Looking for a cost-effective gift your loved one will use again and again?
Here’s a great gift idea: books! How about one of these?
Who doesn’t want a thriller for mid-winter reading? For sure, your giftee will, and “The Jaguar’s Children” by John Vaillant is the one to wrap. It’s the story of Hector, who’s being smuggled into America from Mexico when the truck he’s in breaks down. He’s sealed inside and the smugglers have left, but he has a cellphone — and your giftee will have a page-turner. Wrap it up with “A Free State ” by Tom Piazza, a thrilling novel of a former slave who, in conjunction with the leader of a minstrel troupe, concocts a dangerous ruse so that he can make music on stage with white performers. Oh, did I say that a slave hunter is on his trail?
For the historian who needs a little fiction now and then, “Viet Man” by D.S. Lliteras may be the thing to wrap up. It’s the story of a warrior, after he comes home, and the memories of battle that he struggles to forget. Wrap it up with “The Guyana Contract” by Rosalind Kilkenny McLymont, a ripped-from-the-headlines thriller about a high-powered female executive whose new work assignment seems suspiciously underhanded — a feeling that intensifies when she learns that a man from her past is involved, too.
No doubt, there’s a tender heart on your gift list — someone who’s always sunny and smiling. “100 Days of Happiness” by Fausto Brizzi is the book you want to give her (or him). It’s the story of a down-and-out man who learns that he’s going to die, so he spends his last 100 days on Earth doing good for the people around him. Wrap it up with “The Best Advice in Six Words,” edited by Larry Smith. What a really great gift idea! (Count ’em — there’s six!)
If your giftee would love the gift of laughter, then wrap up “Formerly Fingerman” by Joe Nelms. It’s the story of a guy who’s down-and-out and, coincidentally, at the top of a list of witnesses for a murder trial … except he didn’t really see the murder. Wrap it up with “You Could Be Home By Now” by Tracy Manaster, the story of a young couple, an older retiree, and a viral news story that should’ve never seen the light of day.
Mystery lovers who like a touch of the frontier will thank you profusely when you’ve wrapped up “The Last Midwife” by Sandra Dallas. It’s 1880 and the midwife of a small mining town is accused of the murder of a baby — but though she’s been privy to too many things, murder isn’t one of them. Wrap it up with “Mothers, Tell Your Daughters,” a delightful book of stories by Bonnie Jo Campbell.
How could I not include a zombie book on my gift list? There’s no way I couldn’t — so why not wrap up “Posi+ive” by David Wellington, a post-apocalyptic novel of zombies, insane road warriors, and a new world in the making. Could your giftee resist? I think not. Wrap it up with the young adult novel “The Six” by Mark Alpert. It’s the story of a teen whose disease has stolen his mobility, but he’s found an alternative: a virtual world where he always wins. Problem is, so does the program.
If there’s a historical novel lover on your list, then “The Reluctant Midwife” by Patricia Harman is a winner. It’s the story of a midwife working in West Virginia during the Great Depression — her challenges and the women she cares for. Pair it with another historical novel, “The Courtesan” by Alexandra Curry, the story of a little girl who is sold to a brothel in China in 1881. She grows up to be the wife of a well-travelled man who takes her places she’s never been.
The crime buff on your list will absolutely love unwrapping “Charlie Martz and Other Stories” by Elmore Leonard. It’s a collection of previously-unpublished short stories, written in the early years of Leonard’s career. It’s a little bit of a mystery, a little bit western, and a whole lot of goodness. Pair it with “Bull Mountain” by Brian Panowich, a story of crime, family, honor, and moonshining.
For the Western aficionado, there’s no better gift than “Buffalo Trail” by Jeff Guinn. Set in the Arizona Territory , it’s … well, I shouldn’t have to say more except “wrap it!”
Music lovers know what they like, and I’ll bet yours will like “Playboy Swings” by Patty Farmer. It’s the story of how an iconic men’s magazine (and the empire that sprang from it) changed the way we find, enjoy, and listen to music. Wrap it up with “The Song Machine” by John Seabrook, a book that examines why we listen to and love the music we can’t get out of our heads.
