Doesn’t it seem like your gift list grows each year?
One new member of the family by birth, three more by marriage. Two “adopted” kids who call you Mom or Dad just because. Friends who have become dear. A new Secret Santa program at the office. It adds up, and it subtracts from your holiday budget.
But here’s a great gift idea: books! They are cost-effective. They’re like taking a trip without going anywhere. They give and give again, and they’re share-able. What more could you want to give?
So, without further ado, here are some great books you can give to the people on your gift list this holiday season.
Perfect for historical fiction fans, “The House of Special Purpose” by John Boyne takes a trip back to czarist Russia with an elderly man who must lay secrets to rest before he dies. Give this book as a gift — and borrow it back!
Does your giftee like the kind of novel that’ll keep her guessing? Then you’ll want to wrap up “The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards” by Kristopher Jansma. At first, it seems like this is a book about rivalry between two writers, but there’s so much more to this story. Unwrapping it isn’t going to be the only surprise your giftee gets — particularly when you pair “Unchangeable Spots” with “This is How You Die: Stories of the Inscrutable, Infallible, Inescapable Machine of Death,” an anthology with the premise that every character knows the end is near … they know how, but they don’t know the circumstances or when.
So how well do you know that new family member? In “The Darkling” by R. B. Chesterton, a family takes in a teenager who’s been orphaned, and they hire a tutor to get the girl up to speed. But there’s something about the girl that just doesn’t seem right — something that will scare the daylights out of your recipient. Wrap it up with M.J. Rose’s “Seduction,” which is a novel of suspense and chills.
For the person who likes a little terror with his tinsel, “The Demonologist” by Andrew Pyper will give him that, abundantly. This is the story of a professor who accepts a dark offer that’s too good to be true. Problem is, it’s not too good to be horrifying. Package this one up with “Domino Falls,” by Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due, for a perfectly frightful night-ful.
If your giftee loves a novel that sprang from real events, then wrap up “My Mother’s Secret” by J.L. Witterick, a fictionalized tale of two women who sheltered a Jewish family in their Sokal, Germany home during World War II. It’s a bit of a thriller, made even more so, because it’s based on a true story.
Fans of suspense won’t be able to resist opening the cover of “Storm Front” by John Sanford. In this thriller, an ancient stone has been stolen, which sparks an international manhunt that settles in Minnesota. Yes, it seems like a movie plot, but for fans of this genre, this book is far from mere drama. Team it up with “Dead Insider” by Victoria Houston, for the most thrilling gift you can possibly give.
If a danger-filled novel is what that certain someone on your list would love, look for “The Return” by Michael Gruber, a book about a man who isn’t who he seems. Yes, he looks like an easy-going guy, but revenge is really what’s on his mind … and he’s not going to stop until he finds it. Pair it with “Island of the White Rose” by R. Ira Harris, a historical novel of revolution in Cuba and intrigue, love, and danger.
For the reader who loves a good murder novel, “Love Gone Mad” by Mark Rubinstein will make ‘em happy. When a famous heart surgeon and a nurse meet at work, it seems like romance is in the air. But no, it’s danger they sense, and a fight for their very lives. Wrap it up with “The Russian Endgame” by Allan Topol, an international thriller with political undertones, and watch your giftee end up with a smile.
The person on your list who loves a good romance will fall for “Love Rehab: A Novel in Twelve Steps” by Jo Piazza. It’s a story filled with all those things you DON’T want to do when lookin’ for love. And for something different, give them a second helping of literature with “Dying for Dinner Rolls” by Lois Lavrisa, the first in the Chubby Chicks Club mystery series. Food and murder … what more could you want?
General non-fiction for grown-ups
If there’s a poker player on your gift list this year, then you’ve got to give them “Straight Flush” by Ben Mezrich. This is the story of a bunch of college buddies who start an online poker site and rake in the cash … but the U.S. Department of Justice wants them to fold. Will your giftee love this book? Yeah, it’s in the cards!
