Last January, you loaded up.
You loaded up on all the left-over, clearance-priced Christmas wrapping paper you could lay your hands on. You bought Hanukkah bags, Santa wrap, gifty things with poinsettias and reindeer and holly and you put it all away because you knew darn well that you’d use it in due time.
Well, now’s the time.
You got the paper out. You just need to find things to use it with.
But sometimes, it’s hard to find just the right thing for everybody on your list, isn’t it? There’s always somebody who’s impossible to buy for… and that’s when you should head to the bookstore to look for these great reads …
Set in Minnesota as the last century began, “The Lighthouse Road” by Peter Geye is a book about homesickness, love, survival, and life the way our ancestors lived. This novel is set in the winter, and is so evocative that you’ll want an extra blanket when you take it by the fireplace. And speaking of snow, here’s another cold-weather novel to give: “The Vanishing Act” by Mette Jakobsen. It’s the story of a father and daughter who live on a snow-covered island. When a dead boy washes up on the shore one day, the young girl tries to learn the truth about him and about her mother’s death.
So your giftee loves his (or her) cellphone above all else? Then wrap up “Hidden Things” by Doyce Testerman. When a mysterious text message arrives from her best friend, a woman wonders what he’s talking about… and then the police arrive. Her BFF is dead. So how did he leave her a message an hour before he died? (I’m not telling. Give the book). Another book about friendship and dastardly secrets is “The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.” by Nichole Bernier. It’s the story of a journal found when a woman dies, and the realization of the woman’s best friend that she never knew the woman at all…
Novel lovers will be so happy when they unwrap “Motherland” by Amy Sohn! This is a book about five mothers and fathers in various places around New York City, and how they deal with modern marriage and relationships. This book is perfect when teamed with a new mug and a box of hot cocoa … Another book novel lovers will eat up is “One Last Thing Before I Go” by Jonathan Tropper, which is the story of one man’s last days and his attempt to fix what’s broken before he’s gone.
What would your giftee do if she knew the future? Would she know that you wrapped up “The Lost Prince” by Selden Edwards for her? This is the story of a woman who believes that she knows every historical event that will happen for the rest of her life. So will she let things happen, or will she try to change the way events unfold?
You know how much your friends love to read. So why not wrap up “Heft” by Liz Moore? This is a novel about an unlikely friendship between a 550-pound man and a 17-year-old kid who is living a life he never expected. Give it to your friend – then borrow it back. Another book about a friendship – this one, not what it seems — is “Man in the Blue Moon” by Michael Morris. It’s the story of a single mother who befriends a banker who offers to help, but he’s no help at all …
Somewhere on your list is a person who loves street lit. That’s the person who wants to see “Murderville: The Epidemic” by Ashley & JaQuavis beneath the tree. This is a shoot-em-up thriller about gangstas, girls, and grit but beware: this ain’t Grandma’s murder mystery! Another book to try is “You Get What You Play For” by Jeff Farley. That’s the story of a Brooklyn girl with dreams, and what happens when she gives them up for the love of a boy who’s wrong for her.
If your giftee can’t get enough of the Undead, then you can’t go wrong with “Zombie: A Novel” by J.R. Angelella. It’s the story of a boy who’s obsessed with zombies, watching as many of those kinds of movies as he can. It serves him well when something mysteriously happens to his father. Wrap it up with a night light.
Your giftee has seen “The Godfather” so many times, you lost count. So this year, wrap up “The Family Corleone” by Ed Falco, based on a screenplay by Mario Puzo. This prequel to “The Godfather” doesn’t sleep with the fishes. It’s really something they can’t refuse (sorry. I couldn’t resist). Another family-type novel, this one of a different kind of edgy, is “The Lola Quartet” by Emily St. John Mandel. This is the story of a man who tries to find the child he recently learned he had, for himself and to save her life.
Definitely for a grown-up to unwrap, “The Water Children” by Anne Berry is the story of four children, each touched by tragedy and water, and how they come together to survive and heal. I also liked “Austin and Emily” by Frank Turner Hollon, the story of a 347-pound man, his stripper girlfriend, a car filled with cats, and their cross-country trip together in search of happiness.
Romance readers will love the Civil War novel “Blue Asylum” by Kathy Hepinstall. It’s the story of a Virginia plantation wife who’s committed to an asylum and falls in love there. She has a chance to escape… but will she go without her beloved? Another romance to try is “Heaven Should Fall” by Rebecca Coleman. It’s the story of love and tragedy, an unexpected baby and a woman’s sacrifice. Another book for the Civil War fan is “Wilderness” by Lance Weller. It’s the story of an elderly man who moved to the wilderness after the Civil War, but at the end of his life, must undertake a journey that won’t be easy…
Another historical novel to give is “Illuminations” by Mary Sharratt. Based on the life of Hildegard von Bingen, this novel-based-on-fact will delight anyone who’s a fan of this Medieval healer.
If you’re looking for something small, perhaps for a stocking-stuffer, then look for “Big Ray” by Michael Kimball. It’s a skinny novel about a man’s love for his dead father, despite that the father was less-than-loving when the man was younger. Yes, this is a small novel but it’s big on emotion.
No doubt your giftee is someone who takes his (or her!) reading seriously, so how about some seriously great books? Look for “Creole Belle” by James Lee Burke, for instance. It’s the latest in the Dave Robicheaux series but this time, Dave is laying in the hospital. When he’s visited by a woman who supposedly disappeared weeks ago, it’s another mystery for him to solve… if he can. You might also want to wrap up “Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures” by Emma Straub, a debut novel about a small-town girl who makes it big in the Big City. But fame isn’t cheap, and it isn’t free — it comes with a price, which may mean losing her very identity.
If your giftee loves great big novels, both in page count and in story line, then you’ll want to give her “Televenge” by Pamela King Cable. This is a novel about a woman who was a victim of the times in which she was raised, and what she does when her dreams are snatched away from her.
Is there somebody on your list who loves to play with words? Then “The Painted Word” by Phil Cousineau (artwork by Gregg Chadwick) is a book to wrap up. This brick of a book is filled with fun words and their origins, as well as trivia about the things we say. Give it to your favorite student, wordsmith, or writer. Also look for “Around the Writer’s Block” by Rosanne Bane. It’s a book on solving that annoying brain block using scientific methods.
