Good books to read over the holidays

So many blogs and websites (not to mention booksellers) are offering gift-giving book ideas that I thought I'd offer an alternative: good stuff to dig into for a break to soothe your ruffled holiday feathers. This time of year is hectic, even under the best of circumstances. Diving into a good book of poetry or fiction can be a good way to cope.

Some ideas -- gift yourself!

Tinkers -- I found this novel fascinating in the way it documents a dying man's last days in kaleidoscopic splinters of memory and love. Sounds dismal, but it's really not. I found it uplifting and beautifully written, though it did jump around a little more than I liked.

A Summer of Hummingbirds -- fascinating story of the intertwining lives of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, and the painter Martin Johnson Heade.

Kay Ryan's The Best of It -- She'll make you laugh with those wonderful twists, and yet it's not exactly light verse. More de-light verse.

Juliana Baggott's novels and blog -- I just discovered her and plan to delve into her novel Which Brings Me To You.

An American Childhood -- Annie Dillard's radiant memoir is one of my must-rereads, along with an annual excursion into Jane Austen.

Emma -- Rereading Jane Austen is a perennial pleasure for me. Maybe you too? And if you haven't read her, I think this is the Austen to start with. Pride and Prejudice of course gets voted the classic, but I found this funnier and more profound.

Femme au chapeau (disclaimer -- it's MY book of poetry!) Okay, I'll even quote from a blurb on the Amazon page: "If Femme au chapeau were music, it would be a piano sonata: humming sonics and graceful rhymes, use of form that is technically supple without sacrificing emotional heartbeat" - Cheryl Snell

Have a tranquil reading break or two during the holidays! (And for those of you who object to Amazon, apologies for not linking to Powell's, where you can find all of these titles.)