Is there a lover of all things Southern on your list? Then wrap up “Southern Living: 50 Years: A Celebration of People, Places, and Culture.” This heavy, huge compilation of half a century of the iconic magazine is jam-packed with photos, short articles, photos, pictures and … did I say photos?
If Beatlemania has hit someone on your gift list, then the gift to give this year is “The Complete Beatles Songs” by Steve Turner. This book is full of lyrics from the Fab Four, as well as stories of how the songs came to be, and plenty of photos of John, Paul, George, and Ringo. It could be the “Ticket to Ride” this holiday. Wrap it up with “Sex, Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Zoe Cormier. It’s a scientific book about our impulses and what makes us par-tay!
For the person who’s read everything, maybe something quirky is what you need to wrap up. “Patternalia” by Jude Stewart might be just the thing: it’s about polka dots, stripes, plaid, houndstooth, graph paper, wallpaper, and all kinds of patterns, their history, usage, and why they catch our eyes. How fun is that? Wrap that creative book up with “Knitting Pearls,” edited by Ann Hood. It’s an anthology about knitting, creativity, crafting, mothers and daughters, and love.
The gardener on your list will plant her fanny down and read, once you’ve given her “The Reason for Flowers” by Stephen Buchmann. It’s all about flowers, their history, the places they’re grown — even the critters that help them bloom. Wrap it up with a pair of garden gloves and a pretty trowel.
The giftee you know who loves things that go STOMP in the night will also love opening “The Bigfoot Book” by Nick Redfern. It’s a book about large, hairy creatures: Yeti, Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Little Red Men, and other critters you don’t want to meet on a dark and stormy night.
No doubt, the fashionista on your list will be overjoyed to unwrap “That’s What Fashion Is” by style-maker Joe Zee. It’s a little memoir, a little how-to, and a whole lot of ideas and gossip. What’s not to love, ’specially when you pair it with “Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic” by Jennifer L. Scott, a genteel book on looking, dressing, and acting elegant.
The grammarian in your life will love owning “The Handy English Grammar Answer Book” by Dr. Christine A. Hult. It’s a nice reference book, ready-made for a quick look-up and argument settler. Double your giftee’s pleasure by adding “Check These Out” by Gina Sheridan, a book about books.
I also liked “Part of Our Lives: A People’s History of the American Public Library” by Wayne A. Wiegand. It’s a great look at libraries and the people who founded and nurtured them. For deeply passionate book lovers, this is THE gift.
If there’s someone single on your gift list this year, do you dare to give “Date-onomics: How Dating Became a Lopsided Numbers Game” by Jon Birger? This book offers real statistics and an explanation of why boy-meets-girl is sometimes just a fairy tale — and how she can make it happily ever after. Wrap it up with “Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own,” a look at being and staying happily single, written by Kate Bolick.
The pop-culture lover on your gift list will absolutely love poring over “The Must List” by the Editors of Entertainment Weekly. It’s filled — just jam-packed — with lists that will bring back memories, remind your giftee of songs and fashions, fads, celebs, and things we used to do back in the day.
If there’s someone on your list who loves scary movies, dark corridors, and spooky stories, then “Scream: Chilling Adventures in the Science of Fear” by Margee Kerr will be an excellent choice. It’s a book that explains why we love getting goosebumps (or don’t), and how — believe it or not — being scared is good for us. And if books about how humans tick are what your giftee loves best, add “The Superhuman Mind” by Berit Brogaard, PhD, and Kristian Marlow, MA. It’s a book about how to get the most brain-power from your noggin.
Got new parents (or parents-to-be) on your gift list this year? Then wrap up “The Science of Mom” by Alice Callahan, PhD. Based on scientific research, this book will help parents to know what advice is right and what could be wrong for their baby. Wrap it up with a box of diapers for a very-needed gift.
Does your giftee (heart) New York ? Then “City On a Grid” by Gerard Kneppel is a must-give this year. It’s the story of how the City That Never Sleeps became what it is; specifically, how swampy, agricultural fields became the Big Apple in only a few centuries. Toss “Life in New York” by Laura Pedersen — a personal love story to the Big Apple — in the box and make it merrier.
