Some family members won’t be there. Others are coming, regardless of whatever’s going on in the country. Still others are sending their regards and a box of presents, which is something you might do, too. And 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?
Does anybody need another book about a natural disaster? Ha, of course they do! So that’s why you should look for “The 2084 Report: An Oral History of the Great Warming: A Novel” by James Lawrence Powell. Yes, it’s set in the future. You can hope so, anyhow….
If your giftee would love a good, multilayered novel about family and best-forgotten memories, then look for “Hieroglyphics” by Jill McCorkle. When Lil and Frank move back to Frank’s childhood hometown, the past moves in with them. Wrap it up with “True Story: A Novel” by Kate Reed Petty, the story of childhood trauma and the chance for those who lived it to recover from it.
For the giftee who’s about to pack up and move across the country, “The Exiles” by Christina Baker Kline might be a good choice for a gift. It’s a novel about three women who are exiled to Australia more than a century ago when exile was punishment. Fans of “Orphan Train,” listen up. Wrap it up with this: “Flyaway” by Kathleen Jennings, a dark twisted tale of vanishings and family horror in Australia.
Surely, there’s someone on your gift list who’s wished at some point this year that they could be cloned. Wrap up “The Mirror Man” by Jane Gilmartin with a “careful what you wish for” note. Wrap it up with “The Operator” by Gretchen Berg, the story of a woman who wishes she’d never overheard what she did.
For the giftee who loves to be surprised, wrap up “The Book of Hidden Wonders” by Polly Crosby. It’s the story of a girl whose father entertained her with a story in which she’s a character, and it becomes a big bestseller. Good for her, right? Or not so much. Wrap it up with “The Falling Woman” by Richard Farrell, a book about a woman who supposedly died in a plane crash – only she didn’t, but she wants to stay “dead.”
The person on your list who loves a good family drama will want “The Lost Orphan” by Stacey Halls under the tree this year. It’s the story of two women and one little girl, and a secret that won’t be able to be kept for long. Pair it with “The End of the Day” by Bill Clegg, a novel of friendship, relationships, and the resolution of long-buried secrets.
No doubt, there’s a historical fiction fan on your list, so there’s no doubt that you’ll want to wrap up “Bonnie: A Novel” by Christina Schwarz. Yep, it’s a fictionalized tale of Bonnie Parker, and how she became one of the early 20th-century’s most iconic outlaws. Wrap it up with “The Big Finish” by Brooke Fossey, a novel about two outlaws that you’d never put together and their great escape.
If you’ve got a big reader on your list, it’s hard to find something they haven’t already seen. That’s why you should wrap up “Layoverland” by Gabby Noone. It’s the tale of a woman who lives a life she’s not proud of, so when she dies, she goes to purgatory. There’s a chance for her to go to heaven, but it involves helping the guy who killed her. Pair it with “The Midnight Library” by Matt Haig, the story of a possible place that offers a re-do of life. It’s a spot between living and dying, but it’s not what your giftee thinks it is…
The short-story lover will enjoy “Cat Person” and Other Stories” by Kristen Roupenian, a collection of creepy, odd tales that doubles as a gift of shivers. Can’t go wrong if you pair it with “The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home” by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor. Doesn’t the title tell you everything you need to know?
Is there someone on your list who loves a good sin-your-teeth-in novel? Then wrap up “When These Mountains Burn” by David Joy, a tale of two men wrapped up in the drug trade – one, a father with a son who’s an addict; the other, an addict himself. And the DEA is asking for help… You can’t go wrong if you wrap it up with “Nine Shiny Objects” by Brian Castleberry, a novel of (supposed) UFOs and the legacy the sightings left.
For the novel-lover who professes to hate their job, you can’t go wrong with “Hench” by Natalie Zina Walschots. It’s the super-witty story of a woman with an unusual job (hey, somebody’s got to do it!) and what she does to remain gainfully employed after the next-to-worst thing happens. If you’re smart, you’ll pair it with “Lies Lies Lies” by Adele Parks, the story of a family and the party that changes everything…
Lovers of family-drama-type novels will whoop when they open “Louisiana Lucky” by Julie Pennell. It’s the tale of three sisters and a big lottery pay-out that will make all their dreams come true. Or not. Pair it with “Betty,” by Tiffany McDaniel, a lovely novel of family and what happens when you learn things about them you don’t want to know.
