Thursday, December 3, 2009

Best Books for Christmas Gifts 2009

***Don't forget to come see me: University Bookstore Mill Creek, Monday 12/7, at 7:00P and Parkplace Books Kirkland, Thursday, 12/10, at 7:00P. Free cookies! A reading! Free gift-wrapping at both stores!***

Christmas shopping is upon us, and every year I give just about everyone in the family books. Small, portable (for the airplane), good for the brain, and hours of entertainment. No plastic parts to get lost, not noisy (unless you read aloud to the kids), and probably no human slavery was involved in the manufacture.

So here is the First Annual Christmas Gift Book List, based on books I read during the calendar year:

1. For the Nature Lover in your life so they can bore you at dinner with anecdotes: WHERE THE WILD THINGS WERE by William Stoltzenburg. Thrilling book about what happens when you remove top predators in an ecosystem and the middlemen take over. As a special bonus, I learned what a Megalodon was, which made me Smarter Than a Fifth Grader one evening.

2. For the Armchair Survivor in your life, the person like me who sits in the comfort of her own home and relishes others' misfortunes: KON-TIKI by Thor Heyerdahl. If they already read it, they did so decades ago. His anthropology may be flawed, but the raft life is great. Also, SHIP OF GOLD IN THE DEEP BLUE SEA by Gary Kinder about a ship lost during the Gold Rush and recovered in our time. Both the perilous shipwreck account and the recovery story are exciting.

3. For That Person at Parties Who Always Kills Conversations: THE BIG NECESSITY by Rose George. A globetrotting book about sewage! I've already worked factoids learned here into many conversations and managed to evoke responses ranging from disgust to scatalogical joking to stony silence.

4. For the Hypochondriac in your life: BETTER by Atul Gawande. A surgeon's essays on everything from MRSA to malpractice to cystic fybrosis. Or, alternatively, you could scare the person with THE BLUE DEATH: DISEASE, DISASTER AND THE WATER WE DRINK by Robert Morris. One word. Cholera.

5. For the Person Who Wishes Jane Austen Wrote More Books: I know I've recommended Elizabeth Gaskell's WIVES AND DAUGHTERS out the wazoo, but how about a 20th century nominee? Nancy Mitford's THE PURSUIT OF LOVE and LOVE IN A COLD CLIMATE have the same English gentry, interesting heroines, and sharp wit, only set around the 1930s and 40s.

6. For the Person Who Likes Guy Books: I love a guy book from time to time. No descriptions of clothing, no shopping scenes, no hushed emotion, no mother-daughter combos hiding Secret Shames from each other. Just let 'er rip. This year's winners were both written by David Benioff: CITY OF THIEVES and THE 25TH HOUR. Great characters, lots of action, humor, violence, at least ten references to the male apparatus.

7. For the Person Who Likes to Read History and Then Write Fiction Based on It: I've got to say AGE OF WONDER by Richard Holmes. He covers Romantic Era scientists and discoveries, and I found myself wanting to write novels about everyone from Joseph Banks to Caroline Herschel. Alas, one of the many things that restrains me is that I loathe books where real, historical people appear and say heaven knows what. When Napoleon showed up in THE SEVEN, I laid that puppy down.

8. For the Person Who Reads to Learn How to Commit Crimes: THE BALLAD OF THE WHISKEY ROBBER by Julian Rubenstein--everything you need to know, to rob banks and post offices in post-Communist Hungary. The Chicky Panther is ever so entertaining. PROVENANCE by Laney Salisbury and Ali Sujo--how to con the fine art world with your blind aunt's forgeries. THE BILLIONAIRE'S VINEGAR by Benjamin Wallace. How to adulterate wine or "age" it, and where to "discover" it so that people think it's a Nazi cache of historical vintages.

And finally,

9. For the Uptight Family Member Whom You're Hoping to Offend, So That You Don't Have to Hear from Her for a While: may I suggest MOURNING BECOMES CASSANDRA by Christina Dudley? This lovely beach read can offend both the non-religious and the very-religious, as well as those who just don't like to see the f-word in print. I'll even sign the flyleaf with a personalized zinger, if you like.

Happy shopping!

1 comment:

  1. hey. rose george here (came here via a google alert). much obliged for the inclusion but funnily enough I've only encountered stony silence about half a dozen times in three years of researching, writing and then talking about the book. honest! the most common reaction I get is a short pause then some toilet anecdote. really. I now have an abundance of them.