By Terri Schlichenmeyer
Last January, you loaded up. You loaded up on all the left-over, on-sale, clearance-priced Christmas wrapping paper you could lay your hands on. You bought Hanukkah bags, Santa wrap, gifty things with poinsettias and reindeer and holly, and you put it all away because you knew darn well you’d use it in due time.
Well, now’s the time.
You got the paper out. You just need to find things to use it with.
But sometimes, it’s hard to find just the right thing for everybody on your list, isn’t it? There’s always somebody who’s impossible to buy for … and that’s when you should head to the bookstore to look for these great reads.
Set in Minnesota as the last century began, “The Lighthouse Road” by Peter Geye is a book about homesickness, love, survival, and life the way our ancestors lived. This novel is set in the winter, and is so evocative that you’ll want an extra blanket when you take it by the fireplace. And speaking of snow, here’s another cold-weather novel to give: “The Vanishing Act” by Mette Jakobsen. It’s the story of a father and daughter who live on a snow-covered island. When a dead boy washes up on the shore one day, the young girl tries to learn the truth about him and about her mother’s death.
Novel lovers will be so happy when they unwrap “Motherland” by Amy Sohn! This is a book about five mothers and fathers in various places around New York City, and how they deal with modern marriage and relationships. This book is perfect when teamed with a new mug and a box of hot cocoa. Another book novel lovers will eat up is “One Last Thing Before I Go” by Jonathan Tropper, which is the story of one man’s last days and his attempt to fix what’s broken before he’s gone.
Is someone on your list bereft because there’s no new Twilight book this season? Fear not, and wrap up “Dark Frost” by Jennifer Estep. This book – the next in the Mythos Academy series – is dark, mysterious, and romantic, and it’s just the thing for your favorite undead novel-lover. Another book to try is “The Taken” by Vicki Pettersson. That’s a mystery set between mortal and immortal worlds, where whodunit might be more like WHATdunit.
You know how much your friends love to read. So why not wrap up “Heft” by Liz Moore? This is a novel about an unlikely friendship between a 550-pound man and a 17-year-old kid who is living a life he never expected. Give it to your friend – then borrow it back. Another book about a friendship – this one, not what it seems – is “Man in the Blue Moon” by Michael Morris. It’s the story of a single mother who befriends a banker who offers to help, but he’s no help at all.
Definitely for a grown-up to unwrap, “The Water Children” by Anne Berry is the story of four children, each touched by tragedy and water, and how they come together to survive and heal.
No doubt your giftee is someone who takes his (or her!) reading seriously, so how about some seriously great books? Look for “Creole Belle” by James Lee Burke, for instance. It’s the latest in the Dave Robicheaux series but this time, Dave is laying in the hospital. When he’s visited by a woman who supposedly disappeared weeks ago, it’s another mystery for him to solve … if he can. You might also want to wrap up “Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures” by Emma Straub, a debut novel about a small-town girl who makes it big in the Big City. But fame isn’t cheap, and it isn’t free – it comes with a price, which may mean losing her very identity.
Is there somebody on your list who loves to play with words? Then “The Painted Word” by Phil Cousineau (artwork by Gregg Chadwick) is a book to wrap up. This brick of a book is filled with fun words and their origins, as well as trivia about the things we say. Give it to your favorite student, wordsmith or writer. Also look for “Around the Writer’s Block” by Rosanne Bane. It’s a book on solving that annoying brain block using scientific methods.
At this holiest time of year, has your giftee decided that it’s time to redefine the reason for the season? Then wrap up “Faith Beyond Belief: Stories of Good People Who Left Their Church Behind” by Margaret Placentra Johnston. Through the stories of people who’ve decided to leave organized religion in favor of a spirituality all their own, this book will show your giftee that they’re not alone in their journey. Another book that’s good for anyone on a spiritual journey is “Soul of Light: Works of Illumination” by Joma Sipe. This beautiful book is filled with gorgeous pictures of geometrical light formations, and accompanying poems perfect for meditation. Buy it to give. Borrow it back.
The big question this year is, “What do we get Grandpa?” and the answer is “Rural Wit & Wisdom” by Jerry Apps. This is a re-release of an older book filled with old-time sayings, wise words, and humor, and it’s going to make any old farmer or farmer-at-heart smile. Another book he’ll like is “A Farm in Wisconsin” by Richard Quinney. Yes, the title is accurate, but anyone who grew up on a farm or in a small town – particularly anyone who loves looking at old pictures of that farm – will cherish this book.
Everybody has a giftee with wanderlust in her soul, and “Breakfast at the Exit Café” by Wayne Grady and Merilyn Simonds is a great gift for her. This is the story of two Canadian citizens who decide to explore America. Wrap it up with a map and a journal for a great armchair-traveler’s gift. Another travel book to look for is “Detroit: A Biography” by Scott Martelle. It’s a book that looks long and hard at one of America’s most interesting cities and the businesses and people who call it home.
