Every year, your gift list gets longer.
Every year, your gift list gets longer.
Some of the newbies on your list are also new to the family. Some are friends to whom you’ve grown close. There’s that neighbor who’s so awesome, the new supervisor at work, an uncle who’s visiting this year, your child’s new teacher and a Secret Santa program you’ve joined. And usually, you’re able to keep up with your list and know exactly what to give … but then there’s that one person who’s so hard to shop for.
Why not give a book? Books never run out of batteries, they don’t have to be turned off before bedtime and they’re totally calorie-free. Take a look at these suggestions.
If historical fiction is of great interest to someone on your gift list, then look for "Desert God" by Wilbur Smith. This novel, set in ancient Egypt , includes a hero who is very close to the Pharaoh … almost too close. Magic, love, war — what else could your giftee want?
The Neil Gaiman fan on your list is in luck this year: first, "The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains ," illustrated by Eddie Campbell is a novel with aspects of graphic novels and the flair that Gaiman fans relish. And your giftee will know that this years’ best gift came from you when you wrap it up with "The Art of Neil Gaiman" by Hayley Campbell, foreword by Audrey Niffenegger, a book filled with notes, artwork, poetry, reflections and more from The Master.
Western lovers will love reading "The Ploughmen" by Kim Zupan, a story of a green lawman and the older jailed killer he’s tasked with watching. Set in the Old West, this book is laced with a tautness that modern readers will love. Wrap it up with "Painted Horses" by Malcolm Brooks, a novel with a modern setting and a romantic spin.
For the suspense fan who loves a little ghost story, too, how about "Haunted" by Randy Wayne White? This suspense novel features White’s newest character, Hannah Smith, who is tasked with saving a supposedly-haunted house. But is the rumor of a ghost worse than the reality of a murderous flesh-and-blood human? Wrap it up with "Remains of Innocence" by J.A. Jance, a suspenseful novel about a dying woman and her money, a dead man and a scandal and the sheriff who must solve both terrible cases.
The thriller fan on your list will love "Mercy 6" by David Bajo, a novel about a mystery disease that’s killing people in a California hospital — or is it? Are the patients dying of illness or something else? Grab this one, and toss "Bones Never Lie" by Kathy Reichs, in the bag, too. It’s a novel of suspense featuring forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.
If you’ve got someone on your gift list who’s itching to start all over, preferably as someone else, then "How to Build a Girl" by Caitlin Moran could be the just-right gift. This sassy novel is about a teenager who tries to reinvent herself but, of course, things like that don’t always work so well.
You may have a visitor to Mitford on your gift list this year, and there’s no doubt that she misses her favorite town and her favorite pastor — so "Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good" by Jan Karon is a sure-fire gift. In this book, Father Tim returns to Mitford with his wife and family after a five-year absence, only to find that some things change — and not just a little.
For the reader who loves faction (fact + fiction), you’ll want to find "The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters" by Michelle Lovric. Based on a real family of sisters who grew their hair long (LONG!!) and performed in public, this book imagines their relationships with one another, the jealousy and the scandal.
There is absolutely no trivia fan in the world who could be without "1,339 Quite Interesting Facts to Make Your Jaw Drop" by John Lloyd, John Mitchinson and James Harkin. This totally fun book is filled with I-didn’t-know-that facts that practically beg to be read aloud. It’s the kind of book you want to take on the ride to Grandma’s this holiday, so you can share it on the road.
If there’s someone on your gift list who likes to poke the bear and stir up trouble, then "Villains, Scoundrels and Rogues" by Paul Martin may be the right thing to wrap. This book is filled with short chapters on all kinds of real-life troublemakers and shady citizens. How fun is that? Wrap it up with "Madam Belle: Sex, Money and Influence in a Southern Brothel" by MaryJean Wall, for an even more rascally gift.
