In December, readers can look back over a year of great publishing. Those who enjoy history will appreciate Candice Millard’s Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill and Elizabeth Letts’s The Perfect Horse: The Daring U.S. Mission to Rescue the Priceless Stallions Kidnapped by the Nazis as well. Lovers of character-driven novels will enjoy The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, and Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave. Whether you are shopping for gifts or creating a booklist, the choices are excellent. Available at a Barnes and Noble.
—Maureen Millea Smith is a librarian at the Edina Library and a Minnesota Book Award-winning novelist.
There is no better way to celebrate this time of year than with bubbles. From the European regions of Champagne and Cava to California and South America, sparkling wine is produced in almost every corner of the wine world. It’s generally never my advice to break the bank on just one bottle of bubbly. Instead, veer toward the sparkling section priced to allow for the purchase of more than just one bottle—like Italian Prosecco. Or explore beyond this familiar grape to the region of Gavi and try Villa Sparina Gavi di Gavi made from the grape Cortese. Bright, with bits of textured citrus, white peach and dusty minerality, this bubbly finishes delightfully light, with a subtle note of white florals and fall apple. Just right for the holidays and, most importantly, just right for the pocketbook. Look for similar selections at France 44.
—Leslee Miller is a certified sommelier and owner of local wine consulting firm, Amusee.
My hunch is that holiday music started playing about the time the Thanksgiving turkey was served. And when you listen to specialty music for weeks at a time, it needs to be high quality. Michael Bublé’s Christmas is exactly that. With big-band arrangements and full orchestration, he covers well-known songs with Frank Sinatra flair. Bublé teams up with Shania Twain on “White Christmas,” and Thalia on “Feliz Navidad.” If you like a 1940s Andrew Sisters sound, you will love his version of “Jingle Bells” featuring the Puppini sisters. Bublé also created a new arrangement of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” When I sing along to the songs of the season, this album will certainly make you all want to join in with me. Happy holidays, everyone! CD available at Amazon.com and iTunes
—Patty Peterson, award-winning vocalist and Jazz 88-KBEM radio host.