More books for the reader and writer: “The Indie Author Revolution: An Insider’s Guide to Self-Publishing” by Dara M. Beevas will help your budding author do self-publishing right. Also look for “Read This!” with an introduction by Ann Patchett. It’s a book filled with favorites from America’s favorite independent booksellers.
At this holiest time of year, has your giftee decided that it’s time to redefine the reason for the season? Then wrap up “Faith Beyond Belief: Stories of Good People Who Left Their Church Behind” by Margaret Placentra Johnston. Through the stories of people who’ve decided to leave organized religion in favor of a spirituality all their own, this book will show your giftee that they’re not alone in their journey. Another book that’s good for anyone on a spiritual journey is “Soul of Light: Works of Illumination” by Joma Sipe. This beautiful book is filled with gorgeous pictures of geometrical light formations, and accompanying poems perfect for meditation. Buy it to give. Borrow it back.
Your giftee trusts you to find the best possible present to wrap, so why not find “Liars and Outliers” by Bruce Schneier? This is a book about trust, society, and how they work in tandem. It’s the perfect gift for a deep thinker or for the science geek you love best. Another book to try is “The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking” by Matthew Hutson, which is a book about irrational thinking and how it’s actually good for us. Wrap it up for that grown-up who still looks for gifts from Santa ….
No doubt there’s a fashionista on your gift list, and I’m betting there’s nothing she’d love more than “The Truth About Style” by Stacy London. This is a book that will help her get the most out of accessories, ideas, color, and shoes. It will make her look her best, which is what she wants, not just for the holidays, but for the other 11 months of the year, too. Another book to give to your fashion diva is “Lilly: Palm Beach, Tropical Exuberance, and the Birth of a Fashion Legend” by Kathryn Livingston. That’s a memoir of the iconic Lilly Pulitzer; her clothes, her flair, and her life.
The new mom on your gift list will love reading “Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers” by Kate Hopper. This is a book by mothers that teaches mothers to write, journal, create, and blog the stories from their lives. Also look for “Words Can Change Your Brain” by Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman. That’s a book about how to use those words to start conversation and build trust with the person you’re talking to.
The big question this year is, “What do we get Grandpa?” and the answer is “Rural Wit & Wisdom” by Jerry Apps. This is a re-release of an older book filled with old-time sayings, wise words, and humor, and it’s going to make any old farmer or farmer-at-heart smile. Another book he’ll like is “A Farm in Wisconsin” by Richard Quinney. Yes, the title is accurate, but anyone who grew up on a farm or in a small town – particularly anyone who loves looking at old pictures of that farm – will cherish this book.
For the artist-at-heart, or for your giftee who claims to be unable to draw, look for “The Artist’s Eye,” “Drawing Techniques,” and “Figure Drawing” by Peter Jenny. These three tiny little, palm-sized books are packed with instructions to turn anyone with a pencil into an almost-Rembrandt. The books are sold separately, but you’ll really want to give all three. Artists will also love getting “Building Taliesin: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home of Love and Loss” by Ron McCrea. It’s part biography, part history, and it’s jam-packed with vintage pictures. How cool is that?
Even though the election is over, your gift might want more, more, more, so why not wrap up “Conspiracies and Secret Societies: The Complete Dossier, Second Edition” by Brad Steiger and Sherry Steiger. Yes, this book is updated, which means it’s filled with all new covert operations and spy-stuff. And for your giftee, that’s good stuff. Another book your conspiracy fan might like is “Degree Mills” by Allen Ezell and Jon Bear, PhD. It’s a book about an industry that sells fake diplomas, and how you can educate yourself against fraudulent “experts” with faux degrees.
You also might want to look for “Bullspotting: Finding Facts in the Age of Misinformation” by Loren Collins. It’s a book about learning to winnow through the fact to spot a lie and vice versa. Good stuff, in this age of internet “forwards,” don’t you think?
Wrapping up “The Art of Living Joyfully” by Allen Klein is a dual gift. On one hand, your giftee will be happy you thought of her. On the other hand, this little book will give her joy for the whole year – and knowing that you gave it to her is a gift for you, isn’t it? Another book to look for is “White Lilies in Autumn” by Dustin W. Bradshaw. It’s a book about getting through adversity, surviving bad times, and finding beauty and love in the everyday.
For the newlyweds on your list, show them how to stay newlyweds forever with “Marriage Rules” by Harriet Lerner, PhD. This book helps couples (married or not) to learn to stay together, both physically and emotionally. Wrap it up with a spa-day-for-two for an excellent gift. Or – if the opposite is true and you want to offer helpful comfort - try this book: “Finding Love Again” by Terri L. Orbach, PhD. There are six steps your giftee’s new relationship. This book has ‘em.
I also liked “What Makes Love Last?” by Dr. John Gottman, PhD and Nan Silver. It’s a very instructional book on building trust and keeping love.
If the question was “What do you want for Christmas?” and the answer was “Nothing,” then you could still be forgiven for wrapping up “You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap) by Tammy Strobel. It’s the story of how one woman pared her life down to the basics – and remained happy doing it. You also might want to wrap up “One Big Thing” by Phil Cooke. It’s a book that will help your favorite giftee to learn what (s)he was born to do. Wrap ‘em both up with a journal for an excellent gift.
Everybody has a giftee with wanderlust in her soul, and “Breakfast at the Exit Café” by Wayne Grady and Merilyn Simonds is a great gift for her. This is the story of two Canadian citizens who decide to explore America. Wrap it up with a map and a journal for a great armchair-traveler’s gift. Another travel book to look for is “Detroit: A Biography” by Scott Martelle. It’s a book that looks long and hard at one of America’s most interesting cities and the businesses and people who call it home.
Is there a “green” giftee on your list this year? Then wrap up “Eating Dirt” by Charlotte Gill. Canadian Gill spent recent time planting trees in the mountains, and this book is about her adventures, what she saw, and what she thinks about deforestation, tree history, our relationships with trees, and nature in general. Another book that would be greatly appreciated is “Empire of the Beetle” by Andrew Nikiforuk. It’s a book about how a teensy little bug has beaten up gigantic forests and what can be done about it.
