A Book a Week

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…

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.

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.

For the parent on your list – particularly for the parent of a picky toddler – wrap up “You Have to F*cking Eat” by Adam Mansbach, illustrated by Owen Brozman. It’s the follow-up to the sleep book from a few years ago, the one that made parents hysterical with laughter. Be aware – I can’t stress this enough – that this book has profanity, so it’s NOT for kids but it IS for folks with a great sense of humor.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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…

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.

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.

If there’s a First Responder on your gift list, you can’t go wrong when you give “Bulletproof Spirit” by Captain Dan Willis.

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.

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?

Season’s Readings!