And for the science-fiction-fantasy reader, you couldn’t find a better gift than “To Sleep in a Sea of Stars” by Christopher Paolini. It’s a story of new worlds and a journey to make sure that the universe survives, it’s thrilling, and it’s edgy. Hint: it’s also over 800 pages, so add a bookmark to this great gift.
For all the mystery, thriller, crime novel fans
The giftee who loves a good historical mystery will relish “The Streel: A Deadwood Mystery” by Mary Logue. Set in Deadwood, South Dakota, this story sees a teenage Irish immigrant whose brother is involved in a kerfuffel and she’s got to clear his name. The problem? He has a golf claim and it ain’t no small thing. Historical mystery lovers will also love “The Day Lincoln Lost” by Charles Rosenberg, a thriller-type novel that asks “What if…?”
If there’s someone on your list who likes smart crime-solvers, you’ll be glad you wrapped up “The Revelators” by Ace Atkins. This novel features one of Atkins’ best-loved sheriffs, Quinn Colson and a crime syndicate that’s threatening everything he holds dear.
Give your historian something a bit different this year by wrapping up “Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio” by Derf Backderf. Written entirely 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, that’s what. When the author was just eighteen, he joined the Royal Navy and served underwater. What more can an adventure-lover want to read about? 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? Then 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 having “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, PhD. And wish them a nighty-night.
For the parent of older kids, wrap up “What Girls Need” by Marisa Porges, PhD, 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. So 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 literally 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, which is 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-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 Q-and-A 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 is also 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 may or may 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 might also 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? Then 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. Bonus: it’s great for women ages 16 to 96. Wrap it up with “A Lab of One’s Own” by Rita Colwell, PhD 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 ten historical female pioneers, and the author’s journey from continent to continent 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, then: wrapping up “Science and Cooking” by Michael Brenner, Pia Sorensen, and David Weitz is a no-brainer gift to give. It includes recipes. How can you go wrong? 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. Nostalgia + TV = a great gift.
There’s someone on your list who loves gardening, and will love to see “The Language of Butterflies” by Wendy Williams under the tree. It’s the story of butterflies, why we love them, what scientists are learning about them, and how the world would be the lesser without them. Pair it with “Naturalist” by Edward O. Wilson, adapted by Jim Ottaviani & C.M. Butzer, a graphic-novel-type biography about Wilson, who is a science-expert on ants and bugs.
The giftee who looks toward the future, always, will love to unwrap “A Woman’s Influence” by Sheri Gaskins and Tony A. Gaskins, Jr. It’s a book for women who want to take better control at work, at home, and in their relationships. Wrap it up with “Ready for Anything” by Kathi Lipp, a book about resilience amid crises of any size.
Is your political animal a little sorry to see the election over? Then wrap up “Fight House” by Tevi Troy, a book about the back-stabbing, fang-baring tumultuousness and rivalries inside the White House in the last century or so. Pair it with another great history book: “Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood” by Colin Woodard.
For the writer on your gift list, you want to choose right… so choose “Mastering the Process: From Idea to Novel” by Elizabeth George. You may know George as a novelist – and if you do, you know the advice in this book is solid.
Wanna see your scientist smile? Here: wrap up “The Next Great Migration” by Sonia Shah. It’s a sweeping, vast look at us: where we’ve been, where we went, when we left, and how we got to where we are. For your armchair biologist, this is a no-brainer. Pair it with “The Sum of the People” by Andrew Whitby, a book about why countries take a census and how it’s shaped the world.
And if you’ve got a science-minded someone you’re looking to gift, look for “Exploring the Elements: A Complete Guide to the Periodic Table” by Isabel Thomas, pictures by Sara Gillingham. It’s seriously lighthearted and makes this branch of science easy and fun to understand. Wrap it with “Can People Just Burst into Flames?” by Larry Scheckel, a great book of science trivia, questions and answers for any scientist (or anyone who’s curious), ages 12 and up.