The person on your list who lives by the motto "I (Heart) NY" will absolutely swoon over "A History of New York in 101 Objects" by Sam Roberts. This book is a love story to The Big Apple, complete with pictures, stories and tiny little things that make NYC so FUN. Wrap it up with "Confessions of a New York Taxi Driver" by Eugene Salomon, a name-dropping, jaw-dropping collection of memories of fares, no-fairs, stars, scandalous behavior and tourists. Who could miss that?
Your card sharp will find Lady Luck smiling when he (or she!) opens "Blood Aces: The Wild Ride of Benny Binion, The Texas Gangster Who Created Vegas Poker" by Doug J. Swanson. This is a book to prove that what happens in Vegas doesn’t necessarily stay in Vegas — and that’s a good thing.
What makes a good love last? Someone on your gift list wonders that same thing, and in "Love Cycles" by Linda Carroll, she (or he!) will find the answer. Wrap it up with two tickets to anywhere and wish the happy couple well.
The gardener on your list is going to go wild for "A Garden of Marvels " by Ruth Kassinger. This is a book about the secret lives of plants: what they eat, how they mate and how they grow. Wrap it up with a trowel and a few packages of seeds, for a nice promise-of-spring gift.
For the person on your list who seems to be Google’s biggest user, "Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends On It" by Ian Leslie could be just right to give. This book proves that curiosity isn’t at an all-time high, like you might think; in fact, it’s on the wane and that’s bad.
For the musician or lover of classical music, "The Late Starters Orchestra" by Ari L. Goldman will be a nice surprise this holiday. It’s the story of a group of amateur musicians of all ages who get together once a week to do something that makes their hearts soar — and it’ll put a song in the heart of your giftee.
The outdoorsman on your list doesn’t need another pair of hand warmers or wool socks — so wrap up "The Three-Minute Outdoorsman" by Robert M. Zink instead. This book is full of short, just-a-few-pages essays on hunting, fishing and nature, and (believe it or not) science. He (or SHE!) is going to love this book.
For the True Crime aficionado, "Death Dealer: How Cops and Cadaver Dogs Brought a killer to Justice" by Kate Clark Flora might be the most thrilling gift she opens this year. It’s the story of a missing woman, murder and the cooperation between law enforcement departments in two countries.
Your connoisseur of cocktails will love opening "Bourbon: A History of the American Spirit" by Dane Huckelbridge. This book takes a look at this drink that’s older than you think, and uniquely American. Pair it up with a couple of good glasses and "Moonshine Nation" by Mark Spivak. It’s a history of the spirit, and your giftee will absolutely love that it contains party-worthy recipes!
For the lead on the debate team, "Impolite Conversations" by Cora Daniels and John L. Jackson Jr. will be a welcome gift. This discussion on all the things that start an argument in polite circles (race, politics, sex, cash and God) may poke thoughts or anger; either way, it’s perfect for the person who loves a good, challenging argument. Add "Living with a Wild God" by Barbara Ehrenreich — a nonbeliever’s quest for a higher power — for a debatably perfect gift.
The animal lover on your list will sit up and beg for "Animal Madness" by Laurel Braitman. It’s a book about how neurotic, anxiety-ridden, misbehaving animals — domestic and otherwise — may hold clues to our own behavior. Pair it up with "Wild Connection" by Jennifer L. Verdolin, a book about animal courtship and how we’re more like them than we know.
And for any dog lover you know, a two-pronged book will be just right. First, you’ll want to fetch "Dogs in Cars" by Lara Jo Regan, a pictorial of (you guessed it) very happy dogs in very cool cars. Then add "Shake Puppies" by Carli Davidson, a book filled with pictures of (guessed it again) puppies in the midst of a good soul-fixing shake. For sure, these books made me hug my fur-boys and they’re double delight for your doggie demands.
I was, by the way, completely, totally charmed by "Harlow & Sage (and Indiana)" by Brittni Vega, a tale (with pictures!) of three four-footed best friends and their adventures. It’s absolutely something your dog-lover would beg for.
