Like most book folks, one of the best things about Christmas for me are the books I get from friends and family. I received a treasure trove this year, with fantastic variety.
How to Hepburn by Karen Karbo and Me: Stories of My Life by Katharine Hepburn: With a film career that spanned seven decades and four Academy Awards for best actress, Katharine Hepburn is a huge inspiration. I’ve seen a little more than half of her 44 feature films. Not all are great, even Kate Hepburn can deliver a dud, see Dragon Seed from 1944 if in doubt. But performances like her portrayal of Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter are truly phenomenal. She’s assisted by a stellar cast and crisp dialogue in this story set at the Christmas court of Henry I and Eleanor, a favorite of mine to revisit at this time of year.
The Life of Elizabeth I by Alison Weir: I read Weir’s later biography of Eleanor of Aquitaine, which led me to this one. My interest in Elizabeth began when I visited Westminster Abbey. Her enormous tomb is across the nave from the tomb of Mary Queen of Scots, whom she had executed for treason. Henry VII, her grandfather, lies between them. That was all weird enough, but the face of the effigy on her tomb was taken from a cast from her deathbed, showing a strong woman with firm features. I never tire of reading accounts of how she managed to first claim power, and then hold onto it for over 40 years in such a turbulent time.
The Audacity to Win by David Plouffe: This one is written by Obama’s campaign manager, with the subtitle “The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama’s Historic Victory.” It’s another story of an unlikely character to emerge and claim power. One assumes that Obama likely won’t still be president 40 years from now, but this should be an interesting account of how he got there.
Paper Machine by Jacques Derrida: This is the smallest book of the bunch, but the heaviest. From the back of the book: “This book questions the book itself … what takes place between the paper and the machine inscribing it. He [Derrida] examines what becomes of the archive when the world of paper is subsumed in new machines for virtualization.” I discovered this one thanks to Robin Sloan, who has been making some encouraging waves with his self-published work.
The Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins: These two are probably the first that will get read, and surprisingly the only fiction. They come highly recommended from my 12-year old niece who anxiously awaits the third in the series, which is all the endorsement I need. They’re also prominently placed up front in bookstores everywhere, and one can only assume the movie adaptation isn’t far off–though as my niece has informed me, the book is always way better than the movie.