If you’ve got a biker on your gift list this year, “Revolutions: How Women Changed the World on Two Wheels” by Hannah Ross is the book to give. It’s a history of bicycling mixed with feminist history. Wrap it inside a new helmet for a great gift, and add “Mobile Home” by Megan Harlan, a book about travel and the things we call home.
For the lover of sports, sort of, “Loving Sports When They Don’t Love You Back” by Jessica Luther and Kavitha A. Davidson is the right book to wrap up. It explores and discusses all the sports-related things that make your giftee take pause: loving teams that lose, racist mascots, paying for that new stadium, owners who are unethical…
The biography lover on your list will be very happy to unwrap “Family in Six Tones” by Lan Cao and Harlan Margeret Van Cao. It’s a book about a woman who came to the U.S. from Vietnam as a young girl, settled in and became an American success but then struggled to raise an American daughter. It’s a book about family, legacy, love, and your giftee will adore it. Wrap it up with another story of time and place: “Miracle Country: A Memoir” by Kendra Atleework, set in Eastern Sierra Nevada, Minnesota, and back.
Is there a giftee on your list who’s obsessed with celebrity? Then why not wrap up “Ladeo Romeo: The Radical and Revolutionary Life of Charlotte Cushman, America’s First Celebrity” by Tana Wojczuk. It’s a fascinating story that includes history and a lot of old-time glitz and glamour, and history buffs might enjoy it, too.
If your giftee needs something inspirational this holiday season, wrap up “More Alike Thank Different” by David Egan. It’s a memoir about living with Down syndrome, competing in Special Olympics, and teaching those who need to learn. Wrap it up with “Sitting Pretty” by Rebekah Taussig, the likewise inspirational story of a disability advocate who never lets four wheels hold her back.
The reader who loves a good family story with a twist will love unwrapping “Let’s Never Talk About This Again” by Sara Faith Alterman. It’s the story of growing up in a strict family that abhors profanity – and then finding some skeletons on the family bookshelf.
Health and self-help books
What’s better than a family drama beneath the tree? “The Heart and Other Monsters” by Rose Andersen, that’s what. It’s the story of sisters, addiction, and learning more about them both than you bargained for. Pair it with “Empty” by Susan Burton; it’s a memoir about the work it takes to overcome eating disorders and the understanding it demands.
For the woman on your list who needs a little inspiration this holiday, wrap up “More Than Ready” by former White House Domestic Policy Council leader Cecilia Munoz. Intended especially for women of color, it’s a book of insights, inspiration, and stories that will give her something to ponder long after the tinsel is gone.
For your giftee who wants to dedicate their life to doing better, wrap up “One by One by One” by Aaron Berkowitz. It’s a book about how one tiny action (or a series of them) can make a difference in the world, and a doctor’s urge to be that change. Wrap it up with “Carville’s Cure” by Pam Fessler, the story of a disease and the people who changed how we look at its sufferers.
For the giftee who loves to people-watch the ones they love, wrap up “Perception: How Our Bodies Shape Our Minds” by Dennis Proffitt and Drake Baer. It’s a book about seeing things a little differently in several new ways. Wrap it up with “In Praise of Walking” by Shane O’Mara, a book that will encourage your giftee to get out and take a little stroll, and see what it does to a body.
The woman’s history lover on your gift list will truly be happy to unwrap “No Man’s Land” by Wendy Moore. It’s a story of British nurses in World War I and the barriers they broke under duress.
If you have a giftee who’s already tired of “adulting,” then you can’t go wrong with “Barely Functional Adult” by Meichi Ng. These humorous short stories, complete with cute cartoons, will tell your young adult (or an older adult, for that matter) that things will eventually work themselves out. Wrap it up with “The Hilarious World of Depression” by John Moe, a story with humor can maybe help with the worst days.
For the giftee who ponders the future beyond, “Death is But a Dream” by Christopher Kerr, MD, PhD may be the right gift this year. It’s a book about the end of life and how to see it as more than just a loss.
