The gift list was easy this year.
For once, you knew what to get everybody. Every. Single. Giftee. Easy-peasy … except, oops, that one person who vexes you each year.
What to get? Well, books are always good gifts, and they’re super-easy to wrap, too. How about one of these great selections for that one person:
The person who loves a little mid-century drama will enjoy “The Jealous Kind” by James Lee Burke. It’s a bit of a Romeo-and-Juliet novel set in the 1950s in Texas , at a time when the line between the “haves” and the “have-nots” was drawn in the sand with danger, and money talked a lot. Definitely wrap it up with another great drama-mystery, “ Manitou Canyon ” by William Kent Krueger. Cork O’Connor is back and sleuthing. Fans, rejoice.
I’m guessing there’s a mystery fan on your list. Imagine his face when he unwraps “Seduced: A Hannah Smith Novel” by Randy Wayne White. In this novel, fishing guide and part time PI Hannah Smith goes in search of heirloom orange tree seeds — or maybe even rootstock — to save an industry. But what she wants…? So do others, whose intentions aren’t as pure.
Historical novel lovers will devour “News of the World” by Paulette Jiles, a book set in Texas in the years following the Civil War. When a down-and-out former Captain of the military is hired to deliver an orphan girl to her distant relatives, he partakes an adventure — not just through rough terrain, but through rocky childcaring, too. Wrap it up with “The German Girl” by Armando Lucas Correa, a multigenerational novel about home, based on a true story.
For the true crime buff, “Trials of the Century” by Mark J. Phillips & Aryn Z. Phillips is a great go-to gift. What made Sam Sheppard’s case, the Lindbergh baby, and Charles Manson leap onto the headlines? This book looks at those famous cases, and more…Wrap it up with “I Will Find You” by Joanna Connors, a story of a reporter who finally reveals a crime she had to hide, and the man who committed it.
Is there someone on your gift list who loves nothing more than to be scared? The one who longs for a different holiday? If so, “The Monster Book” by Nick Redfern is what you want to wrap up. Using quick chapters and scattered photos, this book informs, entertains and (good for your giftee) scares! Definitely wrap it up with “Real Visitors, Voices from Beyond, and Parallel Dimensions” by Brad Steiger and Sherry Hansen Steiger. Ooooooh, then shiver!
The new mother on your gift list — or, for that matter, the experienced Mom — will love opening “Navigating Live: Things I Wish My Mother Had Told Me” by Margaux Bergen. It’s a meditation on things to know, and things to share. Wrap it up with “Corsets & Codpieces” by Karen Bowman, a book about the things we wore (and wish Mom had warned us about!) throughout history.
For the know-it-all on your list, “Head in the Cloud” by William Poundstone might make a great gift. Why, Poundstone asks, do we know celebrities but not mathematics? When we can look things up online, why should we know things in our heads? You can’t go wrong with this gift if you also wrap up “A Field Guide to Lies” by Daniel J. Levitin, a book about critical thinking and believing (or not) everything you see online.
The historian on your list will be amazed at what he reads in “Blood at the Root” by Patrick Phillips. It’s the story of racial cleansing, starting with the Cherokees in the early 1800s and spanning history up through modern times. Sobering stuff, this book, and a great gift. Wrap it up with “The Black Prince of Florence ” by Catherine Fletcher. It’s the story of Alessandro de; Medici, the Holy Roman Emperor, and palace intrigue.
Also look for “The Right Stuff Comes in Black, Too” by Dr. Thomas Mensah, scientist, inventor, and pioneer.
For any daughter with a father, “Bandit: A Daughter’s Memoir” by Molly Brodak will be a great gift this year. It’s the story of Brodak’s relationship with her dad, a man she thought she knew. But did she? Find out here… then wrap it up with “A Woman on the Edge of Time” by Jeremy Gavron, a story of a man who gets at the root of his mother’s suicide.
Could your giftee go live in the wilderness? Pete Fromm did, and in “The Names of the Stars,” he writes about his wilderness jobs (yes, plural) and how they transformed him over two-and-a-half decades. You can’t go wrong, then, when you pair it with “Gold Rush in the Klondike” by Josephine Knowles, the true story of a woman in Alaska and the search for riches at the very end of the 19th century.