No doubt, there’s a MAD Magazine fiend on your list, so “Spy vs. Spy: An Explosive Celebration” from the MAD mag folks (foreword by Lewis Black) is a can’t-miss gift. It’s absolutely filled with classic cartoons, posters, and everything you loved about that gleefully revenge-filled comic. If you can, put “The Art of Horror,” edited by Stephen Jones in the box, too. It’s a huge coffee-table book, jam-packed with posters, drawings, stories, and shivers.
No doubt, there’s someone on your list who needs something light this holiday, so wrap up “The Snoopy Treasures: A Celebration of the World Famous Beagle” by Nat Gertler. It’s a look at everybody’s favorite dancing dog, from his origins, to the ways we love him today. Hint: wrap it up with tickets to the new movie. I also liked “Simon’s Cat: Off to the Vet and Other Cat-astrophes” by Simon Tofield. It’s a cartoon-filled book that will have cat lovers nodding in complete recognition.
For the quirky reader on your gift list, “Chilled: How Refrigeration Changed the World and Might Do So Again” by Tom Jackson might be a great read. It’s a book about keeping things cold: why, where, and how. It’s the perfect book for the science-minded giftee who just likes chillin’.
For the person on your gift list that you’ve known forever, “The Class of ‘65” by Jim Auchmutey could be the just-right thing to put under the tree. It’s a story of racism, classism, not fitting in, as well as growing up and realizing that attitudes should — and can! — change.
Is there a hockey fan tucked away on your gift list? Good, because the thing to give is “The Handy Hockey Answer Book” by Stan Fischler. It’s a fun-to-read, easy-to-grasp book that’s all about your giftee’s favorite sport. It’s a gift that’ll … stick.
For the historian on your list, you can’t go wrong with “Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning” by Timothy Snyder. This huge, comprehensive book takes a long, hard look at the years leading up to World War II, as well as the Holocaust itself and its aftermath, and how it still resonates today.
Want to hear a whoop of pleasure when the gifts are opened? “A Little History of the United States” by James West Davidson will make that happen. It’s a lively, not-so-little look at the little ways that people from all walks of life, cultures, backgrounds, and incomes came together to make a nation.
For the political animal on your gift list, what could be better than “War Plan Red” by Kevin Lippert? This little volume explains that, though the border between the States and their neighbor to the north is one that’s barely noticed, the relationship that Canada has had with the U.S. (and vice versa) wasn’t always so amicable; in fact, once upon a time, there were thoughts of invasion!
The mixologist on your list will truly enjoy “Cocktail Noir” by Scott M. Deitche, an all-things-gangster look at speakeasies, gin joints, hooch, authors who write about them, and recipes. Mystery fans will like it, too. Also look for “Best Food Writing 2015,” edited by Holly Hughes. Your foodie will love you for it.
Also for the mystery fan who loves to cook: “Goldy’s Kitchen Cookbook” by mystery writer Diane Mott Davidson. It’s a sort-of-semi anthology of the recipes that have been featured in Davidson’s whodunits, as well as a few other dishes you can make. The only mystery is what to make first.
The foodie on your gift list will love this pair of memoirs about food: first, there’s “Life from Scratch” by Sasha Martin, a book about a food writer who undertook an unusual project, and how it helped her face her memories. Pair it with “Eating Viet Nam ” by Graham Holliday, foreword by Anthony Bourdain. That’s the story of a man who also undertakes an unusual (and actually quite risky) project overseas.
The lover of felines doesn’t want to unwrap just any old “cat book,” which is why you’ll want to find “Wild Cats of the World” by Luke Hunter, illustrated by Priscilla Barrett. Filled with pictures, drawings, and pages and pages of information, this gorgeous book is probably exactly purrfect.
So your giftee shares a home with pets. But what about the streets? “Feral Cities” by Tristan Donovan is a book about the creatures that make their homes on our roads, our alleys, and maybe even our homes — in a good way, and in a bad way. Wrap it up with “The Intimate Bond: How Animals Shaped Human History” by Brian Fagan, for a well-rounded look at how well we’ve gotten along with those who share the planet.
Can your giftee teach an old dog new tricks? Apparently so, as you’ll both see in “The Secret History of Kindness” by Melissa Holbrook Pierson. It’s a book about how dogs — and other animals — learn, and how a trainer can facilitate the link between canine and human. Give. Sit. Or wrap it up with “Buster: The Military Dog Who Saved a Thousand Lives” by Will Barrow, as told to Isabel George.
