Alexandra Deutsch, author and director of collections and interpretation at the Maryland Historical Society, reads from her book "A Woman of Two Worlds: Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte." (Kim Hairston, Baltimore Sun video)
There are books that we don't choose to read as much as we get stalked by them. Certain titles practically fling themselves off the shelves and into our outspread hands, where they recline suggestively and ruffle their pages. Open one at random, read a line or two, and suddenly it's five hours later.
Below is a list of titles by current or former Maryland authors, or that have a local theme, that have been released this fall. We can't guarantee that someone who receives a holiday gift of one of the books listed below— some for adults and some targeted for children that their parents can read on the sly — will succumb to their wiles.
But, if by chance the recipients crack open a cover and promptly find themselves neglecting their spouses, the kids, their jobs, their homework or even the Ravens until they finish just one more chapter —
Well, you've been warned.
"Persuasion" by Jane Austen and illustrated by Deanna Staffo, with an introduction by the novelist and scholar Siri Hustvedt. This isn't the dog-eared, coffee-stained, paperback version you read in college about a 27-year-old spinster who gets a second chance at love. This is a collectible, slipcovered edition bound in metallic cloth and including eight gorgeous, full-page color illustrations by Staffo, a faculty member at the Maryland Institute, College of Art. According to the publisher's website, Staffo's artwork so beautifully evokes the novel's tone and themes that an additional illustration was commissioned. (The Folio Society, 228 pages, $59.95.)
"Moonglow" by Michael Chabon. The newest novel by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Chabon, who grew up in Columbia, was one of the most highly anticipated — and best reviewed — books of 2016. Readers can debate how much of this hybrid novel and memoir, which weaves together stories told to the author in 1989 by his terminally ill grandfather, is based on facts, and how much is invented. The resulting jaunt through 20th-century America touches on Alger Hiss, World War II and the Holocaust, and mixes an adventure story with a meditation on the slippery nature of truth and memory. (HarperCollins, 448 pages, $28.99.)
"A Woman of Two Worlds: Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte" by Alexandra Deutsch. The author builds on the Maryland Historical Society's 2013-2014 exhibition about the 19th-century beauty known as the "Belle of Baltimore." Deutsch uses objects in the family's personal collection to explore not just Betsy Patterson's scandalous marriage to Napoleon Bonaparte's younger brother in 1803, but the trial in France over their son's legitimacy. Later in life, Betsy Bonaparte became a successful businesswoman who shrewdly managed her estate and increased its value to $1.5 million and who never let her son and two grandsons forget they were descended from royalty. (Maryland Historical Society, 249 pages, $35.)
"Urban Forests: A Natural History of Trees and People in the American Cityscape"by Jill Jonnes. In the not-quite three months since this book was published, it's been drawing praise for the depth of Jonnes' research and for the passion and poetry with which the Baltimore resident writes. Noting that four-fifths of Americans live in urban areas, the author recounts more than two centuries of tree evangelism dating back to advocacy efforts by President Thomas Jefferson. The book ranges from Washington's famed cherry trees to the origins of Arbor Day, and explores the effects that trees in cities have on commerce and crime. (Viking Books, 416 pages, $32.)
"We Are Still Tornadoes" by Michael Kun and Susan Mullen. This young-adult novel about the growing closeness between Cath, a freshman at a North Carolina college, and Scott, her childhood friend working in his parents' Maryland clothing store, is the first story that Kun, a former Baltimorean, has written for teens and the first time he's collaborated with another author. Like Kun's adult novels, "Tornadoes" consists of a series of letters that are in turn hilarious and bittersweet. But this YA book contains none of Kun's trademark footnotes that add another layer to the plot, and the ending is more uncomplicatedly happy. (St. Martin's Griffin, 304 pages, $18.99.)
"They Can't Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America's Racial Justice Movement"by Wesley Lowery. Lowery is the African-American reporter for The Washington Post who was arrested in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014 while reporting on the fatal shooting of Michael Brown. This book doesn't just chronicle the events that resulted in the Black Lives Matter movement and its most prominent activists (including Baltimore's DeRay Mckesson), it explores Lowery's conflicting responsibilities as a journalist and a black man. Why, he wonders, has the litany of violence against African-Americans coincided with the administration of the first black U.S. president? (Little, Brown and Co., 256 pages, $17.70.)
"The Autobiography of a Pigeon Named Pete: A True Baltimore Story" by Pete the Pigeon, interpreted by Gary Meyers and illustrated by Stephanie Helgeson. Meyers combed through old newspaper articles and paid a publishing house to help him polish this charming children's book about his mother, Muriel's, pet pigeon. Pete, who lived from 1919 to 1944, became the unofficial mascot of South Baltimore, beloved of local kids and beat cops. A prankster, Pete liked to unplug the iron when Muriel's mother was pressing clothes. He survived several bird-nappings, including one in which he nearly became pigeon stew. (Mascot Books, recommended for ages 4-8, 32 pages, $14.95.)
"Snap To Grid"by D.K. Reed. The first volume in what will become a trilogy of science-fiction novels for young adults called "The Stones of Bothynus." Two teenage sisters are drawn into supernatural intrigue as they search for their missing uncle, who was researching ancient stones that can change people's molecular structure. The author, a Maryland resident, holds a doctorate in biology, and the fantasy in the books is mixed with scientifically accurate information on quarks and the physical properties of matter. Reed's self-published novel has been described as "a promising debut" by Kirkus Reviews. (Mill City Press, to be published Tuesday, 303 pages, $17.95.)
"At Mama's Knee: Mothers and Race in Black and White" by April Ryan.
As a single African-American mother living in Baltimore, Ryan struggled to figure out what to say to her daughters about race relations in the U.S. So Ryan, the White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief for the American Urban Radio Networks, did what she does best — she researched her topic by seeking advice from Americans whose lives have been touched by this issue. The book includes conversations from such figures as President Barack Obama and Sybrina Fulton, the mother of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, the high school student fatally shot in Florida in 2012. (Rowman & Littlefield, to be published Thursday, 180 pages, $24.95.)
"The Lion in the Living Room: How House Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World" by Abigail Tucker.
Tucker, a former Baltimore Sun reporter, mulled a curious question: Unlike dogs, cats offer no practical benefits to humans, if you overlook their apparently unimpressive knack for killing rats. So, what accounts for cats' immense popularity? The answer is a lively read that pounces back and forth between evolutionary science and popular culture, between a parasite spread by cats to humans that has been linked to schizophrenia and cat cafes, where people pay to be snubbed by the resident felines. (Simon & Schuster, 256 pages $26.)