The 10 Books You Should Be Reading This December

From a literal cult thriller to Thom Yorke’s new book

December 3, 2021 8:18 am
Books of the Month - Dec 2021
December's recommended books cover a lot of ground.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Atria Books/Canongate

We’re nearing the end of another strange year. Based on the current state of affairs, 2022 seems likely to begin in a weird place as well. So why not sit down with an immersive book, where the world can be as normal — or as surreal — as you like. This month, we’ll be thumbing through a new edition of a classic work of environmental nonfiction and a debut book from a revered musician. There is plenty to savor as winter rolls in.

"Sea State"
“Sea State”
Ecco Press

Tabitha Lasley, Sea State (Dec. 7)

What’s the experience of living and working on an oil rig like? That’s one of the questions addressed in Tabitha Lasley’s new memoir — but it’s far from the only one. Sea State is also a memorable portrait of oil workers in Aberdeen, Scotland, as well as a chronicle of Lasley’s own professional and personal evolution while researching this book. 

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Robert Gottlieb, Garbo (Dec. 7)

Few movie stars have summoned the air of style or mystery as well as Greta Garbo. But while the lives of some stars are a relatively open book, Garbo remains elusive. In this new biography, Robert Gottlieb — who’s no stranger to revisiting the lives of artists — takes on a formidable subject, and offers a compelling look into her enduring mystique.

"A History of Wild Places"
“A History of Wild Places”
Atria Books

Shea Ernshaw, A History of Wild Places (Dec. 7)

The phrase “cult novel” usually refers to a book with a dedicated following that grows over time. Here, it takes on a more literal meaning, focusing on an investigator on the hunt for a missing writer, and the isolated community in which both of their stories converge. Looking for some thrills as the days get colder? This book might just do the trick.

"The Bright Ages"
“The Bright Ages”

Matthew Gabriele and David M. Perry, The Bright Ages: A New History of Medieval Europe (Dec. 7)

What was it like to live through the Middle Ages in Europe? Many a historical account considers this period to be the “Dark Ages,” when things went awry in countless ways. For the authors of The Bright Ages, however, that formulation gets a lot wrong — and this expansive new history offers a very different take on the history you thought you knew.

"Dark Tourist"
“Dark Tourist”
Mad Creek Books

Hasanthika Sirisena, Dark Tourist (Dec. 10)

Over the last few years, an increasing amount has been written about the concept of “dark tourism,” in which people journey to the sites of disasters both natural and man-made. It’s also at the heart of Hasanthika Sirisena’s new essay collection, which offers dispatches from locations ranging from Sri Lanka to North Carolina, making for an indelible reading experience.

"The Women I Love"
“The Women I Love”
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Francesco Pacifico, The Women I Love (Dec. 7)

For readers and writers alike, fiction offers the ability to venture into the mind of someone else. The new novel by Francesco Pacifico (translated by Elizabeth Harris) takes that concept and doubles it back on itself, focusing on a writer using his own literary abilities to zero in on his relationships with the women in his life.

"Fear Stalks the Land!"
“Fear Stalks the Land!”

Thom Yorke and Stanley Donwood, Fear Stalks the Land! A Commonplace Book (Dec. 7)

Seeing Radiohead vocalist Thom Yorke and artist and writer Stanley Donwood’s names together on the spine of a book might feel new, but their creative relationship extends back to the mid-’90s, when Donwood created the artwork for Radiohead’s “My Iron Lung” single. Since then, the two have been frequent collaborators — and, with this book, that collaboration takes on a new dimension, bringing together writings by both. 

"Creative Types"
“Creative Types”

Tom Bissell, Creative Types and Other Stories (Dec. 14)

Tom Bissell’s bibliography covers a lot of ground, both in fiction and nonfiction. (This includes everything from insights into video games’ creation to collaborating on the book The Disaster Artist.) His latest book finds him using fiction to venture into some of the same worlds he’s covered as a journalist — including literary cliques and the film industry.

"Vivian Maier Developed"
“Vivian Maier Developed”
Atria Books

Ann Marks, Vivian Maier Developed: The Untold Story of the Photographer Nanny (Dec. 7)

The life, art and legacy of photographer Vivian Maier has been explored and debated in numerous ways over the last few years. Now, we’re getting a long-in-the-works biography of Maier’s life — a book that takes a highly detailed look at Maier and the work that she produced, and offers answers to some long-standing questions.

"The Sea Trilogy"
“The Sea Trilogy”
Library of America

Rachel Carson, The Sea Trilogy (Dec. 21)

With environmental devastation and climate change frequent topics of discussion in 2021, the words of Silent Spring author Rachel Carson never seem too far away. To close out the year, we’re getting a deluxe edition of her acclaimed Sea Trilogy, three books about maritime spaces. One of the titles in question, The Sea Around Us, won the National Book Award when it was first published — and it seems eminently likely that these works will also resonate with contemporary readers.

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