Here is another in out continuation of our Holiday Gift Guide — online edition. Up now: Reading materials!

The mistletoe is hung, and so are the garlands, the ornaments, window decorations, and lights. You’d be ready for the holidays, too, if you weren’t hung up on a gift for that one certain person. Now what? Now head to the bookstore with this column in-hand, and look for one of these great books.


If your giftee a lover of memoirs, Woman at 1,000 Degrees by Hallgrimur Helgason is a novel she may like, too. It’s told in the voice of 80-year-old Herra Björnsson, who is at the end of her life and she’s in the mood to share… Wrap it up with The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton, a novel of an archivist, a very old manor, and a bit of a mystery that transcends time.

Your cat lovers will take to Talk to the Paw by Melinda Metz like catnip. It’s a little bit romance, a little bit angst, a theft, and a purr-fect ending. If it’s not too timely to be a good gift, look for Only Child by Rhiannon Navin. It’s a book about a school shooting and a mother’s actions when her son is injured in ways that can’t be bandaged.

The short story fan will be glad to unwrap Sweet & Low by Nick White. This book is full of Southern fiction, characters you forget are not real, and situations that make a good yarn great. For true short-story fans, pair it with Everyday People: The Color of Life – A Short Story Anthology edited by Jennifer Baker.

For the giftee who sometimes wishes for a life-rewind, The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle could be a good choice to give. It’s a story about one evening, one meal, a lot of loved ones (past and present) and a chance to make things right. Pair it up with The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain, a book about a mother’s first chances.

If you give The Witch Elm by Tana French to your suspense-novel lover, be prepared to be ignored for the rest of the day. Not on purpose, but because this is a story of an injured man, a decades-old mystery, and plenty of spine-tingles.

For the historical fiction fan, look for A Well-Behaved Woman by Therese Anne Fowler. It’s a multi-generational tale of wealth and high-society (and the Vanderbilts), set in the years following the Civil War, and one woman’s desire – need? – to make it to the top of New York’s social scene.


Who doesn’t like a mystery? Your giftee sure does, and if there are chills inside it, all’s the better so wrap up Sodom Road Exit by Amber Dawn. It’s the story of a small but dying village that’s lost its last reason for tourists. Even so, one young woman lives there with her mother because she has nowhere else to go. She wishes she did, though, because her small hometown holds terror… Wrap it up with Ruin of Stars by Linsey Miller, the second book in a fantasy series in which the main character is gender-fluid.

For the reader who loves books that may make him think, look for So Famous and So Gay by Jeff Solomon. It’s a book about Truman Capote and Gertrude Stein and how their fame still lingers while so many other almost-celebrities barely get a nod today, no matter what they did for LGBTQ rights….

The person on your list who is thinking about transitioning (or who recently has) will love unwrapping Trans Like Me by CN Lester, a series of essays on gender diversity, being trans, and how to tackle tacky people whose questions are too nosy. Pair it with Being Emily by Rachel Gold, a book about a trans woman, now updated to include new material.

For the traveler on your list, the person who also loves history, you can’t go wrong with Riviera Dreaming by Maureen Emerson. It’s the true story of an architect and an ex-officer in the British Army, how they teamed up to create a mansion that took society by storm, and who vied to hire these two men to decorate their Riviera mansions. Wrap it up with Global Gay: How Gay Culture is Changing the World by Frédéric Martel, for a very well-traveled gift.

More fiction for the gay reader: You Can’t Tell By Looking by Russell J. Sanders, a romance about love between two high school boys, one of whom is also dealing with his anti-gay Islamic family; and Aesop Lake by Sarah Ward, a unique book based on three of Aesop’s Fables to tell a tale of a hate crime and its aftermath.


For the person who can’t get enough of John, Paul, George, or Ringo, Visualizing the Beatles by John Pring and Rob Thomas is something they’ll want to hold in their hands. It’s a graphic history of the Fab Four, so lots of pictures, easy to browse, fun to have. Pair it with The Cutting Edge by Leslie Cavendish, who was the woman who cut and styled the Beatles’ hair.

