Book Lovers & Beyond Holiday Gift Guide 2020

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Source: J.Crew

This year has upended all of our assumptions and expectations. It has brought uncertainty and untold losses. The corona virus pandemic is always in the background of whatever we do and this holiday season will be dramatically different from times past. Most of us will not be gathering in large groups or traveling. We may not even see the point in splurging for holiday presents given all the economic dislocation. I’ve composed my annual gift guide in the spirit of tradition and for the creative enjoyment I get putting it together. If it gives you a bit of inspiration or a temporary escape, then I have achieved my goal. Health and healing top my wish list, but here are the other gifts on my radar…

 

Masks have become an indelible part of our lives, so why not tailor them to your tastes and interests? Book Riot has some cute options for the bookworms in your life.

I am obsessed with hand sanitizer, but make it pretty, especially if it will be standing on the hallway table, kitchen counter or powder room shelf. These are attractive and, most importantly, effective. With our heightened sense of germ-awareness, any one of these would be appreciated.

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Zoom has taken over our lives, but who actually looks good on that screen?! But a ring/halo light would reduce shadows in your face and give you that all-around even glow. Since working from home and virtual events will still be a part of the foreseeable future, it’s worth the investment for yourself or anyone else who is totally Zoomed-out!

I was absolutely riveted by The Queen’s Gambitthe storyline, the acting, the fashion! It’s the best series I’ve seen this year and has become Netflix’s most watched limited series to date. The game of chess has skyrocketed in popularity thanks to Anya Taylor-Joy’s brilliant portrayal of tortured prodigy, Beth Harmon. Unfortunately, I’m the only one in my family who doesn’t play, but I think a beginner or expert would enjoy these beautiful sets. Maybe it’s time I finally learned…

Another favorite this year was the film On the Rocks, written and directed by Sofia Coppola. Rashida Jones subtly depicts the growing anxiety of a mother suffering from writer’s block who also suspects her husband is having an affair. She displays her literary bona fides with a retro-looking The Paris Review tee shirt and Strand Bookstore tote bag. Perfect for that frustrated writer!

Social distancing is still a reality and if we do gather, we try to do so outdoors. Therefore, a comfy blanket has become the new fashion statement! Swedish family company Klippan Yllefabrik was founded in 1879 and their throws come in all textures, colors, patterns and sizes. Or why not get a monogram set from Land’s End for your family and friends? If you pair a blanket with these soft shearling Birkenstocks, you may never leave the house again!

Iconic singer/songwriter Lenny Kravitz perfected the blanket-chic look long ago and I have been crushing on him since he first burst onto the scene as Romeo Blue and married boho goddess, Lisa Bonet. I even give them a shout-out in my upcoming novel! His new memoir would be the coolest gift for a music lover.

Entertaining and cooking at home have replaced going out for fun, whether we keep it within our household or include those in our trusted bubble. These new titles from leading tastemakers, Aerin Lauder and Ina Garten, would make enticing gifts for beloved homebodies. With all of the fabulous ideas and moodboards, this trend may be here to stay!

Books and cozy candles continue to be my hero presents. This new coffee table book charting the origins of abstraction would be a welcome addition to any art library. I also love it since the cover features a work by Hilma af Klint, the Swedish female artist who is now credited with pioneering the movement long before her male counterparts. Ex Libris: 100 Books to Read and Reread by Michiko Kakutani is a stylish and stimulating compendium. Finally, Diptyque never disappoints with their holiday candle collection!

If you know someone who is missing NYC as much as I am, these swanky playing cards may do the trick. Along with the vibrant cast of characters in Carolyn Suzuki’s Book Club puzzle the recipient will get some good, old-fashioned fun. The Puzzle Huddle line of diversity-focused puzzles will also keep kids entertained. I love the premise of these trivia cards, Black Card Revoked, a nostalgia-filled game celebrating Black American popular culture. The 100 Books Bucket List Scratch-Off Poster is also a great way to keep a bibliophile motivated.

People have very strong opinions about Netflix’s Emily in Paris. I haven’t watched the series, but media sightings of her classic camera iPhone case were everywhere–a whimsical gift for a teen or best girlfriend. I still remember the original Polaroid camera in its heyday. Now they are back with this refurbished retro version and it’s a fun, ironic gift for the gadget-fixated techie or sentimental vintage buff.    

