By Terri Schlichenmeyer
The Truth Contributor
One thin line.
There you are, you’ve just crossed off your last person, thereby finishing your Holiday Gift List for the year. But oops, you forgot that one hard-to-buy-for aunt, and you haven’t gotten anything for your babysitter. And, and, and… you’re out of ideas. So how about something to read? See if these great books don’t give you some guidance…
RACISM and RACIAL ISSUES
What has racism looked like throughout history? Your social-justice-minded giftee will get a peek in The Stories Whiteness Tells Itself by David Mura (University of Minnesota Press).Meant for both Black and white readers, this is a conversation-starter. Wrap it up with The Hidden Roots of White Supremacy and the Path to a Shared American Future by Robert P. Jones (Simon & Schuster) for a perfectly thought-provoking gift.
No doubt, your giftee knows how life has been like since Black Lives Matter stepped into the news. In Our Shoes: On Being a Young Black Woman in Not-So “Post-Racial” America by Brianna Holt (Plume) is a book that examines the feeling further, in ways that relate to both culture and pop culture. Wrap it up with Real Friends Talk About Race by Yseult P. Mukantabana and Hannah Summerhill (Park Row Books), for a gift that takes this sometimes-squirmy subject and makes it possible to discuss.
The activist on your list wants to do best, so look for We Need to Talk About Antisemitism by Rabbi Diana Fersko (Seal Press). We discuss racism against Black people? Why not this, says the author. How else can we fight it? Pair this book with The Cost of Free Land by Rebecca Clarren (Viking), a book about a Jewish immigrant success story and what it meant to the Native Americans in their territory.
Gangbuster: One Man’s Battle Against Crime, Corruption, and the Klan by Alan Prendergast (Citadel Press) tells the story of a Denver district attorney and his efforts a century ago to eliminate the KKK and corruption. True crime fans with a social justice streak will love this book. Pair it with The Place We Make: Breaking the Legacy of Legalized Hate by Sarah L. Sanderson (Waterbook Press), the story of a woman who discovers a terrible wrong in 1851 Oregon… and then she’s related to the two men who helped the grievance happen.
BIOGRAPHY / MEMOIR
For your music lover, To Anyone Who Ever Asks: The Life, Music, and Mystery of Connie Converse by Howard Fishman (Dutton) will be a welcome gift this holiday. It’s the story of a singer / songwriter who never quite made the Big Time, although her music haunted the author and spurred him to try to understand why she disappeared one day. Wrap it up with a bookmark; it’s a big book. Wrap it up with Too Late to Stop Now: More Rock ‘n’ Roll War Stories by Allan Jones (Bloomsbury). It’s a collection of tales about a genre, from someone who was there.
Is there a Sherlockian fan on your list? Then imagine the excitement when Doyle’s World Lost & Found: The Unknown Histories of Sherlock Holmes and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle by Daniel Friedman, MD and Eugene Griedman, MD (Square One Publishers) is beneath the tree. This book fills in a lot of the cracks between the Holmes mysteries with info from the tales’ author’s life. Fans of literature will want this book, and so will Holmes readers. Wrap it up with A Mystery of Mysteries: The Death and Life of Edgar Allan Poe by Mark Dawidziak (St. Martin’s Press), the story of the great author and the how he may have met his end.
The runner on your gift list will love to unwrap Choosing to Run by Des Linden (Dutton). Linden was a Boston Marathon Champion and this is her story. If your athlete needs inspiration and a reason to lace up those shoes each morning, this book is it.
For the farmer or rancher on your list, A Bold Return to Giving a Damn by Will Harris (Viking) is a book about a farm, but also about the way things were and how they should be, the love of land, and the problems ahead with climate, raising food, and making a living.
Struggling to find the right biography for the history fan? Try King of Diamonds: Harry Winston by Ronald Winston & William Stadiem (Skyhorse Publishing, Inc). It’s the Gilded Age story of a rags-to-riches man whose name meant “diamonds” to generations of fine jewelry-wearers, and the times in which he lived.