The rescue worker on your gift list will love “My Old Dog” by Laura T. Coffey, photos by Lori Fusaro. It’s a book filled with pictures of furry seniors and happy stories. The person who also loves unusual pets will truly enjoy opening a box with “Flash” by Rachel Anne Ridge in it. It’s the story of a homeless donkey, his life, and his humans. You won’t be able to resist the cover.
For the newlywed who got a ready-made (furry) family, wrap up “Stepdog: A Memoir” by Mireya Navarro. It’s the story of a woman who fell in love with a man, but not with his dog. You know where this is going … or not. Wrap it up with “Stepdog: A Novel” by Nicole Galland, a love story of a boy, a girl, and a dog who goes missing.
Of course there’s someone on your list who loves a shaggy dog story. So how about three? Wrap up “Harlow & Indiana (and Reese)” by Brittni and Jeff Vega, and get kisses. It’s the story of three dogs — best friends — and the humans who love them. Bonus: PICTURES! Tons of ’em. Be sure to wrap it up with “Old Faithful: Dogs of a Certain Age” by Pete Thorne, a wonderful, heartbreaking, sweet photo-and-story book of old and beloved dogs.
If there is a young adult on your list who’s recently come out — or who knows someone who has — then “This Book is Gay” by James Dawson has answers to a lot of questions, including those from people who have come out already and who offer advice. It’s a quick-to-read, easily browse-able book that treats all subjects factually. Bonus: you can borrow it back if you have questions of your own.
Here’s a different book that your giftee might like: “Not Gay: Sex Between Straight White Men” by Jane Ward. This book takes a look at what defines gay, for a man. Are “straight” men who flirt with men really straight? Is there a fine line in sexuality, or none at all? This is a thought-provoker, so be prepared to discuss.
Do love and politics make strange bedfellows? Your giftee will know, once you’ve wrapped up “Don’t Tell Me to Wait” by Kerry Eleveld. This book, written by a former Advocate reporter, takes a hard look at the Obama administration and how the LGBT community helped change policy.
If there’s someone on your list who’s fascinated by (or uninformed of) LGBTQ history, then “The Gay Revolution” by Lillian Faderman could be the best gift he (or she!) gets this holiday. This brick of a book is filled with more than 700 pages of tales of the fight for basic rights and the triumphs as they happened. Wrap it up with a book that looks at another facet of LGBTQ history: “QDA: A Queer Disability Anthology,” edited by Raymond Luczak. It’s a book filled with stories — 48 of them — written by authors who explore what it’s like to be disabled and gay.
No doubt, there’s a historian on your list. That means you’ll want to wrap up “Warrior for Justice: The George Eames Story” by Kathy Andre-Eames, foreword by Dale Brown. It’s the story of activist George Eames who, despite being wheelchair-bound, fought for civil rights beginning some 50 years ago. It’s also a tale of the author (Eames’s wife) and her partnership with him in racial equality and help for those with disabilities. Wrap it up with “Florynce ‘Flo’ Kennedy: The Life of a Black Feminist Radical” by Sherie M. Randolph, which is the story of a world-changing black feminist in a white feminist world.
For the budding entrepreneur who’d love nothing more than a career in music, wrap up “The Book of Luke” by Luther Campbell. It’s the story of hip-hop artist Campbell, the founding of Luke Records, and the fight he took to the Supreme Court to protect the right to free speech.
What do you give to your best friend? If that’s a question you’ve been asking, then “Five Years in Heaven” by John Schlimm is the perfect answer. It’s a book about the friendship between a 30-something man and an 80-something nun who teaches him a thing or two — as he’s also teaching her. Another great story to give is “White Eskimo” by Stephen R. Bown. It’s the tale of Knud Rasmussen and the exploration of the Arctic.
If your giftee is young enough to know how to get to Sesame Street, but old enough to read grown-up books, then “Becoming Maria” by Sonia Manzano is the gift to give. This memoir is about growing up in New York, dreaming of one thing and getting another, and about big hearts on the small screen. Another book to look for and to give to the person who loves bios about performers: “Becoming Beyoncé: The Untold Story” by J. Randy Taraborrelli, a book about the singer-songwriter-actress.
