Books to give as gifts (or read yourself)

WASHINGTON — This one’s for the bookworms in your life. Instead of getting them a Barnes and Noble gift card, look through this list of WTOP staff book recommendations and see which books might appeal to your favorite reader — or yourself.

“Salt: A World History”
Mark Kurlansky
Recommended by: Albert Shimabukuro, WTOP Support Technician
Why: This is a great gift for foodies or history buffs. From a food perspective, this is a fascinating and well written story about the importance of salt. From a history perspective, this is a great book detailing wealth, society and culture.

“Call Me By Your Name”
Andre Aciman
Recommended by: Beverly Fox, Senior Account Manager
Why: This may be the hottest book of the holiday season. A movie based on the book was recently released in theaters. His memoir, “Out of Egypt” is also excellent.

“Getting to Yes: How to Negotiate Agreement Without Giving In”
Roger Fisher and William Ury
Recommended by: Carlos Prieto, WTOP Editor
Why: Getting to yes focuses on demonstrating the best negotiating techniques and outlines steps to take to make any decision-making process smoother. Be it negotiating the terms of a lease or the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel, this short book highlights the most common mistakes we make when dealing with a counterpart and points to what we should focus on to get what we want out of a deal. This book is particularly important for people who have a hard time putting themselves in other people’s shoes.

Recommended by: Carlos Prieto, WTOP Editor
Why: This book invites readers to question the way they perceive life by challenging an optimist to wonder if “all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.” It also challenges pessimists and realists to question if their perspective is truly the fairest to approach the world.

“Dream City: Race, Power, and the Decline of Washington, D.C.”
Tom Sherwood and Harry Jaffe
Recommended by: Judy Taub, WTOP Midday Editor
Why: A great book about the contemporary history of D.C., including issues of race, drugs and Marion Barry’s role (successes and failures) in the city. The authors, both local journalists, make this a very thorough, incredibly interesting and well written book.

“Personal History”
Katherine Graham
Recommended by: Judy Taub, WTOP Midday Editor
Why: This is a fascinating autobiography about Katherine Graham, her insecurities growing up and her rise to publisher of the Washington Post. She was thrust into the position after her husband’s death (highly unusual for a woman at that time). She gives an honest and candid account of what she had to deal with before and after becoming publisher of the Post, including Watergate and The Pentagon Papers. It’s just so honest and hard to put down. I’d also recommend this as a companion book to the new Spielberg movie “The Post.”

“When Breath Becomes Air”
Paul Kalanithi
Recommended by: Suann Lee, WTOP Senior Account Manager
Why: It is a story about Paul Kalanithi and his journey to become a Neurosurgeon and then he writes about his experience of being diagnosed with terminal cancer at the age of 36. The book covers the many layers of his life and death, patient and doctor, son and father, work and family, faith and reason. The book ends with the voice of his wife who completes his goal of writing this memoir. This book filled me with so much emotion and I didn’t want it to end.

“Lean In”
By: Sheryl Sandberg
Recommended by: Suann Lee, WTOP Senior Account Manager
Why: This book is older but I still love this book. I recommend it to every working mother and working woman I know. I have recommended it to my male managers to read since we have so many women on our staff. It is a story that helps working women realize their potential in the workplace. It helped me take away the guilt of working while having a family and empowered me to want to do so much more with my role not only at work but in life.

“1913: In Search of the World Before the Great War”
By: Charles Emmerson
Recommended by: Rick Massimo, WTOP Editor
Why: We think of 1913 as nothing but the year before World War I began, but the war was far from a foregone conclusion to most people, and Emmerson captures the details of real life in that time. It’s interestingly structured, with each chapter focusing on a different city – obvious choices (Paris, London, Berlin) mixed with less-obvious ones (Melbourne, Vancouver, Tehran) – and depicts what we were building before so much of it was blown to pieces.

“All the Light We Cannot See”
Anthony Doerr
Recommended by: Mitchell Miller, WTOP Senior News Director
Why: This is Pulitzer-prize winning fiction that ties two very different lives together in World War II. The character development and arc of the narrative are highly compelling.

“Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City”
By: Matthew Desmond
Recommended by: Colleen Kelleher, WTOP Senior Digital Editor
Why: Eviction is something about which you probably don’t think, unless you’ve been evicted or are a landlord. Read this if you want a close-up look at people living on the edge and how the problem is compounded by current laws.

“Never Let Me Go”
By: Kazuo Ishiguro
Recommended by: Reem Nadeem, WTOP Digital Editor
Why: Awarded the Nobel Prize in literature this year, Kazuo Ishiguro’s haunting tale takes the reader through a woman’s seemingly idyllic upbringing and eventually reveals a disturbing truth. Ultimately about friendship, social alienation and the power of culture, this dreamy narrative doesn’t go where you expect it to.

“Don’t Stop the Carnival”
By: Herman Wouk
Recommended by: John Domen, WTOP Reporter
Why: Ever dream of selling off everything and moving to a tropical island? This is a novel about a man who did it, and found out it’s not always paradise.

Why Not Me?
Mindy Kaling
Recommended by: Nahal Amouzadeh, WTOP Digital Editor
Why: There are so many celebrities writing memoirs these days, but Kaling’s is easily the funniest. And she doesn’t hold back when telling her audience how Hollywood really is, which is a delight for all those who have ever bought a gossip magazine. Kaling also sprinkles in great advice – like to always ask, “Why not me?” – when it comes to achieving your goals and making your dreams come true, in a way that doesn’t feel preachy or fake.

“The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine”
By: Lindsey Fitzharris
Recommended by: Eric White, WFED
Why: This nonfiction book is not for the squeamish. It looks into the brutal history of 19th century surgery and how Joseph Lister went about spreading the knowledge of using antiseptics to sterilize equipment, becoming known as the father of modern surgery.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Recommended by: Nahal Amouzadeh, WTOP Digital Editor
Why: A man and woman from Nigeria fall in love at a young age, but they travel to London and America respectively, and their time apart and experiences as immigrants tear them apart. It’s a beautiful, coming-of-age story about the struggle of the immigrant, with many romances sprinkled in. Adichie, who is also from Nigeria, tells this story in the best possible way.

“The B Side: The Death of Tin Pan Alley and the Rebirth of the Great American Song”
By: Ben Yagoda
Recommended by: Rick Massimo, WTOP Editor
Why: It might help to be as big a fan of the so-called Great American Songbook (I’m certainly not) to enjoy this book fully, but Yagoda’s excellent research shows that so many of the bits of 20th-century American musical history that we think “just happened” really didn’t. When the early rockers invaded the charts, they weren’t up against, say, Cole Porter or the Gershwins – they were up against dreck like “Mule Train,” “Mambo Italiano” and “The Doggie in the Window.” Yagoda finds the real reasons for that and reaches farther back to provide fascinating glimpses at how developments such as recording, the end of Prohibition and World War II changed not just the music business but the music itself.

“V for Vendetta”
By: Alan Moore
Recommended by: Mary Alice Hancock, WTOP/WFED Marketing
Why: Everyone has probably seen the 2005 film, and it is a fantastic movie, but it does not cover the complete complex story told within the novel. The book is about a dystopian, post-nuclear war United Kingdom set in the 1990s. Democracy has crumbled and is replaced by a fascist regime. “V” is the mystery main character who wants to over throw the fascist regime through chaos, explosions and hacking. Chaos ensues.

“The Nightingale”
Kristin Hannah
Recommended by: Janie Worch, WTOP/WFED Sales
Why: This book takes place in World War II France. It’s about two sisters and I started it one day and could not put it down all weekend. I read it for my book club and we all agree is was the best book we read all year!

“The 5 Love Languages Singles Edition”
Dr. Gary Chapman
Recommended by: Steve Prinzivalli, WTOP Weather
Why: Dr. Gary Chapman shares how we all give and receive love in a certain language — acts of service, gifts, words of affirmation, physical touch or quality time. We can strengthen a relationship by speaking that person’s primary love language. This is really a valuable read for truly making the most out of our relationships — family, friends, spouse, etc.