COOKING AND HOME
The epicurean on your list will love unwrapping “Consider the Fork” by Bee Wilson. This fascinating book takes a look at how we cook, what we eat, and how we cook and eat it.
Your giftee loves green. Not the color, the movement, so you know you need to wrap up “Lemons and Lavender: The Eco Guide to Better Homekeeping” by Billee Sharp. This little paperback is packed with hints, tips, and ideas on keeping a better home, fixing what’s broken, crafts, cleaning, cooking, and gardening without hurting the environment. Wrap it up with some lavender seeds for a gift that’ll last.
PETS AND ANIMALS
Dogs and cats aren’t the only critters your giftee loves, so why not wrap up “Falling for Eli” by Nancy Shulins. This is a book about one woman, a dream she gave up and the unlikely four-legged healer that helped her get beyond it. This is a wonderful book for any animal lover, but horsey-types will love it best.
No doubt there’s someone on your gift list who’s crazy about their canine, so you really can’t go wrong with “Rabid: Are You Crazy About Your Dog or Just Crazy?” by Pamela Redmond Satran. We love our dogs – but do we love them too much? This book takes a humorous look at that question, and it pokes fun at our dog-daffy culture.
The dog lover on your list will also love to have “Do Dogs Dream?” by Stanley Coren. Coren is a dog expert, and this book explains all the things your dog wishes he could tell you and some things you just need to understand. Wrap it up with “Things Your Dog Doesn’t Want You to Know” by Hy Conrad and Jeff Johnson. It’s part trivia, part informative, part humor, and all pretty dang cute.
No doubt, you’ve got a cat person on your list. If that cat person is also a fan of feathered things, too, then “Kitty Cornered” by Bob Tarte is a must-wrap. Tarte is famous for writing about his duck and other critters in his flock, and this book tackles six cats who also own Tarte. Wrap it up with something catnippy for a purrrfectly great gift.
While there’s little boredom during the holiday season, it quickly settles in right afterward. So maybe “Delia’s Dull Day” by Andy Myer is a good book to wrap up and save until after the holiday. It’s the story of a little girl whose life is boring, boring, boring, but if she’d just look harder, she’d see how it’s really not so much.
If your little giftee loves dangerous animals (think: sharks and dinos), then “A Strange Place to Call Home” by Marilyn Singer and Ed Young. This book is filled with rhymes about the animals that live in deadly, dangerous places. What kid isn’t going to love a book like that? Wrap it up with “Track That Scat!” by Lisa Morlock, illustrated by Carrie Ann Bradshaw. It’s a book about animal poop, another subject that kids this age can’t get enough of.
If there’s a sleepover in your child’s future, “The Girls’ Ghost Hunting Guide” by Stacey Graham is a must-have. This book is filled with terror, stories from real ghost hunters, and more, and it’s sure to scare up a good sleepover. You might want to look for “Recipe for Trouble” by Sheryl Berk and Carrie Berk. That’s the latest in the Cupcake Club books, which include recipes and a good idea for your middle-schooler and her friends. Baked goods, anyone?
Though “Faith: Five Religions and What They Share” by Dr. Richard Steckel and Michele Steckel looks like a picture book, it’s not. In this book, your young giftee will learn about Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judiaism and what they have in common. This is the perfect book for kids who wonder why there’s strife around the world. It’ll make you wonder, too…
No doubt, your high-schooler closely followed the elections this year. After all, he’ll be voting himself pretty soon… so give him a little bit of behind-the-scenes information with “District Comics: An Unconventional History of Washington, DC,” edited by Matt Dembicki. This heavy paperback is filled with the work of many various artists and cartoonists and it takes a look at some of the secret, hidden goings-on in our nation’s Capital.
If your teen has decided that it’s time for a total change, then “Stealing Parker” by Miranda Kenneally is a great gift. In this book, Parker Shelton has the perfect life – but she wants a new one, so she shakes things up. Was it a mistake?
Bullying has been in the news lately, and if your teen has taken a stand, then wrap up “Send” by Patty Blount. It’s the story of one boy who stands up to a bully, but though he doesn’t regret it, it could be a mistake. That’s because he has a secret that could be revealed by his bravery.
So there you are. A bunch of ideas for everybody whose name on your gift list makes you groan. What will you buy? Now you know.
Keep in mind that availability isn’t guaranteed, titles may have changed, and some books might have to be ordered. But if these ideas aren’t good enough, then ask your friendly bookseller for hints, tips, and favorites.
So go. Get outta here. Go shopping.
And Season’s Readings.
Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. She lives in West Salem, Wis., with two dogs and more than 9,500 books.