Who hasn’t dreamed of running away to join the circus? No doubt, your giftee has, and “Love in the Elephant Tent” by Kathleen Cremonesi is the right book to wrap. It’s the story of an administrative assistant who leaves her life behind to start a new one as a dancer in a circus. But adventure isn’t all she finds, and that’s a jumbo story. Pair it with “American Ghost” by Hannah Nordhaus, another unusual story: Nordhaus writes about her family, particularly her great-great-grandmother’s ghost.
Is there a reader on your list who can handle a memoir that’s not pretty to read? Then “Paid For: My Journey Through Prostitution” by Rachel Moran is perfect to wrap. It’s Moran’s story of being a teenage runaway with no other way to stay alive except to sell her body, which she did for several years. This is a brave, powerful memoir, but beware of the subject matter before you put it under the tree.
The person who loves to (or longs to) perform might enjoy reading “Playing Scared” by Sara Solovitch. It’s a personal and historical look at stage fright, panic attacks, and what Solovitch did to overcome them. Wrap it up with “Girl in the Woods” by Aspen Matis, a memoir by a rape survivor and what she did that helped her heal.
Here’s a book for someone’s mother: “Expect a Miracle” by Jenny Long (with Bob Der, forward by LeBron James). You may have heard of Long’s boys: her older son, Connor, was the kid who pushed his younger, disabled brother in a kids’ triathlon. Pack this book with tissues, for sure, or wrap it up with “Barefoot to Avalon: A Brother’s Story” by David Payne. It’s the story of the author, the loss of his brother, the aftermath of devastation and memory, and finding a way back.
For the reader who loves a book with a bit of mystery and a ton of emotion, “Pieces of My Mother” by Melissa Cistaro will fill that bill. When she was just a child, Cistaro’s mother got into a car and drove away — for good. What made her do that? The answer, which took years to solve, is in this amazing book. And if you’re looking for something on the dad side, look for “The War Came Home with Him” by Catherine Madison, a daughter’s remembrances of her soldier father.
Is there someone on your list who loves an inspirational biography? Then you’ll be the winner of The Best Gift Award when you wrap up “Tough as They Come” by SSG Travis Mills (with Marcus Brotherton, foreword by Gary Sinise). This book, written by a quadruple amputee, is filled with bravery and plenty of inspiration.
For the person who loves his solitude, wrap up “Navigating Grace” by Jeff Jay, the story of a man who faced the sea and his own demons on the way to the change his life needed and the god he was missing. Also look for “The Point of Vanishing” by Howard Axelrod, the story of a man who, having endured too much loss in his life, goes to the Vermont woods for two years of solitude and reflection.
The basketball fan on your list might like unwrapping “Elgin Baylor: The Man Who Changed Basketball” by Bijan C. Bayne (foreword by Bob Ryan). It’s a biography about NBA Hall of Famer Baylor, his ball career, and his work on behalf of the Civil Rights Movement.
It’s no surprise that there are skeletons in your closet. It happens, and in “The Beauty of What Remains” by Susan Johnson Hadler, secrets are revealed and healing commences. What remains? You’ll love it.
Here’s an idea for a gift for that late-winter wedding you just got invited to: “The Couple’s Guide to Financial Compatibility” by Jeff Motske, CFP. It’s a book that will spur those conversations that are needed, but that’s not all — it’ll also help smooth the bumps on those issues the newlyweds thought were resolved. Hint: it’s not just for the newlywed, either.
For the about-to-be-retired person on your gift list, you probably can’t find a better, more helpful book than “Get What’s Yours” by Laurence J. Kotlikoff, Philip Moeller, and Paul Solman. It’s a book about Social Security: what to know, what to look for when it’s time to sign up for it, and how to get the most out of it. How great is that? Make it even greater by wrapping it up with “Social Security Works!” by Nancy J. Altman and Eric R. Kingson, a book about how to fix Social Security.
