would expect actor/director Winkler, a successful children's book author, to be fond of crime novels?

One book that appears multiple times is "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" by Junot Diaz. Khaled Hosseini ("The Kite Runner") finds it "Hilarious, engaging, and profoundly moving and sad. A feast of language." But if you happen to be friends with Hosseini, Laura Dave ("The Divorce Party") and Michael Pollan ("In Defense of Food"), be warned -- you might find yourself unwrapping "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" three times. They're all planning to give it as a gift.

The list is the most fun when an author provides an explanation for what they're giving. It sounds almost like they're sitting there after you've opened their package, explaining why you should love this book. Nick Hornby, for example, is pretty convincing:

I'm evangelical about Mark Harris's "Pictures at a Revolution," a loving, brilliantly-researched account of the five movies nominated for the 1967 Best Picture Oscar, from conception to ceremony. It's not only one of the best books about film I've ever read, but one of the best books about any artistic process.

Elizabeth Gilbert, who chronicled her spiritual journey and international travels in "Eat Pray Love," says she'd like to get stories of "great adventurers like Captain Cook and Ernest Shackleton" because "with travel as expensive as it is these days, I'm looking forward to spending much of 2009 at home, reading about other people's magnificent journeys!" If an author whose book spent more than 50 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list can't afford to travel, the economy is really in trouble.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

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