A Holiday Book Gift List, Part I

By Terri Schlichenmeyer, The Book Worm
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…


The novel lover who’s always doing good things for other people may enjoy unwrapping Just Do This One Thing for Me by Laura Zimmermann (Dutton). It’s the story of a daughter who always does what her free-spirited mother asks of her – even if it gets her in trouble. Wrap it up with Time’s Undoing by Cheryl A. Head (Dutton), a novel about a woman who’s determined to learn how her great-grandfather died, and how what it means to her safety. Bonus: this book was based on the author’s own family history.

The reader who loves twisty tales of sister love and rivalry will want to unwrap How to Care for a Human Girl by Ashley Wurzbacher (Atria), the story of two sisters, two pregnancies, and a whole pile of resentments. Pair it up with Before You Found Me by Brooke Beyfuss (Sourcebooks). It’s a tale of choosing your family and sticking together.

Is there a horse lover on your gift list? Aha, then look for Girls and Their Horses by Eliza Jane Brazier (Berkley), a novel set in the world of competitive show-jumping, where one mother’s wish to give her daughters an opportunity she always wanted could lead to death.  Wrap it up with another mean-girl novel, Under the Influence by Noelle Crooks (Gallery Books), a novel about a woman who gets a job with an influencer. Does she live to tell? Wait a few days, then ask your giftee…

Here’s a nicely complex novel your giftee will love: The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride (Riverhead Books). When a new housing development is being constructed in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, builders found a human skeleton. The people in the neighborhood know who the bones belonged to, but they’re not talking. This book about racism, community, and survival will make a great gift.

Mystery lovers will rejoice when they unwrap Mrs. Plansky’s Revenge by Spencer Quinn (Forge), the story of a seventy-something widow who’s scammed out of all her money. Law enforcement says the crime is impossible to solve, but your giftee will know better… Wrap it up with The McMasters Guide to Homicide 1: Murder Your Employer by Rupert Holmes (Simon & Schuster), a book about an unusual school where murder is the main focus.

If you’ve got someone on your list who loves books of magic and spells, then look for Black Candle Women by Diane Marie Brown (Graydon House). It’s a tale of three generations of Montrose women who live in the same house, stick to home, and keep their own company. Everything’s fine until one of them brings home a boy whose presence opens up an old family secret that will change everything. Wrap it up with Wade in the Water by Nyani Knrumah (Amistad), a novel of a white woman who befriends an 11-year-old Black girl, and the relationship between the two in a racially-divided southern city.

Does your giftee have keen memories of high school? Then Speech Team by Tim Murphy (Viking) may be the thing to wrap. It’s the story of a suicide, a teacher who may have been the root of it years ago, and the middle-age search to close old wounds.

Of course, the vampire fan on your gift list is going to want Vampire Weekend by Mike Chen (Mira), the story of Louise Chao, who finds out that the life of a vampire is actually pretty boring – although she does have punk rock shows to look forward to. And then a teenage relative arrives at her doorstep and everything changes… Give it with Rook by William Ritter (Algonquin Young Readers), a book about a girl who could see other realms and creatures, and she knows her gift can be used for good. But there’s chaos on both sides of the curtain, and her parents want her home. Can she save both worlds, and her own life?

For the future homeowner on your gift list, wrap up Perfectly Nice Neighbors by Kia Abdullah (Putnam), a thriller filled with revenge and regret. When your dream home is perfect but the folks next door aren’t, what do you do?  Wrap it up with Our Hideous Progeny by C.E. McGill (Harper), a book about old family homes and ancient family secrets.

You’ve got a reader on your list that would love a seafaring tale of pirates and ships, don’t you? That’s why you want to wrap up A True Account: Hannah Masury’s Sojourn Amongst the Pyrates, Written by Herself by Katherine Howe, a novel about a professor who finds and reads the journals supposedly written by a woman who snuck onto a pirate ship to find treasure hundreds of years ago. But the journal is missing some crucial information. Was that on purpose?