The person on your gift list who’s fascinated with biology and the way their body works will love “The Remarkable Life of the Skin” by Monty Lyman. It’s a look at your cover, inside and out, including nice surprises about your largest organ.
Special gifts for the bibliophile
Your giftee who loves “Strange Planet” comics will whoop when they open the gift with “Strange Planner” by Nathan W. Pyle inside. Yes, this is a planner, or a diary, or a journal, or just a way to make notes, keep memories, and have fun. Make it a better gift by wrapping “Greetings From Strange Planet,” Pyle’s collection of postcards, in the same snazzy gift package. Don’t forget “Stranger Planet,” for more alien fun.
If you’re on the search for a gifty-type book for a dog lover, look for “Dog Mom: A Love Story” by Isabel Serna. It’s a cute, quick read about dogs, canines, and our love for them. The giftee who loves all kinds of animals will love to see “A Guinea Pig Night Before Christmas” in the package, too.
You can’t possibly go wrong when you wrap up “We Are Santa: Portraits and Profiles” by Ron Cooper this Christmas. It’s a book filled with Santas from around the eastern and central sides of the country, and how they became Jolly Old Elves.
Stocking stuffers unite! Here are two books for your pop-culture maven: first, “Everything is Terrible” by Matthew DiBenedetti will have them laughing and agreeing with all kinds of annoyances and questions that will spark conversation at the dinner table. Then there’s “The Wisdom of Picard,” edited by Chip Carter, a collection of statements and thoughts uttered by the Star Trek captain. Bonus: information on which show, season, and episode the quotation can be found.
For the giftee who’s a fan of Walt Carr’s carrtoons, look for “Just Us!” by Carr. These are comics on racism, culture, and they’re wry and sometimes funny, they’ll poke at your sense of outrage, and for the person on your list who needs something different, here it is…
For the business-minded
The business-minded giftee will love finding “In Our Prime” by Susan J. Douglas beneath the tree this holiday. It’s especially perfect for feminists, since it’s about all the ways that women are challenging the status quo in work, politics, social norms, media, and everyday life.
Imagine how happy your business-minded giftee will be when “The Catalyst” by Jonah Berger is unwrapped. It’s a book about changing people’s minds, even when they’re firmly made up. Somebody will be doubly happy seeing “Sway” by Pragya Agarwal in the gift, too; it’s a book about unconscious bias and how to change that, too.
For the businessperson who’s also a fan of history, “George Washington, Entrepreneur” by John Berlau will make an awesome gift. It’s the story of our first President, a man who was also a very smart businessman, and how his decisions and his support of others altered the way America was built. Pair it with “Transfluence” by Walt Rakowich, a book on leadership in today’s business world.
No doubt, there’s a creative person on your gift list, someone who’s dedicated to their craft. So this is the year to wrap up “The Death of The Artist” by William Deresiewicz. It’s a look at how artists – real artists – are managing to make a living and how maybe it’s time to reframe art to the level of importance it deserves.
For the person who’s got their business humming despite the pandemic, “Winning Now, Winning Later” by David M. Cote will be a winning gift. It’s a book that explains how a business can do well now, while preparing to do well in years to come. Wrap it up with “Uncharted: How to Navigate the Future” by Margaret Heffernan, another book on keeping an eye on the business horizon.
For the giftee who’s also a fan of money, wrap up “In the Eye of the Storm: My Time as Chairman of Bank of America During the Country’s Worst Financial Crisis” by Walter E. Massey with Rosalind Kilkenny McLymont. It’s part memoir, part inside look at the crisis, all readable. Don’t hesitate to pair it with “A Blessing: Women of Color Teaming Up to Lead, Empower, and Thrive” by Bonita C. Stewart and Jacqueline Adams, a book on leadership and leaning toward one another for success.
For LGBTQ readers
For the person who craves a thriller, “These Violent Delights” by Micah Nemerever is the gift to give. It’s a novel of two young men who meet at college and soon become obsessed with one another in different ways. But one is cruel, the other is fearful, and you know this ain’t good….
