Personal picks from the North Pole.



We’ve had our share of hard-to-schedule writers, actors, artists, and musicians contribute to Guest Books, but it took some doing to get ahold of the season’s biggest celebrity. Some months ago, we posted our plea, asking him to name three favorite books – and just in the nick of time, a envelope, hand-delivered by a very slight messenger in a green suit, appeared. The note inside contained the following recommendations.


Books about Santa




The North Pole: A Narrative History

By Anthony Brandt


“After a chilly December evening making last-minute sleigh repairs, who wouldn’t want to settle by the fire with a book like this one, which gives you the lowdown the folks who really hung it all out there in these Arctic breezes. I’m more than happy I wasn’t sailing with Henry Hudson on that search for the Northwest Passage (he could have just asked – I’d have told him he was barking up the wrong ice floe). And even though Robert E. Peary never quite made it to my front door, hats off to the guy for coming up all this way on a dogsled – he didn’t even have flying reindeer.”



The Checklist Manifesto

By Atul Gawande


“I do spend a lot of time making lists, but people get the mistaken idea that it’s all about the naughty-and-nice thing. That’s not even the half of it: Millions of customers, a sunlight-deprived staff, an eighteenth-century technology for fulfillment – and the boss is not as young as he used to be.  So I use a very detailed checklist to make sure nothing gets missed – from market research and GPS upgrades to Rudolph’s vitamins and chimney wax. Atul Gawande has it right -- the simple checklist is the overlooked tool that makes complex procedures work in the real world.”



Rum Punch

By Elmore Leonard


“December 26 – guess who’s exhausted, a little bloated from milk and cookies, and absolutely done with winter wonderlands? On the day after, I want to put my feet up and get my mind off of my work. A few years ago, Mrs. C. gave me a very welcome Christmas gift indeed: a whole boxful of Elmore Leonard’s novels. There’s nothing like a tangy tale of double-cross, seasoned with the rat-a-tat of Leonard’s dialogue and browned in the South Florida sun, to take me far away from a long night staring at the ugly ends of the reindeer. I’d take a vacation down there myself, but the paparazzi would never leave me alone. Rum Punch, though, is almost as satisfying."

April 24: "[The HST] lifted a curtain from our view of the universe, changing it so profoundly that no human can look at the stars in the same way..."

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysley Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
In the Light of What We Know

Zia Haider Rahman's mystery of a brilliant Bangladeshi mathematician's past barrels through the Ivy League, London high finance, and spy-haunted Afghanistan in a page-turning tale of exile, intrigue and the price of friendship. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

The People's Platform

Once touted as the foundation for tomorrow's digital democracy, the Internet is increasingly ruled by a few corporate giants, while millions of contributors till its fields for free. Astra Taylor looks at why the web has failed to deliver a communitarian cyberscape, and offers a compelling case for restoring its original vision.

A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.