Is there a dancer on your gift list – or maybe someone who loves “DWTS”? Then you should find “Dancers Among Us” by Jordan Matter and wrap it up. This book is filled with photos of dancers in all kinds of situations and places; professionals, amateurs, weddings, and street dancers. It’s also filled with people who are dancing for sheer joy. What’s not to love about that?
If there’s a baseball fan on your list, then you definitely need to wrap up “If You Were Only White: The Life of Leroy “Satchel” Paige” by Donald Spivey. This bio on one of sport’s greatest athletes starts at his birth in 1906 and moves through his talents on and off the field. For your ball fan, it’s a home run.
The duck hunter on your list will quack over “The Wild Duck Chase” by Martin J. Smith. It’s a book about the Federal Duck Stamp Contest, the hunters who love / hate it, and the competitors who vie to get their artwork on a stamp. If you don’t give this book as a gift, in fact, someone you love will cry fowl. (Sorry. I couldn’t resist).
With all the craziness of getting ready for the holidays, is there someone on your list who needs a good laugh? Then you’ll want to find “I Ate All Your Cookies (and Other Things You Wish You Could Tell Your Kids)” by Quinn Conroy. This is a hilarious book for Moms and Dads who need a few laughs, but beware: this is a book you’ll want to keep away from the kids! Another book to find is “Sh*tty Mom: The Parenting Guide for The Rest of Us” by Laurie Kilmartin, Karen Moline, Alicia Ybarbo & Mary Ann Zoellner. Can your giftee handle the truth with a sense of humor? Then this book is perfect.
For your son, nephew, grandson, or anybody who loves Dad (but rolls their eyes at him a lot), you’ll get a lot of smiles when you give “Are You Turning Into Your Dad?” by Joseph Piercy. This funny book is about all those things your giftee promised himself he’d never do… and he’s doing them anyhow. This is a perfect book, by the way, for a new father or Dad of a Teenager.
Photography lovers and jokers alike will love “Oddee Presents Photobombed!” by Beverly L. Jenkins. You know who they are: the strangers in the background of a photograph. Do they ruin a picture, or enhance it? Only your picture-taker knows for sure…
So you have a giftee who’s a lawyer – or a legal beagle wanna-be? Then wrap up “Weird U.S. Laws” by Winter Prosapio and Lisa Wojna. This book is all about those odd little laws we love to break or don’t even know we’re breaking. It’s one of those easy-to-browse books that makes it easy to give, too.
Is there a woman on your gift list who constantly wonders what’s going on inside her man’s head? Then you must wrap up “WTF are men Thinking?” by Christopher Brya and Miguel Almaraz. This is a funny book with serious information inside, and it may offer her some insight. At the very least, it’ll offer her some laughs...
HEALTH AND MEDICINE
Do you have a giftee who’s perpetually on a diet? Then wrap up “The Science of Skinny” by Dee McCaffrey, CDC. This book helps dieters explain how their body’s chemistry works, how food is turned into nutrition and calories, and how your giftee can start working with her metabolism instead of against it. Wrap it up with a spa gift certificate for a gift that’ll make her smile.
Losing weight and getting fit is serious work, but your giftee needs to lighten up sometime, right? So why not wrap up “Drop Dead Healthy” by A.J. Jacobs. This is the story of Jacobs’ attempt to do everything humanly possible to attain total health. It’s funny, it’s informative, and it’s an excellent gift.
If there’s a parent of a special-needs child on your gift list, then “Father’s Day” by Buzz Bissinger is an excellent gift to give. It’s the story of Bissinger’s younger twin son, who is a savant gifted with extraordinary skills but is challenged otherwise. Tip: wrap it with a box of tissue. It’s that kind of book.
If there’s someone on your list who is a caregiver, then “The Trauma Tool Kit” by Susan Pease Banitt, LCSW is a great way to show your concern. This book is designed to help the PTSD sufferer with hints and tips on surviving and healing. Because of its sensitive nature, it’s also a great book for nurses and supporters. Another sensitive book to find – and beware of your audience – is “After the Suicide” by Kari Dyregrov, Einar Plyhn and Gudrun Dieserud. Again, this isn’t a book for everyone… but if someone you love needs it, it’s good to have around.
Here’s another one of those books to give with caution: “Almost Addicted” by J. Wesley Boyd, MD, PhD, with Eric Metcalf, MPH. It’s a book about drugs and the people who use them often and probably don’t think about it much; or, in other words, the “almost addicted.” It’s a book for families and users, and what’s inside could change a few lives. You might also want to look for “Memoirs of an Addicted Brain” by neuroscientist Marc Lewis, PhD. It’s the story of the author’s drug use, his addiction, and how he kicked his habits to become a scientist.
For the doctor, nurse, or clinician on your gift list, “Making Sense of Near-Death Experiences” by Mahendra Perera, Karuppiah Jagadheesan, and Anthony Peake is a fascinating look at a phenomena they may know all too well. Hint: your favorite religious leader may want a copy of this book, too….
If there’s someone on your list who’s a parent, or someone who works with families, then “Far From the Tree” by Andrew Solomon will be a nice surprise - and “surprise” is a good word, at almost 1000 pages of good stuff to learn. This is a book about special-needs parenting and the connections that each kind of family has. It’s a book for mothers, fathers, grandparents, and anyone who wants to know more about love.
If your giftee loves to know what makes us tick, then “Life Before Birth” by Arthur Janov, PhD. is a gift that’ll make him smile. It’s a book about physiology, psychology, genetics, psychotherapy, treating disease, understanding fetal experiences during pregnancy, and, wow, for a fan of science, it’s a great book to give.
Science lovers who’d love to read something a little different will love “Super Charged” by Jim Rendon. It’s the story of how the work of entrepreneurs, growers and tech wizards made marijuana what it is today, and how their previous work may put them out of business someday.
So you have a person on your gift list who’s fascinated with people and how they tick? Then you can’t go wrong with “The Emotional Life of Your Brain” by Richard J. Davidson, PhD, with Sharon Begley. It’s a book that takes readers inside their own noggins, and it’s so packed with information that it might change their lives!