For the spiritual person on your gift list, "The Grateful Table" by Brenda Knight, foreword by Nina Lesowitz will be an excellent book to wrap up. It’s filled with prayers, graces and thoughts meant for mealtime, but not only. Your giftee will be more than welcome to use it anytime … maybe even right after it’s opened! Pair it up with "Having the Time of Your Life: Little Lessons to Live By" by Allen Klein, a book of quotations to further enhance joy.
The movie buff on your list will eat up "The Zombie Book: An Encyclopedia of the Living Dead" by Nick Redfern, with Brad Steiger. It’s filled with entries on the genre, including directors, plots, and TV shows. Innocent fun — no. A welcome gruesome gift — absolutely yes! Wrap it up with "The Government UFO Files: The Conspiracy of Cover-Up" by Kevin D. Randle for a gift that creeps on giving.
One more thing for your movie buff: "The Sci-Fi Movie Guide" by Chris Barsanti. It’s packed with SF goodness, facts, and bios, and when you add in a DVD of your favorite oldie-but-a-goodie, you know it’ll be the best thing beneath the tree.
So there’s a mathematician on your gift list, or someone who loves numbers? Then look for "Whatever Happened to the Metric System?" by John Bemelmans Barciano. It’s a great account of why we don’t largely use millimeters and centimeters, but why science does and Europeans definitely do. It’ll be a great gift — count on it.
The Royal Watcher on your list might like watching back a few hundred years with "How to Ruin a Queen" by Jonathan Beckman. This book is about Marie Antoinette, Louis XVI, their lives and times — but it also focuses on a true crime mystery of missing diamonds. Yep, this book might work for your favorite mystery maven, too. Wrap it up with "The Romanov Sisters" by Helen Rappaport, a book about Russian Tzar Nicholas’ four daughters and the horrifying end of their young lives.
A curious history for those on the go is "Winnebago Nation" by James B. Twitchell. This book examines our love of RVs, campers and travel, and it includes plenty of old ads and pictures. Wrap it with a journal and a map for a great gift.
World War II buffs probably have shelves and shelves of books about the War, but here’s an unusual book that might work as a gift this year: "The Dog Who Could Fly" by Damien Lewis, It’s the tale of a two-legged airman and his four-legged co-pilot, a small German shepherd that accompanied his human on many flights and even saved his life. Pair it with "War Dogs" by Rebecca Frankel, a book filled with tales of four-legged heroes and their fellow (human) soldiers.
For the veteran in your life — or for the historian who studies the Vietnam War, look for "Defiant" by Alvin Townley. It’s the story of eleven POWs held in Hanoi during the war, how they survived and what happened to them (and their families) in the years since their release.
Historians who also love a little geography in their books will love "Empire’s Crossroads: A History of the Caribbean from Columbus to the Present Day" by Carrie Gibson. It’s a sweeping brick-of-a-book that encompasses the whole area, the countries that have laid claim to it over the years and the people who live there now.
BIOGRAPHIES and MEMOIRS
Surely, there’s an adrenaline junkie on your list who will relish the chance to read "Alone in Antarctica " by Felicity Aston! This memoir from the first woman to ski across the globe’s southern-most continent all by herself is filled with danger, adventure and everything armchair daredevils want. Pair it up with "A World of Her Own" by Michael Elsohn Ross, which is absolutely filled with adventure through profiles of 24 women explorers from years ago and today.
If there’s a storyteller on your gift list this year, then "Shake Terribly the Earth" by Sara Beth Childers might be the best thing you can give. It’s a book filled with tales of the Appalachian Mountains and its people: growing up, knowing your kin and holding friend-of-a-friend tales up for examination.
Stefani Germanotta. If that name means something to someone on your gift list, then you’ll get a lot of smiles when you give "Lady Gaga: Born to Be Free," an unauthorized biography by Jake Brown. This book takes a good look at the Lady herself, her fans, her career, and yes, there are pictures inside. Wrap it up with "Benson: The Autobiography" by George Benson (with Alan Goldsher). Yep, it’s about (and by) the musician himself — his life, his friends, and his tunes. You might also want to look for "The Beat of My Own Drum" by Sheila E., which is the story of her life on and offstage, and how she overcame abuse she endured as a child.
