Alan Cheuse's 2004 Holiday Book Picks

From the cover of 'Orient Express' by Graham Greene

hide captionFrom the cover of Orient Express by Graham Greene.

'The Future of Ice' by Gretel Erlich

Web Extra: Author Readings

Listen to authors read selections from their books:

Listen: 'Auggie Wren's Christmas Story,' read by Paul Auster

Listen: Graham Greene's 'Orient Express, read by Christopher Hitchens

Listen: 'The Boy Who Would Live Forever,' read by Frederik Pohl

Listen: 'The Girl Who Married a Lion,' read by Alexander McCall Smith

Listen: 'The Future of Ice,' read by Gretel Ehrlich

Listen: 'The Five Books of Moses,' read by Robert Alter

Listen: 'Gilgamesh,' read by Stephen Mitchell

Listen: 'Danger on Peaks,' read by Gary Snyder

Listen: Yusef Komunyakaa's 'Facing It' (from 'An Invitation to Poetry'), read by Michael Lythgoe

'The Five Books of Moses,' translated by Robert Alter
'Gilgamesh,' translated by Stephen Mitchell
'An Invitation to Poetry'

With the holiday rush approaching, reviewer Alan Cheuse offers his annual recommendations for gift-giving. This year's list includes novels of travel on Earth and in space, new versions of tales from the Bible, Africa and Mesopotamia, and collections of poetry and song.

Auggie Wren's Christmas Story, by Paul Auster (Henry Holt and Co.): "A beautifully illustrated little tale about being commissioned by the New York Times in December of 1990 to write a Christmas story, and the mystery and surprising pleasure this brought him."

Florence of Arabia, by Christopher Buckley: (Random House). "A provocative and entertaining satirical novel on Middle East politics."

Orient Express, by Graham Greene, with introduction by Christopher Hitchens (Penguin Classics) : "One of a number of strikingly designed reissues of the novels of Graham Greene, books that turn the menace and spiritual disruptions of modern life into wonderfully engaging stories."

To the Stars, by L. Ron Hubbard (Galaxy Press): "Before he began founding new religions, Hubbard was one of the country's most prolific pulp science fiction writers, and this book is one of his best." Chick Corea's CD of the same name features a musical score suggested to him by Hubbard's novel.

The Boy Who Would Live Forever, by Frederik Pohl (Tor Books): "Pohl, a true master of the [science-fiction] genre, is 85 years old and writing at the top of his powers."

The Girl Who Married a Lion, by Alexander McCall Smith (Pantheon): "Stories out of African folklore to enlarge [children's] sense of wonder," retold by the author, who grew up in Botswana and Zimbabwe.

The Future of Ice, by Gretel Ehrlich (Pantheon): "Lyrical essays about [the author's] encounters with winter — glorious glaciers, icebergs, ice — in various places around the globe."

The Five Books of Moses, translated by Robert Alter (W. W. Norton): "A striking new translation" of the biblical work.

Gilgamesh, translated by Stephen Mitchell (Free Press): "Out of a time a 1,000 years before the Bible, one of the greatest epic poems ever created... the Mesopotamian epic, though only discovered in the mid-19th century, buried in sand, written in cuneiform characters on thousands of clay bricks."

Danger on Peaks, poems by Gary Snyder (Shoemaker & Hoard).

An Invitation to Poetry, from the Favorite Poem Project (W. W. Norton):"Edited by Robert Pinsky and Maggie Dietz, complete with DVD of some powerful readings by ordinary citizens."

The Rose & The Briar, edited by by Sean Wilentz and Greil Marcus (W. W. Norton): "A collection of essays and stories on the American story-telling tradition and the ballad. Insightful prose by many hands, including Joyce Carol Oates, Stanley Crouch and poet Paul Muldoon, about music by Duke Ellington, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and Buddy Bolden." This collection can also be paired with a CD by the same name that includes songs featured in the book.

Music Excerpts

Hear samples from accompanying CDs on the list:

'The Rose & The Briar' CD cover

Listen: 'Buddy Bolden's Blues by Jelly Roll Morton, from 'The Rose & The Briar' CD

Listen: 'Port View 4' by the Chick Corea Elektric Band, from 'To the Stars' CD

'The Girl Who Married a Lion' by Alexander McCall Smith

Purchase Featured Music

The Rose & The Briar

by Various Artists

Books Featured In This Story

Auggie Wren's Christmas Story
Auggie Wren's Christmas Story

by Isol and Paul Auster

Hardcover, 34 pages | purchase

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Purchase Featured Books

  • Auggie Wren's Christmas Story
  • Isol and Paul Auster
Orient Express
Orient Express

An Entertainment

by Graham Greene

Paperback, 197 pages | purchase

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Purchase Featured Books

  • Orient Express
  • An Entertainment
  • Graham Greene
The Girl Who Married a Lion
The Girl Who Married a Lion

And Other Tales from Africa

by Alexander McCall Smith

Hardcover, 189 pages | purchase

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Purchase Featured Books

  • The Girl Who Married a Lion
  • And Other Tales from Africa
  • Alexander McCall Smith
An Invitation to Poetry
An Invitation to Poetry

A New Favorite Poem Project Anthology

by Robert Pinsky, Maggie Dietz and Rosemarie Ellis

Hardcover, 308 pages | purchase

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Purchase Featured Books

  • An Invitation to Poetry
  • A New Favorite Poem Project Anthology
  • Robert Pinsky, Maggie Dietz, et al

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