For the middle-child (or for someone who’s planning a on having a middle child someday), you can’t go wrong with “The Secret Power of Middle Children” by Catherine Salmon, PhD and Katrin Schumann. Filled with scientific research, it proves that middle-born is a great place to be.
If you’ve got someone on your list with a very different taste in reading, then “That’s Disgusting: Unraveling the Mysteries of Repulsion” by Rachel Herz needs to be beneath the tree. This book (I love the cover!) is about things that are gross and icky, and why we find them so. Wrap it up. To do anything less would stink.
Does your gift list include someone who is a weather junkie? Then you can’t go wrong by wrapping up “The Million Death Quake: The Science of Predicting Earth’s Deadliest Natural Disaster” by Roger Musson. Written by a seismologist, this book will shake your giftee up good.
Trivia buffs who are also historians will want to read “The Handy History Answer Book, Third Edition” by David L. Hudson, Jr. This book is perfect for browsing, easy to pick up and put down, and it’s a great argument-settler. Really… what more could your giftee want?
What will history say about the Presidential election just finished? What does your giftee say? Wrap up “Where They Stand” by Robert W. Merry and see if they agree. This book is all about how the presidents measured up in the eyes of their constituents and the people who studied their administrations from afar, time-wise. If you’ve got a politico on your list, this book will get his (or her) vote! Also consider “That’s Not What They Meant!” by Michael Austin. It’s a good, hard look at the Founding Fathers and their words, in context. It’s a guaranteed argument-settler, too.
Sometimes, it’s the little things that make big changes, and if the historian on your list is keen on that, then wrap up “Secret Heroes” by Paul Martin. This is a book about ordinary people whom history has overlooked. Fix that silly problem by giving someone this book.
The Anglophile on your list will reward you with a smile as big as England when you wrap up “Shooting Victoria” by Paul Thomas Murphy. It’s a huge book about the assassination attempts made on Queen Victoria, and how each of them changed British history. Another book for your lover of All Things British History is “Foundation” by Peter Ackroyd. It’s a nice, thick, enjoy-it-all-winter kind of book that starts with the earliest history of England and takes readers to the Tudor years. Wrap ‘em both up. Your giftee will love that.
If your movie-going giftee is a big Lincoln fan, then wrap up “Lincoln: A President for the Ages,” edited by Karl Weber. This book is a great companion to the film, and includes essays that look closely at Lincoln, personally and politically. Wrap it up with two tickets and make it a Holiday date!
Part history, part art, “Leonardo and The Last Supper” by Ross King is a look at the making of a masterpiece and the man who did it. This book tells the story of DaVinci, his professional disappointments, his triumphs, and the world that surrounded him. Pretty fascinating stuff. Won’t your giftee love that?
In case your missed it, the 100th anniversary of the Titanic sinking was this past April. If there’s someone on your list who knew that and can’t get enough of the story, then you’ll want to wrap up “The Rough Guide to The Titanic” by Greg Ward. This book includes pictures, sidebars, and lots of information that might be new to the Titanic buff you know.
COOKING AND HOME
The epicurean on your list will love unwrapping “Consider the Fork” by Bee Wilson. This fascinating book takes a look at how we cook, what we eat, and how we cook and eat it.
Your giftee loves green. Not the color, the movement, so you know you need to wrap up “Lemons and Lavender: The Eco Guide to Better Homekeeping” by Billee Sharp. This little paperback is packed with hints, tips, and ideas on keeping a better home, fixing what’s broken, crafts, cleaning, cooking, and gardening without hurting the environment. Wrap it up with some lavender seeds for a gift that’ll last.
Have you got a locavore on your list? Or a vegan who needs a few good ideas? Then wrap up “Vegan Eats World” by Terry Hope Romero. It’s a book filled with recipes from around the world, each one of them totally meat-free. Hint: ask for samples of the experiments, for sure.
For the person on your list who always has a well-stocked bar, you can’t go wrong with “The Book of Gin” by Richard Barnett. This is a “spirited” history of the beverage, where it came from, why it’s synonymous with bathtubs, and what you can make with it. Wrap it up with a nice set of glasses… and cheers!
So your giftee loves to read true crime books? Then you can’t go wrong with “Jane Doe No More” by M. William Phelps with Donna M. Palomba. In 1993, Palomba was attacked and raped in her own home, and this is her story of what happened and how she fought back against the stigma. Yes, it’s true. Yes, it’s scary, but triumphant. Pair it with “Holding My Hand Through Hell” by Susan Murphy Milano, which is a book about the author’s mother, domestic violence, and the resilient spirit of survivors of violence and abuse.
Can a murderer be redeemed? If your giftee gobbles up True Crime books, and wonders that very thing, then wrap up “Life After Murder: Five Men in Search of Redemption” by Nancy Mullane. Over four years’ time, the author visited San Quentin prison to interview killers, to see if it was possible for a criminal to become a good citizen, and for a man to turn his life around.
Okay, so you can make jokes about this title: “The Crime Buff’s Guide to Outlaw Washington, DC” by Ron Franscell. It’s easy to laugh, but this book is filled with true crime from our nation’s capital, and it’s no joke. From assassinations to political no-no’s, this book also includes addresses and GPS info so you can actually visit the scenes of the crimes. How cool is that?
PETS AND ANIMALS
Dogs and cats aren’t the only critters your giftee loves, so why not wrap up “Falling for Eli” by Nancy Shulins. This is a book about one woman, a dream she gave up and the unlikely four-legged healer that helped her get beyond it. This is a wonderful book for any animal lover, but horsey-types will love it best.
No doubt there’s someone on your gift list who’s crazy about their canine, so you really can’t go wrong with “Rabid: Are You Crazy About Your Dog or Just Crazy?” by Pamela Redmond Satran. We love our dogs – but do we love them too much? This book takes a humorous look at that question, and it pokes fun at our dog-daffy culture. Wrap it up with “Uggie: My Story” by Uggie, star of stage and screen. Of all the Hollywood bios you could give, this one will make your giftee sit and stay!