For the fashionista, you can’t go wrong when you give Fierce: The History of Leopard Print by Jo Weldon. Yes, that’s what this book is about – the evolution of a wild fad that shows no signs of slowing down. You know what kind of paper to wrap this book in, don’t you? Wrap it up for the perfect gift for the giftee who mourns the end of summer from October to May: Hollywood Beach Beauties by David Wills. It’s a large picture book full of starlets on the beach, circa 1930 into the 1970s. Not just fun for sun lovers, but for fashion followers, too. Another book to try: An Atlas of Natural Beauty by Victoire de Taillac and Ramdane Touhami. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a book of recipes for her to naturally enhance her gorgeous looks.

So your giftee likes to have something to take while waiting for his or her part in the community theater? Shakespeare’s Ear by Tim Rayborn couldn’t be a better book, then. It’s filled with interesting tales and little-known secrets from the world of theatre. For your favorite actor, it is to be. Also look for Messiah: The Composition and Afterlife of Handel’s Masterpiece by Jonathan Keates.

Where would you favorite pal be without you – or vice versa? In Text Me When You Get Home by Kayleen Schaeffer, your giftee will see how female friendships are forged, nourished, and kept strong and what happens when they don’t. Will you-know-who share this book with you? Wrap it up with Girl Talk by Jacqquline Mroz, a book about female friendships from a scientific perspective, and she might.

Yes, Earth is a pretty good place to live. Oxygen, water, trees… but what is our presence doing to the planet? Darwin Comes to Town by Menno Schilthuizen is one of those books that’ll answer your giftee’s questions while it also invites him to think. How is our world thriving and surviving? Pair it up with The Simpol Solution by John Bunzl and Nick Duffell, a book about fixing the global problems we face today and our children could face tomorrow. Consider more with The Disaster Survival Guide by Marie D. Jones, a book that’s a good primer for coming out the other side of nature’s worst and mankind’s unthinkable.

If your giftee would love something otherworldly, try Sister of Darkness: The Chronicles of a Modern Exorcist by R. H. Stavis with Sarah Durand. Yes, this book is for real. Yes, it could scare the Dickens out of someone.

The writer / reader on your gift list will truly enjoy The Handy Literature Answer Book by Daniel S. Burt, PhD, and Deborah G. Felder. It’s a book about books, authors, reading, and more books. Pair it up with 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die by James Mustich, which is a gigantic tome filled with suggestions that will keep your giftee busy for a lot of Christmases to come. Might also want to think about Atticus Finch: The Biography by Joseph Crespino, a biography of Harper Lee and the first man in her life.

New homeowners and those who are still looking may like A Place Called Home by Kim R. Manturuk, Mark R. Lindblad, & Roberto G. Quercia. It’s a rather scholarly look at why we own homes, who owns them, and the financial issues that surround owning your own home versus renting. Filled with data and stats, this book is also great for your favorite Realtor. Pair it up with the historic The Finest Building in America: The New York Crystal Palace 1853-1858 by Edwin G. Burrows, or Homeplace by John Lingan, a story of a town, its future, and its musical legacy.

For the person who’s facing That Certain Age in the New Year, wrap up The Happiness Curve by Jonathan Rauch. It’s a book about the wonderfulness of turning 50 and how life is so much sweeter. Pair it up with The End of Old Age by Marc E. Agronin, M.D., which is about making the latter half of your life the best part.

For a reader who craves hard, true facts, A Book of Book Lists by Alex Johnson might be just the thing. It’s, well, the title is self-explanatory but it also contains a harder look at the classics, literature, and authors’ perspectives on both. Just be aware that it’s very British. Wrap it up with The Weather Detective by Peter Wohlleben, making these books a perfect duo for your fact-hungry giftee.

For the political animal in your family, Hugs from Obama, edited by M. Sweeney might be just the right gift. It’s filled with pictures and quotations from the Obama years in the White House, including the end. Pair it up with The Watergate: Inside America’s Most Infamous Address by Joseph Rodota, for a scandalous look back in history.

And for the cook on your list, Buttermilk Graffiti by Edward Lee would make a great gift. It’s part history, part memoir, part foodie paradise with recipes and it’s yummy. Pair it with a brand-new cookbook for a tasty 2019, or wrap up Moonshine: A Celebration of America’s Original Rebel Spirit by John Schlimm with it. See what your giftee can cook up now.


