Better than a Gift?

December 22, 2012 | By French Culture

Mieux qu'un cadeau, un livre... Is a book really better than a gift? Perhaps this list will help you figure that one out, if not, it's still a list worth checking: Six books that make great gifts, compiled by the book department at the French Cultural Services.


1) Anka Muhlstein, Monsieur Proust’s Library (The Other Press, November 2012)

After her mouth-watering best-seller, Balzac’s Omelette, Anka Muhlstein, Goncourt prize for biography winner, takes us on a journey with writers inhabiting Proust’s universe. Her book reads like a novel, and will be a delight not only to Proustians, but also curious readers interested in French classics. A perfect book to prepare for Swann’s Way centenary celebrations!


2) David B. (illustrator) and Jean-Pierre Filiu (author), Best of Enemies: A History of US and Middle East Relations. Part one : 1783-1953 (translated by Edward Gauvin, Self Made Hero, May 2012)

It is a great idea to bring together former diplomat and Middle East specialist Jean-Pierre Filiu and artist David B., author of the fantastic Epilectic (Angoulême International Comics Festival Prize for Scenario). The result is a beautifully creative graphic novel that sheds light on the most striking episodes of the tumultuous relationships between the US and the Middle East.


3) Janik Coat, Hippopposites (Abrams Appleseed, May 2012)

Toddlers will love this book with its sweet and funny drawings of hippopotami. The author brings the hipos to life by playing with opposites to create an inventive graphic glossary for preschoolers. Bold colors, simple shapes and textures give the animals personality. After this first book, Janis Coat has continued to create bestiaries each one more exhilarating than the next. We are eager to see translated in the U.S.


4) Gwenaëlle Aubry, No One, (trans. by Trista Selous, Tin House, January 2012)

Drawing from her father's writings, Gwenaëlle Aubry paints a moving portrait of psychosis. Through the course of this book, Aubry tells the story of a father struggling with bipolar disorder, psychologically absent even long before his death. This piece of autofiction, a recent genre of French contemporary writing, is beautifully translated by Trista Selous with an insightful preface from Rick Moody.


5) Zeina Abirached, A Game for Swallows (Graphic Universe August 1, 2012)

In this beautiful graphic novel, Zeina Abirached tells the story of her childhood in Lebanon during the Civil War. One night, when the bombing was particularly intense, her parents, who had gone to visit her grandmother, do not come home. Neighbors come one by one to the tiny apartment to take care of Zeina and her brother. She draws sensitive and loving portraits of those around her, as seen through the eyes of a child.


6) Gilles Verlant, Gainsbourg, the Biography (TamTam Books July 31, 2012)

Based on voluminous testimony and archives from relatives and friends, Gilles Verlant has written the official biography of one of France's most controversial French artists. In Gainsbourg, the Biography the reader enters into the private life of Serge Gainsbourg on his path to becoming a world-famous singer and lady’s man.

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