Svenskt Tenn is my favorite design store in Stockholm and their festive holiday windows and displays are always a sight to behold. Even if you don’t buy anything, it’s worth a trip for the visual inspo. Their signature Dagg vase probably resides in every Stockholm abode, but the rich green hue is a fitting seasonal accent. Another favorite is this pewter matchbox inscribed with: “The world is a book and he who stays at home reads only one page.” Both pieces are high-quality gifts the receiver will cherish.

image - 2020-11-29T111009.812I’ve been a fan of Rayo and Honey for some time now and this hanging pennant reflects my mood of late. I’m doing my best to be less anxious, less stressed, less outraged. “Joy is an act of resistance” may be the mindset we need right now to cope with the current challenges.

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Source: Shutterstock

Finally, I do believe there is more joy in giving than receiving and so many in our global community are in need. If you have the possibility, please consider donating to Covid-19 relief charities such as the World Health Organization (WHO). Other highly rated charitable resources are Americares, United Way Worldwide, Oxfam, Doctors Without Borders, Save The Children, UNICEF and The Red Cross. Donating to a food pantry or other frontline organizations within your local community would have the most direct impact, so a little research about one of these groups would go a long way. By working together, helping one another, being mindful and responsible, we will get through this difficult time. I’m hopeful about the promising vaccine news, but until then, wishing you and your dearest a safe, healthy and happy Holiday Season!

From Self-Publishing to a Book Deal

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Outside the iconic antique sign of Norstedts Publishing House, founded 1823, in historic Gamla Stan/The Old Town. “Tryckerigatan” translates to “Printing Street”– such a fitting name!

I’m still basking in the warm wishes I received after announcing my book deal on Instagram a few weeks ago! I’m so grateful for the support and encouragement–especially since my journey from aspiring to published author has been far from linear. I started with Penguin USA in 2005, published independently in 2018, and recently signed a contract with Sweden’s oldest publishing house, Norstedts Förlag, to release a Swedish-language version of my third novel in 2021. On the one hand, I’m chuckling at the circuitous route my writing has taken, but I’m also not entirely surprised since it reflects the twists and turns I’ve navigated to establish a writing career.

There is still a lot of work ahead and I’m full of questions. For example, how will the story read in Swedish? How will it be received by a Swedish audience? The tale of Linn and Zoë Holmgren, a mother and daughter who live on a small island in the Swedish archipelago, came to me last year as I vacationed at our own summer place. What would happen if the Holmgrens’ lives intersected with a sophisticated family from New York City? Drawing on my own observations from both cultures, I tried to create a fictional world and explore the themes of mother/daughter relationships, family secrets, race, class and the universal emotion of feeling like an outsider.

One thing is for sure: I would have never caught Norstedts’ attention had I not chosen to self-publish Lagging Indicators. Through a series of coincidences, the novel got in the hands of an engaging editor and thus began a dialogue about my writing and whether I could set a story in Sweden. I accepted the creative challenge, although I was not convinced I could craft an intriguing plot within a Swedish framework. It was almost too close to home and I was wary of mining that terrain. I discovered I could, in fact, remove my inner self from the narrative and assume the roles of my characters. It wasn’t about me, but rather their thoughts, experiences, conflicts and motivations. This has been a valuable exercise for my writing, enabling me to be more brave and authentic.

I’ve explained in a previous post how much insight I gained from releasing Lagging Indicators independently. So, why did I make the decision to shift back to traditional publishing?

For one thing, writing can be a very lonely endeavor and I appreciated the back-and-forth I had with my future editor at Norstedts. Her passion for books, good storytelling and diverse narratives restored my faith in the publishing industry. Norstedts has the potential to open a whole new world for me in Sweden and since this is my home base, I jumped at the opportunity. Previous attempts to attract interest for my writing stateside had left me discouraged, but my point of view finally clicked with a Swedish publisher. You just never know where your voice will resonate!

I’m so excited to work with a team on revisions, proofreading, layout, cover and jacket design, printing, distribution, creating an e-book and something totally new for me, an audio edition (although I won’t be narrating it with my American-accented Swedish 😉). I also look forward to meeting other authors, readers and industry people. Writing/authorship is an ongoing learning process and this new chapter is an unexpected, enriching development!

However, becoming an indie author was the turning point for me. I recall how nervous yet determined I was to get Lagging Indicators out into the world and the byproducts–both large and small–have exceeded my wildest dreams. I hope others will take this as an example to believe in your work and never give up.

I want to share as much as I can with you about the evolution of Sommaren på Nornö/Summer on Nornö, so please stay tuned!