If your giftee loves to read about legacies left, wrap up Jackie, Janet & Lee by J. Randy Taraborerelli, a book about the former first lady, her mother, and her younger sister. For the teacher who’s most important in your child’s life, look for Once a Professor: A Memoir of Teaching in Turbulent Times by Jerry Apps. It’s a book about education – both of students in the 1960s, and the teacher who watched them protest.

Here’s to the hobbyist: the car lover on your gift list will love to have Driven by Melissa Stephenson. It’s a memoir about loss, bittersweet memories and keeping them alive, all written with vehicles as backdrop. For the nostalgia lover (and Hollywood fan), My Days: Happy and Otherwise by Marion Ross (with David Laurell) will be a delight to unwrap. It’s all about “Mrs. C” and the woman behind her, and it’ll leave someone rocking and rolling all week long.

Another highly-anticipated (and much-desired) gift to look for is In Pieces by Sally Field, a book by the girl America has grown up with. It’s filled with behind-the-story stories and celeb names you’ll also recognize. Wrap it up with a Flying Nun DVD or two, or a copy of Smokey and the Bandit.

If you’ve got someone on your gift list who’s a Kennedy Watcher, they’ll love reading Eunice: The Kennedy Who Changed the World by Eileen McNamara. It’s, of course, about Eunice Kennedy Shriver, her life, and her times. Another celeb biography to try is Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon by Charles Casillo. It’s for the giftee who only thinks she knows everything about MM that there is to know.


If there’s someone on your list this year who’s suffered tragedy after tragedy, a gentle reminder that things will be better is Resilience by Linda Graham, MFT. Its subtitle says it all: it’s filled with Powerful Practices for Bouncing Back from Disappointment, Difficulty, and Even Disaster. For the person who loves to read about cutting-edge medicine, wrap up The Breakthrough by Charles Graeber. It’s about what’s new in the effort to cure cancer with immunotherapy. Pair that good news with Sound: A Memoir of Hearing Lost and Found by Bella Bathurst, for medical updates you should hear.

And here’s a book you might to buy for yourself this year: Guardianships and the Elderly: The Perfect Crime by Dr. Sam Sugar. It’s about the various ways that guardianship can go wrong, how to recognize any problems, and how to deal with them. For the diabetic on your gift list, a copy of Hardhead Diabetic in a Nutshell by Rica Rich might be the thing to unwrap. This book takes a look at new treatments and old ideas; it dispels myths, and offers nutrition information.


Who doesn’t love a day at the beach? Your dog lover and the dog they love do, so they’ll want to unwrap Dogs on the Beach by Lara Jo Regan. It’s filled with photos of doggos in the surf & sand, enjoying warm weather and taking every advantage of summer there is.

Here’s something you don’t have to tell an animal lover: animals have personalities. Even so, your giftee will enjoy Mousy Cats and Sheepish Coyotes: The Science of Animal Personalities by John A. Shivik. It’s all about the science, yes, but it’s also about the stories, you know? Wrap it up with How to Be a Good Creature by Sy Montgomery, illustrated by Rebecca Green. It’s a memoir that includes thirteen animals Montgomery knew and loved.


The teen who has embraced STEM will also want to read Radioactive! by Winifred Conkling. It’s the parallel story of two women: Irene Curie, who discovered artificial radioactivity; and Lise Meitner, who, four years after Irene’s discovery, learned the secret of nuclear fission. Get it for your teen and read it yourself.

For the budding activist on your list, look for You Are Mighty: A Guide to Changing the World by Caroline Paul, illustrated by Lauren Tamaki. This hardcover book offers ideas to create change in many different aspects of society, and it includes places for your teen to take notes and jot down ideas. Pair it with Illegal by Eoin Colfer and Adnrew Donkin, a graphic novel about a boy who crosses the Sahara desert and beyond to forge a new life elsewhere.

So there you are. A bunch of different ways to use that gift certificate for fun, learning, and winter reading anticipation. Remember: if none of these suggestions seem to fit that Special Someone on your list, ask your weary-but-smiling bookseller. She’s the one who has all the right answers.

Happy reading!

— Terri Schlichenmeyer