“Here’s to books, the cheapest vacation you can buy.”
– Charlaine Harris
Do you know that feeling too? You have been somewhere and although it is always great coming back home, you also kind of want to prolong the holiday or at least that holiday feeling. Books are a super solution to get the best of two worlds. You can curl up on your own sofa with a novel and the book brings you back to where you have just been (or takes you where you’d like to go one day). Books are therefor the cheapest vacation you can buy and thus a perfect Xmas gift!
Have a look at my selection of novels to put on your Xmas list (or to give someone else of course). The novels have one big thing in common: the story takes place in NYC. Trust me, a trip to NYC is far from cheap, so this may just be a perfect alternative. The novels can also serve as a prelude to a planned city break or as a trip down memory lane. NYC is simply fascinating, and so are these novels!
For teachers and story-lovers among you I have selected Teacher Man by Frank McCourt. For shopaholics and those of you are fan of a feel-good story, I have selected Still Me by JoJo Moyes and for those of you who just love a good thriller, you will be thrilled by Run Away, Harlan Coben’s latest novel. And for everyone who loves reading novels about relationships, any of these will work for you!
An amazing place for book lovers: NYC public library (free tours available each day)
Teacher Man by Frank McCourt
For story lovers and teachers I can recommend Teacher Man by Frank McCourt (yeah, the one who also wrote Angela’s Ashes). It is all about teaching in NYC. For everyone who is a teacher or works with children otherwise this will be a heart-warming read. Frank McCourt teaches by telling stories and since I know how many of you love good stories, you may want to add this novel to your Xmas wish-list.
Let me give you a small introduction of the novel by quoting Mr McCourt himself (from an article by CBS news):
Frank McCourt recounted an anecdote from the book about an incident that happened on his first day in the classroom. Two students were arguing over a bologna sandwich and it ended up flying through the air and landing on his desk.
“I said, ‘Hey,’ ” McCourt recalled. “That’s the first word I uttered as a teacher, after four years of higher education at New York University. Hey. Eloquent? Always eloquent.
“And there’s the bologna sandwich. What are you going to do about a situation like that? No professor at NYU told us what to do about flying bologna sandwiches. They don’t get into that. They have higher level philosophy of education. There’s a sandwich. What are you going to do?”
In the end McCourt picked it up himself, “And the aroma was overwhelmingly fragrant and delicious and it’s 9 in the morning.”
So he ate it. And that got the attention — and respect — of his students.
This is not a bologna sandwich, but a pastrami one from Katz’s, the restaurant in NYC where Harry met Sally and Sally teaches Harry a lesson about women. (“Teacher Woman” I’d say😉)
“That was the breakthrough,” McCourt said. “No teacher had ever been seen at 9 in the morning eating a bologna sandwich and I was reprimanded by the principal for having lunch. Then all the other kids found out about it in the rest of the classes.”
This gives you a nice idea what type of teacher Frank McCourt was. He was very interested in his students and their lives and tells how he has managed to influence quite some of them in his 30 years of teaching. It’s a book full of stories; stories he told his students, stories about his students and stories about his own life back in Ireland.
His teaching years were long before smartphones and weapons were brought into the classroom, so it’s a walk down nostalgia lane as well, which is perfect for the holiday season.
Still Me by JoJo Moyes
For shopaholics among you, the more adventurous types and the ones that would like to know what life at 5th Avenue may be like, you should read Still Me by JoJo Moyes. It is the second sequel to the world famous Me before You. We follow Louisa Clark trying to set up life in NYC.
In Still Me, Louisa is in New York, trying her hardest to say yes to as many new and bold things as possible, determined to live her life to the fullest and make most of every moment. We see her set foot in a super rich household on 5th avenue, getting some idea what life might be for the “happy” few. We also see the down side of living in a big city such as New York, where one can be very lonely although being surrounded by million others. We follow Louisa’s struggle to keep a long-distance relationship going and wonder about the differences between 2 Anglo-Saxon countries, so close in language and culture and yet so different too.
Library Way, the best route towards NYC public library with lots of inspirational quotes on the pavement.
This novel is a feel-good one in which Louisa’s discovers who she is and what she stands for. Quite an exhausting experience at times, since it isn’t always an easy journey, the one of self-discovery. Nor is Louisa always flawless and neither is life always fair.
Add to this a vivid description of NYC, British humour, a laugh and a tear and you have the perfect novel to relax during the Xmas period.
Run Away by Harlan Coben
For those of you who prefer thrillers, put Run Away by Harlan Coben on your Xmas list right away! The story kicks off in Central Park, where a father sees his lost daughter and follows her. And that is just the start…
In Central Park: I was definitely not running away, but slowly exploring the many beauties in the park.
Simon Green desperately wants to save his daughter, who is addicted to drugs and in a bad relationship. Simon is not the only one, also his wife Ingrid has their daughter’s best interest at heart. We soon realise that they both have a different view on how to do so. That makes this novel so interesting. Both parents ask themselves what they could have done otherwise to prevent this tragedy from happening. Questions that are almost impossible to answer, but keep nagging on your conscience. And the other question you will ask yourself as a reader is to what lengths you would go to save your child.
In the mean time we get another storyline presented. That of a hitman and his female companion. Slowly, the two storylines get unraveled and the novel ends with a huge climax. Just when you as a reader think you have grasped it all, another surprise awaits you!
Run Away is a book that will send chills down your spine when you are a parent. It’s also a real page turner with very unexpected twists and turns (Coben’s specialty). In fact, it’s such a page turner that you tend to read so eagerly that you miss some of the fabulous details of the novel. You should probably read it twice or force yourself to slow down when reading, which is very hard. I definitely couldn’t manage that. I was speed-reading to find out where the daughter was, how it had come to this disastrous relationship and addiction, what the reasons behind the fall-out with her family were and how the different storylines would come together.
I don’t want to say too much about the story to allow you the full experience of suspense, discovery and tension too!
I hope I have given you some ideas what to put on your Xmas list or what to buy for a loved one of yours.
For those of you who plan a visit to NYC, I have added some links for Central Park, the public library and Katz’s below. I am sure you will find them useful.
Thank you, as always, for reading my blog and enjoy the festivities of the season in a relaxed way.
Travel tips and useful links:
- The public library is open daily and offers free tours daily as well. They have a terrific shop and when you can prove you are a teacher, you get a 10% discount! All information can be found here.
- Details about the library way can be found here.
- Do not visit Central Park without having some kind of plan. It’s huge and you can easily spend one day there and still not having seen or done all there is. Their website provides lots of information that will help you plan your stroll through or day in the park. Here’s the link.
- Katz’s is not only famous for the scene in “When Harry met Sally”, but also for their pastrami sandwiches. Mind you, they are not just good, but also enormous. It makes sense to share one (we saw lots of left-overs on the tables, which is just a waste). For opening times and such, click here.