The dog lover on your list will also love to have “Do Dogs Dream?” by Stanley Coren. Coren is a dog expert, and this book explains all the things your dog wishes he could tell you and some things you just need to understand. Wrap it up with “Things Your Dog Doesn’t Want You to Know” by Hy Conrad and Jeff Johnson. It’s part trivia, part informative, part humor, and all pretty dang cute.
Dog lovers who are also soldiers know all about how helpful dogs are on the battlefield. So why not wrap up “Soldier Dogs” by Maria Goodavage this holiday? This book is all about canine heroes: what it takes to be a soldier on four legs, where Fido fights, and how these dogs make a difference in war. Another book that will move you is “The Friends We Keep” by Laura Hobgood-Oster. It’s a look at animals – pets and otherwise – from a Christian point-of-view. It’s unique… and it’s perfect for animal lovers.
If your giftee has been working and working to teach his dog tricks, then wrap up “Wallace” by Jim Gorant. This is a book about a former shelter-dog (a pit bull) who came from a bad situation and, with the help of his humans, made it into a good situation. He’s a star now, and your dog-loving giftee will love this book. Also look for “Giant George: Life with the World’s Biggest Dog” by Dave Nasser with Lynne Barrett-Lee. It’s the story of a (are you ready for this?) seven-foot-long, 245-pound little “puppy.” Oy!
No doubt, you’ve got a cat person on your list. If that cat person is also a fan of feathered things, too, then “Kitty Cornered” by Bob Tarte is a must-wrap. Tarte is famous for writing about his duck and other critters in his flock, and this book tackles six cats who also own Tarte. Wrap it up with something catnippy for a purrrfectly great gift.
So you say your giftee plans on adopting a dog from a rescue group this year? Then you need to find “Comet’s Tale” by Steven D. Wolf. It’s the story of a man who rescues a dog. Or a dog who rescues a man. Or both.
AFRICAN AMERICAN INTEREST
If you’ve got a musician on your gift list, then wrap up “When I Left Home” by Buddy Guy. This memoir is about a man who played the blues but doesn’t live them and it’ll be an R&B fan’s favorite gift.
No doubt there’s someone on your list who would be so excited to unwrap “Desert Rose: The Life and Legacy of Coretta Scott King” by Edythe Scott Bagley. This is a deep look at the early life of an American icon, written by her sister. It’s fascinating, and it’s loaded with pictures, too. Another book to look for is “If Your Back’s Not Bent” by SCLC Director of Education Dorothy F. Cotton. It’s a book about the Citizenship Education Program and the affects it had on the Civil Rights Movement.
Lovers of urban fiction will want to unwrap “Animal” by K’Wan this holiday. It’s a thrilling book featuring gangstas, murder, and a former con who just wants to settle down… until the bullets get too close….
There are all kinds of gifts for all kinds of people to buy, and if your giftee is one of those hard-to-buy-for people with interesting interests, then look for “Real Wolfmen: True Encounters in Modern America” by Linda Godfrey. You never know what might be lurking behind the Christmas tree. You never know what’s outside your window…. And speaking of which, what’s outside may be inside “Unexplained!” by Jerome Clark, now in its third edition. Odd phenomena, weird creatures, scary sightings, what else could your giftee want?
If your giftee sees those things that go “bump” in the night, then you can’t go wrong with “Real Ghosts, Restless Spirits, and Haunted Places: Second Edition” by Brad Steiger. This big, heavy, thick book is filled with haunting stories and pictures that will raise the hair on your giftee’s neck. And speaking of spooks, they’re everywhere – including Minnesota, as is evident in “Mysterious Minnesota” by Adrian Lee. This book contains ghost stories from thirteen haunted sites, and is a definite scream-generator.
Another bewitching book to wrap is “Mrs. B’s Guide to Household Witchery” by Kris Bradley. Believe it or not, this book contains recipes as well as spells and other ways your giftee can make magic.
MEMOIRS and BIOGRAPHIES
There are jobs, and then there are jobs, and if someone on your list loves to read about unique jobs, then look for “In the Land of Long Fingernails: A Gravedigger’s Memoir” by Charles Wilkins. Canadian Wilkins gives readers the dirt (ahem) on what life’s like for someone who deals with death. You have to agree (and so will your giftee) – that’s fascinating stuff.
If there’s a hunter on your list and you’re tired of giving the same old stuff for the holiday, look for “Meat Eater” by Steven Rinella. This is a book about a life-long hunter and his adventures, but the author also writes about nature, history, and how we need to remember where our food comes from.
Your green giftee will appreciate knowing where the movement started, particularly when you give “Beyond Earth Day: Fulfilling the Promise” by Gaylord Nelson, with Susan Campbell and Paul Wozniak. Though Nelson, the father of Earth Day, died in 2005, this book lays out his ideas for a better planet and includes a foreword by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and a preface by Nelson’s daughter, Tia.
Giftees who are exploring a new-found faith will love reading “Does This Church Make Me Look Fat?” by Rhoda Janzen. It’s the continuing story of a former Mennonite who finds a home with Pentecostals… but is it really where her heart lives?
Armchair adventurers will love reading “The Last Viking: The Life of Roald Amundsen” by Stephen R. Bown. It’s the story of polar explorer Amundsen who, within two short decades, explored four geographical passages that had been a sort of last frontier. Wrap it up with a warm polar-fleecy blanket.
If there’s a political animal on your gift list, then “Golden” by Jeff Coen and John Chase is a certain winner. It’s a book about Rod Blagojevich and the scandal that got him arrested some four years ago. It’s hard-hitting journalism at its best, and political watchers will love it.
For the giftee who likes a little humor in his memoir-reading, “Kasher in the Rye” by Moshe Kasher might be a good gift. This is the story of a nice Jewish boy who turned not-so-nice after his mother moved him from New York to California. It’s a fish-out-of-water kind of book that’s funny, scary, and sobering.
The new homeowner on your list will love “Sugarhouse” by Matthew Batt. It’s the story of a well-meaning family that purchases what was supposed to be their dream home. Nope, it’s a nightmare, for a lot of reasons. Wrap it up with a gift certificate to a Home Improvement store because, as you know, no house is ever completely done…
The pugilistic person on your gift list will love unwrapping “The Good Son: The Life of Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini” by Mark Kriegel. It’s a bio on the lightweight champ, his fights, his life, his wins, and his troubles in the ring.