Surely, there’s someone on your gift list who fears growing older — or someone who’s embraced it wholeheartedly. For them, wrap up “I’ll Seize the Day Tomorrow” by Jonathan Goldstein, who recounts his last year before he turns the “dreaded 4-0.” Give it to the 30-something on your list, as well as to the something-something who only barely remembers his 40s. Wrap it with “It’s Never Too Late” by Dallas Clayton, a “kid’s book for adults” that will make the recipient think about life, love, and where both are taking her.
Why did you pick the gift you picked? Was it just because you knew your friend well, or was there another reason? In “You Are Now Less Dumb” by David McRaney, your giftee will learn a little bit more about what makes you tick, why they didn’t get lots of money as gifts, and why that’s a very good thing.
For the biography lover on your list, “More Scenes from the Rural Life” by Verlyn Klinkenborg is an excellent gift. This book takes a look at the beauty, the grace, the elegance, and the troubles of living on a farm. It’s a nice companion to the first volume by this author, published 10 years ago.
The amateur paleontologist on your list will love unwrapping “My Beloved Brontosaurus” by Brian Switek. What do we know about dinos — and what do we only think we know? The author’s passion for the giant critters comes shining through here as he writes about new theories, old myths, and big truths. Yes, this is a book about dinosaurs, but it’s for big kids only. Wrap it up with “Last Ape Standing” by Chip Walter, a book about our distant ancestors, who they were, and how we out-survived them; or “The Girl With No Name” by Marina Chapman, which is a true story about a girl who claims to have been raised by monkeys.
For the movie buff, “Sleepless in Hollywood” by Lynda Obst is a great gift. In this book, your giftee will read about the movie industry, how it’s changed during the last 10 years or so, and why it costs so much money to make fewer movies. Wrap it up with a pair of tickets and “The Horror Show Guide: The Ultimate Frightfest of Movies” by Mike Mayo. If it’s a scary movie, it’s likely to be listed in this book, making it a reference guide that adrenaline junkies simply should NOT be without.
If your giftee loves old reruns and can’t get enough of the girl who “turns the world on with her smile,” then you need to wrap up “Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted” by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong. This is a book about the people who created the classic 1970s sitcom, “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Wrap it up with “The Joker” by Andrew Hudgins, which is part biography, and part look at jokes and things that make us laugh.
Sometimes, it’s just fun to read about normal, everyday people. “American Story” by Bob Dotson takes a look at your neighbors, your friends, your distant relatives, and comes up with some sweetly amazing stories. For another kind of American story, give “Humboldt: Life on America’s Marijuana Frontier” by Emily Brady, a book about a Northern California community and legalization of their cash crop. For the right person, it’ll be the perfect gift.
The trivia buff on your list will love “Life Skills: How to Do Almost Anything” by the folks at the Chicago Tribune. He’ll learn how to trim hair and unclog a sink, how to pack for a long road trip, and how to bowl. Present it with “How to Win at Everything” by Daniel Kibblesmith and Sam Weiner, which will further those valuable skills; and “Stats & Curiosities” from the Harvard Business Review folks, for even more knowledge.
For that person on your list with the unique sense of humor, “That’s Not Funny, That’s Sick” by Ellin Stein may make your gift-giving easier. This book takes a look at The National Lampoon magazine and its founders, writers, humor, and more. Think: John Belushi. Think: Second City Comedy. Think: perfect gift. And you can’t go wrong if you bundle it with “Inside MAD” by the “Usual Gang of Idiots” at MAD magazine. This is a look at many beloved, classic spreads from the publication, and it features essays from 17 celebs who loved the mag as much as you did.
The giftee with a soft spot for ancient Egypt will love reading “The Shadow King” by Jo Marchant. It’s a book about King Tut’s mummy: where it’s been, what we’ve learned about it, and why we’re still so fascinated with it.
Students of culture and politics will smile when they unwrap “Clash! 8 Cultural Conflicts That Make Us Who We Are” by Dr. Hazel Rose Markus and Dr. Alana Conner. This book looks at eight common them vs. us themes: east vs. west, men vs. women, and more, and how it affects us as individuals and the world at large.
