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November 28, 2018

5 books from Philly writers that make great holiday gifts

And a few local booksellers where you can buy them

Holiday Gift Guides
Book covers Photo courtesy/Madeline Miller, Raquel Salas Rivera, Greg Pizzoli, David and Ilyssa Kyu, Carmen Maria Machado

Book covers from Philly-based and native authors.

Stumbling upon a local author at the book store gives me a specific kind of thrill. 

Lately, I've started to more intentionally select and purchase Philly-based or Philly-native authors at local book stores, too. 

This holiday season I have made it a point to gift my loved ones with not just what I think they want, but really what they need. And I think we all need some great books in our lives. So, I've compiled a list of five Philadelphia authors that I've either read, heard about, or whose books I'm itching to get my hands on. 

And because I want to help promote some smaller bookstores in the area, I've also included a link to local Philly bookstores where you can pick up copies online or in person. 

Here is my extremely abridged and completely biased list of five books by Philly authors. 

1. "lo terciario / the tertiary" by Raquel Salas Rivera 

Philadelphia's 2018-19 Poet Laureate, Raquel Salas Rivera, marvels with their dual-lingual poetry that examines the Puerto Rican debt crisis and colonialism in a deeply declarative and heart-wrenching collection. 

I heard Rivera do a reading from this book before it was released; there's a reason it's No. 1 on this list. 

From the critics: "Raquel Salas Rivera’s poetry is a tongue of flame. Like flame, the poems collected here are capable of so much: They keep me warm when I am otherwise cold, they light a path when I am otherwise lost, and they give me shelter when I am otherwise very far from home."  — Colette Arrand

Here's where you can buy it locally.

2. "Her Body and Other Parties" by Carmen Maria Machado 

Carmen Maria Machado is a Philly-transplant that created a lot of buzz with the release of "Her Body and Other Parties." It was a finalist for the National Book Award, nominated for the Kirkus Prize, and printed nine times. 

Here's a great Q&A with her if you want to learn more. "Her Body and Other Parties" was one of my favorite collections of stories in 2017. If you haven't read it yet, or know someone else who hasn't, get on it people.

Oh, and if you like "Her Body" be on the lookout for a future project from Graywolf Press coming in October 2019.

From the critics: “(An) imaginative and enjoyable collection, which charts dark territory with enormous style, wit, and storytelling panache.” — John Powers, NPR “Fresh Air”

Here's where you can buy it locally.

3. "Circe" by Madeline Miller

Madeline Miller, who attended the Shipley School in Bryn Mawr and lives outside Philadelphia, vividly retells the story of Greek goddess Circe, daughter of sun god Helios, and reimagines her as the superhero that she really is. From Miller's own description: "Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians." 

I found this book to be disarming, nostalgic, digestible, and romantic all at once. 

From the critics: “Absorbing …. One of the most amazing qualities of this novel (is): We know how everything here turns out — we’ve known it for thousands of years — and yet in Miller’s lush reimagining, the story feels harrowing and unexpected. The feminist light she shines on these events never distorts their original shape; it only illuminates details we hadn’t noticed before." ― Washington Post

Here's where you can buy it locally.

4. "Campfire Stories: Stories to be read together around a fire" edited and collected by David and Ilyssa Kyu 

This anthology of stories, legends, and ballads was collected from six American National Parks by Philly-based creatives David and Ilyssa Kyu. The stories are meant to be read together around a campfire, but I think for holiday purposes, reading next to a fireplace aloud will suffice. It's kind of the definition of campy (ha, get it?). 

I will admit I have not read this one, but it's on my list.

From the critics: "An engaging, entertaining, unique and simply fascinating read from cover to cover, ‘Campfire Stories: Tales from America's National Parks’ is exceptionally well written, organized and presented, making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library collections, as well as the personal reading lists of anyone who has ever experienced America's national parks for themselves – or would like to!" — Midwest Book Review

Here's where you can buy it locally.

5. "12 Days of Christmas" written and illustrated by Greg Pizzoli 

This one is for the kiddos or anyone who is very into Christmas. Pizzoli, a Philly-based author and illustrator, has come up with a lot of really great children's books, but this one is festive and would make a wonderful gift. This silly take on a classic stars an elephant who just keeps getting presents. 12, to be exact. 

In Pizzoli's words, "And just what are they supposed to do with ten lords a-leaping?"

From the critics: "The traditional lyrics of the popular yuletide song are brought to life by Pizzoli's signature art of adorable animal characters engaging in progressively zany antics. A little elephant wearing a Santa hat brings a multitude of presents that require a great deal of care, much to the dismay of the little elephant recipient's parent." — Los Angeles Public Library

Here's where you can buy it locally.

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