Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Unique Books to Give for Christmas

(Reprinted from the Book Report column 12/5/10 of the Citizen)

Books are great things to give as gifts for everyone on your Christmas list.
This month’s column will focus mostly on books that were perhaps overlooked, but deserve to be read, and your gift recipients will be impressed at how much thought you gave in choosing a unique gift for them.

You can give children a lifelong love of reading by buying them a book for Christmas. Comedian Jeff Foxworthy, who also hosts Fox TV’s Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader has written a children’s picture book, Hide!!!. Featuring fun illustrations by Steve Bjorkman, it’s a combination of Hide and Seek and Where’s Waldo, with counting skills tossed in.

Books for older kids include local author and former NFL player Tim Green’s The Big Time, the latest in his Football Genius novels.  Fantasy lovers will enjoy Adam Gopnik’s The Steps Across the Water, about the residents of U Nork, sister city to New York. Older girls will appreciate Maureen Johnson’s Suite Scarlett and Scarlett Fever which follow the adventures of 15-year-old Scarlett, whose family owns a funky boutique hotel in Manhattan.

A wonderful gift for mothers, grandmothers, and young women just starting out is Adriana Trigiani’s Don't Sing at the Table: Life Lessons from My Grandmothers If you love her novels, her first non-fiction book is just as fabulous.  It tells the story of her strong-willed, amazing grandmothers, and gives advice that young women today would be wise to follow.

Greg Mortenson spoke at this year’s Auburn Education Foundation Inspiring Speaker Series about his book Stones Into Schools, and it will appeal to the person with a social conscience on your list.

Rebecca Skloots’  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks has deservedly won many awards and is still on the bestseller list. This true story combines race, poverty, science and medicine in a compelling manner.

Fans of Jeannette WallsThe Glass Castle will also like Heather Sellers’ You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know, about a woman who is unable to recognize the faces of people she knows, including her boyfriend. Her difficult childhood with parents who clearly shouldn’t have raised a child is heartbreaking.

Lots of people will be buying Keith RichardsLife, but for another look at rock and roll, Sam Cutler’s You Can't Always Get What You Want, about his days working for the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead is a good choice. The section on how the tragic concert at Altamont came to be is fascinating.

Young baby boomers will enjoy Alison Argrim’s Confession of a Prairie B*#ch about her growing up on the TV series Little House on the Prairie. It’s funny, gossipy and moving.

Fiction lovers have many fine choices available. Jonathan Tropper’s This Is Where I Leave You is hilarious and sad, and if you are spending any time with your family this holiday, you’ll appreciate it.

Jess Walter’s The Financial Lives of the Poets tackles the topical subject of the financial crisis as it impacts a family through unemployment, adultery, raising a family, caring for an elderly parent, and drugs.

David Nicholls’ One Day follows two people on one day for twenty years, from their college fling through middle age.  You will fall in love with Em and Dex, and this book has gotten lots of positive buzz this year.

Anyone who liked The Lovely Bones will love Emma Donoghue’s Room the story of five-year-old Jack and his Ma, who are being kept in a shed by a bad man. It is told in Jack’s voice and it is the most remarkable book I have read in many years.

Blame by Michele Huneven tells the story of a young woman who kills two people while driving drunk. The scenes in prison are so difficult, but her struggle for redemption and a life after prison is realistic. This is a gut-wrenching, unforgettable book.

Mark T. Mustian’s, The Gendarme, tells the story of an elderly man remembering his life as a soldier in the Armenian genocide during World War I.  It’s a hard look at the effects of war on those who fight it, and the suffering of innocent people caught in the middle of war. It’s simply stunning.

Fans of Daphne du Maurier will love Maggie O’Farrell’s The Hand That First Held Mine. She expertly weaves two seemingly disparate stories together and the denouement is surprising and fulfilling.

Those who liked Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo should try Jo Nesbo’s The Devil’s Star His crime novels are hot sellers in Europe, and it is only a matter of time before he conquers the Unites States best-seller lists.

Spy novels are fast and fun, and Joe Finder writes about modern industrial spies. Paranoia is one of his better books, and the first book in his Nick Heller series, Vanished has the potential to rival Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar series.   

For the John Grisham fan on your list, try Joseph Hayes’ When No One Is Watching, the story of a rising politician who kills a man in an accident and leaves his drunken passenger, his best friend, behind to take the blame. It’s a real page-turner.

Cookbooks abound this season, and some of the best include Ina Garten’s The Barefoot Contessa- How Easy is That?, perfect for those who want to improve their skills. Bakers will enjoy The Gourmet Cookie Book from the editors of Gourmet Magazine.

Pam Anderson’s Perfect One-Dish Dinners is great because it gives you appetizer, salad and dessert recipes to accompany such tasty dishes as Salsa Verde Chicken and Chicken Pot Pie with Green Apples and Cheddar Biscuits.

For the expert chef, Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table is perfect. Just ask to be invited over when they make the Chocolate Eclairs as a thank you.

For more information on each book, click on the titles and for more great book suggestions, go to Books Are Great Gifts, and bookreporter.com's What to Give, What To Get Guide.

Happy Holidays to all and may Santa leave you a great book under the tree!

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