The person on your gift list who loves drag will love “The Cockettes: Acid Drag & Sexual Anarchy” from the archives of Fayette Hauser. It’s a lavishly-illustrated 50-year anniversary look at drag and the counterculture, and it’s absolutely for grown-ups.
If your giftee is a die-hard, conference-attending, never-miss-an-appearance fan, then wrap up “Conventionally Yours” by Annabeth Albert. It’s the story of a road trip, two fierce hate-fests, one romance, and two fanboys, but who’s the biggest? Wrap it up with “Date Me, Bryson Keller” by Kevin van Whye for double the love.
Here’s something unique: “They Say Sarah” by Pauline Delabroy-Allard is a best-seller in France, and a skinny book that your giftee won’t be able to stop reading. It’s the story of a single mother who’s living in Paris with her child. The woman has a boyfriend but one New Years’ Eve, she meets a woman who changes everything. Pair it with something nonfiction, like “I’ve Been Wrong Before” by Evan James, a book of essays on life, coming out, relationships, and more.
Fans of biographies will want to unwrap “Mama’s Boy” by Dustin Lance Black. Black, a screenwriter and activist tells the story of his childhood, having been raised by a single mother who suffered a lifetime of almost-insurmountable issues, and how they came to terms with everything they’d endured together. Pair it with “Daddy” by Michael Montlack, a book of essays on this and that and the other.
Another great memoir, “Later: My Life at the Edge of the World” by Paul Lisicky, the story of finding a place to settle down, and watching an epidemic as it changes that newly-beloved place.
The starwatcher on your list will love “Inside the Hollywood Closet: A Book of Quotes” by Boze Hadleigh. It’s a who’s who and a what-was-what that looks back at who said what about life as a gay star, and it’s fun!
The reader who wants something unique will enjoy “The Last Alias: True Stories and a Tale That Might Be” by Ste7en Foster (and no, that’s no typo). As humans, we are many different things. This book will make you think: who are YOU?
Pet and animal lovers
If your giftee is a “cat person,” then you can’t go wrong when you wrap up “Cat Vs. Cat” by Pam Johnson-Bennett. It’s a book for when there are two cats in the house and they don’t like one another one bit. Wrap it up, and avoid hissy fits.
If a pet-themed novel might be perfect for the hard-to-buy for animal lover, look for “Of Mutts and Men” by Spencer Quinn. It’s a mystery, as told by Chet the dog, who is half of a crime-solving duo. See if your giftee doesn’t sit up and beg for this kind of book. Pair it with “The Bright Side Sanctuary for Animals” by Becky Mandelbaum, a novel of family drama and rescue animals.
Imagine how happy the horse lover on your list will be when “Horse Crazy” by Sarah Maslin Nir is opened this holiday. Here, your horsey giftee will find a story that’s familiar: a lifelong love of horses, horses through history and culture, and finding horses wherever you look.
If your giftee is a Rescue Mom or Dad, you can’t go wrong with “Dawgs: A True Story of Lost Animals and the Kids Who Rescued Them” by Diane Trull with Meredith Wargo. That title should tell you everything you need to know….
True crime fans
The person on your gift list who loves a good murder will be happy with “18 Tiny Deaths” by Bruce Goldfarb. It’s the story of Frances Glessner Lee, a grandmotherly woman whose small doll-house-like crime-scene recreations revolutionized the science of forensics. Wrap it up with “How to Catch a Killer” by Katherine Ramsland, PhD, a book filled with stories about serial murderers, how they’re profiled, and what it took to put them away.
No true crime fan will want to miss unwrapping “Doctor Dealer” by George Anastasia and Ralph Cipriano this year. It’s the story of a motorcycle gang, an dishonest doctor, drugs, murder, and loose money. Wrap it up with this unusual true crime book: “The Last Assassin: The Hunt for the Killers of Julius Caesar” by Peter Stothard. Yes, it’s really every bit as fascinating as it seems.
What would make your true crime fan happiest this holiday? This: “Dancing with the Octopus” by Debora Harding. When she was a child, Harding was the victim of a horrible crime. Years later, when trying to deal with what had happened years prior, she meets the man who hurt her so… Please do pair it up with “Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir” by Natasha Trethewey, who writes of a family tragedy and a mother’s history.
