Editor’s note: With books being a hot holiday gift item thanks to more time spent at home due to COVID-19, we’re rounding up a few to consider gifting each day this week. This is part two of five.

The holidays this year are going to be, well, unique.

Some family members won’t be there. Others are coming, regardless of whatever’s going on. Others are sending their regards and a box of presents, which is something you might do, too.


Here’s the good news: Books are easy to wrap, easy to box and easy to ship. Why not try one of these great books for that person who can’t make it to your table this holiday season?


Give your historian something a bit different this year by wrapping up “Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio,” by Derf Backderf. Written in graphic-novel style, it’s a look the event that changed America more than 50 years ago. Wrap it up with “The Hardhat Riot,” by David Paul Kuhn, a book about a little-remembered event that happened four days after the Kent State shootings.

What do you get for the person who loves reading about boats and submarines? You wrap up “Under Pressure: Living Life and Avoiding Death on a Nuclear Submarine,” by Richard Humphreys. When the author was 18, he joined the Royal Navy and served underwater. You can’t go wrong when you pair it with “Whatever it Took,” by Henry Langrehr and Jim DeFelice. It’s the story of an American paratrooper at the end of World War II.

For the person who would love something a little unique this holiday, look for “The New Witch,” by Marie D. Jones. It’s a book about Wicca, spells and potions, magic and all kinds of things that today’s spiritual practitioner needs to know. Wrap it up with “Earth Magic,” by Marie D. Jones, a guide for the sorceress in you.

Is there someone on your list who craves a good scare? Look for “Demonic Foes,” by Richard Gallagher, MD. He’s a psychiatrist who specializes in the paranormal — particularly in demonic possession. You can feel the shivers from here.

The new or about-to-be parent on your gift list will love “Calm the H*ck Down,” by Melanie Dole. It’s filled with common-sense parenting that will help your giftee take a big and much-needed breath. Wrap it up with “How Babies Sleep,” by Sofia Axelrod, Ph.D.

  • Wish them a nighty-night.

For the parent of older kids, wrap up “What Girls Need,” by Marisa Porges, Ph.D., a book about raising strong, resilient future women; and “And Then They Stopped Talking to Me,” by Judith Warner, a book about surviving middle school and the mean kids there.

It’s been an unusual year. Show your giftee that it’s possible to buck up and survive by wrapping “Why Fish Don’t Exist,” by Lulu Miller. It’s the story of an early 20th century scientist and the day he watched his life’s work as it shattered. What he did was astounding and a great lesson for 2020. Wrap it up with another book on what’s underwater: “Monsters of the Deep,” by Nick Redfern. This book is more cryptozoology than biography, but for fishing fans, that’s fine.

Here’s a fun read: “Sealand,” by Dylan Taylor-Lehman, is the story of a micronation called Sealand, just off the British coast, and the Royal Family that rules it. With a little of everything in this book — history, pirates, battles, kings and even an attempted coup — your historian and the travel fan will love it. Pair it up with “We Have Been Harmonized: Life in China’s Surveillance State,” by Kai Strittmatter. This book is a little more serious and adds a nice balance.

The reader who loves quick essays will want to unwrap “This is Major,” by Shayla Lawson. It’s a funny and serious look at race from a Black woman who shares her thoughts on work, celebrity, names, “Black Girl Magic” and more. Pair it with “Why Didn’t We Riot?” by Issac J. Bailey, a book about being Black in America today.

Here’s an idea from Dad to Son or the other way around: “A Better Man,” by Michael Ian Black, takes a look at masculinity and what it means to “be a man” in the 21st century. Wrap it up for your son or son-to-be, who’ll get there someday. Wrap it up for Dad, to thank him for the guidance, paired with “The Toughest Kid We Knew,” by Frank Bergon, a story of the “New West,” California and life in small towns and ranches of today’s West.

Armchair scientists will be happy to see “The Handy Physics Answer Book, Third Edition,” by Charles Liu, Ph.D., beneath the tree. This question-and-answer format is easy to read, easy to browse and fun to use. Wrap it up with another science-y book: “The Human Cosmos: Civilization and the Stars,” by Jo Marchant, a book about how looking at the night sky makes us human.

For the giftee who also is a conservationist or activist, “Mill Town,” by Kerri Arsenault, will be perfect beneath the tree. It’s a story of a town in Maine, the local industry that might or might not be hurting the locals and life near the mill. Consider adding these titles to your gift: “Barnstorming Ohio: to Understand America,” by David Giffels, and “Perilous Bounty: The Looming Collapse of American Farming and How We Can Prevent It,” by Tom Philpott, for a total understanding of our country now. And since this subject runs deep this year, so you also might want to look for “Death in Mud Lick,” by Eric Eyre, a look at the opioid epidemic, set in coal country.

Do you have a person on your list who has a serious case of wanderlust? Wrap up “Spirits of San Francisco: Voyages Through the Unknown City,” by Gary Kamiya, drawings by Paul Madonna. It’s an easy-to-browse book of things to look for when you’re looking for somewhere different to visit. Pair it with “The Change: My Great American, Postindustrial, Midlife Crisis Tour,” by Lori Soderlind, the story of one woman, one elderly dog and a road trip to remember.

The DIY woman on your gift list (and the one who craves self-sufficiency) will love having “Girls Garage,” by Emily Pilloton. It’s a super-helpful book about using tools, fixing things, understanding do-it-herself language, tackling projects and getting it done. It’s great for women ages 16 to 96. Wrap it up with “A Lab of One’s Own,” by Rita Colwell, Ph.D., and Sharon Bertsch McGrayne, a book about women in science and how inequality and sexism has hurt the industry and what women can do about it today.

If there’s a traveler — physically or of the armchair sort — “The Women I Think About at Night: Traveling the Paths of My Heroes, by Mia Kankimaki, is what you’ll want to give this year. It’s a story of 10 historical female pioneers and the author’s journey to get to know them. Pair it with “Olive the Lionheart,” by Brad Ricca. It’s the story of Olive MacLeod, who went to Africa by herself more than a century ago in search of her fiance, who’d gone missing.

Is there a scientist in your family who also loves to be in the kitchen? You’re in luck: wrapping up “Science and Cooking,” by Michael Brenner, Pia Sorensen and David Weitz, is a no-brainer gift to give. It includes recipes. Wrap it up with “The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food,” by Marcus Samuelsson with Osayi Endolyn, Yewande Komolafe and Tamie Cook, photos by Angie Mosier. It’s a look at Black cooks, heritage and soul food. Be sure to volunteer to be the taste-tester.

For the giftee who is addicted to TV, “Sunny Days,” by David Kamp, is just right. It’s a look back at children’s TV in the 1970s but not of the cartoon-types. Think “Sesame Street” and “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.” Nostalgia + TV = A great gift.

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