By Terri Schlichenmeyer
The Truth Contributor
You knew this was coming.
You knew that you were going to have to finish your holiday shopping soon but it snuck up on you, didn’t it? And even if you’re close to being done, there are always those three or five people who are impossible to buy for, right? Remember this, though: books are easy to wrap and easy to give, and they last awhile, too. So why not head to the bookstore with your Christmas List and look for these gifts…
Is there a better book to give your BFF than How to Kill Your Best Friend by Lexie Elliott? I think not. This is a book about three friends who’ve been inseparable since college. Sadly, one of them, a strong swimmer, drowns under mysterious circumstances. Is there a murderer in their rapidly-shrinking friends circle?
Fans of thrillers will absolutely want to unwrap Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka, the story of five assassins who find out that their respective assignments have a little too much in common for comfort. Give this book for a gift, along with two movie tickets, since it’s about to become a motion picture.
The person on your gift list who loves mythology will be very excited to see Daughters of Sparta by Claire Heywood beneath the tree. This is a story of two princesses of Sparta, of which little is expected but birthing an heir and looking beautiful. But when patriarchal society becomes too overbearing, the princesses must decide what to do. Far from your normal “princess” tale, this one has shades of feminism in ancient times.
The giftee who loves romantic happily-ever-after may enjoy an anti-HEA with Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney, the story of a couple that’s struggling with their marriage. It’s nobody’s fault: he has an affliction and can’t recognize faces; she’s tired of being ignored. When they win a vacation, it’s a chance to make things better. Or not.
The Poe fan on your gift list will love unwrapping Poe for Your Problems by Catherine Baab-Miguira. Edgar Allen Poe as therapist? Who knew? Add The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows by John Koenig to the gift box. It’s a book about words and feelings and how obscure language might help make things a little clearer.
Readers who particularly like storys with sugar will love All the Lonely People by Mike Gayle. It’s a tale of a lonely man who lives far from his family – far enough away that he feels confident in embellishing his life to his daughter. That’s fine, until she says she’s coming to visit and he must make fantasy match reality. Wrap it up with The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World by Laura Imai Messina. It’s a beautiful story of loss, hope, and how we keep memories alive when someone’s gone.
Readers who love underdog tales will be so happy to unwrap Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead by Emily Austin. It’s the story of Gilda, an atheist lesbian who lands a job as the receptionist at a Catholic church by mistake. When a friend of the former receptionist tries to contact the deceased former secretary, Gilda impersonates the woman. Problem is, the woman’s dead and Gilda’s acting suspicious… Pair it up with The Mad Woman’s Ball by Victoria Mars, a novel set in France in 1885. The Salpêtriére asylum is full of “insane” women who may or may not really be insane. But then one patient, hospitalized because she claims to speak to the dead, hatches a plan to escape..
Historical novel fans will want to see Island Queen by Vanessa Riley beneath the tree this year, for sure. Based on a true story, it’s about Dorothy Kirwan Thomas, who had been a slave. Once freed, she ultimately became one of the most powerful, most wealthy, and most influential women in the West Indies in the early 1800s.
The folk music lover who just happens to also enjoy novels will love The Ballad of Laurel Springs by Janet Beard. It’s the story starts with ten-year-old Grace, who learns something shocking about her family’s past and the event became a song. She’s not the only one, though: songs and lyrics tell the rest of the tale, through generations of Tennessee folk music. Wrap it up with a promise of summer music festivals to come.
The whodunit fan on your list will be happy to see A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins beneath the tree. It’s the tale of a nasty murder on a London houseboat, and the three women who had big, big reasons to want to see the victim dead.
For the reader who genuinely loves time-period mysteries, look for Dead Dead Girls: A Harlem Renaisance Mystery by Nekesa Afia. It’s Harlem, 1926 and young Black women are showing up dead all over the area. This is too close for comfort for Louise Lloyd, and so when she’s given an ultimatum – go to jail for a past transgression or help solve these murders – well, the choice is clear, isn’t it? This is the first book in a planned series, and your giftee will be looking for the rest after New Years’ Eve. Or make it an even better gift by adding Public Enemy #1 by Kiki Swinson, a novel about a new detective and a police department filled with corruption.