Does your giftee appear cool as a cucumber opening gifts, but inside, he’s excited as a pig in tall corn? Then wrap up “Similes Dictionary” by Elyse Sommer, and you know you’ll receive a smile as big as the world. The wordsmith on your list will find lots of food for thought in “Hard Times Require Furious Dancing” by Alice Walker, a book of verse to inspire, sooth, and provoke thoughts; or “A Slap in the Face” by William B. Irvine, which is a book about insults, subtle and not-so-subtle, where they come from, and why they’re so darn barbed.
The newlywed, newly single, or new college student on your list will appreciate “Don’t Screw It Up!” by Laura Lee. This is a book that offers household tips that will make life run more smoothly, whether it’s finances, home maintenance, cooking, or another of life’s sticky situations. And then — just because screw-ups are unavoidable — show your giftee that it’s okay by pairing “Don’t Screw it Up” with “Always Look on the Bright Side: Celebrating Each Day to the Fullest” by Allen Klein. The title says it all.
For the person who has it all, how about a very unusual book? “Roy G. Biv” by Jude Stewart is a book about color, myths about it, history of reds and oranges, purples and blues, what the colors mean in culture, and what they do to us. Be sure to wrap it up with lots of colorful tissue paper and a copy of “The Handy Art History Answer Book” by Madelynn Dickerson for a truly vibrant gift.
For the person who loves historical photographs, look for “The Big Picture” by Josh Sapau. This book is filled with panoramic photographs from the days when film only came in black-and-white and people dressed up — to look good for posterity — on Picture Day. Even the size and shape of “The Big Picture” says “fun!” Make “Picture” perfect by adding “The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend” by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin.
It seems like everybody’s got somebody on their list who’s single, doesn’t it? And the person on your list will love reading “Modern Dating: A Field Guide” by Chiara Atik. This humorous book isn’t just funny — it also offers real advice and tips on loving one’s singlehood, dating etiquette, make-up-or-break-up tips, and more. It might not put a ring on someone’s finger, but it’ll make her smile. Be sure to pair it with “Data, A Love Story” by Amy Webb, which is the tale of Webb’s experience with finding love online.
For the giftee who claims to have had the oddest childhood, you can challenge that assertion by giving “Free Spirit: Growing Up on the Road and Off the Grid” by Joshua Safran. It’s the story of the author’s childhood on the open road with his mother, who seemed to be forever searching. And if your special someone really cherishes his individualism, wrap it up with “The Last Wilderness: Alaska’s Rugged Coast” by Michael McBride, the story of a married couple, the business they built, and their life in America’s northernmost state.
For the wanderer on your gift list, journey to the bookstore for a copy of “The Turk Who Loved Apples” by Matt Gross. This is a book of unexpected travels and surprising journeys around the world in unusual places. Further satisfy your giftee’s wanderlust with “Hidden Cities” by Moses Gates, in which the author travels to unusual sites within larger metropolises.
The environmentalist on your list will cheer when she unwraps “Invisible Nature: Healing the Destructive Divide between People and the Environment” by Kenneth Worthy. (As long as you used recycled paper, of course.) This is a heavy-duty book and not for the casual reader, but anyone who lives the green life will think it’s the best gift ever. Pair it up with “Future Primal” by Louis G. Herman. It’s a book on our past, our future, and how understanding one can affect the other.
I’m betting there’s a sports fan on your gift list this year, and I’m betting he (or she!) will love reading “Breaking the Line” by Samuel G. Freedman. This is a book about the players, the rivalry, and the coaches, during one season at a black college, and the way it changed collegiate football forever. And if that sport fan happens to be a fisherman, “Troutsmith: An Angler’s Tales and Travels” by Kevin Searock will be the catch of the day. It’s a book about being outdoors, drowning flies, and life.
Now out in paperback, “Life Upon These Shores” by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. will make a fantastic gift for the historian on your list. This book is a deep look at nearly 500 years of African-American history and it includes lots of photos. Buy it, top it with a bow, and borrow it back. Or add “Old Man River: The Mississippi River in North American History” by Paul Schneider to the gift and borrow them both.
