RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
It is the most wonderful time of the year - for book lovers, of course. The NPR Book Concierge is back with hundreds of recommendations from our staffers and critics. It is everything that we have loved this year - from big literary prizewinners to a kids book about the Statue of Liberty's foot. NPR Books editor Petra Mayer helped put together this year's edition. And she is in the studio to talk with us about it. Hey, Petra.
PETRA MAYER, BYLINE: Hey, Rachel.
MARTIN: All right, so for those who don't know, remind us how the whole concierge works.
MAYER: Sure, it's a giant matrix. You look at it, and you just see a grid of book covers. And this year there's more than 350 of them. And then along the side, there's a list of tags. And they say things like for history lovers or book club ideas or staff picks. And you can mix and match. And if you say you want a funny book for your book club about women that has a love story, everything...
MARTIN: You have that tab?
MAYER: Yeah, I think we do.
MAYER: Everything that matches whatever tags you've selected will come up.
MAYER: So it's a really cool discovery tool.
MARTIN: All right, so did any of your picks make the cut, Petra?
MAYER: Heck yeah, I have a bunch of books in the concierge this year. One of my favorite tags this year is ladies first, which we use to center women and their experiences. All of my romance picks are in there, including...
MAYER: ...Theresa Romain's "Scandalous Ever After," which was a wonderful surprise for me this year. It's a Regency romance set in the world of horse racing with a really wonderfully written hero. And it's also like the concierge is as much about discovery for us as it is for the readers. I always find things in it that I missed this year and go, what? So this year, I found something called the "Unwomanly Face of War" by Svetlana Alexievich. It was recommended by one of our news editors who described her as the Studs Terkel of Soviet Russia. And I was like...
MARTIN: Oh, I'm intrigued.
MAYER: ...Oh, my god, I got to read that. It's all about women's - Soviet women's experiences from like World War II to Afghanistan to Chernobyl in oral history. It looks so cool. So that's definitely on my already gigantic to-be-read pile.
MARTIN: Right, this is where I get to put in a plug for my favorite book of the year. Do I get to do that in this conversation?
MAYER: Yeah, absolutely because one of the most popular tags every year is staff picks. People want to know what we like.
MAYER: And you have a pick in the concierge.
MARTIN: I have a pick. It is a memoir written by the actress Gabourey Sidibe. It is titled "This Is Just My Face: Try Not To Stare." She, of course, was the star of "Precious," and she is one of the co-stars of "Empire." She is an awesome actress. She is an even better - can I say that? - writer. I mean, she just nails this thing - her own life story so good. And her wit just shines in this book.
MAYER: OK, so that is also going on my to-be-read pile, which at this point is like taller than my desk.
MARTIN: Sorry about that.
MAYER: No, don't apologize. We love reading, and we love recommending books. And it's all lovely and exciting.
MARTIN: All right, many things for you guys to choose from in this holiday season. You can buy them for friends and family. You can just buy them for you. NPR Books editor Petra Mayer. Thanks so much, Petra.
MAYER: Thank you. And we should also say go to your friendly local library. There are library links in the concierge. So you can go and see if a book that you like is available at your local library.
MARTIN: Perfect, and you can find this year's book concierge plus links to past editions at npr.org/bestbooks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.