“The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon”
David Grann
Recommended by: Kristi King, WTOP Reporter
Why: In the early 1900s, when portions of the globe were yet uncharted and potentially host to monsters and dinosaurs, Col. Percy Fawcett went again and again into the Amazonian Jungle searching for a city of gold. Author, staff writer for the New Yorker magazine, David Grann weaves compelling perspective into the narrative with details both modern and from Fawcett’s contemporaries.

“100 Things Capitals Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die”
WTOP’s Ben Raby
Recommended by: Ben Raby, WTOP Sports Reporter
Why: This book provides behind-the-scenes tales from some of the greatest moments in team history and from some the club’s most popular characters. From the painful years as an expansion franchise to a trip to the 1998 Stanley Cup Final to the arrival of Alex Ovechkin, “100 Things Capitals Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die” covers it all with anecdotes and stories from more than 60 current and former players and coaches.

“The Weight of Blood”
Laura McHugh
Recommended by: Elly Rowe, WFED
Why: An urgent look at the dark side of a bucolic landscape beyond the arm of the law, where a person can easily disappear without a trace. Laura McHugh proves herself a masterly storyteller who has created a harsh and tangled terrain as alive and unforgettable as the characters who inhabit it. Her mesmerizing debut is a compelling exploration of the meaning of family: the sacrifices we make, the secrets we keep, and the lengths to which we will go to protect the ones we love.

“Anne Boleyn, A King’s Obsession”
Alison Weir
Recommended by: Elly Rowe, WFED
Why: In this second novel of Alison Weir’s epic Six Tudor Queens series, the acclaimed author and historian weaves exciting new research into the story of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s most infamous wife, a woman ahead of her time whose very life — and death — forever changed a nation.

“Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”
Robert M. Pirsig
Recommended by: Elly Rowe, WFED
Why: This book interweaves two parallel plots: the first is the chronicling of a transcontinental motorcycle journey taken by the narrator and his 11-year-old son, Chris. The second plot details the life and thought of a man named Phaedrus, a solitary intellectual obsessed with a philosophical concept called Quality.

“White Collar Girl”
Renee Rosen
Recommended by: Elly Rowe, WFED
Why: The latest novel from the best-selling author of Dollface and What the Lady Wants takes us deep into the tumultuous world of 1950s Chicago where a female journalist struggles with the heavy price of ambition.

“Truly, Madly, Guilty”
Liane Moriarty
Recommended by: Elly Rowe, WFED
Why: Liane Moriarty takes on the foundations of our lives: marriage, sex, parenthood and friendship. She shows how guilt can expose the fault lines in the most seemingly strong relationships, how what we don’t say can be more powerful than what we do, and how sometimes it is the most innocent of moments that can do the greatest harm.

“The Sympathizer”
Viet Thanh Nguyen
Recommended by: Reem Nadeem, WTOP Digital Editor
Why: Winning the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for fiction seemingly out of nowhere, Nguyen’s writing has taken the literary world by storm. Poetic and profound, this book tells the story of a Vietnamese double agent who comes to the U.S. after the fall of Saigon but continues his double life as secret agent. It’s a powerful story about love and loyalty, and a haunting take on ideology.

“The Changeling”
Victor LaValle
Recommended by: Reem Nadeem, WTOP Digital Editor
Why: This book is a rare combination of literature and horror. A bookseller’s happy life as a new father takes a violent and terrifying turn, leading him on a journey through a strange and atmospheric New York. The story reads like a dark fairy tale for adults in the digital age.

“The Odyssey”
Homer, translation by Emily Wilson
Recommended by: Reem Nadeem, WTOP Digital Editor
Why: You may have “read” this epic poem in ninth grade but this new translation is the first time the classic has been translated to English by a woman. The impact of Wilson’s translation demonstrates the dizzying number of ways there are reinterpret an ancient text and still have it be relevant. Whether you get this version or not, you can never go wrong with a classic.

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