The baseball fan on your list is going to go wild when they unwrap “Sports Illustrated Baseball’s Greatest.” This huge, heavy, picture-and-stat-filled book goes way back in baseball history to find the best pitchers, the best batters, the best managers, and even the best games. If you’ve got someone on your gift list who can’t miss a game, you’ve got a homerun with this book.
For the person on your list who loves a touch of the gruesome, wrap up “Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures & Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs” by Paul Koudounaris. This picture-packed book takes a look at the bones and sarcophagi of Rome, the people who decorated the deceased in jewels and finery, and the history of the people that still lie in underground burials there. It’s fascinating stuff — for the right person, so give wisely.
If you think it’s hard to buy for Grandma or Grandpa, here’s some help: look for “Al Capp: A life to the Contrary” by Michael Schumacher and Denis Kitchen. It’s a biography about the creator of the cartoon character Li’l Abner. Bonus: your giftee will get a chance to revisit some of the comics she grew up with. Wrap it in the Sunday comics page along with “Sister Mother Husband Dog” by Delia Ephron, a book about family, love, and loss.
If there’s someone on your gift list who’s reaching for higher education this year, “PhD to PhD: How Education Saved My Life,” by Dr. Elaine Richardson, might help you ace the gift-giving test. This inspirational story is about overcoming a bad situation and pulling one’s self up from the worst in order to become the best. For sure, it’s a fighter’s story, and it’s perfect if your giftee needs a self-esteem boost.
No doubt, your giftee will want to put a little color on the table with “Sprinkles! Recipes and Ideas for Rainbowlicious Desserts” by Jackie Alpers. The recipes in here — I need to warn you — are fun and addicting. I mean, who wouldn’t want to eat homemade pop tarts, homemade donuts, cupcakes, waffles, and more? Pass the dessert, please, but don’t pass up this book.
If you’ve got a true crime lover on your gift list this year, then “Stories from Jonestown” by Leigh Fondakowski is a must. This book delves deep into what happened 35 years ago in Guyana and why it happened, and it includes interviews with survivors. This is chilling stuff, and not for the faint of heart.
If you’ve got a techy who loves true crime on your list, then wrap up “The Internet Police” by Nate Anderson. This is a sobering book about the people who serve and protect us online. Tie it up in crime scene tape with “Bombed in His Bed: The Confessions of Jewish Gangster Myer Rush” as told to his nephew, Bruce Farrell Rosen. Its narrative circles the globe and contains all the chutzpah in the world.
For anyone who cares for someone who’s elderly, for anyone who’s online all the time, and for anyone who thinks nothing is too good to be true, “Faces of Fraud” by Martin T. Biegelman is a book you need to give early. This book tells readers how to fend off fraud, how to spot something that just doesn’t seem right, and how the problem is more widespread than they might think.
Surely, there’s a big “CSI” fan on your gift list, perhaps someone who loves to solve the unsolvable? “The Sixteenth Rail” by Adam J. Schrager is the solution to the riddle of what to get them. This is a book that may solve the case of the kidnapping and murder of the Lindbergh baby some 80 years ago. Science, it seems, is now pointing at the guilty party … or not. Give it, and see if your armchair detective agrees.
Music and fashion
Perfect for photography fans and fashionistas alike, “Kylie Fashion,” by Kylie Minogue and William Baker, is a huge coffee-table-sized book filled with photographs featuring the ensembles and career of the award-winning singer. Yes, there’s a little bit of text here (and a forward by designer Jean Paul Gaultier), but mostly, it’s pictures, and more pictures.
If there’s a future rock star on your gift list, you’ll get applause when you deliver “The Worst Gig,” by various musicians and band members, as told to Jon Niccum. In this book, rock ’n’ roll has never looked more soul-crushing — or more fun.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender
If there’s someone on your gift list who has the opposite of gaydar and a good sense of humor, then wrap up “Straight People: A Spotter’s Guide to the Fascinating World of Heterosexuals” by Jeffrey Self. This book will help anyone identify the (not-so) elusive heterosexual in its natural habitat, including its habits, breeding information, and a comprehensive overview of the various species and sub-species.
For the political animal on your list, Christine Quinn’s “With Patience and Fortitude” may be just the right biography to wrap up. It’s the story of Quinn’s life, her rise to power in New York City, her battle with breast cancer, and the secret she knew would eventually come out.