Children’s picture books
‘For the littlest giftee who’s just learning their ABCs, there are two great options: superhero fans will love “T is for Thor: A Norse Mythology Alphabet” by Virginia Loh-Hagan, illustrated by Torstein Nordstrand. Pair it up with the slightly gentler “H is for Honey Bee: A Beekeeping Alphabet” by Robbyn Smith van Frankenhuyzen, illustrated by Eileen Ryan Ewen. These are A B-U-tiful pair of gifts.
For the kid who loves to sing and dance, or the child who loves silly poetry, Dan Brown’s “Wild Symphony” is a great book to give. Written by the “The DaVinci Code” author, this is a book of poetry with kid-friendly inspirational sidebars, and it comes with a free app so your child can follow along, musically. Wrap it up with “Lions & Cheetahs & Rhinos Oh My!” by John Platt and Moira Rose Donohue. It’s an informational book filled with artwork and wild animals, and it’ll absolutely appeal to your wild child.
Little animal lovers might also like “Memoirs of a Tortoise” by Devin Scillian, illustrated by Tim Bowers. It’s a clever, sad, and oh-so-sweet tale of a long and wonderful life and loss and love again. Pair it with “Tails from the Animal Shelter” by Stephanie Shaw, illustrated by Liza Woodruff, a book about pets for adoption, pets looking for a new home, pets your child could love.
What do you get your favorite little horse lover? This: “The True Story of Zippy Chippy, The Little Horse That Couldn’t” by Artie Bennett, illustrated by Dave Szalay. It’s the tale of a racehorse who didn’t race. Who would ever love him then?
For the youngest book lover who seems fascinated with medicine, “The Polio Pioneer: Dr. Jonas Salk and the Polio Vaccine” by Linda Elovitz Marshall, illustrated by Lisa Anchin might work. It’s also a great idea for the child who hates shots. Wrap it up with “All the Way to the Top” by Annette Bay Pimentel, pictures by Nabi H. Ali. It’s the tale of Jennifer Keelan-Chaffins, who uses a wheelchair, and the very brave and inspirational thing she did just before the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed. Keelan-Chaffins wrote the foreward to this book.
Farm kids and kids who love to visit farms will adore “Prairie Days” by Patricia MacLachlan, the story of being in the country. Kids will love it; you’ll enjoy the artwork by Micha Archer. Pair it with “This Land is Your Land,” words and music by Woody Guthrie, artwork from Kathy Jakobsen.
For the “I Don’t Wanna” kinda kid, “Otis P. Oliver Protests” by Keri Claiborne Boyle, illustrated by Daniel Duncan is perfect this holiday. It’s the tale of a boy who hates baths and will go to unusual lengths to avoid them. Wrap it up with “Christopher Pumpkin” by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet, illustrated by Nick East. It’s about a little boy pumpkin who’s not your usual scare!
Since the littlest person on your gift list loves to hear stories about other kids, “A World Together” by Sonia Manzano would make a great gift this year. Written by Sesame Street‘s “Maria,” this book is from the National Geographic folks, so you know it’s full of great photos from around the world, too. Wrap it up with “Our Favorite Day of the Year” by A.E. Ali, illustrated by Rahele Jomepour Bell, a book about holidays and celebrations around the world.
For a kid who can sit a little longer than most, “Pirate Nell’s Tale to Tell” by Helen Docherty & Thomas Docherty is a great book to try. It’s a longer, more involved tale of high seas and hijinx, whales and swashbuckling. Wrap it up with “Jules vs. The Ocean” by Jessie Sima, a book about the water, a sand castle, and guess what happens…
Young scientists and dinosaur fans alike will enjoy “Dinosaur Lady: the Daring Discoveries of Mary Anning, the First Paleontologist” by Linda Skeers, illustrated by Marta Alvarez Miguens. Hint: share it, and then share the details in the author’s notes.
