Things slow down a lot in the book world in December, after the glut of fall has passed, but there are still some great titles to look forward to as the solstice hits and we settle in for a long winter. Turn to these great titles to make it through the cold, dark days.

Spare Parts by Joshua Davis

In 2004, four undocumented Latino teenagers who had never even seen the ocean not only built an underwater robot for the Marine Advanced Technology Education Robotics Competition, but did so for less than $1000 and won the competition, beating out all the other teams, including a team from MIT backed by a $10,000 grant from ExxonMobil. In Spare Parts, Joshua Davis tells their incredible underdog story and what happened next, including deportation and service in Afghanistan. Releasing just before the feature-length film of the same name in January, this promises to be an inspiring true story.

Audio published by Macmillan Audio. Available 12/2/2014.

 

Writer to Writer by Gail Carson Levine

It will come as no surprise that I used to (OK, still do) dream of being a writer. I did not play sports, I quit the Girl Scouts after one year, and I had little use for organized group activities. I read a lot and I wrote a lot and I read about writing a lot. I loved books about writing, especially those written by authors I admired. Gail Carson Levine’s newest work is just such a book, specifically targeted at kids and teens. The second book of writing advice from the Newbery Honor winner, Writer to Writer gives me the same sense of excitement I used to get on Christmas morning when I’d open a new writing book from my dad. Drawing from her blog, Levine answers questions about both fiction and poetry in an accessible style that makes it feel like you’re just hanging out with your much wiser friend. Levine’s blog posts are in-depth and insightful and include several writing prompts to help implement the advice she offers in each post. With her blog as the basis, Writer to Writer promises to be a treat for writers of all ages.

Audio published by HarperCollins. Available 12/23/2014.

 

The Fat Man by Ken Harmon

I know, I know, this book has been out since 2011. But I didn’t know about it until this year and I don’t think enough people know about it yet, so I’m going to just keep on telling everyone. This book is so. much. fun. It’s the perfect book for audio and Johnny Heller’s narration of all the noir and Christmas classic characters is spot-on. For when you’re sick of hearing Christmas carols and seeing glittering ornaments and starting to wonder when Christmas is finally going to be over (you know, sometime around mid-November) listen to The Fat Man and fall in love with Christmas in a whole new way. The story of Gumdrop Coal, the elf in charge of the Coal Patrol, dispensing coal to naughty children for centuries until he’s abruptly fired and then framed for murder, The Fat Man includes appearances from Tiny Tim, Frosty, Ralphie and his Red Ryder carbine-action, 200-shot, range model air rifle, Misfit Isle, all the Whos down in Whoville, the eight maids a-milking, and of course the fat man himself. It’s the perfect combination of childhood Christmas nostalgia and hardboiled noir, a combination you never knew you wanted but that is just deliciously wonderful. Listen to it while you bake another batch of Christmas cookies and I promise that Heller’s Bogartesque characterizations will give you the oddest sense of Christmas cheer.

Audio published by Tantor Audio. Available on Playaway 12/2/2014.

 

Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz

I always feel like it’s easier to get through a snowy, gray winter day with a good mystery novel, don’t you? With the rare seal of approval from the Conan Doyle estate, internationally bestselling author Anthony Horowitz lets us escape a dreary winter day by slipping into the world of Sherlock Holmes and archnemesis Jim Moriarty. Perfect for fans of the BBC’s Sherlock during the long, long wait to season 4. Pair it with the September release The Monogram Murders, approved by the Agatha Christie estate, and you’ve got a Holmes-Poirot weekend guaranteed to shake off the winter doldrums.

Audio published by HarperCollins. Available 12/9/2014.