Do you have someone on your list who loves reading medical memoirs? Okay, good, then you’ll want to wrap up “Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety” by Daniel Smith. With bravery and honesty, Smith tells what it’s like to live with dread and – believe it or not – a good sense of humor about it all.
What might it be like to live with a tragedy that you wear every day? If your giftee would love the story of such a journey, then wrap up “Out of the Ashes” by Charlie Morecraft. Oil worker Morecraft was injured in a horrific accident, but his long recovery only strengthened his resolve to turn tragedy into triumph. This book is his story, as well as a how-to for your giftee’s safety as well as that of his (or her!) family.
If your giftee needs a good dose of humor after a long and difficult year of fighting cancer, then “In the Pink” by Susan McBride might be the perfect antidote. It’s the story of how McBride found a younger man, had a baby, and survived breast cancer, all before turning over the calendar on a “significant” year. Seriously, just the cover is going to make your giftee smile.
Somewhere on your gift list is the name of a rock and roller. That’s the person who should get “Sinner’s Creed” by Scott Stapp, former member of the band Creed. This is Stapp’s story of his life as a musician, his addictions, his self-destructive ways, and the turn-around he attributes to God and to his wife. It’s powerful, candid, and, well, it rocks!
TOO COOL TO MISS
There’s not a science geek in the world who wouldn’t want to unwrap “Skulls: An Exploration of Alan Dudley’s Curious Collection” by Simon Winchester. Yes, indeed, this is a book filled with photos of a private collection of noggins from every kind of breathing critter. Have you ever wondered how a grizzly bear differs from a leaf-nosed bat, for instance? Surely you have someone on your list has… and this book will be a big winner for that person, for sure.
Another unusual book that I can’t get enough of is “Talking Pictures” by Ransom Riggs. Riggs says, in his introduction, that he’s a collector of ephemera, specifically, old pictures of total strangers… but they have to have something written on the back. This book is just part of his collection. It’s funny, it’s heartbreaking, it’s going to make your giftee gasp, and it’s going to make you both eager for the next volume.
The businessperson on your gift list wants to get the most out of his or her ad bucks, so you can’t go wrong when you wrap up “Lead with a Story” by Paul Smith. This book offers excellent ideas for making a good business narrative that can be used in ads and to generate buzz. Speaking of leadership, look for “Leading So People Will Follow” by Erika Anderson. It’s a book about inspiring loyalty in your organization, and it features examples from many major corporations.
So you say that someone on your list can’t live without his smartphone. If that’s the case, then wrap up “The Big Disconnect” by Giles Slade. It’s about how technology and social media are changing the way we relate (or don’t). Wrap it up with a firm appointment for lunch – no cell phones allowed.
Your giftee might not talk about it, but building his (or her!) business is the main thing on his (her?) mind. So why not show you know by wrapping up “Triple Crown Leadership” by Bob Vanourek and Gregg Vanourek. Written by two successful businessmen, this book is filled with advice from leaders from sixty-one organizations around the world. Wrap it up with a package of sticky notes, because your favorite businessperson will need them while reading this book.
Business people know that there’s never too much education to be had, so wrapping up “How Excellent Companies Avoid Dumb Things” by Neil Smith is a good bet for your business-giftee. It’s filled with informative chapters for reflection, quick-to-read sidebars for time-pressed readers, and some surprising advice. Another book to wrap is “A Slice of the Pie: how to Build a Big Little Business” by Nick Sarillo. It’s a book on creating the right culture to grow your business and make it successful, by a guy who makes pizza for a living.
For the businessperson who loves business biographies, you can’t go wrong with “The Einstein of Money” by Joe Carlen. This is the story of financial wizard Benjamin Graham, the man who changed the way we invest money. It’s drawn from notes, interviews, and Graham’s own memoirs, and your finance fiend will love it.
By now, your business giftee knows that much of success comes from between her ears. So here are two books you know she’ll love: first, “SuperReading for Success” by Ron Cole, a book about improving her reading speed and memory, and how it can further her career. And then there’s “Wired for Success” by Wendy Jago, which is a book on how brainpower can be boosted for brain-training optimization.
Of course, the businessperson on your gift list wants to get ahead. So give him (or her!) a leg-up by wrapping up “Second That Emotion” by Jeremy D. Holden. This book shows how trends and fads are shaped, how movements that seem sudden are far from that, and how your business giftee can take advantage of them all.
It’s a shark’s world out there, but the new businessperson on your list can survive – especially when you’ve wrapped up “OtherWise: The Wisdom You Need to Succeed in a Diverse and Divisive World” by Dick Martin. Wrap it up with “The Winning Factor” by Peter Jensen for someone who will surely be a leader someday.
Who’s not interested in Hollywood scandals? You know your giftee is, so you know you’ll get a big smile when you wrap up “Full Service” by Scotty Bowers. This book is filled with OMG moments, featuring yesterday’s stars and the man who knew them… all too well…. Another biography you may want to wrap up is “Inside the Vortex” by Justin Hernandez. It’s a series of personal essays on life, dating, living, and surviving from the creator of the blog Naked in New York City.
Your novel lover loves a good mystery, too, so he’ll love “Third You Die” by Scott Sherman. This whodunit, the third in the series, features former call boy, part-time PI Kevin Conner in yet another sleuthfest, this time a gay porn sensation who took a short swim in a long river. Also look for “The Mile” by Robert Lennon. It’s the story of a man who tires of the way his life is going and decides to step up his running game. Will there also be love to chase?
The Mom who just “learned” the truth about her child will love reading “Mom Knows: Reflections on Love, Gay Pride, and Taking Action” by Catherine Tuerk. This book is part biography, part essay, and – for LGBT parents – all reassuring, with a dose of charm. And speaking of Mom, “Riding Fury Home” by Chana Wilson is the story of Wilson’s childhood with a mother who endured attempted “cures” for her lesbianism back in the 1950s. It’s frightening, sobering, and surprisingly joyful in places.