The little monster maven on your gift list this year will really enjoy “Travel Guide for Monsters” by Lori Degman, illustrated by Dave Szalay, a travelogue for the creature-on-the-go. Wrap it up with “I Love My Fangs!” by Kelly Leigh Miller, a tale of a very important lost tooth. And on that note, why not put “Letters from My Tooth Fairy” by Brooke Hecker, illustrated by Deborah Melmon in the package, too?
The budding politician on your gift list might enjoy unwrapping “Elizabeth Warren’s Big, Bold Plans” by Laurie Ann Thompson, illustrated by Susanna Chapmen. It’s a kid-friendly version of Warren’s biography, meant for older storytime lovers. Pair it with “Truth and Honor: The President Ford Story” by Lindsey McDivitt, illustrated by Matt Faulkner, for a great gift for your future politician.
For the kid who enjoys current events, “Your Voice is Your Superpower!” by Jessica and Sandy Bohrer, a book about voting and the First Amendment.
Books for young readers
For the kid who loves animals and mysteries (not necessarily in that order), wrapping up “The Great Pet Heist” by Emily Ecton, art by Dave Mottram, might be the best thing to do this holiday. It’s the story of Butterbean the weiner dog, his fellow pets, and what happened on the day that Mrs. Food fell and hurt herself. Will someone come to take care of them, or will they have to make better plans?
The princess on your list will love “Eight Princesses and a Magic Mirror” by Natasha Farrant, illustrated by Lydia Corry. It’s the story of a mirror cast by an enchantress, and in it are eight princesses who flat-out refuse to act princess-like but instead are brave, fierce, and tough.
If there’s a football fiend on your list this year, wrap up “Gridiron: Stories from 100 Years of the National Football League” by Fred Bowen and James E. Ransome. It’s a book your young fan will read again and again. Here’s another book that young readers will reach for repeatedly: National Geographic Kids Almanac 2021. Filled with photos, sidebars, graphs, and fun information, it’s one of those I-know-this-and-you-don’t kinds of books, and it’s perfect for your child’s stocking.
Books for teens
Think before you wrap up “The Body Image Book for Girls” by Charlotte Markey. Is your giftee ages 12 and up? Will she be okay with this as a gift? Are you okay with it? If your answer is yes, and yes, then YES. Wrap it up with “Body Talk” by Kelly Jensen, a book of essays on “radical anatomy.”
The fantasy lover on your list will love “Poisoned” by Jennifer Donnelly, a Snow-White-type tale of an evil queen and her efforts to kill a princess. But was the queen really behind the plot to cut out the princess’s heart? Wrap it up with “Little Creeping Things” by Chelsea Ichaso, a story of repressed memories, bullying, and a murder that may (or may not) have happened the way one girl thinks it did.
For the romantic on your gift list, look for “More Than Just a Pretty Face” bySyed M. Masood. It’s a novel about a boy and a girl and another girl and love with the perfect-for-you person. Pair it with “The Voting Booth” by Brandy Colbert, the timely story of a boy, a girl, a vote, and a fight to maintain democracy.
If there’s a car nut on your gift list, then you can’t go wrong with “Racers” by Neal Bascomb. It’s a true World War II story of a woman race car driver, a Jewish racer, a fast car, and showing Hitler a thing or two.
Your young cook is going to love unwrapping “The Healthy Junior Chef Cookbook” from Williams Sonoma; the recipes are easy but challenging (be sure to point out your favorite) and oh, those pictures! Wrap it with a new kitchen tool set for the best gift.
And now the housekeeping:
Release dates change, titles change, nothing’s set in stone, and books can get canceled. If you need help finding these titles or something like them, raise a flag, wave your hand, and throw yourself at the mercy of your favorite friendly bookstore owner or librarian. If you don’t have a favorite, it’s imperative that you treat yourself to a favorite bookstore owner or librarian today because they know all the secrets of the literary universe. They are, indeed, magical beings when it comes to books.
Season’s Readings, y’all!
Terri Schlichenmeyer is the author of the Detroit Lakes Tribune book review column, “The Bookworm Sez.” She has been reading since she was three years old, and never goes anywhere without a book. She lives in West Salem, Wis., with her two dogs and 9,000 books.