Here’s the book to wrap up for the feminist on your list: Young and Restless by Mattie Kahn (Viking). Here, your giftee will learn about the teenage girls who made change happen in this country: suffragettes, activists, and unsung young women who stood up for what they thought was right. Make it an even better gift by adding Women We Buried, Women We Burned by Rachel Louise Snyder (Bloomsbury). It’s a story of survival, triumph, and a deep perspective on both.
The reader who loves a good reinvention story will truly love The Many Lives of Mama Love by Lara Love Hardin (Simon & Schuster). Years ago, the author was a thief and a heroin addict and then she went to jail. Once released, she takes what she learned from the cell and uses it to do good things for herself and others. Readers who love second chances will read this gift first.
Here’s an unusual business book for the unusual business reader: Blood Money by Kathleen McLaughlin (One Signal / Atria). Donating blood saves lives. Donating blood plasma is a big business, and it’s banned in all but five countries in the world. This book will make a great gift for a business reader or for your favorite health care professional.
For the future mom or the mother-to-be who’s still trying to figure out her work situation, Carry Strong: An Empowered Approach to Navigating Pregnancy and Work by Stephanie Kramer (Penguin Life) may be the best gift ever. Bonus: case studies and real stories so the new mother can read about real life.
The future business leader on your gift list will want to own Power to the Middle: Why Managers Hold the Keys to the Future of Work by Bill Schaninger, Bryan Hancock, and Emily Field (Harvard Business Review Press). Middle managers, as the authors argue, is no longer a throwaway position that takes pressure from above and below. Today’s middle manager is as important as everyone else in an organization, if not more so. Give this book and see what kind of a difference it makes. Wrap it up with The Unlocked Leader by Hortense Le Gentil with Caroline Lambert (Wiley), a book on being the kind of leader that people ask to work with.
If there’s someone on your gift list who’s heading for a leadership role, wrap up To the Top: How Women in Corporate Leadership are Rewriting the Rules for Success by Jenna C. Fisher (Wiley). Gone are so-called old-boys’ networks. Today’s corporations run differently. Support it by giving this book. Here’s another unusual look at the top: Disneyland on the Mountain: Walt, the Environmentalists, and the Ski Resort that Never Was by Greg Glasgow and Kathryn Mayer (Rowman & Littlefield). It’s the story of a proposed feature at Disneyland and the fight that kept it from being made. How it left an impact on business and leisure is a great story for your giftee.
Any business-minded person on your list is going to be happy you gave Know What Matters: Lessons from a Lifetime of Transformations by Ron Shaich (Harvard Business Review Press). Schaich is the founder of Panera Bread and this book is about his life, his achievements, and what he has to share with entrepreneurs who won’t stop until they reach success.
For the person on your gift list who’d love a boy-meets-boy story, wrap up Bellies: A Novel by Nicola Dinan (Hanover Square Press), the tale of a playwright and the man who loves him wholly, until a transition threatens to change everything.
If there’s a romantic on your list, then you’re in luck: finding a gift is easy when you wrap up 10 Things That never Happened by Alexis Hall (Sourcebooks), the story of Sam, whose job is okay, and his boss, Jonathan, who should have never hired Sam. Too late now, except for the romance. Wrap it up with Time Out by Sean Hayes and Todd Milliner with Carlyn Greenwald (Simon & Schuster), the story of a basketball player who’s newly out of the closet, and a politically-minded boy who could easily get his vote…
For the person on your list who likes to read quick, short articles, wrap up Inverse Cowgirl: A Memoir by Alicia Roth Weigel (HarperOne). It’s a collection of essays on life as an intersex person, and the necessity for advocating for others who are, too.
For the giftee who loves reading true medical mysteries, Girls and Their Monsters by Audrey Clare Farley (Grand Central) will make a great gift. When researchers studying schizophrenia heard of quadruplet sisters who’d been recently diagnosed, they hoped that the women could unlock secrets. Instead, they found secrets that resonate even today. Wrap it up with Scarcity Brain: Fix Your Craving Mindset & Rewire Your Habits to Thrive with Enough by Michael Easter (Rodale Books), for a better look at how our minds work and how we can enhance them.