For the giftee who’s a fan of art and nude paintings, then “Gorgeous Gallery: The Best in Gay Erotic Art” by David Leddick is a must-wrap. Filled with beautiful artwork from centuries ago to the present, in several different mediums including photography, this book from Bruno Gmunder might be just what you need for that special someone on your list, but beware… it’s absolutely not for anybody under 18.
FOR WISCONSIN and MINNESOTA PUBLICATIONS
For sure, without a doubt, there’s a Packer Backer on your gift list. For sure, that person has enough green-and-gold T-shirts and sweatshirts. So instead of more, why not give “Green Bay Packers: Trials, Triumphs, and Tradition” by William Povletich? This thick, heavy book is filled with pictures and history, and it puts new emphasis on “GO PACK GO!”
If your giftee loves an Adult Malted Beverage now and then, and (s)he loves a little history with it, then wrap up “Bottoms Up: A Toast to Wisconsin’s Historic Bars & Breweries” by Jim Draeger & Mark Speltz, photographs by Mark Fay. This nice hardcover book includes lots of pictures from all around the state, as well as addresses of the places where your beer fan can sample the local fare. Another book to look for – and this one is for the kids – is “The Flavor of Wisconsin” by Terese Allen and Bobbie Malone. Filled with recipes, stories, and a ton of pictures, this would make a great gift for any parent who wants to share some kitchen time with a budding young chef.
For your outdoor enthusiast – the one who loves exploring Wisconsin – “The Bark River Chronicles” by Milton J. Bates is a can’t-miss. This book is a little bit history, a little bit travelog, and will let your giftee float down the river, even if there’s snow on the ground. Another good history book – and this isn’t just for Wisconsin or Minnesota residents – is “Life, Death, Archaeology at Fort Blue Mounds” by Robert A. Birmingham. It’s the story of the Black Hawk War, and it includes lots of nice photographs as well as a deeply detailed look at the War.
If your giftee grew up in the Midwest in the 1950s and 60s, then “Thirty Rooms to Hide In” by Luke Longstreet Sullivan would make a great gift. Sullivan and his brothers were the sons of one of Mayo Clinic’s top orthopedic surgeons, but there was trouble at home. Fortunately, the boys lived with their parents in a mansion, which gives this book its title. It’s funny, it’s scary, and your giftee will love it.
Your birding enthusiast (who’s also a gardener) will love “Birdscaping in the Midwest” by Mariette Nowak. It’s a book about planting plants that attract a wide variety of birds to your giftee’s garden, and it’s filled with color pictures and enough ideas to fill acres. Bonus: it will remind anyone who’s snowbound that spring ain’t far off.
So you say you’ve got someone on your list who loves novels? Then wrap up “Tamarack River Ghost,” a new novel by Jerry Apps. It’s the story of big agri-business versus a love of the land, which speaks to everyone who lives in this area – and that includes your giftee. How could you go wrong?
The outdoorsman, cook, sportswoman, crafter, and kid on your list will love “The Minnesota Book of Skills” by Chris Niskanen. With this book in-hand, your giftee will learn to mush dogs, plant a native garden, cut firewood, dabble in taxidermy, and get a good nights’ sleep. And with information like that, despite its title, you know this is a book for anybody, anywhere…
KIDS BOOKS (PICTURE BOOKS)
Moms of toddlers will surely appreciate it if you wrap up “Big Boys Go Potty” or “Big Girls Go Potty,” both written and illustrated by Marianne Richmond. These easy-to-understand books will are helpful, gender appropriate, and kid friendly. Bonus: giving them to a toddler doubles as a gift to Mom and Dad, too.
While there’s little boredom during the holiday season, it quickly settles in right afterward. So maybe “Delia’s Dull Day” by Andy Myer is a good book to wrap up and save until after the holiday. It’s the story of a little girl whose life is boring, boring, boring, but if she’d just look harder, she’d see how it’s really not so much.
If your little giftee loves dangerous animals (think: sharks and dinos), then “A Strange Place to Call Home” by Marilyn Singer and Ed Young. This book is filled with rhymes about the animals that live in deadly, dangerous places. What kid isn’t going to love a book like that? Wrap it up with “Track That Scat!” by Lisa Morlock, illustrated by Carrie Ann Bradshaw. It’s a book about animal poop, another subject that kids this age can’t get enough of.
A slight fright awaits the child who unwraps “Oh, No!” by Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann. It’s the story of a frog who falls into a deep hole, his friends who try to help him out, and a tiger who’s very, very hungry… Another book to look for – one with a bit of excitement but a happy ending – is “Toads on Toast” by Linda Bailey and Colin Jack. In this case, though, it’s toads that are in trouble, and a hungry fox.
Does your little giftee have monsters beneath the bed? Then you need to wrap up “Emily Brown and The Thing” by Cressida Cowell and Neal Layton. It’s a really cute book that will show kids that the “thing” under the bed needs love, too.
Every kid loves adventure, and “Captain No Beard: An Imaginary Tale of a Pirate’s Life” by Carole P. Roman will give your little giftee arrrrgh great dose of that. It’s the tale of the good Captain and his fearless crew, along with a little boy and his stuffed animals on the high seas. Look for it, Matey!
Your young tennis fan will love “The Adventures of Henry the Sports Bug: Book 1” by Melissa Wyler. It’s the story of a bog bug that magically turns into a sports hero who teaches young children about the game of their choice. This adventure is about tennis, but stay tuned – Henry also plays other sports, too.
KIDS BOOKS (MIDDLE GRADERS)
If there’s a sleepover in your child’s future, “The Girls’ Ghost Hunting Guide” by Stacey Graham is a must-have. This book is filled with terror, stories from real ghost hunters, and more, and it’s sure to scare up a good sleepover. You might want to look for “Recipe for Trouble” by Sheryl Berk and Carrie Berk. That’s the latest in the Cupcake Club books, which include recipes and a good idea for your middle-schooler and her friends. Baked goods, anyone?
