Lynn Neary's Reading Recommendations For The Book Lovers On Your List Ahead of the holidays, Neary offers some literary gift ideas — including a novel about a teenage spy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and a cookbook just for kids.

Lynn Neary's Reading Recommendations For The Book Lovers On Your List

Lynn Neary's Reading Recommendations For The Book Lovers On Your List

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Ahead of the holidays, Lynn Neary stops in to chat with David Greene about some literary gift ideas. Her list includes:

The Overstory, by Richard Powers

Transcription, by Kate Atkinson

The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs, by America's Test Kitchen Kids

Less, by Andrew Sean Greer

"Neapolitan Novels," by Elena Ferrante

For more reading recommendations, visit the NPR 2018 Book Concierge — more than 300 titles, hand-picked by NPR staff and book critics.


We're getting into the holiday season. And often, this time of year, I think about books. I mean, they're great gift ideas. And also, it's just that time of year when you want to curl up in front of the fireplace with a good book. Right? So good time to turn to NPR's Lynn Neary, who covers books and publishing. And she's with us here to offer some recommendations. Hi there, Lynn.

LYNN NEARY, BYLINE: Hi, good to be with you.

GREENE: Well, it's good to have you. All right. So you, as I understand, are a big fiction fan. So probably, we should talk about that first. Any novels that are at the top of your list?

NEARY: Oh, yeah. But let me start with one caveat because, you know, we really don't have a lot of time to talk about books. And there are so many.


NEARY: So I want to remind our listeners to check out the Book Concierge at


NEARY: There's over 300 book recommendations, about half of them by NPR staff. It's really fun to explore, so check that out.

GREENE: Noted - so this is just, like, a tiny sampling we're getting into here.

NEARY: This is a tiny, tiny sampling, so...

GREENE: All right.

NEARY: One of my favorites last year was "The Overstory" by Richard Powers. Simply put - and it sounds really simple when I say it this way - it's about trees, and it's about the people who love them very fiercely.

GREENE: Tree fanatics.

NEARY: Tree fanatics - and Powers introduces the book with stories about each of the characters, whose lives are going to become intertwined as the book goes on. And these stories are just so beautifully written. And each of these characters has a really strong connection with a tree. One example - a Vietnam vet's life was saved when he parachuted out of a helicopter into the branches of a banyan tree. And you find out how a banyan tree grows. I guarantee you, you will never think of trees in the same way again after you have read this book. It's really amazing and beautifully written.

GREENE: I love this. It reminds me of Tom Hanks' book of short stories, which all, somehow, had to do with typewriters, which was a love of his. So this is that version but in trees.

NEARY: Sort of - something like that (laughter).


NEARY: Now, if you just want a book that you can read over a cold winter weekend in front of a fire with a cup of tea, maybe something stronger if you like...

GREENE: Oh, yeah.

NEARY: I would suggest "Transcription" by Kate Atkinson because she's just a great storyteller. Her novel "Life After Life" is one of my all-time favorites. "Transcription" is a spy novel. It's set during World War II in England. And Atkinson is great at evoking that era. And the first part of the book - at first, the spying part of the book seems a little tame. But as with all espionage, it gets more complicated. And the consequences get more dark as the stories unfold.

GREENE: So stick with it, and things get more complicated...

NEARY: Right (laughter).

GREENE: ...In a rich kind of way. What if I have kids I'm trying to buy a gift for? Are there books that I could get for them?

NEARY: There's so many beautiful books for kids out there. But I'm going to recommend one for kids who are interested in cooking. It's called "The Complete Cookbook For Young Chefs," brought to you by America's Test Kitchen. People may know that from their videos, magazines and other publications. These are the people who - they test everything - cooking techniques, recipes, equipments - before they tell you which ones they think are best. And they used that same method in developing this book. It introduces kids to all of the basics - equipment, ingredients, safety tips. And, of course, there's a whole lot of easy and very tasty recipes to try.

GREENE: I'm glad you said safety tips because often, when kids are in the kitchen, you want to stay as far away as possible.

NEARY: Exactly. Exactly.

GREENE: All right. Any other favorites you want to mention?

NEARY: Well, I want to mention a couple of books that I caught up with this year. One book was last year's Pulitzer Prize winner, "Less" by Andrew Sean Greer. I love this book. It's a short book. And at first, I was surprised it won the Pulitzer. It seemed a little too simple. But the story's, really, very layered. It's funny. It's sad. It's sweet. I kind of fell in love with the main character. It has a great ending. And it's very wise on the subject we all experience at some point, which is the pain of love. And quickly, I'm really in the middle right now of the series of books known collectively as the Neapolitan Novels. The first book in the series is "My Brilliant Friend." It's being adapted right now on HBO. It's a great series of novels.

GREENE: OK, some recommendations from NPR's books and publishing correspondent Lynn Neary. Thanks, Lynn.

NEARY: Glad to be here.

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