“Sustainability” is a buzzword that your business-minded giftee had heard. Maybe she even wants it for her business — and “Green Giants” by E. Freya Williams might be able to help. This book uses big-business examples to show how it’s done, and it takes a look into the future, too.
Here’s a book that everyone with a job should read: “Functional Inefficiency” by Peter S. Wenz. It’s a book about goofing off, wasting time, squandering resources, and how those three behaviors can sometimes be good for business! That’s not license to play, though, but wrap it up with a desktop toy, just in case.
Health, death, and dying
How does someone deal with a life he knows is about to end? If that’s something your giftee has interest in, then “We Know How This Ends: Living While Dying” by Bruce H. Kramer with Cathy Wurzer might be a good choice for a gift. It’s Kramer’s story of a diagnosis of ALS, and how he made each day count, despite that he knew what was imminent. Wrap it up with tissues. That’s all — except to say that you might want to add “After This” by Claire Bidwell Smith.
What happens when we die? If your giftee has pondered that question, then “The Hand on the Mirror” by Janis Heaphy Durham may have the answers. It’s the story of something odd, something unexplained that could only, according to the author, lead to one conclusion: that there is an afterlife. Wrap it up with “Peaceful Passages: A Hospice Nurse’s Stories of Dying Well” by Janet Wehr, R.N. Really, these books belong on the same shelf.
I also liked “Greening Death” by Suzanne Kelly, a book about old-time burial practices and how they are still relevant, especially in today’s ecology-minded world.
For the person who loves to work out, show you care by wrapping up “Fit Not Healthy” by Vanessa Alford. It’s a cautionary tale of one woman’s obsession to be in excellent physical condition, and how it completely backfired.
If there’s someone on your gift list who’ll be making some serious decisions in the coming year, “The Eldercare Consultant” by Becky Feola could be a nice book to give. It’s a question-answering, comfort-giving, mind-settling kind of book that may give your giftee a little peace in life.
For the science-minded person on your list, “Everyone is African: How Science Explodes the Myth of Race” by Daniel J. Fairbanks could be a great idea. This book takes a look at where humanity has come from, and what that means for us today.
Even little ones suffer loss, and if there’s a child on your list who fits that statement, then wrap up “Love from a Star” by Katherine Cutchin Gazzetta. It’s a sweet little story that lets your giftee know that she’s loved, no matter where her missing person is. And if the missing person is in the military, then pair it with “Papa’s Backpack” by James Christopher Carroll, the story of love between a child and his soldier father.
If there’s someone on your list who just started school this fall (or will soon), then “School Days around the World” by Margriet Ruurs and Alice Feagan would make a nice gift. It’s a kid-friendly look at the school days of kids in other countries. Wrap it up with “I Want to Eat Your Books” by Karin LeFranc and Tyler Parker. It’s a cute story of a monster at school who’s determined to make literary mischief.
For the child who desperately wants to be a mermaid, you’ll get lots of hugs when she opens “Tallulah, Mermaid of the Great Lakes ” by Denise Brennan-Nelson, illustrated by Susan Kathleen Hartung. It’s the story of a little mermaid in search of a gemstone that gives her mermaid powers — but where could it be? For another twist on a classic — and for the child who dreams of becoming a princess — look for “Interstellar Cinderella” by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Meg Hunt.
Every kid needs a dose of bravery now and then, and “Max the Brave” by Ed Vere is the gift to wrap and give it. It’s the story of a fearless kitten in a not-so-fearless search for a mouse. I loved the illustrations! Wrap it up with “Leopold the Lion” by Denise Brennan-Nelson, illustrated by Ruth McNally Barshaw, for more fearlessness (and plenty of cute!)
Kids who love all things spooky will surely love unwrapping “A Curious Tale of the In-Between” by Lauren DeStefano. It’s a dark tale of a girl whose best friend is a dead boy, and when she meets a child at school who lost his parents, they go in search of answers. Scary? You betcha!
For the 9-to-12-year-old who loves language, “My Teacher is an Idiom” by Jamie Gilson, illustrated by Paul Meisel, is a good choice to give. It’s the story of a boy who befriends a new classmate whose first language is not English. That leads to a lot of miscommunication — and laughs. Wrap it up with something a little more serious (but no less smart): “National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry,” edited by J. Patrick Lewis, former U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate. It’s a gorgeous book of pictures and poetry to accompany them.
