Sunday, November 27, 2011

10 Books to Give This Christmas

My family and I have made a deal: we've set a $15 limit on Christmas gifts for the adults.

When I mentioned this to a friend, she marveled, "What can you get for $15?" Books, of course! Maybe even a book and a candy bar.

Of the four adults on my side, stepfather, mom, sister, brother-in-law, two read on electronic devices. Amazon allows gifting of e-books, but "opening" a gifted e-book on Christmas sounds even less satisfying than opening a gift card. (Don't get me wrong, I love gift cards. But you have to admit they're rather ho-hum under the tree.) Christmas is the time to receive a real, old-fashioned paper book with a nice cover and thrilling topic. And, as I've mentioned here many a time, if you run by any of the University Book Stores, they gift wrap and ship for free! Works for me. I may have missed Small Business Saturday but I still plan to drop by the revamped Bellevue store this week to knock a bunch of items off my list.

Books may not be one-size-fits-all, but they're certainly something-for-everyone. Consider the following quirky folks on your list:

1. For the CSI Fan: The Killer of Little Shepherds by Douglas Starr. This non-fiction book follows a serial killer in 1890s France and the developing science of forensics. Grisly, stomach-turning, horrifying, and completely fascinating. 

2. For the Social Activist: Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn. Around-the-world guided tour of women's oppression, from neglect to infanticide to sex trafficking to female genital mutilation. Not for the faint of heart, but a moving and surprisingly hopeful discussion.

3. For the Jane Austen Lover: Yeah, you could buy more Austen "sequels" and knock-offs, but why not introduce your fan to similar authors? I recommend Anthony Trollope's Chronicles of Barset series (The Warden, Barchester Towers, Doctor Thorne, Framley Parsonage, The Small House at Allington, and The Last Chronicle of Barset). A contemporary of Dickens, Trollope shares Austen's eye for social interaction and absurdity, with the added zest of small-town clerical strivings. 

4. For the Children's Graphic Novel Devourer: how about some of the originals? If your kids have already gone through the likes of Happy Happy Clover, Baby Mouse, and the collected Marvel comics at the library, introduce them to TinTin. The new movie has mixed reviews, but the books are delightful.

5. For the Historical Fiction Buff: The Blind Contessa's New Machine by Carey Wallace. Inspired by a true story, this beautifully-written fantasy follows a woman's descent into darkness and the man who tried to help her see her way out. Despite the title, the typewriter doesn't have a heck of a lot to do with it.

6. For the WWII-Obsessed: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. Actually, this is one of my favorite books of the past ten years, and I've recommended it before. Adventure, peril, survival, the human spirit, redemption. What more do you need?

7. For the Mad Scientist: The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean. Surprisingly thrilling anecodotal history of the Periodic Table. This is the book that will have you spewing factoids at holiday cocktail parties.

8. For the Environmentalist: Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food by Paul Greenberg. Salmon, sea bass, cod, and tuna. Farming, overfishing, gloom-and-doom, baby!

9. For the Foodie or Wannabe-Foodie: The Kitchen-Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn. Part cooking lesson, part cookbook, part voyeur's delight, Flinn picks a dozen random women, audits their kitchens, and teaches them how to cook for themselves. Both newbies and seasoned cooks will get a lot from this book!

10. For New Friends & Family Acquired in the Past Year: what else? My books! Grab a beach read for a teacher or Mia and the Magic Cupcakes for a new child in your life. If someone you love is getting a Kindle or Nook for Christmas, my novels are available for cheap, and you can now gift books for future delivery.

Happy hunting!


  1. I'm forwarding this list to my hub, who always gets me books for the holidays!

  2. TINTIN!!! yay. And I will keep your list on hand, books are the best gifts ever. Thanks Christina!

  3. Thank you!! My must-read list just got a bit longer...