For novel lovers, choose “The Revelations of Jude Connor” by Robin Reardon, the story of a young man who desperately wants to reconcile his church life with the life he senses he needs to live. Can his belief stand beside temptation?
Is there someone on your gift list who’s very close to a sibling? How far would he (or she!) go to help them? In “My Brother’s Name” by Laura Krughoff, a young woman is convinced by her mentally-ill sibling to assume his identity, but the ruse can’t work for long.
For your introspective friend or family member, “Out Your Ego!” by Staci Backauskas may help put a few things into perspective. This book will help tame an out-of-control ego to get to the root of who your giftee really is. Wrap it up with “The Scar Letters” by Richard Alther, a novel about a man who must confront the demons of his past in order to move into the strong future he knows he deserves.
For the person on your list who loves the holidays — all holidays — wrap up “Gifts Not Yet Given and Other Tales of the Holidays” by Kergan Edwards-Stout. It’s a collection of short stories about the holidays we hold dear and the ways we keep them.
For animal lovers
If your gift recipient has lost a beloved family member this year, then show your support by wrapping up “Furry Friends Forevermore: A Heavenly Reunion with Your Pet” by Gary Kurz. Will we meet our furkids again someday? Will they be waiting for us? The author answers those questions in a very comforting way. Be sure to put “Furry Friends” in a gift bag with a big box of tissues. It’s that kind of book.
Pigeons. Cockroaches. Sea gulls. Why do we hate them, while we love doves, spiders, and pelicans? In “Trash Animals,” edited by Kelsi Nagy and Phillip David Johnson II, your giftee will read a series of essays on why these creatures — which are often considered disgusting — are really quite intriguing.
Or add “One Big Happy Family” by Lisa Rogak. It’s a heart-melting book about animals of different species that care for other animals, and it might be the soothing balm that’s needed.
For the new doggy parent on your gift list, you can’t go wrong with “The Complete Book of Home Remedies for Your Dog” by Deborah Mitchell. This book starts off with the most basic of health care (nutrition) and will help your favorite pet lover take care of the new family member. Pair it with “Throw the Damn Ball” by R.D. Rose, Harry Prichett, and Rob Battles. It’s a book of puppy poetry, as told by several short-haired Longfellows.
No doubt you’ve got a bird lover on your list, and that amateur ornithologist will chirp with thanks for “1,001 Secrets Every Birder Should Know” by Sharon “Birdchick” Stiteler. The author shares fun-to-know facts about all kinds of feathered friends: their physical quirks, migratory habits, diet — plus, tips and hints on being a successful birdwatcher. Give it to show you’re no birdbrain.
So your giftee thinks that there may be ghosts in New Orleans. In the French Quarter, right? But if you wrap up “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” by Cherè Dastugue Coen, you’ll see that NOLA doesn’t have the corner on scary. This book includes tales of ghosts, ghouls, and yes, (bonus!) pictures.
The true crime fan on your list will love peeling back the paper from “The Crime Buff’s Guide to Outlaw Pennsylvania” by Ron Franscell and Karen B. Valentine. This arresting book takes a look at murder, scandal, robbery, and other mayhem from around the state. Would your giftee want to visit the crime scenes? He can — addresses are included!
If you’re shopping for someone who likes to shake her head and say, “only in California,” then you’ll want to put a bow on “California Fruits, Flakes & Nuts” by David Kulczyk. It’s filled with lots of true, short tales of the crazy, wild things that happened in the Golden State, and it’s plenty of fun.
Health and special needs
One in 88 children is diagnosed in the U.S. with autism, and our knowledge about the autism spectrum has grown over the years. Author Temple Grandin has contributed to that research and in “The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum,” she writes about autism science, what the future holds, and she offers tips for parents on raising a child who’s just been diagnosed.
If the only thing on your giftee’s want list is a holiday of “peace and quiet,” wrap up “The Power of Silence: The Riches that Lie Within” by Graham Turner. This is an introspective book on solitude and quiet in religion, music, medicine, and in some unlikely places. Pair it with “Quiet Influence: The Introvert’s Guide to Making a Difference” by Dr. Jennifer B. Kahnweiler for a gift that loudly says, “I understand!”
