Joe Murphy on Thanksgiving
Well we've just come off the first full weekend of the holiday season, and it was great to see everyone in the stores. I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving—I myself ate until I was downright woozy. I went to the gym that morning to do my penance in advance and found it as crowded as I've ever seen it! Apparently lots of other people had also decided to try to take the edge of guilt off their indulgence.
So, you've survived Thanksgiving; clearly your next task is holiday shopping. And what better way to celebrate the season than with a gift as fun-yet-edifying as a book, CD or DVD? And what better place to find these than Olsson's?
As I mentioned last week, we've done a little pre-sorting for you by putting together the most exciting items of the season in our Holiday Gift Guide. Throughout the season, I'll be using this space to tell you about some of the books and DVDs we selected for the guide, and the reasons why we selected them. So, to name a few more books for this week:
Don't Try This At Home, edited by Kimberly Witherspoon and Andrew Friedman. A very nifty and very funny collection relating major (and I mean major) kitchen catastrophies involving chefs you might have expected would lead charmed lives. It doesn't contain any recipes, but it sure serves up a heapin' helpin' of delicious Schadenfreude.
The Woman at the Washington Zoo by Majorie Williams. The first three-quarters of this collection of essays by Williams contain some of the most insightful analyses I've seen of our political town. In the last quarter, Williams relates her heartrending fight against terminal cancer. Inspiring in many different ways, and a fine companion to Joan Didion's Year of Magical Thinking.
Defining the World by Henry Hitchings. Perfect for lovers of the English language: Hitchings relates the creation of the first significant English language dictionary by the great Samuel Johnson.
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. The debut novel of the year features a scholar (they always get in such trouble!) investigating the troubled history of the real-life Dracula. Chock full of terrifically researched history and goose-bump-raising suspense.
Spook by Mary Roach. Roach's serious-yet-also-irreverent guide to the afterlife explores various (and fascinating) scientific takes on what might happen to us after death. Among the tidbits Roach discovers: the "21 grams" theory is apparently bogus.
The Most Exclusive Club by Lewis L. Gould. Another terrific DC book, this is a look at the last fifty or so years of Senate history, and it features all the colorful characters and dramatic turns-of-event you might expect.
La Belle France by Alistair Horne. Horne has emerged in the last few years as the leading light of popular French history. He continues his brilliant streak with this short history of the entire nation, laid out in all its charming, provocative glory.
Her Majesty's Spymaster by Stephen Budiansky. Doesn't espionage somehow sound even more intriguing when it's set in Elizabethan England? Sir Francis Walkingham developed techniques of spying still in use today, such as double agents, disinformation, and codebreaking. He so would have caught Kim Philby.
The Clumsiest People In Europe, edited by Todd Pruzan. Brilliant! A collection of the most wretched travel writing of all time, composed in Victorian times by Mrs. Mortimer, whose hilariously xenophobic views of other countries must have served only as an advertisement for staying home.
Olivier by Terry Coleman. Perhaps the most blazing theatrical talent of the twentieth century gets his due in this elaborately researched, penetrating study of Laurence Olivier's incredibly amazing career and incredibly turbulent personal life.
Winter's Tale by Robert Sabuda. Our favorite paper engineer returns! Sabuda has raised the art of the pop-up book to new heights with this charming tale of a walk on a winter's day. We loved the cover so much we borrowed it for the cover of the Gift Guide itself.
Tapas by Jose Andres with Richard Wolfe. Lucky us: the King of Tapas resides right here in DC, where he serves up his fantastic creations at his resaurant, Jaleo (our Lansburgh/Penn Quarter store has shared a building with Jaleo downtown since its inception). I've had too many wonderful lunches at Jaleo not to make this one a Buyer's Choice.-Joe Murphy, Head Book Buyer