If you’ve got someone on your list who likes westerns and mysteries, why not marry the two by wrapping up Dark Sky by C.J. Box. It’s another in the Joe Pickett series (but it can be read alone), and it’s the story of a wealthy man, poaching, and murder, and it could send your giftee scrambling for the rest of the Pickett books.
And why does your giftee love mysteries? The answer lies inside Mystery: A Seduction, A Strategy, A Solution by Jonah Lehrer. This book ties advertising with assassination, major league football to murder, Shakespeare with slayings, to show how our curiosity and the urge to solve is tickled by a mystery.
For readers who require a lot of grit in their novels, look for The Song His Mother Sings by Teresa Collins, the story of a mother whose son is caught up in the drug trade. Trouble is, he thinks it’s fine and he blames her for filling his head with lies. Great for urban fiction fans, this is a quick read.
No doubt, there’s someone on your gift list who’s concerned about climate change. And so the book to wrap up is Hurricane Lizards and Plastic Squid by Thor Hanson, a natural historian. Here, Hanson reveals how climate change is driving evolution. And what will happen to us? Pair it with A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth by Henry Gee, a small book that looks at the Big Picture, where we came from and where we might go…
For the reader who’s new to America, or for someone welcoming a new immigrant to these shores, look for A Beginner’s Guide to America by Roya Hakakian. Nearly forty years ago, Hakakian came to live in America from Iran, and she noticed a few (ha!) differences that she writes about. This book is a bit humorous, a bit tongue-in-cheek, and a lot helpful for new Americans and for Americans who were born here, so that we might see ourselves as others do. Wrap it up with How Iceland Changed the World by Egill Bjarnason, a small island with a big world footprint.
The singer or orator on your list will devour This is the Voice by John Colapinto. It’s a scientific look at the human voice, how it differs, and how our ability to speak and verbally communicate as complex as we can has made us the dominant creatures we are. Wrap it up with The Invention of Miracles by Katie Booth, the true story of Alexander Graham Bell’s work with deaf individuals (including his wife).
If there’s a new cook on your list (or someone’s about to strike out on their own), Burnt Toast and Other Disasters by Cal Peternell will be the perfect thing to wrap up this holiday. It’s filled with recipes that are relatively easy with lots of chance to impress, and hacks to take care of those inevitable kitchen uh-ohs. And speaking of disasters, if your giftee is also concerned about health matters and the environment, wrap up Toxin Nation by Marie D. Jones, a book about manmade disasters and how it affects our food, air, water, and health.
Got an adventurer on your gift list? Then you can’t go wrong with True Raiders by Brad Ricca. It’s the story of the 1909 expedition to find the Arc of the Covenant, a story that few know and that’s largely undiscussed. Your giftee will be overjoyed to see Latitude by Nicholas Crane in the same gift box. It’s the true story of a ten-year expedition that started in 1735, in which a dozen men journey to determine the shape of the planet.
If you’ve got someone on your gift list who’s very interested in current and world events, then The Raging 2020s by Alec Ross might be the perfect gift. It’s a book that peers into our (possible) future in business, geographical issues, politics, and more. Pair it up with Broke in America: Seeing, Understanding, and Ending U.S. Poverty by Joanne Samuel Goldblum and Colleen Shaddox. It’s a book that looks into the future and offers ideas for hope.
The person who’s concerned with racial justice will be glad you gave State of Emergency: How We Win in the Country We Built by Tamika D. Mallory. It’s an overall look at continuing racism in America, including what’s happened in the past year or so; it’s a demand to think and a call to action for everyone. Pair it with Better, Not Bitter by Yusef Salaam, a memoir as well as an urge for racial justice.
For the giftee who worries about gun violence in America today, The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America by Carol Anderson might be a good gift. It’s about what she says is the real reason gun violence exists and beware: it’s very controversial.
If it seems like the last two years have fractured families, you’re right. That’s why Brothers, Sisters, Strangers: Sibling Estrangement and the Road to Reconciliation by Fern Schumer Chapman might be a great gift. Wrap it up for someone or for yourself.