For the person who loves compelling memoirs, "The Answer to the Riddle is Me: A Memoir of Amnesia" by David Stuart MacLean could be the best gift ever. It’s the story of a man who lost nearly every memory he had and his journey, not only back home to America, but to the life that almost disappeared forever. Wrap it up with "A Long Way Home" by Saroo Brierley, the story of a child who got lost on a train, the man he became and his return home — 25 years later, all because of a small memory and a website.
The romantic soul on your list will LOVE "Romance is My Day Job" by Patience Bloom. Bloom is an editor at romance-novel giant Harlequin, but she’d never found love herself. She’d given up on it, in fact, until a tiny little chance encounter changed everything. Happy ending? I’m not saying, but it’s a romance, after all, you know.
The art lover on your list will smile enigmatically when opening "Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered" by Dianne Hales. It’s the story of da Vinci’s most famous model, her life and what life was like when she sat for her portrait.
What do you give to the person who’s going through the trial of her life? You might wrap up "A Breast Cancer Alphabet" by Madhulika Sikka. In here, your friend will find advice, a bit of humor, information from the Been-There, Done-That crew, and more. Bonus: it’s an easy book to browse.
For the forward thinker on your list, "Cannabis Pharmacy" by Michael Backes may be just the right thing to wrap. This is a book about growing, using and knowing about medical marijuana, from the plant to the end user and everything in between.
In the wake of the Sandy Hook incident, "The Price of Silence" by Liza Long asks the question that many mothers asked: what if the shooter was my child? This book takes a look at mental illness in children, from the perspective of a family member, and it’s a fascinating book that could make a stellar gift.
If there’s a First Responder on your gift list, you can’t go wrong when you give "Bulletproof Spirit" by Captain Dan Willis. It’s filled with non-conventional advice, information on staying emotionally strong and exercises he (or she!) can do to heal and stay well, both in body and in mind. Wrap it up with "The Body Keeps the Score" by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D., a book about how the brain can help the body heal from the aftereffects of trauma.
So you have a deep thinker on your list, and you’re not sure what to give? Think hard and consider "The Slaughter" by Ethan Gutmann. In this book, the author tells the story of what he says is a dirty little secret in China — which includes mass murder and more. Warning: it’s not for the faint of heart.
For the yoga aficionado, "Going Om ," edited by Melissa Carroll will make a perfect gift. This is a book filled with essays of yoga and what it does to mind, body and spirit. Wrap it up with a brand-new map and wait for the hugs. Wrap it up with "A Book of Miracles" by Dr. Bernie S. Siegel, a nice anthology of healing, hope, and heartfelt thankfulness.
For the med student you know, take a look at "Grief Sucks … But Love Bears All Things" by Gayle Taylor Davis. It’s a story of loss, and living through it — something your giftee may need to know about in the new career. You also may want to find "Changing the Way We Die" by Fran Smith and Sheila Himmel. It’s a book about hospice care and the hospice movement.
For another look at the same subject, you may want to look for "Unremarried Widow" by Artis Henderson (by a military widow); "Confessions of a Mediocre Widow" by Catherine Tidd (by a young widow with three small kids); or "Young Widower: A Memoir" by John W. Evans (a man’s perspective on this subject).
Do we need our ears to feed our brain? That’s the question in "I Can Hear You Whisper" by Lydia Denworth, scientist and mother of a hearing-impaired little boy. This book takes a look at the subject of learning and hearing, psychology, neurology and the Deaf community, and it’s a great gift for anyone who’s studying or living this issue. I also liked "Struck by Genius" by Jason Padgett and Maureen Seaberg. It’s the story of a crime, an injury that could have been devastating and a surprising gift that came out of an almost-tragedy.