If you know someone who’s kicked the bottle, then look for “Her Best-Kept Secret” by Gabrielle Glaser. It takes a hard (though gentle) look at women and drinking — not that at-the-bar-all-night kind, but the glass-of-wine-after-work kind. It’s a hidden epidemic, it’s possible to overcome, and the book will show your giftee that she’s not alone.
I also liked “Quiet Kids” by Christine Fonseca. It’s a book about introverted children, and how to help them cope with being that way in a world that definitely is not. Wrap it up for parents, and add “A Private History of Happiness” by George Myerson, which is a book of joy from around the globe and through time. Your giftee will quietly smile.
Any medical pro on your gift list will appreciate “In the Kingdom of the Sick” by Laurie Edwards. This is a look at long-term, chronic illnesses — how they’re proliferating, how we deal with them, and what’s being done about them. Doctors, nurses, and PAs will love this book. So will anyone who’s facing a long-term disease. To counteract the sadness that may go with it, combine it with “Grace, Under Pressure” by Sophie Walker, an uplifting story of a girl with Asperger’s syndrome and her mother, who decided to do something about it.
For the giftee who loves a good memoir, look for “Mind Without a Home: A Memoir of Schizophrenia” by Kristina Morgan. It’s a book by a woman who isn’t afraid to pull out the stops when writing about her life. It’s honest, it’s painful, and (spoiler alert!) it’s got an awesome ending.
Is there someone on your gift list who’s in chronic pain? Show her that you’d love to help by wrapping up “Holistic Pain Relief” by Dr. Heather Tick. This book is filled with worth-a-try methods of managing pain and may even help get rid of it altogether. Best of all, in addition to helping with physical pain, it can help with the emotional side of pain, too.
For the giftee who’s grappling with life’s questions, “The Gray Zone” by Deborah Day Laxson may be of some comfort. This tiny little book hopes to make clearer that “fuzzy place” where life is questionable. Yes, it may help.
If there’s a hardwired someone on your gift list this year — someone who wants to cut the too-available cord — then wrap up “Boundaries in an Overconnected World” by Anne Katherine. This is a book for someone who longs for communication the way it used to be, someone who wants to know how to get away from it now and then. Wrap it up with “Confidence: Overcoming Low Self-Esteem, Insecurity, and Self-Doubt” by Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, an empowering book that will help that businessperson on your list to gain the strength to say “no” and take her life back.
It’s always nice to have a plan for the new year, which means your business-minded giftee would appreciate unwrapping “Financial Fresh Start” by Shari Olefson. This book offers a step-by-step process for adapting to the “New Economy,” and some of the tips can be used the minute your giftee rips open the wrap.
For the person on your list who needs to know how to kick-start creativity in the workplace, “The Myths of Creativity” by David Burkus will be a welcome gift. It’s a book about how innovation starts, where the best ideas come from, and how to put that knowledge to work. Pair it up with “Unlimited Sales Success” by Brian Tracy and Michael Tracy for a well-rounded (and very helpful) holiday gift.
For the first-time parent or for an “only” adult kid who loves a little controversy, look for “One and Only” by Lauren Sandler. In this book, Sandler discusses being an only child and the advantages of stopping at a family of three. It’s thought- and conversation-provoking and the right giftee will love it.
If there’s a mother-to-be on your gift list, then “One Good Egg” by Suzy Becker is a good choice. This is the (true) story of a much-wanted baby, a mom with a dream, fertility treatments, and the long, sometimes hard journey to being a parent. Wrap it up with “Baby Steps” by Elisabeth Rohm (with Eve Adamson), which is also a book by a mom who chose in-vitro fertilization to have her family, and how she got support from her own mother to help it happen.
And if there’s a special someone who is thinking about having children, then “Motherhood, Rescheduled” by Sarah Elizabeth Richards would make a good gift. It’s about egg freezing, spurning a biological clock or an illness, and having a family when the time is right. It’s written from the point-of-view of women who’ve done it, which is just a bonus.
