Books Are My Jailbreak: Gift-Giving Book Recommendations from Max Brooks

No one does laugh-out-loud satire mixed with cringeinducing horror quote like Max Brooks. This year, the bestselling author of World War Z returned, to the delight of many, with a suspenseful epistolary novel of survival and supernatural mayhem in Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre (run, don’t walk to get this one, if you haven’t already!)So, we’re thrilled to have Max Brooks here to discuss what he’ll be gifting this holiday season and why books — more so now than ever — really are the perfect retreat.

Many years ago, the late, great, Chicano poet Manazar Gamboa told me what it was like to be in solitary confinement. On his way to the hole, his fellow inmates asked if they could smuggle just one item into him, what would it be? His answer was simple: the biggest book they could find. That book turned out to be War and Peace. When I asked, why a book, he answered that the walls could hold his body, but a book allowed his mind to escape.

That’s why, to me, books make the perfect gift, especially in the times we’re living in. A lot of us have been under voluntary house arrest. And as we approach what could be the darkest winter in a century, the need to escape is more important than ever.

Yes, we’ve always got our screens; on our laps, desks and walls — and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to more than my share of screen time. But nothing matches the quiet, end-of-day pages of a novel, or, in my dyslexic case, the engrossing voice of a great audiobook.

This holiday season, I’ll be gifting a variety of books to a variety of people. For those who actively want to learn more about plagues, no story is more terrifying than John M. Barry’s The Great Influenza. For those who need to run as far from this plague as possible, there’s nothing funnier than the works of David Sedaris. For the comic book fans (west and east), I’m gifting all four volumes of Shigeru Mizuki’s Showa: A History of Japan. For anyone craving good old-fashioned pulp horror, I’m passing out Guy N. Smith novels like PEZ candies.

And, if I can get my hands on them (because anything of true value is rare), I’ll be gifting a few precious copies of the poetry of Manazar Gamboa. I’m sure he’d appreciate helping others escape confinement.

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