You may have someone on your gift list who’s struggling with vision loss — and if that’s the case, then look for "The Way We See It" by various contributors who’ve struggled with the same thing. It’s available online at www.visionlossresources.org, and its large print is perfect for anyone who must see life in a different way.
AFRICAN AMERICAN AUTHORS
For the beauty on your gift list, wrap up "Bill Duke’s Dark Girls," photography by Barron Claiborne, interviews by Shelia P. Moses. This wonderful book showcases the beauty of women in many skin tones and the feelings they have for their unique color. Hint: this book is not just for young women; grandma might like reading it, too!
You may need to find a gift for the historian who has everything, so look for "Samuel Wilbert Tucker: The Story of a Civil Rights Trailblazer and the 1939 Alexandria Library Sit-In" by Nancy Noyes Silcox. Except for the fact that it has an abundance of pictures and a great timeline, the title says it all.
For the businessperson who can’t quite conquer being on top of everything, wrap up "The Organized Mind" by Daniel J. Levitin. This book takes a look at why our brains are packed tight and how some leaders deal with business TMI. Wrap it up with another fascinating book, "The Marshmallow Test" by Walter Mischel, a book about self-control and how to conquer and use yours.
If there’s someone on your gift list who’s new to business and is just learning the ropes, wrap up "Compelling People" by John Neffinger and Matthew Kohut. This book uncovers the traits that give someone the ability to sway others and, in turn, to be successful. Wrap it up with "Perfecting Your Pitch" by Ronald M. Shapiro, a very useful communications book that helps your readers reach for success, but not just in business.
For the person who’s just learning the art of managing money, "The Handy Investing Answer Book" by Paul A. Tucci is a great introduction. With a handy question-and-answer format and easy-to-understand info, it could help your giftee into the next family mogul. Hint: it could also be a nice refresher for someone who’s been around the bank a time or two.
For the person on your list who’s thinking of parenthood, "Mommy Man" by Jerry Mahoney could be just the thing to wrap up. It’s the (often very funny) story of a man who never thought he’d have a family, ever, until he and his partner decide that they want a kid — and a great story to tell him (or her!) in years to come.
If your giftee is reaching for a conclusion on religion and lifestyle, then "God and the Gay Christian" by Matthew Vines could be an excellent gift. This book delves deeply into Biblical teaching, but it also contains the author’s personal story of his relationship with family and faith.
For fans of fast-paced thriller-mysteries, "The Talk Show" by Joe Wenke may be a goodie to wrap up. It’s a novel about a controversial talk show host, a reporter who makes a deal with that devil and the "family" who fears for the reporter’s life — as well as each of their own.
Got a traveler on your list who also loves history? Then "States of Desire Revisited: Travels in Gay America" by Edmund White will be the gift that lives in the suitcase. Part travelogue, part a look back some 40 years, this is a peek at gay life then and now, pre-AIDS and after, and how everything changed with a mouse click.
I seriously don’t think I know one little kid who doesn’t like a bedtime story. Heck, I like a bedtime story, and I liked "Day is Done: Prayers and Blessings for Bedtime" by Elena Pasquali, illustrated by Natascia Ugliano. This is one of those books that can be read quietly for a soothing night-night, both for adult and for child. Wrap it up with "Little Owl’s Day" by Divya Srinivasan, a cute story about a little guy whose inability to sleep gets him into a big adventure.
Board books are always great gifts for the smallest person on your list, and "I Love Hockey" is just right for the future sticks fan. And keep this one in mind: "Little Birthday," a book of riddles. Yes, unlike most board books, these two have a good amount of narrative, so they’re also presents you can read aloud.
The mini-farmer on your list will want to unwrap "I Love You Just Enough" by Robbyn Smith van Frankenhuyzen, illustrated by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen. It’s the tale of a wild baby duck and the girl who raised him after he was separated from his mother. But ducks grow faster than do little girls, and it causes a bit of concern.