Your young fantasy fan will love unwrapping “Milo Speck, Accidental Agent” by Linda Urban. It’s the tale of a boy who’s rather small — in comparison, of course, to the ogres that stomp around the town where Milo lives. In with the fantasy is a bit of a mystery, too, and your 10-to-13-year-old will love it.
The kid on your list who loves to make messes and experiment will love unwrapping “Junk Drawer Chemistry” by Bobby Mercer. It’s a book filled with things your young giftee can do with things lying around the house. Don’t tell them, but they might learn a thing or 50.
I can’t think of any kid who doesn’t like fun facts and trivia, and if there’s such a child on your list this year, then “National Geographic Ultimate Weird but True! 3” is the just-right thing to give. This highly illustrated book is full of fun facts, graphs, tidbits, and things that will impress your youngster, as well as his friends. Wrap it up with any of the four Smithsonian Readers books: “Early Adventures” for the youngest readers; “Seriously Amazing” for kids who are a little more confident in their reading skills; “World of Wonder” for children who can read well; and “Endless Explorations,” for kids who love books best.
The child with her head in the stars will love “Welcome to Mars” by Buzz Aldrin with Marianne J. Dyson. It’s a photo-and-art-filled book about what life could be like, once we colonize the Red Planet. Science-minded kids might also like “Stuff You Need to Know!” by John Farndon and Rob Beattie. It’s a richly-illustrated how-things-work-kind of book that’s a lot of fun to read.
Kids this age love tales of superpowers, so why not wrap up “Treasure of Norse Mythology” by Donna Jo Napoli, illustrations by Christina Balit. It’s a wonderfully illustrated anthology of mythology, folk tales, and ancient superpowers. Readers of fables might also like the books in the “Top Secret Files” series: “Gangsters and Bootleggers” and “The Cold War.” Both by Stephanie Bearse, they will give kids a behind-the-scenes peek at life during those times.
For the dog-loving romantic on your gift list, you’ll get a lot of smiles when you wrap up “Whippoorwill” by Joseph Monninger. It’s the story of a tender-hearted teen who falls in love with a throwaway dog at about the same time that she falls for a throwaway boy. Another book your teen might like: “Honey Girl” by Lisa Freeman. It’s the story of a surfer girl who tries hard to fit in with an established crowd in her new hometown. Her efforts are complicated by the year (1972) and the fact that she really likes girls.
Who doesn’t love a good, juicy scandal? Your giftee does, so why not wrap up the novel “Conacademy” by Joe Schreiber? It’s the story of a con-kid who goes away to boarding school, but that’s not all he’s running. (Think: scam!) Pair it with “Denton Little’s Deathdate” by Lance Rubin, a funny story of a boy who knows when he’s going to die. Yeah, and it just happens to be the same date as the senior prom.
The comic book lover on your list, if he likes history, too, will like owning “Captive of Friendly Cove” by Rebecca Goldfield and Mike Short. Based on the journals of a real-life British sailor, this is a tale of adventure and high seas, written in a graphic novel format he’ll love.
Surely, there’s a teen on your list who dreams of someday shaking up the world — and for him (or her), there’s no better gift than “Rockin’ the Boat” by Jeff Fleischer. It’s an anthology of mini-biographies of 50 people throughout history who made the world a different place. Wrap it up with “The Next Big Thing” by Richard Faulk, a book about things that shaped the world and the way we look at it.
For the teen who’s a born skeptic, “Debunk It!” by John Grant is a just-right gift. It’s a book about misinformation: specifically, several topics are picked apart here, and teens who like to examine issues and current events will love that. The book to pair it with, naturally, is “Speak Up” by Halley Bondy, a book that will give your giftee tips on firmly speaking out on the issues he (or she!) has debunked.
And now the housekeeping: titles can change. Release dates can change, too, and some things may not be available at the last minute. If you’re at a loss or can’t find what you want to give this holiday, help is at hand! Get yourself to your nearby bookstore and throw yourself at the mercy of the lovely bookseller, the one with the great smile. He or she has superpowers when it comes to this kind of thing. Seriously.
And season’s readings!
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