If your giftee loves to immerse themselves in series-mystery books, To Catch a Storm by Mindy Dejia (Atlantic Monthly) will be the gift they’ll love. It’s a new series featuring a physicist and a psychic; this first book is set in Iowa during inclement weather. You can’t go wrong, eh?  Wrap it up with The Killer Speech by Kevin Kluesner (Level Best), a thriller set in Wisconsin, featuring a politician and an FBI agent.


Your giftee follows politics, rabidly. So why not give them The Handy Supreme Court Answer Book, second edition by David L. Hudson, Jr, J.D. (Visible Ink Press). This easy-to-understand book is filled with Q&A information on how the SCOTUS works, why it’s important, and some insight to the nine people who sit on what may be the most controversial court ever. Pair it with Grifters, Frauds, and Crooks by Richard Estep (Visible Ink Press), for a great look at law, order, and the lack thereof.

The horror-movie-lover on your gift list will absolutely want The Exorcist Legacy: 50 Years of Fear by Nat Segaloff (Citadel Press). It’s the story of the movie, its making and the outrage and controversy it led to… but it’s also about the crowds, creators, and fans who made it a classic. Wrap it up with Say Hello to My Little Friend: A Century of Scarface, also by Nat Segaloff, also from Citadel Press.

The connoisseur of fine liquor will want to unwrap Last Call at Coogan’s: The Life and Death of a Neighborhood Bar by Jon Michaud (St. Martin’s Press). It’s a biography of a drinking spot, but also of the people who loved it and could be found inside it. Wrap up A Good Mom’s Guide to Making Bad Choices by Jamilah Mapp and Erica Dickerson (Harper One) with it. It’s sharp, hilarious, and a good reminder that you can make mistakes and the kids will probably be just fine.

For the giftee who likes to think big, Age of the City: Why Our Future Will be Won or Lost Together by Ian Goldin and Tom Lee-Devlin (Bloomsbury) may be the perfect gift. It takes a deep dive into how cities have shaped the world in the past, and how they may be the answer to a lot of the problems that citizens in the future will face. Wrap it up with Bold Ventures: Thirteen Tales of Architectural Tragedy by Charlotte Van den Broeck (Other Press), a book about builders and buildings they didn’t live to regret.

If you’ve got a pop culture fan on your list, or a Millennial, wrap up Wannabe: Reckonings with the Pop Culture That Shapes Me by Aisha Harris (Harper One). Harris, of NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, takes a look at growing up in the 1990s and all the fun, irritating things that came with it. Pair it with The Perennials: The Megatrends Creating a Postgenerational Society by Mauro F. Guillen (St. Martin’s Press). Imagine a world with no more Boomers, GenXers, or Millennials. It’s a world where we’re not categorized, and your giftee may love reading about that.

The person on your gift list who loves love will be thrilled to unwrap Love Stories by Trent Dalton (Fourth Estate), a collection of quick, super-short man-on-the-street stories of finding, having, and losing love. Swoon. Pair it with “Your Difference is Your Strength” by Kris Ferraro (St. Martin’s Essentials), a book about knowing, loving, and accepting yourself. Or try The Joy Strategist by Grace Harry (Andscape Books) and wrap it up for someone you love who also loves books.

For the person on your gift list who wants to but more communication in their relationship, wrap up The Power of Language by Viorica Marian (Dutton). This intriguing book looks at the way we speak and how we can tap into unique abilities of our minds. Wrap it up with Mother Tongue by Jenni Nuttall (Viking), a book of language, vocabulary, and the meanings of words that women have created, hated, and embraced.

Your giftee who devours books on social issues will want to unwrap No Human Contact by Pete Earley (Citadel Press). Ripped from today’s headlines, this book takes a look at solitary confinement in prison, and what a pair of inmates did to change how prisons work. Wrap it up with The Serial Killer Next Door: The Double Lives of Notorious Murders by Richard Estep (Visible Ink Press), for a full look at some of the people inside those prisons.