Though “Faith: Five Religions and What They Share” by Dr. Richard Steckel and Michele Steckel looks like a picture book, it’s not. In this book, your young giftee will learn about Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism and what they have in common. This is the perfect book for kids who wonder why there’s strife around the world. It’ll make you wonder, too…
The young dog lover on your list will be so happy to unwrap “The Last Dogs: The Vanishing” by Christopher Holt. It’s a book about a journey for family, and the danger three dogs must endure to find their people. Hint: it’s the first in a series, which will give you plenty of ideas for the next gift-giving event. Also look for “One Dog and His Boy” by Eva Ibbotson, the story of a young boy who rescues a dog. Or is that the other way around?
So your horse-loving giftee has raced through every Black Beauty book and then some, and you’re at the end of your gift-giving rope? You’re in luck: look for “The Island Horse” by Susan Hughes and wrap it up quick. It’s the story about a girl who lives on the coast of Nova Scotia. When her father moves the family to a new home near Sable Island, the girl finds a surprise that she might not get to keep….
There are a lot of animal books out this year that will appeal to kids who love critters, and that includes “Lower the Trap: The Lobster Chronicles 1” by Jessica Scott Kerrin. It’s the story of a huge lobster, a boy’s pride – and then his horror, when he realizes that what’s good for him is not necessarily good for the lobster.
If reading a Christmas tale as a family is a tradition of yours, then look for “Nutcracker” by E.T.A. Hoffman, pictures by the late Maurice Sendak. This classic book basically follows the ballet of the same name, and it’s rich with pictures your family will love. I also think they’ll enjoy “Smudge and the Book of Mistakes: A Christmas Story” by Gloria Whelan, illustrated by Stephen Costanza. It’s the story of a young monk who’s given the task of illustrating the Christmas Story. Unfortunately, his nickname is “Smudge” and he lives up to that name…
Though it’s not a book, “Deck of Snakes” from the Boy Scouts of America will get your young herpetologist reading, for sure. Part game, part reference, this is a deck of cards on which are printed dozens of snakes and lots of info about each. It’ssssss a ssssspecial gift for sssssomeone who lovessssss sssssnakes. Wrap it up with “Get Out!” by Judy Molland, which is a book about ways to explore and enjoy nature and get green, and it’s perfect for kids and their parents.
If your giftee loves a bit of drama, then “Margaret and the Moth Tree” by Brit Trogen and Kari Trogen is a book to give. It’s the story of a plain orphan who lives in an orphanage that’s being terrorized by a beautiful Matron. Beauty, in this case, does not triumph…
Comic book fans will devour “The Rainbow Orchid,” Volume One in The Adventures of Julius Chancer series by Garen Ewing. This graphic novel, meant for readers ages 8 and up, is the story of Julius Chancer, young assistant to historical researcher Sir Alfred Catesby-Grey. This book mixes adventure, legend, history, and fun and comic book lovers won’t be able to get enough of it.
For the budding comedian, “Ricky Vargas: Born to Be Funny” by Alan Katz, illustrated by Stacy Curtis is a great book to give. This is a quick-to-read three-story book with not a lot of words but a lot of laughs.
So your young giftee loves to travel, eh? Then here are two books with a theme of postcards: “Mira’s Diary: Lost in Paris” by Marissa Moss is about a young girl’s search for her missing mother after Mom sends a postcard from another century. Also, “Postcards from Pismo” by Michael Scotto is the story of a boy who strikes up a friendship with an American soldier in Afghanistan. Wrap them both up with – what else? – some postcards!
Kids who love nothing more than to spend time at the beach will love receiving “The Big Green Book of the Big Blue Sea” by Helaine Becker, illustrated by Willow Dawson. Though the cover of this book might remind you of a Dr. Seuss book, what’s inside the covers is serious stuff. Young scientists and any kid who loves the ocean will want to have this book. Hint: if you’re planning a winter-break vacation to the beach, you can’t go wrong with this. Another book your young animal-watching scientist will enjoy is “Flocks, Herds, Litters & Schools” by Jim McMullan. It’s a book about how animals live and survive, and what words we use for them when they do.
If you’ve got a historian on your gift list, then “A Civil War Scrapbook: I Was There, Too!” will absolutely thrill him (or her!). Filled with true stories, activities, information, and lots and lots of pictures, this skinny book will have a whopping amount of interest for budding Civil War buffs. Hint: if Dad or Grandpa is a Civil War buff, too, get two copies.
KIDS BOOKS (YA AND TEENS)
No doubt, your high-schooler closely followed the elections this year. After all, he’ll be voting himself pretty soon… so give him a little bit of behind-the-scenes information with “District Comics: An Unconventional History of Washington, DC,” edited by Matt Dembicki. This heavy paperback is filled with the work of many various artists and cartoonists and it takes a look at some of the secret, hidden goings-on in our nation’s Capital.
If your teen has decided that it’s time for a total change, then “Stealing Parker” by Miranda Kenneally is a great gift. In this book, Parker Shelton has the perfect life – but she wants a new one, so she shakes things up. Was it a mistake?
Bullying has been in the news lately, and if your teen has taken a stand, then wrap up “Send” by Patty Blount. It’s the story of one boy who stands up to a bully, but though he doesn’t regret it, it could be a mistake. That’s because he has a secret that could be revealed by his bravery.
Surely your gift list includes a math wizard… or maybe someone who wishes she was? Then you know you’ve got a winner under wraps when you give “Girls Get Curves” by Danica McKellar. In this latest installment by actor and Harvard graduate McKellar, girls will learn all the angles of geometry, as well as a few other things they’ll need to know to succeed. Hint: wrap it up with a really good calculator.
And finally, if your giftee loves novels of mythology and magic, then you need to wrap up “The Vicious Deep” by Zoraida Cordova. It’s the story of a young man who falls into the ocean and goes missing for several days. When he’s finally found, he’s changed – and he can’t possibly begin to tell anyone why…
So there you are. A bunch of ideas for everybody whose name on your gift list makes you groan. What will you buy? Now you know.
Keep in mind that availability isn’t guaranteed, titles may have changed, and some books might have to be ordered. But if these ideas aren’t good enough, then ask your friendly bookseller for hints, tips, and favorites. They love to talk books – it’s why they get paid the big bucks, you know.
So go. Get outta here. Go shopping.
And Season’s Readings!