For the mother-daughter duo on your list, “The Bridge Ladies” by Betsy Lerner may be perfect. It’s the story of two generations of women, mom and daughter, who don’t quite understand one another. One flees, then comes home, helping out and gaining love and understanding through an unlikely tribe of women. Or, here’s one for fathers of sons: “Love That Boy” by Ron Fournier is a book about a dad and the love he has for his boy, who has Asperger’s.
The lover of Christmas will also love “Tree of Treasures: A Life in Ornaments” by Bonnie Mackay. It’s a memoir written through the trimmings of a tree; where the author got them, why she loves them, and how they make her remember.
For the person who dreams of leading a company or business someday, “Why Make Eagles Swim?” by Bill Munn with Libby Cortez may be the best gift of all. It’s about making the most of what’s already great about you, and soaring. Wrap it up with “Why Are There Snowblowers in Miami ?” by Steven D. Goldstein. It’s a book about how businesses can go off-path, and how they can avoid dysfunction.
The person who’s thinking of starting a business in the New Year will have to learn to think differently. “Elite Minds” by Dr. Stan Beecham can only help, with its charts, takeaways, ideas, and short, easy-to-read chapters. Add “All About Them” by Bruce Turkel, a book about customer-focus, to make it the most helpful gift your new businessperson will ever get.
For the Cold War buff on your list, or for the person who loves a bit of a thriller, “The Tunnels” by Greg Mitchell is a great book to wrap. It’s a narrative of escapes from behind the Berlin Wall, and the surprising way the U.S. reacted. Pair it up with “Forty Autumns” by Nina Willner, a story of the author’s family, separated by a great big German wall.
American History fans will want to read “All the Real Indians Died Off and 20 Other Myths about Native Americans” by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker. It’s a widespread (but not by any means final word) look at things we may believe about Native Americans, but that are wrong.
The Downton Abbey fan on your gift list will love “Mind Your Manors” by Lucy Lethbridge, a book about keeping house (or would that be mansion?) in Great Britain in times gone by.
For the dreamers on the court, “The Boys of Dunbar ” by Alejandro Danois might be just the right gift. It’s the tale of a group of Baltimore high school basketball players, their coach, and how their undefeated season led to a three-point future.
Your sports fan won’t mind being torn from the TV this holiday, if you’ve wrapped up “A History of American Sports in 100 Objects” by Cait Murphy. This book pays homage to all kinds of sports and lots of players who’ve made the games better. Who could resist?
Children's picture books
Kids who love history (or parents who love to share it) will love unwrapping “Miss Colfax’s Light” by Aimée Bissonette, illustrated by Eileen Ryan Ewen. Based on real happenings, it’s the story of a lightkeeper and how her lonely work saved lives.
For the little one whose get-up-and-go never got up in the first place, “Schnitzel: A Cautionary Tale for Lazy Louts” by Stephanie Shaw, illustrated by Kevin M. Barry will be a great gift. It’s a tale of a wizard’s apprentice who takes a very ill-fated shortcut. Then, wrap it up with “Monster & Son” by David Larochelle, illustrated by Joey Chou for a monstrously great holiday.
Because you know you’ll be the one to read a book aloud, why not find some enjoyment from it, too? You’ll love the lush illustrations inside “Norbert’s Big Dream” by Lori Degman, illustrated by Marco Bucci. It’s the story of a pig with an idea, but can he fulfill it? Pair it up with “Memoirs of a Parrot” by Devin Scillian, illustrated by Tim Bowers, then laugh and laugh…
For the aspiring singer on your gift list, “Tig Ripley: Rock ‘n’ Roll Rebel” by Ginger Rue will be just right. It’s a novel about a girl who dreams of putting together an all-girl band, and the difficulties she encounters when things don’t quite hit the right note.
The adventuresome child on your list will love “The Wild World of Buck Bray” by Judy Young. It’s the first book in a future series about eleven-year-old Buck, a TV show star, who travels to Alaska but finds himself in the middle of a bit of intrigue.
Young adult books
Ripped from the headlines, “Wrecked: A Novel” by Maria Padian is the story of a campus rape and how it affects not only the victim and her alleged rapist, but an entire college community.
The housekeeping: Some releases may be unavailable. Titles change. Release dates change. Stuff happens. Check with your wonderful librarian or fabulous bookstore worker for more information or even more excellent ideas for that one person.
Terri Schlichenmeyer is the Book Worm with her book review column appearing in newspapers across the country.