From action-packed adventures in dystopian futures and candid celebrity memoirs to gorgeous photography of western landscapes and captivating novels on race relations, books can make the perfect holiday gift. If you’re looking for just the right gift or want to escape with a good book over the holidays, check out these recommendations from the faculty at the University Libraries.
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
Recommended by Claytee White, director of the Oral History Research Center: I am reading Small Great Things for the second time. It is the book that everyone should read if sincerely interested in race relations in America. It is about culture and justice and hate and love. Jodi Picoult writes vividly about the backgrounds that produce white racists, militant blacks, whites with no understanding of race, black middle class who have forgotten but are quick to remember, whites who are set on a course of radical change so the world can work for everyone, and people who just want to do the right thing. Available for checkout at Lied Library
Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen
Recommended by Susie Skarl, Urban Affairs librarian: The Boss's candid memoir is hard to put down. Springsteen paints a vibrant picture of his early days in New Jersey, his family, his friends, and his personal mental health battles, along with his struggles and triumphs as a musician over the last five decades. A great compelling story from an American music icon. (Available for checkout at Lied Library)
Iron Gold by Pierce Brown
Katherine Keller, Teacher Development & Resources Library: Iron Gold is action-packed, edge-of-your-seat sequel to Brown's Red Rising trilogy that can be enjoyed just on the level of being a deftly plotted, cracking good read full of witty quips and warrior-philosophers. But this book has haunted me all year long for the way — in the midst of all the action and intrigue — it deals with issues that we don't often see handled in young adult dystopian fiction: What if you got your revolution and it wasn't everything you promised it would be? How do you address the new problems your solution caused? What happens when the teenaged revolutionary who saved the day is now 30-something and turns out to have almost none of the skills needed to fit into the new world? Is he still a hero if going rogue to take on the enemy causes hardship and division at home, or is he now an (unwitting) villain? Are his actions selfish or selfless?
By the Book by Julia Sonneborn
The Shakespeare Requirement by Julie Schumacher
Recommended by Priscilla Finley, Humanities Librarian: By the Book (available for checkout at Lied Library) follows Anne Corey, an English professor who must revisit her past when her ex-fiance is named the new president of her liberal arts college. Sonneborn, who taught African-American literature at UNLV, retells Jane Austen's Persuasion for the present day in this entertaining novel. If you can't get enough wry commentary on academic personalities and politics, don't miss The Shakespeare Requirement (available for checkout at Lied Library), a comic novel by Julie Schumacher that follows an inexperienced, overwhelmed English department chair as he manages college faculty, helps troubled students, and defends departmental space from being seized by the economics department.
Smile by Raina Tegelmeier
Recommended by Kathryn Houk, Health Sciences Librarian: I highly recommend Smile to anyone with a preteen – or anyone who forgets what it was like to be different in middle school. In this colorful and engaging graphic novel, we follow Raina for several years as she struggles with braces and self-esteem issues throughout middle school and early high school. Pair this graphic novel with a viewing of the movie Eighth Grade and you have plenty to talk about with your preteen as you suddenly reconnect with all of the highs and lows from this time of life. (Available for checkout from the UNLV Health Sciences Library Graphic Medicine Collection & the UNLV Teacher Development and Resources Library)
The Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes
Recommended by Brittany Paloma Fiedler, Teaching and Learning Librarian: Shonda Rhimes is an award-winning entertainment powerhouse who creates, writes, and produces some of the most popular television shows on air including Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away with Murder. Her success comes with an incredibly busy work life that acts as an ever-present excuse to say no because she is always too tired or too busy. One Thanksgiving her sister mutters under her breath, "You never say yes to anything." Shonda takes that as a challenge and is determined to spend the next year saying yes: yes to adventure, yes to her kids, yes to public speaking, yes to herself. This book is part memoir, part self-help, and perfect for anyone who could use a little more yes in their life.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Recommended by Rosan Mitola, Outreach Librarian: This was my favorite beach read from last summer. Tayari was recently a UNLV Black Mountain Institute fellow and her novel was an intense and intriguing read. I found her to be a wonderful contemporary storyteller. An American Marriage was Oprah's book club selection in 2018. (Available for checkout at Lied Library or online through ProQuest)
Vanishing Vernacular: Western Landmarks by Steve Fitch
Recommended by Aaron Mayes, Visual Materials Coordinator: If you have spent time on the lonely rural roads of the American West, then you know the feeling of downshifting into a small spot on the highway where people pitched their hopes on the side of the road and garnished them with neon. And for 40 years photographer Steve Fitch has captured that disappearing, "pre-franchise" highway culture while documenting neon signs, drive-in movie screens, radio towers, and pictographs and petroglyphs. Vanishing Vernacular: Western Landmarks is less a catalog of where Fitch went and more a road trip through one's emotional ties to a time before "market-driven sameness" wiped out artisanal neon signs and small-town drive-ins, replacing them with the Motel 6s and strip malls matching those found in the town you left hours earlier. Fitch's "pictorial memoir" (as he refers to it) bears witness to and honors the economy and cultures of our bygone highways beautifully.
Whiskey in a Teacup: What Growing Up in the South Taught Me about Life, Love, and Baking Biscuits, by Reese Witherspoon
Recommended by Pat Hawthorne, associate dean for Research and Education: This recently published book by Reese Witherspoon is at the top of my gift-giving list for family and friends. As a native Southerner, what's not to love about a book where the first chapter is titled "The Magic of Sweet Tea." Reese writes about a combination of traditions and insights about growing up in the South and shares recipes and tips for entertaining and decorating.