There’s always room for more books on a literature lover’s bookshelf, no matter how overflowing it seems to be. We’ve gathered five top-of-the-list titles that are sure to please ardent readers and literary trivia enthusiasts.
Cult Writers: 50 Nonconformist Novelists You Need to Know celebrates a group of edgy, intrepid, slightly out-there authors—visionaries whose books may challenge and discomfit readers but never fail to thrill. This arresting little title is the latest entry in White Lion’s Cult Figures series, which recognizes maverick artists in various media. Octavia Butler, Angela Carter, Ralph Ellison and Ursula K. Le Guin are among the individualists found in this volume.
In crisply written biographical profiles, critic Ian Haydn Smith looks at the attitudes and aesthetic approaches of these authors and provides helpful context. Readers will discover unabashed courters of controversy (Pauline Réage, Michel Houellebecq), quiet outsiders (Joan Didion, Denis Johnson) and brash iconoclasts (Virginia Woolf, William S. Burroughs). Illustrator Kristelle Rodeia captures the essence of each novelist in exceptional, impressionistic portraits. Vibrantly designed and discerningly assembled, Cult Writers is a standout gift selection.
I Will Judge You by Your Bookshelf
Among the literary-minded, books can induce fever, compulsion and fanaticism. Illustrator Grant Snider understands this all too well. He explores the singular world of the book-obsessed through concise cartoons that have appeared in the New York Times and other publications. I Will Judge You by Your Bookshelf provides a sensational sampling of his work.
Snider dissects the peculiar habits and preoccupations of the literature addict with amazing economy. He classifies types of readers (“nocturnal,” “reclusive,” “indecisive”), offers ideas on arranging bookshelves (try organizing titles in rhyming couplets!) and reflects on a host of writerly topics, from lost pens to proofreader’s marks. His colorful panels convey just the right amount of information, seasoned with sly allusions and inside jokes aimed at the avid reader. Anyone with the book bug will savor Snider’s brand of humor.
Warriors, Witches, Women
In the rousing anthology Warriors, Witches, Women: Mythology’s Fiercest Females, Kate Hodges provides a fresh appraisal of 50 women from myth and folklore, demonstrating that they’re as vital and inspiring today as they were centuries ago. Hodges presents backstories and biographical information for each fierce female. Drawing on cultures from across the globe, she includes characters that many readers will recognize, as well as a host of less familiar figures.
Morgan le Fay, Baba Yaga, Circe, Artemis and Mami Wata are among the enchantresses highlighted in the book. As Hodges shows, these legendary women often wrestled with enduring concerns such as mortality and motherhood and now serve as symbols of strength for a new generation of readers. In her vibrant illustrations of these characters, Harriet Lee-Merrion contrasts delicate lines with rich colors and standout details. This exhilarating anthology brings a contemporary perspective to stories of iconic heroines.
The Call Me Ishmael Phonebook
The Call Me Ishmael Phonebook: An Interactive Guide to Life-Changing Books began as a lark. Stephanie Kent and Logan Smalley set up a phone number that book lovers could call in order to leave voicemails about their favorite titles. They received a flood of messages and had special rotary phones installed in schools, bookstores and libraries so that readers could record their impressions of significant books.
Those messages are compiled in The Call Me Ishmael Phonebook, which has been cleverly designed to resemble the print Yellow Pages of yesteryear and is packed with neat retro graphics, fun lists of phoned-in favorites, hidden literary references and other book-inspired surprises. From A Little Princess to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the books that callers rave about run the gamut. An unbeatable gift for your favorite bookworm, this whimsical volume is a testament to the power of literature.
In Ex Libris: 100+ Books to Read and Reread, Michiko Kakutani, former chief book critic at the New York Times, offers a survey of important works and reveals why she finds them significant in brief, perfectly polished essays. From time-tested tales such as The Odyssey to contemporary masterworks like Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Ian McEwan’s Atonement and Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet, her selections are drawn from a variety of eras and genres.
Kakutani also gives consideration to children’s books—Madeleine L’Engle and Maurice Sendak both get their due—and offers a witty appreciation of Dr. Seuss. The stunning book-jacket illustrations by Dana Tanamachi that appear throughout Ex Libris will delight die-hard bibliophiles. “In these pages, I’m writing less as a critic than as an enthusiast,” Kakutani explains in the volume’s introduction. Her mood shines through in this stirring tribute to the reading life.