Don’t forget the new dad when you’re holiday shopping. Wrap up “Someone Could Get Hurt: A Memoir of Twenty-First-Century Parenthood” by Drew Magary, a humorous take on raising a family, being a parent, making mistakes and knowing that your child loves you anyhow. Use a necktie to bundle it with another book that looks at parenting the way your parents never did: “Twenty Something: Why Do Young Adults Seem Stuck,” by Robin Marantz Henig and her daughter, Samantha Henig. It looks at what it’s like to be young and not-so-carefree in the 21st century.
It’s always good to know about the person who’s giving you advice. Is he qualified, for instance? Your giftee will know, after she’s read “Learning to Listen: A Life Caring for Children” by Dr. T. Berry Brazelton. This is the story of Brazelton’s life, his findings, his work, and his outlook on today’s families. Wrap it up with “Parenting Without Borders: Surprising Lessons Parents Around the World Can Teach Us” by Christine Gross-Loh, for a few very different looks at how we raise our kids.
Children’s picture books
For the sensitive kid who worries about whales, “Hot Air” by Sandrine Dumas Roy, Emmanuelle Houssais, and Sarah Ardizzone offers information on global warming and environmental concerns, and it leaves off with a big question for little minds. Give it along with “Jasper’s Story” by Jill Robinson and Marc Bekoff, illustrated by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen. It’s about the endangered moon bear, and efforts to save the gorgeous creatures.
If there’s a young child on your list who’s fascinated with all things disgusting, then you’ll have a hit when you give “Rotten Pumpkin: A Rotten Tale in 15 Voices” by David M. Schwartz, photos by Dwight Kuhn. Yes, this is a book about icky stuff, and it’s got icky pictures. But the real surprise is that this book offers an education on germs, mold, and gardening.
If a Christmas book is mandatory for gift-giving, you’re in luck this year. “Christmas Eve with Mrs. Claus,” by M.P. Hueston and illustrated by Teri Weidner, is ideal for smaller children. It’s a seek-and-find book with flaps and windows that are perfect for the kid who loves to be a part of the story. Use garland to pull it together with “Santa Claus: All About Me,” compiled by J & J Atkinson. It’s a lovely gift book filled with lots of information about the holiday through history, and while it may sometimes seem too advanced for little kids, it’s a book they’ll grow with. You might also look for “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry and Sonja Danowski. It’s a classic with new, gorgeous artwork.
If discovering a new Christmas book is a tradition in your home, then wrap up “Deck the Walls! A Wacky Christmas Carol” by Erin Dealy, illustrated by Nick Ward. Your child will want to sing along with the silliest of songs, and maybe even make up her own funny verses.
If you’re a grandparent looking for the perfect book for your favorite little one, look for “Grandma Loves You!” by Helen Foster James, illustrated by Petra Brown. This absolutely adorable book explains, in rhyme, all the ways you love your grandchild and, of course, the child who gave you grandkids. Bonus: there’s room in the back for a personalized letter from you, which will make this a wonderful keepsake.
For the littlest water lover, “How Roland Rolls,” by Jim Carrey (yes, THAT Jim Carrey) and illustrated by Rob Nason, will be a delight. This is the story of an ocean wave who’s afraid of what will happen if he rolls the wrong way. It’s a cute rhyme made cuter by the pictures, and your tiny giftee will love it.
For middle grade readers
Your young dorsal-fin fan will want to bite into “Shark Wars: The Last Emprex” by EJ Altbacker. It’s the story of an undersea battle that could result in a change of power between two warring groups that want control of the oceans. And here’s a hint for future holiday gift-giving: this book is part of a series.
What tween doesn’t like money? For sure, your giftee does, and she’ll also like reading “The Short Seller” by Elissa Brent Weissman. It’s the story of a young girl who discovers that she’s good at investing. Almost too good, in fact, and that’s a dangerous temptation. Wrap it up with “Jack Strong Takes a Stand,” by Tommy Greenwald and illustrated by Melissa Mendes. It’s a novel about a boy who’s mad as heck about his overscheduled life, and he’s not going to take it any more.
