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Culture

The National Herald’s Top Books to Give as Gifts

December 21, 2017

This year has been an extraordinary one in books with something for every taste and interest. Books also make the best gifts for the holiday season. Thoughtful and thought-provoking, our favorite books of the year highlight the wide variety of issues, interests, and artistic efforts of the community.

Since 2017 has been designated as the year of Nikos Kazantzakis, it would only be fitting to include books by the renowned author. If everyone you know already has a copy of Zorba the Greek, add Report to Greco, upon which the new Kazantzakis film is based, to your reading list. The book is a fictionalized account of Kazantzakis’ own life, a sort of intellectual autobiography framed as a report to the Spanish Renaissance painter, and fellow Cretan, El Greco.

A World of Emotions: Ancient Greece, 700 BC-200 AD edited by Angelos Chaniotis, Professor of Ancient History and Classics, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton; Nikolaos Kaltsas, Director Emeritus, National Archaeological Museum, Athens; and Ioannis Mylonopoulos, Associate Professor of Ancient Greek Art and Archaeology, Columbia University, is a must read for art lovers. The exhibition catalogue includes thoughtful, meticulously researched essays, and the beautiful photographs of the works that were on display in the gallery at the Onassis Cultural Center in New York earlier this year.

Chaos and Culture: Renzo Piano Building Workshop and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Athensby Victoria Newhouse is a wonderful guide to the extraordinary project and includes 200 photographs and drawings that illustrate the development of the SNFCC from an idea through the building process and then to a functioning cultural center.

Mixed Up: Cocktail Recipes (and Flash Fiction) for the Discerning Drinker (and Reader) compiled by Greek-American Nick Mamatas and Molly Tanzer is a charming collection featuring cocktails and fiction.

The Art of War: A Novel by Angela Panayotopulos is set in World War II and draws on elements from Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Norse mythology, and even the memories of actual survivors of the war. Themes of love and the brutality of war make this a compelling work. The book is available online in e-book format and also in a paperback edition.

The debut novel Inside V by Paula Priamos is a definite page-turner. The book features strong characters in a compelling plot sure to entertain readers and build a solid fan base for the talented author.

Wings of Wax by Apollo Papafrangou was a finalist in the Multicultural Fiction category at the 2017 American Book Festival Awardsand is a solid debut novel by the young Greek-American author.

Wake Up to the Joy of You: 52 Meditations and Practices for a Calmer, Happier Life by Agapi Stassinopoulos, author of Unbinding the Heart, is a guide to life. With excellent advice for the stressed out and sleep-deprived, Stassinopoulos’ book will help the reader navigate their journey of self-discovery. Among the insights included in the book are chapters on making your ego your ally and realizing what true glamour is.

Pali Horisa by Katerina Ploumidaki follows the trials and tribulations of Anna who finds herself on her own again after Nikos decides he needs time to “think” about their relationship. Anna struggles to get over the breakup, but eventually she realizes there is life after Nikos. With relatable characters and themes and a sense of humor, this smart, modern, thoughtful, and thought-provoking book is a must read. First published in 2005, Pali Horisa is available in Greek online.

Protogenesis by Alysia Helming is an entertaining story with a nice blend of Greek mythology, science fiction, fantasy, and YA (young adult) romance. The book which spent three consecutive weeks on Amazon’s best-selling list is the first of a planned series of seven. With a compelling plot and solid characters to keep the interest of fans for years to come, Protogenesis follows young Helene as she suddenly loses her mother and must move to Greece to live with her godfather.

For poetry lovers, The Black Sea by Stephanos Papadopoulos is a wonderful choice. Papadopoulos is also the editor and co-translator with Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke of Derek Walcott’s Selected Poems into Greek (Kastaniotis Editions, 2006) and his translations of poems by Yiannis Stiggas are included in Austerity Measures: The New Greek Poetry, edited by Karen Van Dyck, required reading for poetry fans and those interested in the toll of the economic crisis on the Greekpeople, and the abundant inspiration it is providing for artists and poets in particular.

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