Who has enough books? Not your giftee, and not the kids in "The Children Who Loved Books" by Peter Carnavas. It’s the tale of too many and too few, but having enough of the important things. Wrap it up with "If You Wish" by Kate Westerlund and Robert Ingpen, a beautifully illustrated story of a little girl who learns that books can take her to all kinds of places without even leaving her house.
For the child who loves making friends, you can’t go wrong with "Jenny & Lorenzo" by Toni Steiner and Eve Tharlet. It’s the tale of a mouse and her very unusual friendship with someone who wants to have her for dinner.
The budding politician (or the 7- to 13-year-old current events fan) will love owning "The U.S. Congress for Kids" by Ronald A. Reis, foreword by Rep. Henry A. Waxman, afterword by Rep. Kristi Noem. This book includes history, stats, facts, pictures, graphs and activities that underscore what your child learns. This is a great gift for the kid who just returned from or is going to visit the Capitol this year.
If there’s a mystery lover on your list, then look for "Somebody on this Bus is Going to Be Famous" by J.B. Cheaney. A strangely empty bus stop. A bus full of kids, each with one clue. A bus driver who acts all weird. Can your whodunit fan solve the mystery before the kids on the bus do it?
"The Original Folk & Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm" translated & edited by Jack Zipes, illustrated by Andrea Dezso may be a challenge for kids this age. You might have to help with some of the words or you may even want to read it aloud together. But if your 7- to 12-year-old enjoys fables and such, then you can’t go wrong with this heavy, elegant investment in their reading future.
Young science fans will devour "Before the World Was Ready: Stories of Daring Genius is Science" by Claire Eamer, pictures by SA Boothroyd. It’s a book about scientific theories that were originally ridiculed (along with their creators) and how those unfortunate men were eventually vindicated.
For the lover of espionage, "Top Secret Files: World War II" by Stephanie Bearce will be a great gift. This is a nonfiction book about undercover work during the War, including spies and secret missions, rat bombs, double agents, and more. Bonus: it might get the kids interested in history, too.
Teen readers who love futuristic novels (but can’t handle a whole lot of fantasy) will love "The Scavengers" by Michael Perry. It’s the story of a young woman who’s left behind by her family when they leave town, and the only way she can survive is by scavenging — alone. Excitement. Danger. What more could your teen want? Wrap it up with "The Girl From the Well" by Rin Chupeco for a gruesome gift duo.
For the teen who enjoys history, or for a diary-keeper, "Yoko’s Diary," edited by Paul Ham might make a great gift. This is the true story of a 13-year-old Japanese girl who lived near Hiroshima during World War II. It’s a powerful book, made even more so by the editor’s notes. I also liked "Colonial Comics: New England , 1620-1750," edited by Jason Rodriguez. It’s a graphic book (a sort of comic book, if you’re wondering) about the early years of America , written by various authors and illustrated by various artists.
So your teen has loved The Wizard of Oz since toddlerhood? Then wrap up "Dorothy Must Die" by Danielle Paige. It’s the story of the anti-Dorothy — a girl named Amy, who’s been trained as a warrior. Dark? Yep, but great for your fave fantasy fan. Wrap it up with "Night Sky" by Suzanne Brockmann and Melanie Brockmann. It’s a thriller about a kidnapping and a different kind of hero that may — or may not — save the day. (And yes, by the way, that’s novelist Suzanne Brockmann, of course).
Novel lovers will completely enjoy "Boys Like You" by Juliana Stone, the story of a girl with a guilty broken heart and a boy with a different sort of painful burden, and how they find each other to help mend the ache.
And there you are! A whole lot of ideas for that hard-to-buy-for person on your gift list. Best of all, if these ideas don’t fill the bill, then you can always give a gift certificate, or you can throw yourself at the mercy of your friendly bookseller. Yes, he or she is absolutely brimming with ideas for everybody on your gift list, so what are you waiting for?