TV fans of that iconic Sunday night show will love getting Ticking Clock: Behind the Scenes at 60 Minutes by Ira Rosen, producer of the show. Fans and followers will love the behind-the-scenes peeks.
The person who hopes to conquer fear in the new year will appreciate a gift of Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual by Luvvie Ajayi Jones. Jones is a blogger and public speaker and she knows how to take fear out of the equation. Your giftee will see how three words can make all the difference, and how to make good trouble.
The reader who loves a good scare will enjoy The Vampire Almanac: The Complete History by J. Gordon Melton, PhD. Pretty much everything you’d ever want to know about the undead is in here. Dare to wrap it up with A Very Nervous Person’s Guide to Horror Movies by Mathias Clasen, a book that picks apart those scary flicks and why we should (or shouldn’t) watch them.
For the reader who dreams of life in the past or wishes to know the future, Time Travel: The Science and Science Fiction by Nick Redfern is a book to give this year. Filled with short entries and packed with information, ideas, and possibilities from literature, philosophical thought, eyewitness accounts, and science, this book may make your giftee wish they had a ticket now…
Much has been said about Black women and their hair, but your giftee will love My Beautiful Black Hair by St. Clair Detrick-Jules. This book is full of pictures of Black women and the styles they’re rocking, accompanied by those womens’ stories. It’s a great gift for stylists, Black women who love their hair, and for their daughters who must learn to.
If you’ve got someone on your list who wants to make the world a better place, then look for An Abolitionist’s Handbook: 12 Steps to Changing Yourself and the World by Patrisse Cullors. Part memoir, part instruction, this book will help show how good can be done, not just in big ways but in everyday life. Wrap it up with Say Their Names: How Black Lives Came to Matter in America by Curtis Bunn, Michael H. Cottman, Patrice Gaines, Nick Charles, and Keith Harriston.
True Crime and Police Stories
The true-crime lover on your gift list will absolutely want to unwrap Rogue’s Gallery: The Birth of Modern Policing and Organized Crime in Gilded Age New York by John Oller. The title says it all; wrap it up with a couple mysteries for the best gift ever.
For the social activist on your list, or for anyone who wants to know more about the death penalty, look at Let the Lord Sort Them: The Rise and Fall of the Death Penalty by Maurice Chammah. Specifically looking at Death Row in Texas prisons, this book takes a look at penal punishment and how it affects the condemned and those who know them.
A true crime lover knows that nothing is better than a great book as a gift, so wrap up “Death on Ocean Boulevard: Inside the Coronado Mansion Case” by Caitlin Rother. Rebecca Azhau’s death was ruled a suicide. Rother shows that that might not be the case…
Your giftee will also be very happy with “American Serial Killers: The Epidemic Years 1950-2000” by Peter Vronsky. It’s an anthology of crime that’ll chill your favorite true crime aficianado and leave them begging for more – and so wrap up “Serial Killers: The Minds, Methods, and Mayhem of History’s Most Notorious Murders” by Richard Estep, for the best gift for a true crime fan ever.
For the Sports Lover
The fisherman on your list will love opening The Unreasonable Virtue of Fly Fishing by Mark Kurlansky this year. The thing to know is that this isn’t a how-to, it’s more of a how-to-love the art of casting and catching, from coast to coast and around the world.
No doubt, there’s someone on your list who plays favorites, when it comes to sports. That’s why you’ll want to wrap up Talking to GOATs by Jim Gray. It’s a book full of interviews with sports’ Greatest Of All Time competitors (GOATs, get it?). Surely, there’s more argument in this book, just as there’s more to know about superstar professionals.
Want to make a home run this holiday? Then wrap up 42 Today: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy, edited by Michael G. Long. It’s a collection of essays on the impact Robinson left on folks today, and memories that others have of the great man.
For the woman on your list who has a love-hate relationship with sports, wrap up Sidelined: Sports, Culture, and Being a Woman in America by Julie DiCaro. It’s a book that looks at pro sports’ “thorny issues”of sexism, exploitation, and the toxicity that women sometimes face when competing. Not for the faint of heart, for sure.