If there’s a giftee on your list who seems to be on an internal struggle, What Women Want: A Therapist, Her Patients, and Their True Stories of Desire, Power and Love by Maxine Mei-Fung Chung (Grand Central) may be the right gift. In a series of case-studies, Chung shows that women aren’t as complicated as some say. It’s a story of healing and finding one’s best self. Wrap it up with What About Men? by Caitlin Moran (Harper),, a witty (but serious) look at the other side, making a nicely rounded, double-ended gift.
For the person who remembers the pandemic all too well and wants to know what the heck just happened there, wrap up Foreign Bodies: Pandemics, Vaccines, and the Health of Nations by Simon Schama (Ecco). More than a health book, this is also a history of how pandemics have been perceived and investigated through the centuries, what people in the past did about them, and what we can anticipate in the future.
Your giftee professes to want to live forever, so wrap up The Well-Lived Life: A 102-Year-Old Doctor’s Six Secrets to Health and Happiness at Every Age by Gladys McGarey, MD (Atria). McGarey is considered to be “The Mother of Holistic Medicine” and this book explains how she’s stayed healthy and active for more than a century. Readers will love the advice here, but they’ll also love the biography inside. Wrap it up with Fit Citizens: A History of Black Women’s Exercise from Post-Reconstruction to Postwar America by Ava Purkiss (The University of North Carolina Press), a book about what experts told Black women about exercise and how that factored into the fight for equality.
If someone on your list is hurting from a loss this year or recently, carefully look for The Urgent Life: My Story of Love, Loss, and Survival by Bozoma Saint John (Viking). It’s a book about the death of a spouse, yes, but also about taking tragedy and making things as best as they can be.
If there’s a person on your list who loves animals, then Beastly: The 40,000-Year Story of Animals and Us by Keggie Carew (Abrams Press) may be just what they’ll love. It’s a long, deep look at creatures, including us, and it includes tales and true anecdotes your giftee will enjoy.
The environmentalist and the gardener on your list will both love How to Read a Tree: Clues and Patterns from Bark to Leaves by Tristan Gooley (The Experiment). It’s the story of trees, of course, but it’s also a volume of information and all the things we can learn by looking at or living near a tree. Give it to your homeowner, too, for a great holiday.
KIDS AGES 1-6
The littlest kid on your gift list will love reading Mister Kitty is Lost! by Greg Pizzoli (Little, Brown for Young Readers). A little girl’s kitty has gone missing. Young readers will be delighted with the hunt and surprised at the solution.
KIDS AGES 9-12
The kid who loves a bit of history with a great adventure story will want to read White House Clubhouse by Sean O’Brien (Norton Young Readers). It’s the story of two kids whose Mom is the new President of the United States. That’s cool and all, but it’s even cooler when they find a secret tunnel inside the White House…
Your giftee who loves the Baby-Sitter’s Club books will truly want to unwrap Curlfriends: New In Town by Sharee Miller (Little, Brown Young Readers).It’s the story of Charlie, who’s starting at another new school and struggles again with making friends. Can the Curlfriends, a group of Black girls who hang out together, make her year better? Middle-schoolers who wrestle with the preteen years will love this graphic novel.
TEENS AND YOUNG ADULTS
For the romantic on your gift list, try Chaos Theory by Nic Stone (Crown). It’s the story of two teens who are outcasts in their new school. They gravitate toward one another as friends with something in common. Could it be more than just that, though?
For the teen who needs to read the story of bravery and history, wrap up The Girl Who Survived Auschwitz by Sara Leibovits & Eti Elboim (Harper Collins / One More Chapter). It’s the tale of Leibovits’ family’s journey to a concentration camp, and it’s not for the faint of heart or the weak of mind.
And now for the housekeeping: books change, publishing dates change, and if you can’t find these books or something like them, be sure to ask the elves at the bookstore for the exact thing you need. They know books and they’ll help you find the best gift for that hard-to-find person and they might even wrap it for you.
Hint: you’re almost done with your shopping. Buy yourself a book.