Books for Christmas: the deep thinker

• Dec 13, 2018 •

Our top picks for the token ‘deep thinker’ in the family.

The End of the End of the Earth by Jonathan Franzen

In The End of the End of the Earth, which gathers essays and speeches written mostly in the past five years, the award-winning Jonathan Franzen returns with renewed vigour to the themes – both human and literary – that have long preoccupied him. Whether exploring his complex relationship with his uncle, recounting his young adulthood in New York, or offering an illuminating look at the global seabird crisis, these pieces contain all the wit and disabused realism that we’ve come to expect from Franzen.

Taken together, these essays trace the progress of a unique and mature mind wrestling with itself, with literature and with some of the most important issues of our day, made more pressing by the current political milieu. The End of the End of the Earth is remarkable, provocative and necessary.

First Bite by Bee Wilson

We are not born knowing what to eat; we each have to figure it out for ourselves. From childhood onwards, we learn how big a portion is and how sweet is too sweet. The way we learn to eat holds the key to why food has gone so disastrously wrong for so many people. But how does this happen? And can we ever change our food habits for the better?

An exploration of the extraordinary and surprising origins of our taste and eating habits, in First Bite award-winning food writer Bee Wilson explains how we can change our palates to lead healthier, happier lives.

In the Days of Rain by Rebecca Stott

An enthralling, at times shocking, and deeply personal family memoir of growing up in, and breaking away from, a fundamentalist Christian cult.

As Rebecca Stott’s father lay dying he begged her to help him write the memoir he had been struggling with for years. He wanted to tell the story of their family, who, for generations had all been members of a fundamentalist Christian sect. Yet, each time he reached a certain point, he became tangled in a thicket of painful memories and could not go on.

The sect were a closed community who believed the world is ruled by Satan: non-sect books were banned, women were made to wear headscarves and those who disobeyed the rules were punished.

Rebecca was born into the sect, yet, as an intelligent, inquiring child she was always asking dangerous questions. She would discover that her father, an influential preacher, had been asking them too, and that the fault-line between faith and doubt had almost engulfed him.

In In the Days of Rain Rebecca gathers the broken threads of her father’s story, and her own, and follows him into the thicket to tell of her family’s experiences within the sect, and the decades-long aftermath of their breaking away.

Birds Art Life Death by Kyo Maclear

We live in a world that prizes the fast over the slow, the new over the familiar and work over rest. Birds Art Life Death is Kyo Maclear’s beautiful journey to stake out a sense of meaning amid the crushing rush.

One winter Kyo Maclear felt unmoored. Her father had recently fallen ill and she suddenly found herself a little lost. In the midst of this crisis, she met a musician who loved birds. When he watched birds and began to photograph them, his worries dissipated. Curious, she began to accompany him on his urban birdwatching expeditions and witnessed the magic of a transient city. Birds Art Life Death asks how we might gain perspective and overcome our anxieties by learning to cherish the urban wild spaces in which we live. Kyo urges us to find a subtle but restorative meaning in the everyday.

Looking for more gift inspo? Check out our guides for DadsSisters and literary lovers.

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