If there’s a sneaker lover or a collector on your gift list, don’t give another pair of shoes or fancy laces as a gift. Instead, wrap up A History of Basketball in Fifteen Sneakers by Russ Bengtson (Workman). Full of pictures, history, side-bars, and more, this book will make a buckets fan smile, too. Readers who can’t get enough of sports, period, will want to read Banana Ball: The Unbelievably True Story of the Savannah Bananas by Jesse Cole with Don Yaeger (Dutton), the story of baseball, but not quite.

There’s a lover of the paranormal on your gift list, isn’t there? Then you want to wrap up Encounters: Experiences with Nonhuman Intelligences by D.W. Pasulka (St. Martin’s Essentials). Has your giftee seen a UFO or had an angel encounter? Have they been to other dimensions and want to explore more? Yep, this is the right gift – and it’ll be even better if you wrap it up with The Afterlife Book by Marie D. Jones and Larry Flaxman (Visible Ink Press), a book on Heaven, Hell, this side of life, and that side.

Who doesn’t get their dog a gift? You do, of course, so wrap up Fifty Places to Travel with Your Dog Before You Die by Chris Santella and DC Helmuth (Abrams Press). Hiking, swimming, romping here and abroad, this is a book your pup can really sink his teeth into, and it’s a good bet he’ll let you borrow it. And if you have a (human) giftee who craves similar adventure, wrap up Reading the Glass: A Captain’s View of Weather, Water, and Life on Ships by Elliot Rappaport (Dutton), a book that’s meant for the anyone who dreams of giving up the landlubber’s life.

For the person who cares for animals that don’t get a lot of press, you won’t go wrong if you wrap up Of Time and Turtles by Sy Montgomery (Mariner), a book about a turtle rescue and the volunteers who work hard to save shells and lives. Pair it up with Kings of Their Own Ocean: Tuna, Obsession, and the Future of Our Seas by Karen Pinchin (Dutton), the story of more than just a fish.

And here’s a book that will make someone smile this holiday: Family, Friends, and Neighbors: Stories of Murder and Betrayal by Richard Estep (Visible Ink Press). Your true crime fanatic will love it.


If your giftee loves reading about Black History, then you can’t go wrong when you wrap up The First Migrants: How Black Homesteaders’ Quest for Land and Freedom Heralded America’s Great Migration by Richard Edwards and Jacob K. Friefeld (Bison Books). It’s the story of the people who headed to the plains decades before the Great Migration, and how their mve changed the country.

For the person who devours history, look for African American Almanac: 400 Years of Black Excellence by Lean’tin Bracks, PhD (Visible Ink Press). This second edition is full of history, mini-biographies, things your giftee might not know, and best of all: it’s completely updated. Also look for Before the Movement: The Hidden History of Black Civil Rights by Dylan C. Penningroth (Liveright). More history. More stories.

The person on your list who enjoys real-life mysteries and history will want Unearthed: A Lost Actress, A Forbidden Book, and a Search for Life in the Shadow of the Holocaust by Meryl Frank (Hachette Books). For much of her childhood, Frank’s aunt Mollie strove to ensure that the kids in the family never forgot what had happened during World War II to the Jews. When Frank inherited a book filled with secrets, she went in search of a missing link to that story. Wrap it up with The Ghost Tattoo: Discovering the Hidden Truth of My Father’s Holocaust by Tony Bernard (Citadel Press), the story of a son who learns the secrets of a concentration camp that his father finally told.

That same World War II buff may want to read Fragile Cargo: The World War II Race to Save the Treasures of China’s Forbidden City by Adam Brookes (Atria). This story starts nearly two decades before the war, bringing readers a story that’s exciting, chaotic, and brave.

Another book for your historian is Getting Out of Saigon by Ralph White (Simon & Schuster), a book by a man who tried desperately to get his entire staff of a bank out of harm’s way and the Vietnam War’s path. Staff and their families, that is, 113 people, and it’s a harrowing tale.

For the giftee who loves to read about unusual connections, here’s what to give: Wingmen: The Unlikely, Unusual, Unbreakable Friendship Between John Glenn and Ted Williams by Adam Lazarus (Kensington). How did an astronaut and a baseball player become the best of chums?  Give the book as a gift this year, and then ask…