For the child who already loves the classics, you can’t go wrong with “Tales from the Brothers Grimm,” selected and illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger; or “Aesop’s Fables” from Ayano Imai. These books are filled with stories your giftee will love, and new artwork that definitely adds to each story.
If your young giftee enjoys a challenge, then you can’t go wrong with “Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library” by Chris Grabenstein. It’s the tale of a boy who loves a good game, so when a famous game-maker designs the town’s new library, the boy jumps at a chance to be part of its grand opening lock-in night. Wrap it up with the latest board game, and a promise to play (and lose graciously).
For the next star in the family, wrap up “Lulu in La La Land” by Elisabeth Wolf. It’s the story of a girl whose entire family is glamorous, but she’s not. Lulu likes what she likes — and what she’d like is to have her whole family at her birthday party.
Savvy young consumers will love “Made You Look: How Advertising Works and Why You Should Know,” by Shari Graydon and illustrated by Michelle Lamoreaux. This excellent book teaches kids to understand how and why they’re being manipulated by ads, what they can do about it, and how to avoid wasting their money because of a flashy commercial. Tuck a gift certificate inside the card and see what happens.
Here’s a great suggestion for your “Charlotte’s Web” fan: “The Web” by Nette Hilton. It’s the story of a young girl who loves spending time with her great-grandmother, the small creatures that share her yard, and the memory-making things they do. This is a perfect book for girls ages 8 to 12, and for their tenderhearted mothers, too. Wrap it up with “Ready, Set, Dogs!” by Stephanie Calmenson and Joanna Cole, a book about best friends who discover something magical about pooches.
For the historian on your list, “Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles,” by Tanya Lee Stone, is a great book to wrap up for the holidays. It’s the story of America’s first elite team of black paratroopers, explaining why their story is so important, the segregation and racism they endured to do what they did, and how their achievement impacted the world.
If you’ve got a kid on your list who’s curious about life in other countries, then you can’t go wrong with “If You Were Me and Lived in … Norway” by Carole P. Roman. Your armchair explorer will learn about the culture in Norway: the transportation, food, hobbies and language, and what it’s like if your kid was a Norwegian “barn.”
Your budding gymnast will be excited to unwrap “Raising the Bar” by Olympic gymnast Gabrielle Douglas. This picture-filled autobiography includes inspirational words, advice for life, and Douglas’s story in her own words and that of her family. Kids, especially those who tumble through each day, will love it. Wrap it up in an ace bandage with “Coach Dan on Sportsmanship,” by Dan Venezia and illustrated by Denis Proulx. It’s a book that will teach young athletes how to win and lose with grace.
Young adult fiction and non-fiction
What’s more fun than a paper airplane? Making your own motorboat, that’s what, and in “The Motorboat Book” by Ed Sobey, your giftee will learn how to take everyday objects — and some ingenuity — and turn them into something that’s fun in the tub or the pond. This is perfect for science lovers, ages 13 and older, and it’s definitely fun for their dads, too.
For the fantasy-romantic on your list, wrap up “Midnight Frost”, by Jennifer Estep. The latest in the Mythos Academy series brings more danger to Gwen Frost — and someone else who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Yes, your giftee would probably be happier with the whole Mythos Academy series. You know what you need to do.
Inspired by a true story, “Odette’s Secrets,” by Maryann MacDonald, is the story of a young Jewish-French girl who’s sent to live in the countryside during World War II. Without her parents, she assimilates into the new family she’s living with, but she wants desperately to find a confidante. Wrap it up with “Little Fish: A Memoir From a Different Kind of Year” by Ramsey Beyer, about fitting in and finding your place in life.
Young historians will really enjoy “The Graphic History of Gettysburg” by Wayne Vansant. This graphic novel (a type of comic book, for those of you not in-the-know) tells the story of what may be the Civil War’s best-studied battle. And this may be your young giftee’s best-studied gift.
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First, the housekeeping: some of these books may be challenging to find. Still, there you have it: gift ideas for everybody you love.
And if you don’t see the perfect book on this list, throw yourself at the mercy of the friendly bookseller in your neighborhood. She knows books and making someone smile makes her smile, too.