Season’s Reads, Recommended By Local Book Staff

Snowflakes and Santas are spreading through every bookstore in downtown Corvallis. While some covet the wrapped and displayed staples of consumerism this season, others may find more interest in snuggling up to a classic tale or new adventure.

Anyone who loves a good story, holiday-themed or otherwise, is sure to find something, for themselves or for those they’re shopping for, from this list of books recommended by Corvallis bookstore employees.

“The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien
Savannah Worman, an employee at the Book Bin, suggests “The Hobbit” this holiday season. The book holds a special place in Worman’s childhood when, during the holidays, her dad would read her this classic tale, of Bilbo Baggins’ unintended journey through Middle-earth. 

“The Hobbit,” the first in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, is written for children, but entertaining to all ages. Dragons, trolls, and other mythical creatures roam throughout the novel, as Tolkien takes readers along on Bilbo’s adventures. Questions arise over what heroism and war mean for individuals and communities, and readers are left with a sense of what “goodness” means in different circumstances.

Since it was first printed in 1937, “The Hobbit” has never gone out of demand, due to consistent popularity. The movies, while also popular, somewhat deviate from the text, and offer a separate experience, which may be why so many still hit the shelves for this fictitious favorite.

“The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage” by Philip Pullman
Suggested by Sarah Hershberger from Grass Roots Books & Music, “The Book of Dust” is Philip Pullman’s series installment. Pullman is best known for the series, “His Dark Materials,” featuring “The Golden Compass.”  

Released in October, Pullman’s new installment begins with “La Belle Sauvage,” set 10 years before “The Golden Compass.” Still focusing on Lyra Belacqua, the “Golden Compass’” heroine, and occurring in a similar arctic landscape, Pullman shares the story of Malcolm, the man who keeps Lyra safe. 

Reading any of his books beforehand is unnecessary for enjoying this action-packed novel. Pullman continues themes about free speech and fighting against totalitarian governments, making the book a thought-provoking thriller.

Hershberger says “The Book of Dust” is “great to escape into when you need some quiet time.” 

“The Dark Tower” Series by Stephen King
Jannett Brinkley of Browser’s Bookstore suggests Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” series. Another fantasy setting, “The Dark Tower” expands into the genres of horror, Western, and science fiction. 

Stephen King himself described the series as his “magnum opus,” because it ties together so many of the worlds created in his former books. 

King incorporates a unique language in the books, using Tolkien for inspiration in creating the world, and Clint Eastwood as inspiration for the hero. Within the book, there are gunslingers, feudal governments, and magic – a little bit for everyone. 

“The Dark Tower” series includes eight novels, totaling over 4,000 pages. The first book in the series is called “The Gunslinger.” The series was also made into a movie earlier this year, of the same name. 

Jan Brett’s Children’s Books
Suggested by Megan Louden from the Book Bin for her wintry themes, Jan Brett is a staple in holiday children’s books. 

Brett has written multiple holiday titles, including “The Hat,” “The Mitten,” “Gingerbread Baby,” and “Cinders.” Brett’s books feature her own illustrations, a rarity in children’s literature today. 

Each of Brett’s books are strongly tied to a particular place; she has written stories from Russia to Scandinavia. Brett incorporates many animals, and encourages readers to consider the natural world in a new and magical light.

From the dressed-up chickens in the icy tundra of “Cinders,” re-enacting a Cinderella story, to a hedgehog’s experience getting a stocking off his prickles with the help of many hilarious woodland animals in “The Hat,” Brett provides a little something for any child with a love of animals.

“The Polar Express” by Chris Van Allsburg
Jannett Brinkley from Browser’s Bookstore recommends this holiday classic. 

“The Polar Express” is a Christmas tale about a young boy whose belief in Santa is reignited after a trip on the polar express train.

Made into a movie in 2004, the book still awes children with its soft illustrations and relaxed cadence. Inspired by various places in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the story follows a boy who is trying to determine reality from fiction. Throughout his journey, he comes to realize what it really means to believe in Santa.

The book is appropriate for intermediate readers, or can be read to younger children.

By Kristen Edge