If there’s a young player on your list, here’s a book for their parents: The Brain on Youth Sports by Julie M. Stamm, PhD. Help them lay to rest the myths and be armed with the facts on brain injuries in kids’ sports.
The reader who can’t have enough World War II history will relish reading Into the Forest by Rebecca Frankel. It’s the true story of a family that escaped the Nazis by hiding in a nearby wooded area and they were able to stay safe for two years. Decades later, long after their liberation in 1944, another miracle happened and so did love. Wrap it up with a tissue. It’s that kind of book.
For the person who races through books faster than fast, wrap up The Matter of Black Lives: Writing from The New Yorker, edited by Jelani Cobb and David Remnick. It’s a thick anthology filled with essays from decades ago but are still relevant, thoughts that need reconsideration, and historical tales that modern eyes need to see. Wrap it up with Black Nerd Problems by William Evans & Omar Holmon, a book that’s perfect for geeks, nerds, Con-lovers, and gamers of any race.
History lovers will love unwrapping Travels with George by Nathaniel Philbrick, a book that chronicles the author’s trip across America to see how our country has change, including the way we see George though modern eyes.
Memoir and Biography
For the fan of police procedurals and courtroom drama, Redeeming Justice by Jarrett Adams is a no-brainer gift. When he was just a teenager, an all-white jury convicted Adams of a crime he didn’t commit and they sent him to prison. Ten long years later, he was exonerated and released but not without help and a long fight to prove his innocence. He’s now an attorney and this is a must-read tale. Wrap it up with The Prison Guard’s Daughter: My Journey Through the Ashes of Attica by Deanne Quinn Miller, whose father was murdered in the 1971 Attica Prison uprising.
The reader who’s also a fan of World War II stories will want to unwrap Eva and Eve by Julie Metz. It’s the story of Metz’s cosmopolitan, ultra-urbane mother and the side that Metz didn’t know about: when Eve was a child, she lived in Nazi-occupied Vienna. Wrap it up with a bookmark, though your giftee won’t need it.
Hollywood biography lovers will truly enjoy unwrapping Elizabeth and Monty: The Untold Story of Their Intimate Friendship by Charles Casillo. It’s the story of a deep friendship, but that’s not all; it’s also a dual-biography of two of H-wood’s most beloved stars.
The teacher in your life will love reading Matchsticks by Fred Engh. In 1961, Engh was a husband and father living in Maryland when he was inspired by an interview he saw that made him want to become a Physical Education teacher. And so Engh, a white man, enrolled in Maryland State College, which was then an all-black, segregated school. Bonus: this book is also a great read for the sports fan on your list.
For the skater on your list, wrap up The Most Fun Thing by Kyle Beachy. The author is a skateboarder and he writes about how he first learned the sport, what it’s like to be a middle-aged sk8r, and he addresses other “fun things” about life and skateboarding. It’s like a biography on wheels.
If you know a family that loves to travel, wrap up We Came, We Saw, We Left by Charles Wheelan. Long before Covid-19, the Wheelan family decided to take a long extended trip to “recharge and reflect” and see the world. Picture it: nine months and six continents with three teenagers. Wrap it with an atlas because you know what could be next…
Fans of the late Anthony Bourdain will absolutely love unwrapping Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography by Laurie Woolever, who was Bourdain’s co-author on many books. This is a collection of memories from those who loved Bourdain, like a love letter to those who followed him fiercely.
For the woman who finds herself alone this holiday, But You Seemed So Happy: A Marriage, in Pieces and Bits by Kimberly Harrington is a book about the end of a marriage, but also about the beginning of a marriage, things between those two points, and how it’s possible to find something good again..
Readers who love historical biographies will devour Cleopatra: The Queen Who Challenged Rome and Conquered Eternity by Alberto Angela. It’s a sweeping story and your giftee will love getting it, no de Nile.
What do you give to the person who longs for a time gone by? How about The Farm on Badger Creek: Memories of a Midwest Girlhood by Peggy Prilaman Marxen? Set in Wisconsin in the middle of the last century, your reader will find tales of life on the farm, of one-room schoolhouses,chickens in the coop, and Grandma in the kitchen. It’s got warmth, and it’s perfect for the nostalgic one on your list.